Nelson Mandela - and the Sudan

By: Aisha Braima

KHARTOUM (SUDANOW) - A South African media delegation arrived in Sudan last week to document the visit of the global icon, Nelson Mandela, to Sudan in 1962.

On this occasion Sudanow would like to republish an article written on August 21, 2013 by Dr. Khalid al-Mubarak about Mandela's visit in "Sudan Vision" newspaper .

On the occasion of Nelson Mandela Day 18 August 2013 we should remember the strong bond between him and the Sudan.
One of the most unbecoming episodes of the media war on the Sudan, especially during the two civil wars 1955-1972 and 1983-2005 is the distortion of Sudan’s glorious African credentials. One particular aspect which our media has failed to highlight properly is the Mandela connection compared to the links of Southern Sudan’s rebels with those who propped up the racist South African Apartheid regime.
In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” (Abacus –London 2010) the great African leader recounted how he fled South Africa without a passport to Ethiopia then Khartoum. He and his fellow ANC leaders were on a mission to lobby African leaders and movements and coordinate efforts with them. At Khartoum airport, the old man at the counter hesitated at the sight of the travel documents, then smiled and said: “My son, welcome to the Sudan”. He was not willing to treat Mandela’s white comrades similarly; but because of Mandela, he stamped their travel documents and allowed them to enter.

In Khartoum (1962) Mandela managed to meet the then president Ibrahim Abboud. From Khartoum he and the delegation flew to Cairo, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. They were greeted with enthusiasm. In Algeria they met the freedom fighters who confronted the brutal French suppression and won. One of them (a tall black man) was known as “Sudani” who reportedly showed legendary heroism during the liberation struggle. From North Africa, the ANC leaders flew to West Africa where they were received with similar enthusiasm and support.
The tour of East, North and West Africa showed that Mandela understood the common front of all Africans. North African Arabs and Muslims were brothers and allies, who provided military training and financial support as well as advice (from the Algerians) about Guerrilla tactics linked to the political dimension.
When Mandela returned home he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. During his trial (15 October – 7 November 1962) he made a long statement in which he mentioned his visit to the Sudan and meeting with President Ibrahim Abboud.
Similarly, in his second trial (20 April 1964) in which he was sentenced to life imprisonment, he made a statement in which he reiterated his pride in the hospitality of President Ibrahim Abboud of the Sudan and other African leaders.
Mandela did not, and could not go into details during his political defences in court; but the details are available in (the former Foreign Minister) Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail’s book “The Sudan and the African Liberation Movements” (Dr. Al Asalah – Khartoum – 2006). It contains photocopies of documents proving the Sudan’s financial contribution to the “African Liberation Committee” in Dar Es Salaam as well as shipments of arms and ammunition. These were passed on to fighters not only in South Africa; but in Angola and Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South West Africa. The Sudan’s support for Patrice Lumumba and fury at his adversaries is well-documented.
Nelson Mandela mentioned Ibrahim Abboud whom he met, but the documents show Sudanese support from the year of Independence including several heads of State before and after General Abboud.
This record should be juxtaposed to the fact that, simultaneously, the South Sudanese rebels were on the wrong side of liberation history. When Mandela toured African countries, Joseph Lagu, leader of the first rebellion flew to Israel and secured weapons and training as he “proudly” documented in his autobiography (Sudan-Omdurman, Ahlia University 2006). At that time Israel was one of very few countries cooperating with Apartheid South Africa. The same trend was repeated during the second Southern rebellion (led by Dr. John Garang) which, after the collapse of Mengistu’s Marxist patronage joined hands with new mentors in the US, the evangelical reactionary and Islamophobic forces. The “secular” slogans proffered in 1983 turned out to be less than genuine.
This aspect of our recent history is not often highlighted. On the occasion of Mandela Day 18 August 2013, we should pause and look back in pride (while others should keep silent or look back in embarrassment and shame). The anti-Arab anti-Islamic ideology of SPLM’s hawks is not the child of African Liberation struggle. It has another history which should be borne in mind.




Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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