Of all the Northern intellectuals, Dr Mansour Khalid stood as a pinnacle of integrity, self-confidence and as a man of invariable principles. In his public life, Mansour contributed immensely to politics, diplomacy, literary debate, ideological thinking and so forth, to mention but a few. For his uncompromising views on a number of political issues in Sudan, he was loathed by his Northern critics though they were a few, statistically speaking. Undoubtedly, his critics were driven by jealousy, racial motives and illogical views. Nevertheless, his contemporary detractors failed to beat him for his pen was sharper than a sword. As a true patriot, he called upon his fellow Sudanese elites to exercise self-criticism for their unforgivable role in the damage they had meted out on Sudan body politic, particularly the sectarian parties and their sycophants. As a prolific author in both Arabic and English, Mansour critically disclosed all the ailments of Sudanese elites that led to the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. These ills are vividly elucidated in two books – namely, The Government They Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution in 1990, and The Paradox of Two Sudans: The CPA and the Road to Partition in 2015.
Mansour was born on 17 January 1931 in the city of Omdurman in a devout family whose members were sophists. Brought up by deeply religious relatives with a massive library, Mansour proved to be a voracious reader, consuming and digesting all classical books which were available in the family library besides the public library which was availed by the British. He was known among his fellow students at school as one of the brightest. When he was enrolled at the University College of Khartoum, now the University of Khartoum, to study law, he did not disappoint his lecturers for he was genius. During those dying days of colonial powers in Sudan, the university was replete with political activities, mainly the rivalry between the Communists and Islamists, but Mansour took an independent stance and decided to voice out his views through a wall newspaper which he was individually producing. One British civil servant later admitted in his memoirs that when they were in Khartoum, they used to enjoy fruitful discussions with a young university college graduate called Mansour Khalid.
After his graduation, Mansour worked briefly as an advocate, and then in the office of Prime Minister, Abd Allah Khalil, before travelling abroad to pursue further studies, achieving masters and PhD from Pennsylvania University, USA, and Sorbonne University, France, respectively. He served as a legal advisor at the United Nations and first vice-chairman of the World Commission on Environment and Development. While working for the UN in Algeria in the 1960s, he published a number of critical articles in a Khartoum-based newspaper, which were widely read and discussed. These articles were later collected and published in his debut book under the title of Hiwar ma al-Safwa, or literally A Dialogue with the Elites. In 1972, he joined the Nimeiri Government, serving in a number of key ministerial posts, prominently as a foreign minister. Sensing the tyrannical orientation of Nimeiri Government, Mansour resigned and went abroad, becoming one of the strongest opponent of Nimeiri regime.
When Nimeiri was finally ousted in a popular uprising in April 1985, Mansour published four books (three in Arabic and one in English) which were a stark condemnation of Nimeiri’s regime on corruption, dictatorship, political mismanagement, the introduction of Shari’a laws and reigniting the civil war in South Sudan. In his al-Fajr al-Kazib: Nimeiri wa Tahreif al-Shari’a, or The False Dawn: Nimeiri and the Forging of Shari’a, he dissected the infamous Islamic Code as implemented by Nimeiri against national outcry and strong opposition, even among the Muslims in the North. These Islamic laws became fuel to civil war, endangered national unity and contentious Sudanese identity up-to-date. In an attempt to address the slogans of ‘sweeping the vestiges of May regime’, Mansour’s books played a crucial role in exposing the corruption and the despotic nature of Nimeiri regime, and the subsequent prosecution of some of the regime’s henchmen. Ditching the old taboos of Northern elites who always have nothing to do with the Southerners, Mansour became one of a few Northern pioneers to join the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). In furthering the movement’s cause, Mansour edited John Garang Speaks in 1987, which was updated and republished in 1992 under the title of The Call for Democracy in Sudan.
While tirelessly participating in the movement’s political activities, Mansour was also relentlessly involved in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – an umbrella of political parties including the SPLM/A, trade unions, regional lobbying groups and independent activists – which campaigned and fought to topple the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum. After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Mansour resided in Khartoum, but remained very active in both political and intellectual arena, publishing more books, writing article in newspapers and journals, co-authoring publications and participating in conferences within Sudan and abroad. When his health began to wane, he published a four-part book as his memoirs, highlighting in so great a detail his contribution to public life in Sudan and overseas. In this richly written autobiography, he also talked about his experience in dealing with certain statesmen and institutions as widely drawn from his engagement with them in the corridors of power and international organisations.
When the writer of these pages (Dr Omer Shurkian) visited him, together with comrades Mubarak Yassin and Abd al-Hafiz Mustafa, at St Elizabeth Hospital in London on Friday, 8 November 2019, he appeared frail and looked tired, but his mind was sound and still as sharp as ever, though he was consumed by illness. He asked us about the situations in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur.
On Thursday morning, 23 April 2020, I switched on my mobile phone only to find out that Sudan had lost one of its consummate ideologue, eminent politician, diplomat and humanist in the night before. In his second homeland – that is, South Sudan, all national flags were flown at half-mast in his honour for three days. Needless to say, nothing like that has taken place in Khartoum for Mansour had served Sudan in official capacity and he is, therefore, well suited to deserve a state funeral. May God bless his unblemished soul and give him peace and tranquility in his eternal afterlife. He is survived by his profuse publications, ideas, contribution to the liberation of the oppressed Sudanese people and, above all, his name has become a household name.
Dr Omer M Shurkian
SPLM-N Reprehensive in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and the Movement’s Spokesman
London, Friday, 24 April 2020