MU professor to run for presidency of Sudan
By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS
The Kansas City Star, 03 May 2009
Abdullahi Ibrahim has taught history at the University of Missouri for more than 15 years, but now he is retiring to follow his heart and soul.
That path will take the history professor home to Sudan and, he hopes, lead to his election as president of the African nation.
While in Sudan on a one-year sabbatical in 2008, Ibrahim announced his candidacy for president of his homeland, which has been led nearly 20 years by a military dictator.
“We are sad to lose professor Ibrahim, but we understand that his country needs him,” said Jonathan Sperber, the chairman of MU’s history department.
That Ibrahim, 67, would seek to become the next leader of Sudan is no surprise to his colleagues, Sperber said. Actually, it fits with his life.
In the 1960s, when young Americans rallied for social justice, Ibrahim became a political activist in Sudan.
“It seems like it was a global spiritual movement for change,” he said. “In our country, it toppled a dictatorship. This is the reason why I know change happens. I saw it. I was part of it. So nobody can make me pessimistic about Sudan.”
Sudan has been embroiled in civil wars since 1956. In recent years, the western Darfur region has gotten global attention because of a conflict that has included the rape, torture, murder and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese citizens.
In March, the International Criminal Court indicted Sudan’s current president, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The victory that Ibrahim and the other Sudanese revolutionaries of the 1960s won was short-lived, “but it had a lasting impact,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim continued as a political activist, and was arrested and jailed in the 1970s in Darfur.
Ibrahim left Sudan in 1981 to get a doctorate in history from Indiana University. He worked as a researcher and professor at several universities before joining the MU faculty in 1994.
But Ibrahim — who had left his family in Sudan — never lost touch with his homeland.
Since 1996, he returned every other year, visiting his wife and an ailing mother who has since died. Ibrahim’s wife now lives with him in Missouri.
Ibrahim’s said his desire to be at the forefront of change in his country has never waned.
“I’m not just a scholar,” he said. “I am an activist, too. And now I’m tempted to bring this alliance into center stage to try and reconnect with the past. We have a record of change. We have seen dictators come and go.”
Ibrahim has no party affiliation. He will run as an independent on a platform of peace and to re-establish the alliance of farmers, students, intellectuals and business class that he worked for as a young activist.
“I’m confident,” he said. “I can win.”
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