Precious Sudanese university archives destroyed by fire and looting in Omdurman

Precious Sudanese university archives destroyed by fire and looting in Omdurman
Some witnesses believe the damage done to Sudan's universities across the country is more than mere random attacks.
2 min read
17 May, 2023
The archives lost have been described as "part of our history as a country" [Getty File Image]

Precious archives containing thousands of documents have been destroyed in a fire set by looters this week at Omdurman Ahlia University, once known as the 'Liberated Lands' for its tradition of independent thought and free academia. 

The Muhammad Omar Bashir Centre for Sudanese Studies at Ahlia University was first struck by looting in the first days of the armed conflict between warring generals Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Daglo.

"I worked all my life in the centre, serving as an archivist and researcher for the university," said university staff member Abdelgadir Ismail Ahmed. 

Now the collection of historical works, primary sources and doctoral theses has been destroyed

"The centre had books and papers by eminent Sudanese scholars who have since passed, available to the researchers of today," he continued. 

"Much of the archives that we lost are completely irreplaceable." 

The Ahlia university was, according Sudanese writer Reem Abbas, particularly dear to residents of Omdurman because it was established and constructed through grassroots funding and popular support. 

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“Citizens chipped in, to build a university which was known as the ‘liberated lands’ during the rule of Omar al-Bashir,” said Abbas. 

“Ahlia was a beacon of independent intellectual thought, constantly under pressure. They employed professors who were free thinkers, unable to get jobs at other universities where the government held control,” she told The New Arab. 

“My family donated over 5,000 books from the collection of my grandfather to the centre. What we have lost is part of our history as a country.”

A pattern of looting has emerged across the country, which some Sudanese believe is part of an orchestrated attempt to destroy what remains of the state’s fragile infrastructure. 

Other universities, libraries and research centres have been looted in the fighting. 

“It is not a coincidence that these centres of learning and Sudanese knowledge have been targeted,” Abbas said. 

“This feels like an attempt to cripple the country’s economy, and destroy what is left of the infrastructure we have in Sudan.”