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Feather's Miscellany: The Teachers - Part 4 - Revolution

John Waddington-Feather tells of troubled times in the Sudan.

To read the three preceding episodes of this story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/feathers_miscellany/

Came the day when Ustaz Mahmoud was paraded before the cameras on television in a show trial. Again he and his followers were offered freedom if they would recant. The General and Mahmoud stood face to face, the General almost pleading with him, for he knew what would inevitably follow if Mahmoud stood firm. Like King Herod before him faced with the same problem, the General knew he would have to execute the Ustaz to save face. And when Mahmoud was hanged, the country was plunged into civil war.

A Christian Colonel in the army from the south mutinied and took his troops into the bush to fight the General and supporters of Shari'ah. His resistance led to a bitter civil war which went on long after the General fled the country.

Riots began on the university campus and the secret police moved in. Abdullah was arrested and thrown in prison along with many other students and staff. And finally Jack himself had to flee when he went into a lecture and found: "Death to the Unbeliever! Death to the Imam Nazrin!" scrawled on the blackboard. The extremists were onto him.

He'd seen the execution of Mahmoud while crossing the bridge near the prison on his way to the university. The arch of the bridge over the river gave him an unbroken view into the prison yard where a rent-a-mob gathered screaming for Mahmoud's blood.

He watched with horror as Mahmoud mounted the scaffold, a frail old man, railed at by the crowd. He stood with dignity as the noose was placed around his neck. Then in a moment it was all over and his body was carried off by a helicopter to be dumped in the desert and eaten by dogs.

The General wanted no martyr's burial, yet by killing Ustaz he sealed his own fate. The riots turned into whole-scale revolution and the army moved into the streets. So did the secret police.

After witnessing Mahmoud's execution, Jack Pedwar hurried to the university, which was in turmoil like the rest of the city. Following the threat on the blackboard, his name was placed on a hit-list. Many of the dissidents were his friends, and he was targeted by the police and others.

Hamsah was the first to meet him at the office and said he must go into hiding at once. He had relatives, dealers in the desert north of the city where he could hide up till they could get him out of the country; but first he had to get Jack to his relatives. The streets were full of rioters and if he fell foul of them anything could happen. So Hamsah told Jack to go straight to the Cathedral where he would be met and taken to safety in the desert.

Jack had almost reached the Cathedral when it happened. As he turned a corner, a mob came out of control, rampaging down the road. It was out to beat up anyone it came across and didn't like. Jack's white face and European dress stood out a mile and they were onto him immediately, screaming for his blood.

He turned and fled, running into the network of alleys leading from the road. The mob followed. Jack staggered on till he entered a blind alley and leaned against a broken door gasping for breath.

Just as he thought the game was up, the creaking door opened and Moses peered out, frantically signalling for him to come inside. He had followed Jack, seen where he was going then caught up with him here. Jack stumbled through the door, and as his eyes got used to the half-light inside, he found himself surrounded by pale, ravaged faces - lepers!

He had seen the lepers in the city come out after sunset when it became cooler. During the day they hid up sheltering from the heat outside, but came the evening they emerged into the streets and souks to beg. He was in a leper-house surrounded by lepers of all ages and sexes, who stood around him examining him closely in silence.

The mob outside gathered round the door and hammered on it. An old leper more disfigured than the rest opened it. The mob drew back at once in horror and left double-quick.

Moses took Jack into a back room and gave him a sorely needed drink; and when the mob had gone, he gestured for Jack to follow him. He followed Moses to the Cathedral, where a very worried Hamsah was waiting for him. There they were sheltered by the nuns till the mobs had left the streets.

Then Hamsah and Jack set out for the village north of the city where Hamsah's kin had their tents, full-blooded Beda Arabs who traded across the desert from the port in the east to the countries of West Africa.

It was the last time Jack saw Moses and his colleagues at the University, for a week later he was spirited to the airport by night and flown out on the last flight before the airport was closed. A month later the General was toppled and also flew out to live happily ever after on the wealth he'd salted away during his years in power.

Abdullah and Mahmoud's followers were released from jail and continued living peacefully and prayerfully as was their way. Moses joined Mabek at ELSU and in time became the gaffir there when Mustafa retired, moving onto the campus into a small one-roomed dwelling by the gates.

Teaching resumed at the university, and the Revd Jack Pedwar became chaplain of a small prep school for the remainder of his career, where he spiced up his Divinity lessons with tales of his adventures abroad.

Later he tried his hand at writing, not without some success, and perhaps one day he will return to Africa where he discovered his real self.

**

Ustaz = professor, teacher.
Gaffir = caretaker, janitor.
Souk = market place.
Imam Nazrin = Christian priest.

John Waddington-Feather

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