Phot: Sebastian Castelier on Shutterstock.
18 Oct 2023

60 years of Bonds and Beyond: Academic collaboration between Bergen and Khartoum

2023 marks the 60th anniversary for academic collaboration between Bergen and Sudan. In cooperation with CMI and the University of Bergen, the SNAC (Sudan-Norway Academic Cooperation) project hosts a symposium on 18-20 October to mark this anniversary. Through three whole days packed with exciting and multidisciplinary events, we focus on the outcomes of a long-standing academic collaboration that has defied borders and at times upheaval in Sudan, and on the country's history and future.


The event will also be streamed.


Wednesday 18 October

 09:00-09:30: Arrival, coffee, mingling and registration

09:30-09:45: Welcome

09:45-11:15: Panel 1: What now? Revolution, feminist activism and the violence of Sudan's war. Chair: Mari Norbakk.


Samah Khallafallah, Universität Bayreuth

Reem Abbas, feminist activist, journalist, and researcher

Sara Abbas, researcher, Open Society Foundation

Raga Makawi, democracy activist, editor and researcher

Liv Tønnessen, Chr. Michelsen Institute

The revolutionary project in Sudan is one of the most significant movements for change in the world today. Sudanese women and girls form the backbone of the December revolution. In the midst of the ongoing devastation of war, they have organized for ‘feminist peace’ and within the mutual aid networks that provide care to communities in the face of violence, repression, and trauma.

In this panel, we discuss women and girls’ roles in the popular uprising, the evolution of the revolutionary project in Sudan, and the impact of the expansion of conflict on this project. What does a feminist approach to peace in Sudan entail? What challenges do Sudanese women activists face in effecting change, especially women and girls who face intersecting oppressions? How does the backlash against women, their presence, representation and political articulations at certain moments of the December Revolution reveal about the oscillating debate between the demand for radical reform and the call for reinstating the status quo? 

The panel discussion starts with a showing of the short documentary “Matlooga” by Samah Khallafallah, featuring an unseen Samah and the feminist activist Weam Shawky.

11:15-11:45: Break

11:45-13:15: Panel 2: The Sudan war and its implications for refugees. Chair: Synnøve Bendixsen.


Leif Manger, Professor Emeritus, Department of Social Anthropology, University Bergen

Abdallah Onour, University of Urbino Carlo Bo

Munzoul Assal, Department of Social Anthropology, UofK, Department of Social Anthropology, UiB, Scholar at risk, CMI

Sarah Tobin, Chr. Michelsen Institute

Felicity Atieno Okoth, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen 

The 1955 war marks the beginning of Sudan as a hotspot for refugees.  The 1955 war and subsequent civil wars in the country pushed Sudanese to seek refuge in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya. Wars in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad, DRC, and South Sudan brought millions of refugees to Sudan, leaving the entire region a volatile area characterized by massive population displacement. In recent years, refugees from Syria and Yemen have found their way to Sudan. As they were starting to settle, war broke out in April 2023 and they were forced to flee yet again.  Many South Sudanese refugees share their experiences. Such multiple displacements  have created generalized insecurity in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions with most countries struggling to document the migration patterns. How are different countries in the region receiving refugees? What are the implications on refugees’ adaptation strategies and prospects, as well as on long-term strategies to deal with population displacement? How effective have global, regional and national frameworks been in addressing protracted and recurrent population displacement in the region?

This panel discusses the current situation of Sudanese refugees and more broadly for refugees in this region. It will problematize how refugees are received, their consequent strategies, as well as how this social reality enhances us as researchers to rethink labels and categories and their consequences.

13:15-14:15: Lunch

14:15-15:45: Panel 3: The impact of war on health services in Sudan. Chair: Anne Christine Johannessen.


Akram Ali Eltoum, former Federal Minister of Health in Sudan, currently serving as Senior Global Health Advisor.

Mohamed Ali Eltoum, Ahfad University for Women and a consultant physician endocrinologist.

Ahmed Elliethi, Consultant physician in the UK, and president of the Sudanese Doctor’s Union in the UK.

Sudan’s health system is disintegrating due to war with the damage expected to last for decades. Services have ceased in more than 75 per cent of hospitals in areas hit by the destructive and violent fighting. Health institutions and clinics are now in ruins and health services have collapsed due to lack of supplies, personnel and access. International and national aid agencies have been forced to suspend their operations as a result of the fighting, leaving many injured and ill Sudanese to fend for themselves.

This panel discussion will cover some aspects of our long-standing collaboration with Sudan in the discipline of oral health, but the panel will mainly focus on the policies that were implemented to reform the country’s health system prior to the war, on the current situation and the devastating effect of war, and finally on the hidden opportunities provided by the effects of the war itself. We will also discuss how to move from crisis management to getting in place the minimum factors that are needed for a health system to be functional during times of war.

16:00: Welcome reception



Thursday 19 October

09:00-09:30: Opening speeches

09:30-10:30: Keynote by Professor Abdullahi ahmed An’Naim: Sudan’s Tragedy: Repeated Failure or Learning Adaptation Process? Chair: Leif Manger.

In this key note, Dr. An-Naim recalls his first visit to Bergen in 1989, to ask whether Sudan is still in the same cycle of failure or going through a process of learning and adaptation to the European model of the nation state. His main thesis is that Sudan may be going through a typical experience of post-colonial adaptation and learning to the European model of the nation state, like most of the former British colonies. Whether this is true or wishful thinking, and which is the outcome can only be judged in retrospect, and the answer will probably remain tentative and contingent, like all human endeavors. He will also discuss what is the immediate obligation of Sudanese intellectuals in view of his framework of analysis, that is: What can we do to make Sudan's experience become and remain successful.

Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, Associated Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences of Emory University, Emeritus.  An-Na‘im is the author of: Decolonizing Human Rights (2021); What is an American Muslim (2014); Muslims and Global Justice (2011); Islam and the Secular State (2008); African Constitutionalism and the Role of Islam (2006); and Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil liberties, human rights and international law (1990).  His edited books include Human Rights under African Constitutions (2003); Islamic Family Law in a Changing World: A Global Resource Book (2002); and Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives: Quest for consensus (1992).

10:30-11:00: Break

11:00-12:30: Panel 4: 60 years of bonds and beyond: The Bergen-Khartoum links. Chair: Gunnar Sørbø.


Gunnar Håland, Professor Emeritus, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen.

Randi Håland, Professor Emerita, AHKR, University of Bergen.

Leif Ole Manger, Professor Emeritus, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen.

Knut Krzywinski, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen.

Sharif Harir, former Professor at the UofK and UiB.

Howaida Faisal Abdel Rahman, Senior Executive Officer, UiB, Administrative Coordinator, BSRS, University of Bergen.

Bjørn Einar Aas, University of Bergen.

Anne Christine Johannessen, Professor Emerita, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Bergen

Anders Bjørkelo, Professor Emeritus, AHKR, University of Bergen.

Tamer Abdelkareem, Peace Research Institute, UoK

This panel will present and discuss some of the highlights and main features of the collaboration between the University of Bergen and the University of Khartoum since it beginnings during the 1960s. The first part will deal with some main research topics (including in basic and applied research), the involvement of students, interdisciplinarity and how activities have played a role in institutional developments for participating departments. In the second part, more general lessons will be drawn, including how they may have relevance for other, similar programs of collaboration. This session will include reflections on the future of the Bergen-Sudan links.

12:30-13:15: Lunch

13:15-14:45: Panel 5: Sudan's political trajectory: From conflict to conflict. Chair: Munzoul Assal.


Justin Willis, Department of History, Durham University, UK

Sharif Harir, former Associate Professor UofK and University of Bergen

Salma Abdalla, Senior Researcher, Raad Peace Research Institute

Raga Makawi, democracy activist, editor and researcher

Chair: Munzoul Assal, Department of Social Anthropology, UofK, Department of Social Anthropology, UiB, Scholar at risk, CMI.

Sudan’s post-independence history has been characterized by conflicts, with the atrocities in Darfur and the secession of South Sudan as some of the events getting the most international attention. For seven decades, ruling elites have failed to agree on a national project that can galvanize the Sudanese people around a shared path for the country. Omar El-Bashir’s’ rise to power in 1989 further divided Sudanese society by adopting a political Islamist ideology that entrenched a militant grip on the state. The policies adopted by the Islamists turned Sudan into a pariah state that came under economic sanctions and international isolation. Opening up for extremist groups during the 1990s made Sudan a breeding ground for violent extremism. Backed by the Islamists, E-Bashir used violence as an integral part of his domestic and foreign policy. His regime created tribal militias as a counter insurgency strategy. The rapid Support Forces (RSF) that are now fighting the state’s national army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), came to life as a direct result of this strategy.

This panel discusses Sudan’s political trajectory as a backdrop for understanding and debating the current crisis.

14:45-15:15: Break

15:15-16:45: Panel 6: What now, Adarob? Chair: Gidske Andersen.


Mohamed Babiker, The Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Norway

Julien Cooper, Archaeologist and Egyptologist at Macquarie University, Australia

Knut Krzywinski, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen

The Red Sea State and its capital Port Sudan has become a refuge for people fleeing the war. While the Bedja, the indigenous peoples of the Red Sea State, presently are a marginalised group with low scores on life quality indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and illiteracy, they used to be a feared group of fighters, controlling their land rich on resources and with a strategic geopolitical location. They have interacted with historical powers like the Ancient Egypt, the Ptolemeic and Roman, Meroe and Axum. All along the multiple Bedja tribes and clans have fought about land and resources internally, but at times of threats from the outside they have united under common leadership. Can a strong Bedja identity rooted in a shared history influence how they navigate the new political landscape?

This panel will outline and discuss the rich history and cultural heritage of the Bedja peoples and how their traditional livelihoods are adapted to what is perceived as a marginal environment. It seems likely that the new political situation will have bearings on their fight for more independence and political influence. How will the Bedja as a group navigate in the new political landscape? Can their strong identity manifested through history play a role?

17:00: Guided tour of the Salih collection (by registration only)



Friday 20 October

09:00-10:30: Panel 7: Sudanese heritage at risk: Safeguarding the past in the current conflict. Chair: Anne Bang.


Khalifa Omar, Department of History, University of Khartoum

Hanaa Abdelgabar Ibrahim Adam, University of Naples "L'Orientale", Department of Asian, African and Mediterranean studies. 

Alexandros Tsakos, Bergen University Library

Henriette Hafsaas, Volda University College

The armed conflict in Sudan affects many aspects of life. Beyond its massive humanitarian toll, the ongoing conflict also puts Sudan’s rich cultural heritage at risk. Reports of destruction and looting have emerged, and in Khartoum, archives and libraries at the National Museum have been destroyed during the fighting.

Of legal frameworks protecting cultural heritage, the most detailed regime is the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention, adopted in 1999. This protocol renders the willful destruction of cultural heritage punishable also “in the event of an armed conflict not of an international character and allows for cultural property to be placed under “enhanced protection”. The ongoing destruction of Sudanese heritage is a war crime for which the warring parties bear responsibility.

As archaeologists and historians of Sudan, what do we know about the current state of affairs? This panel focuses on what can be done to mitigate the situation, and how we can prepare in the future to safeguard the heritage of the country.

10:30-11:00: Break

11:00-12:30: Panel 8: Humanitarian aid in Sudan. Chair: Lovise Aalen.


Susanne Jaspers, SOAS Food Studies Centre, UK

Ahmed Abbas Abusham, Ahfad University, Sudan and a member of the Executive Board representing the Sudanese Medical Association, UK.

Trygve Augestad, Norwegian People's Aid

Sara Abdelgalil, Shabaka, Sudan Crisis Coordination Unit (@sarajalilo)

Will Carter, Norwegian Refugee Council

Edle Hamre, The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Sudan

The war in Sudan quickly developed into a humanitarian catastrophe. Prior to the conflict, Khartoum state hosted around 80% of the country’s medical services. The majority of these providers of medical services have been forced to close their operations with injured and sick people now having nowhere to get medical help. Basic services and infrastructure like water supply, electricity, and telecom services have been damaged or extremely curtailed. The upcoming rainy season will not only further impede access for humanitarian aid workers, but also affect civilian’s mobility and likely increase the spread of diseases. This adds to the heavy burden for a population that already before the conflict faced record levels of food insecurity, now affecting 40% of the country’s population. The conflict has also damaged value chains and disrupted the planting season, causing a situation where all dimensions of food security are at severe risk of collapse.

This panel focuses on the humanitarian situation in Sudan, and its social, political and historical aspects. What lessons can be learnt from previous humanitarian disasters in Sudan, and what can the current crisis tell us about how to deal with similar situations in the future?

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-14:30: The Sean O’Fahey lecture by Dr. Hengameh Ziai: Rethinking the Archive through Sudan. Chair: Knut Vikør.

What is the relationship between the archive and dispossession? Between writing and crisis? This lecture returns to a crucial period in the unfolding of colonial modernity in Sudan, the nineteenth century. It makes two moves. It reads the archive to offer an account of colonial modernity—of the progressive delimitation of bilad al-sudan into the modern administrative unit known as Sudan. It then takes the archive itself as an object of analysis, exploring how bilad al-sudan, in all its plurality and complexity, speaks back to the authority of the archive—and so to the violence, rigidities, inscriptions, and exclusions of the nation-state.

Dr Hengameh Ziai is a Lecturer in the History of the Middle East and Africa, SOAS, University of London. Her research lies at the intersection of political theory, critical political economy, and Islamic studies, with a focus on formations of the colonial and the emergence of modern political subjectivity in Sudan during the long nineteenth century.


14:30-14:45: Closing remarks

16:30-19:30: Goodbye Julia. Film screening and discussion.

In cooperation with Bergen International Film Festival (BIFF) we will show Goodbye Julia, a 2023 Sudanese drama film directed by Mohamed Kordofani.

The film will be shown at KP10, Bergen Kino (Neumanns gate 3) and after the film, the conversation and a light dinner (only for registered participants) will take place at Kulturhuset (Vaskerelven 8).

Participants in the conversation: Ibrahim Mursal and Nyagoa Nyuon.


For a more detailed version of the programme, check here.