It was a true story of a personal and family status that occurred before the secession of South Sudan in 2011 in Qalal Nahal area in Gedaref State, east Sudan, where a group of South Sudanese Shuluk tribe lived.
A quarrel erupted between two men of the tribe and each one inflicted a serious injury on the other and they were brought to the prosecution to determine the motive of the squabble.
Relating the incident to SUDANOW, Dr. Hazim Awad al-Kerim, a lawyer and university teacher, said:
There was in that area of Qalal Nahal a Shuluk tribe family consisting of the parents and four children. Once upon a time, the husband travelled to the South during the civil war and when he returned home after five years, he found a stranger living with his wife.
An ensuing heated discussion escalated into a fray in which each one of the two men inflicted a serious injury in the other. When the husband found out that, seven months after his absence, the stranger married his wife begot three children from her, he lodged a lawsuit against him with the court.
The court attempted to find the law that governs the relationship between them as it found out that both sides were neither Muslim nor Christian but were animists.
There were two sides of the case, one was criminal that was pertained to the quarrel and the injury which is provided for in the criminal code that applies to everyone without exception as it is based on the law of the region in which the incident occurs.
The other aspect of the case was the cause of the fray- the existence of two husbands to one and the same wife, constituting a grave and highly sophisticated problem that embarrassed and puzzled the judge.
It was proposed to resort to the tribal convention which comes as a source of legislation, second to the Islamic Sharia and other laws consistent to the faiths of the plaintiffs and defendants.
As the two sides of the case were irreligious, we had to resort to the tradition of their tribe and we sought assistance by a Shuluk policeman who was serving with the court. That policeman said that the Shuluk tribe had customs and traditions which were applied in such cases and that there was a Shuluk Omdah who lived four kilometers away from Qalal Nahal and the judge ordered that that Omdah be brought to the court to examine the case.
The Omdah came in majestic attire, wearing the typical Shuluk costume that left part of the body bare and decorated his body with beads, cowries, a band on the head, ivory armlets and additional beads on the right leg and clutching a baton in one hand and was accompanied by escorts.
The judge handed him the case and asked him to look into it while the judge would sit beside him just as a listener. The Omdah refused to sit in the courtroom and, instead, asked to have the session under a tree as it was the custom in such trials. Responding to this request, the judge allowed him to hold the session under a tree in the courtyard.
The trial was magnificent, glamorous and solemn, giving evidence that the native administration played an important role and that it was a pity to be dismantled.
The Omdah was exceptionally wise and intelligent with a firm character that astounded and amazed everyone, including the judge who was following the deliberations of the trial in Shuluk language while the policeman acted as an interpreter.
From the outset, the Omdah asked the wife to freely determine whether she wanted to return to the first husband or remain with the second one and the woman answered that she wanted to stay with the second husband.
The Omdah then told the new husband that if he wanted the woman as a wife, he had to pay back the dowry which was 10 heads of cattle and he immediately agreed and gave the cattle back to the first husband.
As for the children, we were all surprised by the ruling of the Omdah which was very close to a ruling by the Islamic Sharia in such cases. The Omdah judged that the nine-year old children be taken by their father while those under nine remain with the mother, Awad al-Kerim said.
When they were recited by the Judge, all the rulings were met with acceptance and satisfaction by the two sides and by the audience and were not objected by anyone under the tree.
All the people who were present saluted and expressed respect for the Omdah, while the judge offered him a financial incentive from the safe of the court in accordance with the Shuluk tradition.
The judge was extremely happy and amazed by the way in which the trial session was run and by the unanimous approval of all rulings and he had memorial pictures with the Omdah and the plaintiff and the defendant.
It was a truly unique case on which the people of Gedaref talked so much, the lawyer said in conclusion.