Dr Ahmed Mukhtar Gamal Eldin
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background etc.
I am a nomad, or to be precise a displaced person; I am always on the move: I was born in Obied, Western Sudan, as a child I moved with my family to Khartoum, then moved back to Kordufan, again to Khartoum, back to Obied and then to White Nile. I attended 3 primary schools, 2 secondary schools and two university colleges, and worked in 3 various provinces before moving again to England, where I spent a number of challenging yet fruitful and enjoyable years. I am now back in Sudan managing a national NGO. I am based in Khartoum but I travel frequently to Darfur and other parts of Sudan.
I believe your PhD researched the management of internal displacement in Sudan. What led you into this field of research?
My personal experience with migration and my 4 years work with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sudan made me committed and passionate about the issues of migration (forced or voluntary). My MA studies in Leeds and my discussions with my colleagues and tutors assisted me in structuring my thoughts and ideas and inspired me to go for a research degree exploring issues of forced migration.
Which BA and MA programmes did you study, and where?
My BSc was in Economics and Social Anthropology (University of Khartoum) and my MA was in Development Studies (Leeds).
How do you think gaining your PhD has helped you with your current career?
My PhD which focused on internally displaced persons (IDPs) is very relevant to my current work, where I mainly work with IDPs and rural populations. Together with my colleagues we aim to build a distinctive Sudanese NGO that combines service delivery with issues of human rights and protection. In today's Sudan this is a tough and challenging business.
My current job is extremely challenging and demanding: in addition to competency and various professional skills, it requires, hard work, dedication, self confidence and ability to constantly analysis situations of complex emergency and adjust plans and strategies to respond to the protection and service needs of the people that we are there to serve. The research environment in Leeds, and the strong self-discipline required to undertake PhD research equipped me with the necessary knowledge, skills and personal qualities required to do my current Job. My post involved designing and undertaken multi-disciplinary research and surveys and using then to design projects and implementation strategies.
Why did you choose to undertake your research thesis at POLIS?
The university of Leeds in general and POLIS have a very good reputation in Sudan. Many of my best university lecturers in Sudan graduated from Leeds and spoke very high about the City of Leeds and the university. This encouraged me, and when I came to Leeds I was never disappointed. I learned so much and enjoyed the city and its friendly and easy life (I did though in the beginning struggled a little bit with the local Yorkshire accent!).
What did you find most rewarding from researching for your PhD?
Strong self-discipline, patience, attention to details, systematic way of thinking and writing, rigorous methodology, sharing thoughts and ideas and learning from the rich experiences of my dedicated supervisors and colleagues.
What did you enjoy most about your time at Leeds?
Meeting almost the whole world here in Leeds, I enjoyed the diversities in background, culture, experiences in the city and the university. For example, the 29 students in my MA class came from 19 different countries around the world. Their academic backgrounds were also different. The various experiences of the lecturers and the many seminars and lectures throughout the year and in various subjects were educating, thought provoking and very interesting. I used to attend true African and Arabian nights in Leeds. I was also introduced to the Latino culture and music, here and enjoyed it enormously. I guess I should remember to mention the excellent library and resources available for PhD Student.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reading, jogging and watching football (I am a big supporter of Arsenal in England and Hillal in Sudan).
Can you tell us about your role as Executive Director for the Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO)?
As a director of SUDO, I am responsible for the overall management of the organisation and it's finance and over 300 staff and volunteers and its 11 field offices. I write project proposals in areas such as water and sanitation, education, health and nutrition, peace building and protection of IDPs, and I raise fund for these projects, both internally and internationally. I am also responsible for designing projects implementation plans, developing policies and providing strategic planning.
What do you think the ordinary person can do to help the situation in Darfur?
Darfur is one of the worst tragedies in today's world. The Darfur IDPs and refugees live under extremely difficult conditions. They lack drinking water, health and education services and often subjected to gross violations. There is a lot that ordinary people, students and university staff can do to make a real difference; they can donate whatever they can to organisations working in Darfur. The crisis in Darfur is fundamentally political (rather than humanitarian), and ordinary persons can make a big difference by lobbying their MPs and the government to play an effective role in pushing for a political solution and a negotiated settlement led by the Sudanese, with the assistance of the international community. Students can show solidarity with the victims by writing to them and about them. Students who take Darfur as a case study for their dissertations and essays will get the chance to research and understand better the situation in the region. They can also share this knowledge with others and/or use it to influence them.
What are your plans for the future?
Our current operations, especially our involvement in Darfur, made it impossible for me to undertake some research that I am deeply interested in. I hope that within the next few years I will have more time to teach at my first university in Khartoum and undertake policy oriented research. I forgot to mention that, I might also get married!..... if I get spare time!!!
Is there anything you would have changed about your time at POLIS?
In fact I stayed long enough in Leeds to make all the necessary changes while I was there.
Do you have any advice for students thinking about taking a PhD?
Go for it (but remember to have fun and enjoy yourself). You may have some hesitation before starting, doubts and frustration at times and many triumphs in between, but you will learn so much from doing it (not just about the subject/discipline, but also about yourself; and not only from your supervisors and the academic references, but also from your colleagues and friends), and once you complete your research you will feel a lot of joy and pride… and you may say to yourself 'I am glad that I started this research and kept going to the end despite all the challenges and difficulties'.