Gaafar al-Nimeiry, an army colonel who took over Sudan in a 1969 coup and, by taking a constantly swerving political course, held on to the presidency until a bloodless coup ousted him in 1985, died in Sudan on May 30. He was 79.
The death was announced by SUNA, the state news agency, which did not give a cause.
In his 16-year tenure, President Nimeiry veered from ardent Arab nationalism to socialism, from friendly relations with the Soviet Union to a pro-Western stance and a close alliance with the United States. Although he was often seen as one of the more moderate Arab leaders, he was not averse to violent crackdowns and even mass executions of opponents. He survived four attempted coups in his first nine years in power.
Colonel Nimeiry led a small group, calling itself the Free Officers, that seized power on May 25, 1969. Their cause, they said, was Arab nationalism and revolutionary socialism patterned after the ideology of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. At the time of the coup, the southern region of Sudan — home to black Christians and animists who felt oppressed by the Muslim-dominated government — had been plagued by rebellion for 14 years.
Step by step over the next eight years, President Nimeiry tried to draw together the diverse elements of his country: the Christians and animists in the south, hard-line Muslims and die-hard Communists. He met resistance from extremists on the left and the right.
In 1971, Mr. Nimeiry survived a Communist-instigated coup during which he was imprisoned for three days. He escaped by jumping out a window as loyalist forces arrived. After that coup attempt, he started turning Sudan away from Soviet influence and toward an alliance with conservative Arab governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. His government also became more pro-Western and began receiving armaments from the United States.
Then, in March 1972, he signed a peace agreement with the rebels in the south, granting regional autonomy to the southern provinces. His unification efforts were lauded in the West. He was the only Arab leader to support President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt after Mr. Sadat signed the Camp David peace accords with Israel in 1978.
By then, the United States viewed Mr. Nimeiry as a counterweight to the Marxist government in Ethiopia, on Sudan’s eastern border, and to Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi’s hostile government in Libya, to the northwest. In 1976, during a Libyan-backed coup attempt, President Nimeiry avoided capture when his plane arriving from Europe landed ahead of schedule because of a tailwind. When 98 people implicated in the plot were executed, Mr. Nimeiry drew worldwide criticism.
He became increasingly dictatorial. In 1983, seeking support from Muslim extremists, he imposed Islamic law on all of Sudan. In violation of the 1972 peace accord with the rebels, he dissolved the southern regional government. That reignited a conflict that continues to this day.
Soaring food and fuel prices led to mass demonstrations and a general strike in 1985, prompting Sudan’s military to oust Mr. Nimeiry. He remained in exile in Egypt for 14 years. In 1999, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir allowed him to return to Sudan.
Gaafar Mohammed al-Nimeiry was born Jan. 1, 1930, in Omdurman, opposite Khartoum on the banks of the Nile, when his country was still under the joint rule of Britain and Egypt. (It became independent in 1956.) His father was a messenger for a British company. He is survived by his wife, according to the Sudanese state news agency.
Mr. Nimeiry’s official biography says he was rebellious even as a teenager: When Britain delayed granting Sudan self-determination, he led a strike that kept his secondary school closed for seven months.
Gaafar Muhammad an-Nimeiry (otherwise spelled in English as Jaafar Nimeiry, Gaafar Nimeiry or Ga'far Muhammad Numayri; Arabic: جعفر محمد نميري; 1 January 1930 – 30 May 2009) was the President of Sudan from 1969 to 1985.
A military officer, he came to power after a military coup in 1969. With his party, the Sudanese Socialist Union, he initially pursued socialist and Pan-Arabist policies. In 1972 he signed the Addis Ababa Agreement, ending the First Sudanese Civil War. He later became an ally of the United States. In the late 1970s he moved towardsIslamism, and in 1983 he imposed Sharia law throughout the country, precipitating the Second Sudanese Civil War. He was ousted from power in 1985 and went into exile in Egypt. He returned in 1999 and ran in the Presidential elections in 2000, but did poorly.
Early life and education
He was born in Cairo in Egypt, at a time when Sudan was ruled by Egypt and Great Britain. He is son of Egyptian politician Muhammad Ali Nimery and a Sudanese woman. He was the son of a postman and the great grandson of a local tribal monarch from the Wad Nimeiry region in Dongola, in the Northern State.
He studied at the prestigious Hantoub School, a British style secondary boarding school for the elite. In an incident in 1948, when protesting against British rule in Sudan by leading students to strike in his school, he was temporarily expelled.
In 1952 Nimeiry graduated from the Sudan Military College, where he was greatly influenced by the ideas of Gamal Abdel Nasser's Free Officers Movement, which gained power in Egypt that same year. Later he joined the Khartoum garrison.
In 1966, Nimeiry graduated from the United States Army Command College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA.
First term as Prime Minister
In 1969, together with four other officers Colonel Nimeiry overthrew the civilian government of Ismail al-Azhari. His coup was named the "May Revolution" and he became prime minister and chairman of theRevolutionary Command Council (RCC). He started a campaign aimed at reforming Sudan's economy through nationalization of banks and industries as well as some land reforms. He used his position to enact a number of socialist and Pan-Arabist reforms.
In 1970 Nimeiry ordered an aerial bombardment on Aba Island which killed several thousand Ansar, members of the Umma Party which opposed him.
Later in 1971 he was elected President winning a referendum with 98.6 per cent of the votes. He then dissolved the RCC and founded the Sudanese Socialist Union which he declared to be the only legal political organization. In 1972 he signed the Addis Ababa Agreement whereby autonomy was granted to the non-Muslim southern region of Sudan, which ended the First Sudanese Civil War and ushered in an 11-year period of peace and stability to the region. In 1973 he drafted a new constitution which declared Sudan to be a democratic, socialist state and gave considerable power to the office of President.
In the mid-1970s he launched several initiatives to develop agriculture and industry in Sudan and he invited foreign companies to explore for oil. (Chevron would discover oil reserves in South-Central Sudan in 1979.) In general he began a more Western-friendly policy, where banks were returned to private ownership and foreign investment was encouraged, as evidenced by a number of bilateral investment treaties: with the Netherlands August 22, 1970, Switzerland February 17, 1974, Egypt May 28, 1977, andFrance July 31, 1978. In July 1978 at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in Khartoum, Nimeiry was elected Chairman of the OAU until July 1979.
Nimeiry successfully weathered a coup attempt by Sadiq al-Mahdi (a religious figure, Prime Minister 1966-67 and leader of the Islamic Umma Party) in 1970, and in 1971 was briefly removed from power by a Communist coup, before being restored. During the Communist coup, Nimeiry jumped out of the window of the place where he was incarcerated when his supporters came to the rescue. After this coup, he started to move away from Soviet influence and began to receive arms from the U.S. When he started moving towards the influence of US. He also appointed the late Abdelrahim Mahmoud as governor of the Central State. He played a major role in The Jazeera Scheme. Which was the agriculture project that supported the economy of the Sudan. and started many expeditions. After the government was over thrown Mr. Mahmoud started managing a local pepsi factory. Mr. Mahmoud died on March 6, 2011. He has surviving family.
In late 1975, a military coup by Communist members of the armed forces, led by Brigadier Hassan Hussein Osman, failed to remove Nimeiry from power. General Elbagir, Nimeiry's deputy, led a counter coup that brought Nimeiry back within few hours. Brigadier Osman was wounded and later court martialed and executed.
In 1976, a force of one thousand insurgents under Sadiq al Mahdi, armed and trained by Libya, crossed the border from Ma'tan as-Sarra. After passing through Darfur and Kordofan, the insurgents engaged in three days of house-to-house fighting in Khartoum and Omdurman that killed some 3000 people and sparked national resentment against the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. Nimeiry and his government were narrowly saved after a column of army tanks entered the city. Ninety-eight people implicated in the plot were executed.
In 1977 a National Reconciliation took place between Sadiq al Mahdi, the leader of the opposition who was based abroad, and Nimeiry. A limited measure of pluralism was allowed and Sadiq al Mahdi and members of the Democratic Unionist Party (Sudan) joined the legislature under the umbrella of the Sudan Socialist Union. Hassan al-Turabi, an Islamist leader who had been imprisoned and then exiled after the May Revolution, was invited back and became Justice Minister and Attorney General in 1979. Relations between Khartoum and the South Sudan leadership worsened after the National Reconciliation and the National Reconciliation itself came to a premature end in light of disagreements between the opposition and Nimeiry.
Second term as President
Nimeiry was one of only two Arab leaders (the other being Qaboos of Oman) who maintained close relations with Anwar Sadat after the Camp David Accords of 1978. He attended Sadat's funeral in 1981.
In 1981 Nimeiry, pressured by his Islamic opponents, and still President of Sudan, began a dramatic shift toward Islamist political governance and allied himself with theMuslim Brotherhood. In 1983, he imposed Sharia, or Islamic law, throughout the country — alienating the predominantly Christian and animist south. The administrative boundaries of the south were also reformed. In violation of the Addis Ababa Agreement he dissolved the southern Sudanese government, thereby prompting a renewal of the civil war, the Second Sudanese Civil War. In 1984 he declared a state of emergency, giving special powers to the military.
In 1985 Nimeiry authorised the execution of the peaceful yet controversial political dissident and Islamic reformist Mahmoud Mohamed Taha after Taha — who was first accused of religious sedition in the 1960s when Sudan's President was Ismail al-Azhari — had been declared an apostate by a Sudanese court. Shortly thereafter on 6 April 1985, while Nimeiry was on an official visit to the United States of America in the hope of gaining more financial aid from Washington, a bloodless military coup led by his defense minister Gen. Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab ousted him from power. At the subsequent elections the pro-Islamist leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi (who had attempted a coup against Nimeiry in 1976) became Prime Minister.
During 1980–85, the Sudanese Pound lost 80 percent of its worth due to hyperinflation and renewed civil war.
Exile and return
Nimeiry lived in exile in Egypt from 1985 to 1999, in a villa situated in Heliopolis, Cairo. He returned to Sudan in May 1999 to a rapturous welcome that surprised many of his detractors. The next year, he ran in the presidential election against incumbent president Omar al-Bashir, but did poorly, obtaining only 9.6% of the votes in elections that were boycotted by the Sudanese opposition and alleged to be rigged. In 2005, Nimeiry's party, the Alliance of the Peoples' Working Forces signed a merger agreement with the ruling National Congress Party of Sudan. The National Congress Party negotiated an end to Sudan's civil war that was signed in a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on January 9, 2005.
Nimeiry died of natural causes in his home in Omdurman on 30 May 2009. Tens of thousands turned up to his official funeral including members of Sudan's political forces that had opposed his rule. After Nimeiry's death in May 2009, former Revolutionary Command Council member Khaled Hassan Abbass was elected head of the Alliance of Peoples' Working Forces. Splits occurred amongst the supporters of Nimeiry with some endorsing the partnership with the National Congress Party and others alleging that the National Congress Party reneged on the merger agreement and did not properly implement it. The splinter groups formed the May Socialist Union which took part in the parliamentary elections in Sudan in 2010. Another group led by Professor Dr. Fatima Abdel Mahmoud set up The Sudanese Socialist Democratic Union Party as the successor party of the Sudanese Socialist Union. Professor Dr. Fatima Abdel Mahmoud, was the first woman cabinet Minister in Sudan in the 1970s, and the first Sudanese woman to contest the Presidency in the Sudanese general election, 2010.