Gaafar Muhammad an-Nimeiry (otherwise spelled in English as Jaafar
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 towards
Islamism, 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.
1 Early life and education
2.1 First term as Prime Minister
2.2 Coup attempts
2.3 National Reconciliation
3.1 Second term as President
3.3 Exile and return
Early life and education
He was born in Wad Nubawi in
Omdurman Sudan. 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
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 the
Revolutionary 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.
Nimeiry, Nasser and Gaddafi in Tripoli, 1969.
In 1970 Nimeiry ordered an aerial bombardment on
Aba Island which
killed several thousand Ansar, members of the Umma Party which opposed
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
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
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
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
Switzerland February 17, 1974,
Egypt May 28, 1977, and
France 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.
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
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. 1976 is
also the year that he appointed a new governor, Abdelrahim Mahmoud, to
rule the Central States (Gezira State, Blue Nile State, White Nile
State). The economy was booming, due to the cotton industry in the
Nimeiry during a 1978 state visit to Western Germany, testing army
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
Sadiq al Mahdi and
members of the
Democratic Unionist Party (Sudan)
Democratic Unionist Party (Sudan) joined the
legislature under the umbrella of the
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 arriving for a state visit in the US, 1983
Nimeiry was one of only two
Arab leaders (the other being
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 the Muslim 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
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
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
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
the 1970s, and the first Sudanese woman to contest the Presidency in
the Sudanese general election, 2010.
^ Sudan: A Country Study "Role in Government"
United States Library of
Congress. Accessed on September 10, 2007.
^ a b c d e Dennis Hevesi (June 11, 2009). "Gaafar al-Nimeiry, a Sudan
Leader With Shifting Politics, Dies at 79". The New York Times.
^ "Gaafar al-Nimeiry". The Telegraph. 2 June 2009.
^ a b c John E. Jessup (1998). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Conflict
and Conflict Resolution, 1945-1996. Greenwood Publishing Group.
^ a b c d Diana Childress (2010). Omar Al-Bashir's Sudan. Twenty-First
Century Books. p. 40. ISBN 0-8225-9096-4. Retrieved February
^ Burr, J. Millard and Robert O. Collins, Darfur: The Long Road to
Disaster, Markus Wiener Publishers: Princeton, 2006,
ISBN 1-55876-405-4, p. 111
Presidents of Sudan
Sovereignty Council (1956–58)
Sovereignty Council (1964–65)
Sovereignty Council (June–July 1965)
Prime Ministers of Sudan
office abolished, 1989–2017
Chairpersons of the
Organisation of African Unity
Organisation of African Unity and the African
Organisation of African Unity