Gaafar Nimeiry

Jaafar Muhammad an-Nimeiry (otherwise spelled in English as Jaafar Nimeiry, Jaafar Nimeiry or Ja'far Muhammad Numayri; Arabic: جعفر محمد نميري; 26 April 1930[2][3]  30 May 2009[4]) was the President of Sudan from 1969 to 1985.

Jaafar Muhammad Nimeiry
Chairman of the National Revolutionary Command Council
In office
May 25, 1969  October 12, 1971
DeputyBabiker Awadalla
Preceded byIsmail al-Azhari
Succeeded byHimself as the President
4th President of Sudan
In office
October 12, 1971  April 6, 1985
Vice PresidentFirst Vice Presidents
Abel Alier
Mohamed Al-Baghir Ahmed
Abuelgasim Mohamed Hashim
Abdul Majid Hamid Khalil
Omar Muhammad al-Tayib
Preceded byHimself as the Chairman of the National Revolutionary Command Council
Succeeded byAbdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab
9th Prime Minister of Sudan
In office
October 28, 1969  August 11, 1976
Preceded byBabiker Awadalla
Succeeded byRashid Bakr
In office
September 10, 1977  April 6, 1985
Preceded byRashid Bakr
Succeeded byAl-Jazuli Daf'allah
Personal details
Born(1930-04-26)April 26, 1930
Omdurman, Sudan
DiedMay 30, 2009(2009-05-30) (aged 79)
Khartoum, Sudan
Political party

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.[4] 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.

Early life and education

Jaafar Nimeiry lineaged to the city of Dongola, one of the most important places where the Nubian tribes live and spread heavily in Northern Sudan.[5] He studied at the Omdurman primary and elementary school, and then in Wad Madani secondary school, and then in Hantub school with the British colonialism character, and later he joined the Khartoum University College. Because of his desire to change to the military field.[6] In 1950 he graduated from the War College in Omdurman in 1952 and received a Master of Military Science from Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, United States in 1966.[7]

Nimeiri moved on different positions in the Sudanese army. He was accused in 1955 of orchestrating a coup d'état against the country's democratic system at that time,[8] but it was found after the investigation that it was nothing more than lacking the existence of sufficient evidence to show that he was relevant.[9] He was interrogated again about a failed coup attempt led by an officer named Khalid Yusuf, but the investigation did not find anything to criminalize Nimeiri in the attempted coup.


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.

In 1970 Nimeiry ordered an aerial bombardment on Aba Island which killed several thousand Ansar, members of the Umma Party which opposed him.[10]

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[7] which he declared to be the only legal political organization.[10] 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.[10]

In the mid-1970s he launched several initiatives to develop agriculture and industry in Sudan and he invited foreign companies to explore for oil.[10] (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, 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.

Coup attempts

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.[4] After this coup, he started to move away from Soviet influence and began to receive arms from the US and China.[4][11]

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.[12] Ninety-eight people implicated in the plot were executed.[4]

National Reconciliation

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 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 military.[7] 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.

The alliance with the United States was strengthened under the administration of Ronald Reagan. American aid increased from $5 million in 1979 to $200 million in 1983 and then to $254 million in 1985, mainly for military programs. Sudan thus becomes the second largest recipient of US aid to Africa (after Egypt). The construction of four air bases to house Rapid Deployment Force units and a powerful listening station for the CIA near Port Sudan is decided.[13]

In 1984 and 1985, after a period of drought, several million people were threatened by famine, particularly in western Sudan. The government tried to hide the situation internationally.[13]


During 1980–85, the Sudanese Pound lost 80 percent of its worth due to inflation and renewed civil war.

1985 Revolution

Political and economic discontent against Nimeiry grew over several years prior to 1985, according to Sudanese interviewed by The New York Times, who said that Nimeiry had "begun to alienate almost every sector of Sudanese society". Major complaints included the obligatory use of Islamic law throughout Sudan, which upset non-Muslims, especially in the southern part of Sudan, and price increases resulting from an economic austerity program implemented under pressure from the United States (US) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).[14] Price increases in late March 1985 were considered to be a major trigger factor for protests. Eight doctors', lawyers' and university lecturers' associations called for a protest on 3 April and a "general political strike until the abolition of the current regime". Massive demonstrations took place in Khartoum and around Sudan on 3 April. The general strike took place up to 6 April, when Nimeiry was deposed, with a high effectiveness in shutting down governance of Sudan. The use of massive civil disobedience that led to the coup d'état deposing Nimeiry from the presidency on 6 April is often referred to as the 1985 Revolution that followed the Sudanese October 1964 Revolution.[13]

Exile and return

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 defence 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.

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 of Sudan. The National Congress negotiated an end to the Second Sudanese 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 and others alleging that the National Congress 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. Abdel Mahmoud was the first woman cabinet Minister in Sudan in the 1970s, and the first Sudanese woman to contest the presidency in the 2010 Sudanese election.


  1. Sudan: A Country Study "Role in Government" United States Library of Congress. Accessed on September 10, 2007.
  3. Dennis Hevesi (June 11, 2009). "Gaafar al-Nimeiry, a Sudan Leader With Shifting Politics, Dies at 79". The New York Times.
  4. Information about prominent Sudanese personalities
  6. John E. Jessup (1998). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Conflict and Conflict Resolution, 1945-1996. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 530–531.
  7. Nimeiri's coup attempt paved, the way for him in front of power
  8. Diana Childress (2010). Omar Al-Bashir's Sudan. Twenty-First Century Books. p. 40. ISBN 0-8225-9096-4. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  10. 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
  11. Gresh, Alain. "Le Soudan après la dictature" [Sudan after the dictatorship]. Le Monde Diplomatique (in French). Archived from the original on 2019-10-16. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  12. Miller, Judith (1985-04-07). "Sudan's president is ousted in coup by military chief". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-05-24. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
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