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Jaafar Muhammed Nimeiri

(b. 1930)


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(b. Omdurman, 1930; d. Khartoum, 30 May 2009)

Sudanese; Head of State 1969–85 Born into a poor urban family, Nimeiri joined the army in 1949, and participated in the coup led by General Abboud in 1958. In May 1969, having risen to the rank of colonel, he launched his own coup in association with radical elements and the Sudanese Communist Party, and subsequently ruled Sudan for far longer than anyone before or (as yet) since.

The initial imposition of socialist policies, involving considerable repression, lasted only two years; in July 1971, an attempted coup was launched with the support of the Communists, but was suppressed after three days. The Communists were purged, and Nimeiri looked for support to the West. He resolved the civil war in southern Sudan by accepting southern regional autonomy in the March 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, and after the oil price rises of the mid-1970s sought to turn Sudan into the ‘breadbasket of the Middle East’ with aid from newly oil-rich Arab states.

These efforts failed. The ambitious development programme degenerated into massive corruption while producing negligible economic results, and Sudan itself became dependent on food aid. Nimeiri himself undermined his own main achievement, the settlement of the war in the south, by unilaterally abrogating the Addis Ababa agreement, leading eventually to renewed war. In September 1983, he adopted Islamic law (whether out of personal religious conviction, or to improve his standing in Muslim northern Sudan, remains uncertain), thus further deepening the rift with the Christian south. In April 1985 he was overthrown while abroad by another military coup, and went into exile in Egypt, where he lived until his return to Sudan in 1999. He stood unsuccessfully in the widely boycotted presidential election of 2000.

Subjects: Social Sciences — World History.


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