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Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiry

In office
1969 – 1985
Preceded by Ismail al-Azhari
Succeeded by Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab

Born January 1, 1930(1930-01-01)
Wad Nubawi Omdurman, Khartoum State
Died May 30, 2009 (aged 79)
Political party Sudanese Socialist Union (while in power)[1]
Alliance of the Peoples' Working Forces (after return from exile, merged with NCP) National Congress Party (NCP)

Gaafar Muhammad an-Nimeiry (otherwise spelled in English as Jaafar Nimeiry, Gaafar Nimeiry or Ga'far Muhammad an-Numayri; 1 January 1930 – 30 May 2009[2]) (Arabic: جعفر محمد النميري‎) was the President of Sudan from 1969 to 1985. He was born in Wad Nubawi Omdurman in central Sudan, and was the son of a postman and the great grandson of a local tribal leader from the Wad Nimeiry region in Dongola, ash-Shamaliyah the Northern State.


Early life

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.

1955 - 1980

In 1966, Nimeiry graduated from the United States Army Command College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.


First term as Prime Minister

In 1969, together with four other officers he overthrew the government of Ismail al-Azhari, and became prime minister and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). He starts a campaign aiming 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.

Throughout the 1970s, a number of bilateral investment treaties were signed between Sudan and several states: Netherlands August 22, 1970, Switzerland February 17, 1974, Egypt May 28, 1977, France July 31, 1978.

Nimeiry successfully weathered a coup attempt by Sadiq al-Mahdi in 1970, and in 1971 was briefly removed from power by a Communist coup, before being restored. Later in 1971 he was elected President winning a referendum with 98.6 per cent of the votes, and signed the Addis Ababa Agreement whereby autonomy is granted to the non-Muslim southern region of Sudan, which ushered in an 11 year period of peace and stability to the region which had witnessed civil war since 1955, before Sudan's independence. He thus 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 that are signed. In July 1978 at the OAU summit in Khartoum, Nimeiry was elected Chairman of the Organization of African Unity until July 1979.

Coup attempts

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 Nimiery back within few hours. Brigadier Osman was wounded and later court martialed and executed.

Again 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 Muammar al-Gaddafi. Nimeiry and his government were narrowly saved after a column of army tanks entered the city.[3]

In 1977 a National Reconciliation took place between the leader of the opposition who was based abroad Sadiq al Mahdi and Nimeiry. A limited measure of pluralism was allowed and Sadiq al Mahdi and members of the Democratic Unionist Party (Sudan) joined the legislature and under the umbrella of the Sudan Socialist Union. 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.

1980 - 1985

Second term as Prime Minister

In 1981 Nimeiry, pressured by his Islamic opponents, and still President of Sudan, began a dramatic shift toward Islamist political governance. He allies 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 are also reformed. In violation of the Addis Ababa Agreement he dissolved the southern Sudanese government, thereby prompting a renewal of the civil war. Nimeiry was the 1 of only 2 Arab leaders (besides Qaboos) who maintained close relations with Anwar Sadat after the Camp David Accords. He attended Sadat's funeral.

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 defence minister Gen. Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab ousted him from power. At the subsequent elections the pro-Islamist leader, Sadiq al-Madhi (who had attempted a coup against Nimeiry in July 1977) became President.


During 1980-5, 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. From then until his death he was affiliated to the National Congress Party. In 2005, Nimeiry's party The Alliance of the Peoples' Working Forces merged 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.


  1. ^ Sudan: A Country Study "Role in Government" United States Library of Congress. Accessed on September 10, 2007.
  2. ^ "Sudan's former president Nimeiri dies". The Washington Post. 2009-05-30. Retrieved 2009-05-30.  
  3. ^ 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

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