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Biographical Data :

Name :Jaafar Nimeiri
Period :1930 - 2009
Biographical detail : Sudanís military ruler who remained president from 1969 to 1985.

Nimeiri a graduate from the US Army Command College, Kansas in 1966, overthrew the government of Ismail al Azhari in 1969 and became the prime minister and chairman of the revolutionary council. He along with others emulated the secularist Free Officers movement that overthrew the Egyptian monarchy in 1952. He himself, however, was overthrown in a coup in 1971 but was elected president after a few months in a plebiscite with 98% vote.

After initially aligning himself with pan-Arabist and secularist forces Ė he established, in 1972, the Sudanese Socialist Union ĖNimeiri later became a pragmatic supporter of free enterprise, private ownership and foreign investment. He turned on his erstwhile friends in the early 1970s and became a key ally of the United Sates. The discovery of significant qualities of oil in southern Sudan later in the 1970s, encouraged this opening out to the West with the reward that Sudan became the second biggest recipient of American aid in Africa after Egypt.

In December 1969, vigorous and idealistic Nimeiri committed Sudan to join a grandiose, pan-Arab federation with Libya, Egypt and Syria.

The key to economic development lay in ending the civil war and Nimeiri believed he could stop the southern insurgency by granting regional self-government and promising reconstruction in the south. As a result, a wide-ranging accord was reached after talks were convened at Addis Ababa in February 1972. He signed the agreement with the Anya-Nya rebels and granted autonomy to Sudanís three southern provinces. The agreement was to be Nimeiriís most positive legacy to Sudan and required some skill and courage on his part, given the known opposition to the settlement of powerful voices within the political and military establishment. To his lasting credit, Nimeiri did end a gruelling civil war that had raged since 1955 between north and south.

In 1983, Nimeiri adopted Sharia for the whole of Sudan that re-ignited the civil war with the largely Christian and animist south. Coupled with economic decline Ė rising food and fuel prices, resulted in a general strike, which paralysed Sudan Ė and a huge influx of refugees from conflicts in neighbouring Ethiopia and Uganda, the war engendered a deep crisis that served as the context for Nimeiriís removal and flight to Egypt into exile in 1985.

Nimeiri returned to Sudan in 1999 at the invitation of President Omar al-Bashir. However, he had, by this time, no solid popular base of support and remained, at best, a marginal political player. The Islamic law he introduced in 1983 remained in force in Sudan.

Jaafar Nimeiri was born Jaafar Muhammad Nimeiri, the son of a postman, in Wad-Nubawl district of Omdurman, near Khartoum. He was influenced by Arab nationalistic idea that led Sudanís independence from Britain in 1956.

To judge by the crowds at his funeral Jaafar Nimeiri was given a great send off.
 (Compiler : M. Nauman Khan / Ghulam Mohiuddin)


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