General Nimeiri was ousted in the Sudan after serving as head of government since 1969. Nimeiri fought to suppress a rebellion in the non-Muslim south. He imposed Islamic law, but lost almost all support. In April, a military revolt led by Defense Minister Abdel Raham Siwar el-Dahab removed Nimeiri from power. .
General Gaafar Nimeiri's rule in Sudan was one of the longest and most eventful in the nation's post-independence history. Coming to power in 1969 through a military coup that ousted the democratically elected government, Nimeiri quickly established a centralized autocratic regime. Over the next 16 years, his leadership would see Sudan through significant political and social transformations, often marked by turbulence and conflict.
One of the defining challenges of Nimeiri's tenure was the ongoing civil conflict in the southern part of the country. The non-Muslim south, with its distinct cultural and religious identity, had long been at odds with the predominantly Muslim and Arab north. Nimeiri's attempts to suppress the rebellion in the south were characterized by heavy-handed military tactics, leading to a deepening of the divide and escalating the conflict. The war, which had roots predating Nimeiri's rule, became one of Africa's longest and deadliest conflicts.
In a controversial move in 1983, Nimeiri sought to further consolidate his power by imposing Sharia (Islamic law) across the entire country, including the non-Muslim south. This decision was not merely a religious one; it was deeply political. By appeasing the Muslim majority and conservative clerics in the north, Nimeiri hoped to strengthen his grip on power. However, the imposition of Sharia further alienated the southern population and intensified the civil war.
By the mid-1980s, Nimeiri's once-strong hold on the country began to wane. His economic policies, coupled with widespread drought, led to economic hardships and famine. Public discontent grew, not just in the south but across the country. Protests, often led by students and professionals, became frequent. Nimeiri's response to these protests was typically repressive, further eroding his public support.
The culmination of these challenges came in April 1985. With public discontent at its peak and with Nimeiri's power base eroding, a military revolt took shape. Led by Defense Minister Abdel Rahman Siwar el-Dahab, the military moved swiftly to remove Nimeiri from power while he was on a visit to the United States. The coup was largely bloodless and was met with widespread public approval.
Abdel Rahman Siwar el-Dahab, in a rare move for coup leaders, pledged to hold democratic elections and hand over power to a civilian government. He kept this promise, and in 1986, a civilian government was established in Sudan.
In hindsight, Nimeiri's ouster marked the end of an era in Sudanese politics. His rule, with its mix of authoritarianism, religious politics, and civil conflict, left a lasting impact on the nation. The challenges of his era, particularly the north-south divide, would continue to shape Sudan's political landscape for decades to come.