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History, Nimeiry’s Regime

blanket pardon, coup attempts, Arab leader, coups, American diplomats

In 1969 a group of radical army officers, led by Colonel (later Field Marshal) Gaafar Muhammad al-Nimeiry, seized power and set up a government under a revolutionary council. Political tension continued, however, and several coups were attempted. During this period Nimeiry, who became the first elected president of Sudan in 1972, consolidated his power. In early 1973 a new constitution was promulgated. Initially, Nimeiry turned to the Soviet Union and Libya for support, but after coup attempts (1976) allegedly backed by Libya and local Communists, he turned to Egypt, conservative Arab states, and the West for political and economic aid. Relations with the United States, disrupted by the murder of two American diplomats by Arab terrorists in Khartoum in 1973, were also repaired. Nimeiry was the only Arab leader to back Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat in his peace negotiations with Israel. Sadat’s assassination in 1981 left Sudan considerably more vulnerable to the enmity of Libya. The country’s stability was also threatened by a large influx of refugees from Eritrea, Uganda, and Chad, which seriously strained its resources.

President Nimeiry won reelection to a third term in April 1983. In September he issued a blanket pardon for some 13,000 prisoners and announced a revision of the penal code to accord with Islamic law (Sharia). Martial law, imposed in April 1984 in the wake of rising tensions with Libya, protests over food price increases, and opposition in the predominantly non-Muslim south to Islamization, remained in force until late September. Renewed unrest led in April 1985 to Nimeiry’s ouster in a bloodless military coup.

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