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Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud

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Leader of the Sudanese Communist Party Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud (Reuters)

Name: Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud

Born: al-Giteina, White Nile State, 1930

Died: London, 12 March 2012 aged 82 from brain cancer.

Career: Leader of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), 1971-2012; MP for Deim and Amarat in Khartoum, 1986-1989.

OBITUARY

In spite of his status as the perennial outsider of Sudanese politics, Muhammad Ibrahim Nugud the former Political Secretary of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) shared the same elite educational background as many of post-independence Sudan’s most famous political leaders. Born in Geteina in White Nile State in 1930, he attended the prestigious Hantoub Secondary School in the late 1940s at the same time as Hassan al-Turabi and Jafa’ar Nimeiri, Sudan’s second military president.

During the course of his undergraduate studies Nugud also took a keen interest in literature and supervised the acting society which presented theatrical shows from the work of prominent writers such as Shakespeare. However, his fondness for baiting Sudan’s British rulers in anti-colonial demonstrations led to his ejection from the University of Khartoum in 1952, and Nugud thus completed his degree in Eastern Europe, immersing himself in the study of Communist economic philosophy.

Nugud returned to Sudan in 1958 and immediately joined the ranks of the Sudan Communist Party (SCP), being imprisoned in Malakal, now part of Upper Nile State in South Sudan, during one of its many struggles with the dictatorship of Ibrahim Abboud. After the return of parliamentary democracy to Sudan in 1964, Nugud took up a seat in parliament representing of the ‘Graduate Constituencies’, which had been established so as to provide extra representation for Sudan’s educated elite. Nugd and others like him in the SCP were reliant on these ‘graduate constituencies’ at the time to bolster their position in parliament, given the overwhelming support that the ‘traditional’ parties possessed in the rural areas of Sudan. Nugud became deputy to the leader of the SCP, Abd al-Khaliq Mahgub, at this time but lost his seat in parliament as the conservative religious parties formed an alliance against the SCP and had it outlawed.

Showdown with Nimeiri

After the SCP’s cataclysmic showdown with Jafa’ar Nimeiri in 1971, Nugud survived the dictator’s culling of the party leadership by going underground. Whilst in hiding he became the successor to Abd al-Khaliq Mahgub as leader of the party. However, when he re-emerged into the political open following the popular revolt against Nimeiri in 1985, his party was faced with seemingly overwhelming challenges. It had been decimated by the persistent campaigns of Nimeiri’s State Security Organisation, which had received a great deal of support from the CIA, and was faced with a political environment in northern Sudan in which political Islam was a far more substantial force that it had been in the years leading up to Nimeiri’s coup of 1969.

Nugud had hoped to find a political ally in John Garang’s SPLA, but found himself unable to persuade the rebel leader to lay down arms, come to Khartoum and participate in national elections. Nugud and the SCP have always looked to the south for secularist allies against the dominant religious parties in the north, which is part of the reason that they have consistently opposed southern secession. Throughout 2011, Nugd paid many visits to Juba to encourage southerners to vote for a united Sudan.

In spite of the SCP’s political isolation, Nugud embraced the principle of liberal democracy once more in between 1986 and 1989, serving for a full three years as the MP for Deim and Amarat. Magdi el Gizouli suggests that the Communist Party’s destructive confrontation with the military in 1971 led Nugud to conclude that ‘the struggle for socialism in the conditions of Sudan must complement rather than negate the achievements of liberal democracy’. Unfortunately for Nugud, Sudan’s third period of liberal democracy also proved to be short-lived, and following Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s coup of 1989 he was once more forced into hiding, only re-emerging in 2005, the year of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

2005-2012

Since then, until his death he continued to advocate civil, peaceful and democratic change. In 2009, when the SCP held its first general convention in decades, Nugud was reelected to the party’s top post. However, at the time his views appeared more moderate with some in the party privately attributing it to old age and deteriorating health. At a rally in Khartoum in February 2010, Nugud declared that ’the split of the Islamists has weakened them severely’ and encouraged Sudanese to ‘prepare for the phase after al-Ingaz (the Salvation Regime)’. In the Sudanese national elections of April 2010 he stood as a presidential candidate but only obtained 0.26% of the votes in an election that ultimately lacked credibility.

In spite of the SCP’s failures at the polls, Nugud still refused back military action against the regime, still being haunted by the ghost of the party’s ultimately catastrophic entanglement with Nimeiri in 1971. Whilst he publicly blamed the regime for the outbreak of war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile in 2011, he refused to endorse armed struggle to topple the government. In the years before his death, he had even begun to grow closer to Hasan al-Turabi – whose Popular Congress Party (PCP) has begun to depict itself as a champion of the marginalised – in an apparent rapprochement between Islamism and Communism.

Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that Nugud and the SCP joined opposition coalitions alongside the other major parties of the urban north, he was unable to co-ordinate with them to achieve his peaceful civilian uprising. After a demonstration held in Abu Jinzir Square in central Khartoum to express Sudanese support for the Arab Spring was easily dispersed by the security forces, Nugud expressed his frustration at the leaders of the more politically conservative opposition parties by writing down the words ‘I turned up but did not find you’ (hadart wa lam ajidkum) on a board and displaying it to the crowds. At the same time as attempting to forge links with other opposition groups, he and others in the old guard stuck firmly to the old Marxist precepts, and rejected proposals made by the younger generation that the party should move towards social democracy.

Tributes

Shortly after his death the Sudanese presidency and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) issued an obituary hailing Nugud’s patriotism and his role in the country’s political movement. Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the National Umma Party and Sudan’s former Prime Minister, described Nugud as someone who treated people fairly and courteously exemplifying the true meaning of religion. The Islamist opposition figure Hassan al-Turabi and head of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) made a phone call to Nugud’s sister Fayza conveying his party’s condolences.

Muhammad Ibrahim Nugud Published Works

  • Qadaya al-Dimuratiyya fi Sudan (Issues regarding Democracy in Sudan)
  • Hiwar Hawla al-Niza’at al-Maadiyya fi al-Falsafa al-Arabiyya al-Islamiyya (A Dialogue Concerning Materialistic Struggles in Arab Islamic Philosophy)
  • Allaqat al-’Ard fi Sudan: Hawamish ’Ala Watha’iq Tamlik Al-’Ard (Relationships of Land in Sudan: Notes on Land Ownership Records)
  • Allaqat al-Riqq fi al-Mujtama’ al-Sudani (Relations of Slavery in Sudanese Society)
  • Hiwar Hawla al-Dawla al-Madaniyya (A Dialogue Concerning the Civil State)

Muhammad Ibrahim Nugud Links

ST - Sudanese Communist Party

Wikipedia - Muhammad Ibrahim Nugud

Muhammad Ibrahim Nugud Videos

People flock to Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud’s funeral




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