The Umma National Party (UNP) / National Umma Party (NUP) is one of Sudan’s oldest political parties dating back to the 19th century. The party has its roots in the Mahdist Sufi order of the Ansar sect of Islam.
This background on the Umma party is taken from The Sudanese press after separation – Contested identities of journalism. MICT 2012, Page 46-47.
The Umma Party is one of the oldest parties in Sudan, with origins dating back to the late 19th century when Mohamed Ahmed from Dongola led the Mahdist movement to victory over the Ottoman colonialists. His son, Sayed Abdel Rahman, who was also the spiritual leader of the Mahdist sufi order of the Ansar, founded the Umma in 1945 and became its patron, with his son Siddiq serving as party president. Umma’s main objective was the promotion of Sudanese independence against those who favored unity with Egypt. In the first elections of 1953, it won the second largest number of seats, mainly in Darfur and Kordofan.
As the major opposition party to the NUP, it managed to achieve its aim of the country’s independence in 1956. Subsequently, it formed a coalition with the PDP (see DUP); Umma’s Abdallah Bey Khalil assumed the office of prime minister. His government was overthrown in 1958 by the military, which banned all parties thereafter. When General Abboud’s regime was overthrown in 1964, the Umma re-emerged on the political stage under the leadership of Siddiq’s son Sadiq Al Mahdi, an Oxford graduate of history. In the 1965 elections, it won the greatest number of seats with its strongly anti-communist stance and formed a coalition government under Mohamed Ahmed Mahjoub, a famous lawyer and poet.
In 1966, Sadiq became the youngest prime minister of his time but was replaced by Mahjoub one year later due to an inner-party dispute between his modernists and the traditionalists of his uncle, the Imam El Hadi El Mahdi. Mahjoub’s government was ousted in 1969 through the coup d’etat of leftist army officers under Jafar Numeiri (see SSU). During the initial phase of Numeiri’s May Revolution both Umma and Ansar suffered severe repression. In 1971, Numeiri had the Ansar’s headquarters at Aba Island bombed, killing a large number of Ansar followers.
Later, the Imam El Hadi was killed; Sadiq managed to escape into exile. From there he organized armed opposition to Numeiri’s regime, which reacted in 1977 by offering National Reconciliation. Sadiq returned to Sudan but soon went into open opposition, calling for an end to the one-party rule. In 1984, he was imprisoned for his criticism of the draconian September Laws that Numeiri imposed under the label of Sharia.
Following Numeiri’s overthrow in 1985, Umma won by far the largest number of seats in the 1986 elections and formed a coalition with the DUP, in which Sadiq became prime minister for the second time. Nevertheless, all peace initiatives with the rebel SPLM failed because of political wrangling in Khartoum.
In 1989, Sadiq was overthrown in a coup that was masterminded by his brother- in-law, Sheikh Turabi, and imprisoned until 1991. The Umma played a central role in forming the opposition umbrella NDA but left it in 1999, and Sadiq returned to Sudan from exile. He pulled out of the 2010 general elections and remained in opposition.66 However, his eldest son, Abd Al Rahman, became President Bashir’s advisor in late 2011.
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