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Nafie Ali Nafie

Full Name: Nafie Ali Nafie

Current Position: Adviser to the Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

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FILE - Sudan’s presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie

Date of Birth: 1948

Born: Shendi, River Nile State, Sudan.

Tribe: Ja’ali

Education: BA Agriculture, University of Khartoum; PhD in Genetics from the University of California, 1980

Career: Agriculture Lecturer, University of Khartoum; Chief of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS); Federal Affairs Minister; Senior Presidential Adviser.

Political Affiliations: Muslim Brotherhood; National Islamic Front; National Congress Party, 1996-to date.


Whilst Nafie Ali Nafie may have risen to the summit of power within the Sudanese state apparatus via a route different to that chosen by to Omar Hassan al-Bashir, both men share similar origins. Like al-Bashir, Nafie hails from a poor family living in a small village in the rural hinterland of Shendi, a town in the riverain region to the north of Khartoum.

Born in 1948, Nafie received his primary education in his village, Tamid al-Nafa’aab, before studying at Shendi intermediary, Wadi Sayyidna secondary school and graduating with a BA in agriculture from the University of Khartoum. Although currently regarded as a hardline supporter of his fellow Ja’ali Omar al-Bashir, it is worth remembering he acquired his political prestige as a civilian Islamist and protégé of Hassan al-Turabi.

Nafie acquired a PhD in Genetics from the University of California in 1980, at a time when al-Turabi was seeking to modernise the Islamic movement by instructing its members to pursue Western educations. When Nafie entered the University of Khartoum as a lecturer in agricultural studies in 1980, he was still regarded as a relatively low profile member of the movement.


However, it was from this point that Nafie undertook a sharp career turn. Having gained his academic credentials in the United States, he undertook security and intelligence training under auspices of its great ideological nemesis, travelling to Tehran for this purpose in 1981 on the apparent pretext of conducting further studies in the field of agriculture.

Throughout the 1980s he travelled throughout the Islamic World, making contacts with various militant organisations in Afghanistan and the Beka’a valley of Lebanon. He used the expertise and contacts he gained to develop the Islamists’ own security apparatus within Sudan, importing weapons and establishing secret desert training camps.

This Islamist security apparatus infiltrated both Jafa’ar Nimeiri’s State Security Organisation, and then the security organisation established by al-Sadiq al-Mahdi during the third parliamentary regime, eventually providing the nucleus for the intelligence apparatus of al-Bashir’s ‘Salvation Regime’.

In the early 1990s, al-Bashir appointed Nafie chief of the internal security organisation (NISS), making him on paper the most powerful of the civilian Islamists at the time. During this time the practices of Sudan’s security apparatus, including the various acts of torture committed in the NIF’s notorious ‘ghost houses’ (buyut al-ashbah) earned Nafie a rancour amongst the public which is still unparalleled amongst senior regime figures to this day.

It is also believed that during this time he coordinated with his former Iranian mentors to supply arms to those opposing the American and French presence in Somalia.

His dismissal from this post, and its relation to his involvement in the 1995 attempted assassination of Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia, remains a matter of some controversy. Senior figures in al-Turabi’s Popular Congress Party have recently claimed that he was dismissed following an investigation commissioned by al-Turabi after it was established that the man who had sheltered the attempted assassins was in Nafie’s pay. This perhaps represents another convenient attempt by al-Turabi and his political followers to distance themselves from the political extremism of the 1990s.


However Burr and Collins, citing reports from the time, state that it was al-Bashir who took the decision to dismiss Nafie, not because of his involvement in the Addis Ababa events but as part of an overall security shake-up following the urban protests of September 1995. It was reported at the time that al-Bashir has been frustrated by the failure of the intelligence organs to predict these uprisings, and that al-Turabi himself resented al-Bashir’s decision to replace Nafie, a civilian Islamist, with a soldier.

Nevertheless, Nafie broke decisively with al-Turabi in 1998 when he, alongside a number of other senior Islamists, signed the ‘Memorandum of the Ten’, which signalled widespread discontent within the Islamic movement towards the policies pursued by al-Turabi during the 1990s.

In the aftermath of al-Bashir’s split with al-Turabi in 1999, Nafie grew close to the former, and took on a number senior positions, acting as a presidential advisor during the peace talks with South Sudan, and then as Federal Affairs Minister.

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Note on Panthou/Heglig by Douglas H. Johnson

In 2004 Nafie made a crucial intervention regarding the status of Heglig - a disputed oil-rich territory on the border between Sudan and South Sudan - informed the NCP-appointed governor of Unity State that ‘that Heglig does not belong to Unity State ... but belongs to Western Kordofan State’]. Sudan’s claim over Heglig was at the centre of a border conflict between the two nations in 2012.


His current position as a more general ‘presidential advisor’ does not fully do justice to the enormous influence Nafie exercises in matters of security and governance. A recent International Crisis Group report concluded that no NCP ‘security structure’ could take a major decision without consulting Nafie; the informal influence he exercises in the selection of gubernatorial and parliamentary candidates has infuriated his arch-rivals in the NCP, Ali Uthman Taha and Salah Gosh. Their rivalry recently reached a peak during a serious of confrontations that were heavily publicized by the media, as Gosh attacked Nafi’ for his hardline stance and opposition to reconciliation with other parties.

It has also been reported that in recent NCP party meetings Nafie has accused Ali Uthman Taha, who helped negotiate the 2005 Peace Agreement, of being behind the secession of South Sudan. Some analysts argue that these divisions have increasingly taken an ethnic character, with Nafi’ growing increasingly close to al-Bashir in opposition to Ali Uthman Taha and (recently dismissed) Salah Gosh, who are both Shayqiyya.

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