KHARTOUM: Sudan on Sunday buried former president Gaafar Al-Nimeiry, the man who imposed Islamic rule on Africa’s largest nation, at a funeral attended by ordinary Sudanese, politicians and military officials.
President Omar Al-Beshir led the funeral procession as Nimeiry’s body, wrapped in a Sudanese flag, was carried by military officials to his burial site in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city.
“There is no God but Allah, chanted about 3,000 men dressed in traditional white robes, as well military officers, policemen and a handful of politicians gathered at a stadium in Omdurman.
Nimeiry, who came to power in a coup in 1969 with the support of communist and socialist leaders, died in a military hospital on Saturday at the age of 79 after a long illness.
Hundreds of his relatives and supporters gathered outside his home in Omdurman’s Wad Nabawi neighborhood on Saturday to recite prayers after news of his death.
In 1972, he oversaw the end of a civil war that had plagued the country since 1955, pitting the north against the mainly Christian and animist south but an economic crisis in the late 70s and early 80s saw his grip on power weaken.
In 1983, bowing to pressure from the Islamists, he introduced Sharia law to Africa’s largest nation but two years later, in 1985, he was ousted in another coup.
Nimeiry was also a career officer who received military training in an academy in the United States in the 1960s.
Al-Beshir said in a statement that Nimeiry would be remembered as the man who brought Islamic law to Sudan, and which is still imposed in the north of the country.
“Nimeiry was a sincere man, a leader with a heart, said Abel Alier, who served as vice president under Nimeiry between 1971-1981. “He achieved many good things but he also did things he should not have done.
“He signed peace with the south in 1972. Many people have forgotten that but (at the time) it was the good thing to do, he said.
Nimeiry’s ouster from power in 1985 by General Sawar Al-Dahab paved the way for democratic elections in Sudan which saw the head of the powerful Umma Party, Sadeq Al-Mahdi, elected to the presidency.
But Mahdi was overthrown by Al-Beshir in 1989.
Nimeiry lived 14 years in exile in Egypt after his ouster, returning to Sudan in 1999.