Mohamed Beshir Hamid

1977-78 Attempts at National Reconciliation


Volume 10

Annual Survey and Documents
Sudan Chapter
Mohamed Beshir Hamid


Download the FULL 1977-1978 record as PDF

Sudan: Attempts at National Reconciliation


By no means uncharacteristically for the Sudan, 1977, produced a number of quite unexpected developments-notably the return of Said al·Sadiq al-Mahdi, the former Prime Minister and leader of the Ansari Muslims, from exile in London. Then, when everything seemed to be set fair for a return to national reconciliation and stability, a major political upset occurred in the elections in the Southern Sudan in February 1978, which brought the downfall of Abel Alier’s government there. While the new government is unlikely to change its relations towards the North, there were further’ unexpected developments in Khartoum. The early honeymoon with Sadiq had not gone as well as hoped, and he returned to London for a time in February 1979, but went back to Khartoum after a month.


Meanwhile, by early 1978 the Sudan appeared to have undergone another swing of the pendulum, reverting to many of the less satisfactory features of the political period before the 1969 military coup. These included the re-emergence of the politically divisive sectarian politics of the two Islamic groups, the Ansar and the Khatmiya, as well as the official recognition given to the formerly clandestine Islamic Charter Front. Very little of the Left-wing revolutionary character of President Ja’afar Numeiry’s Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) appeared to have survived the changes of 1977.


Sudan came very close to the brink of war with Ethiopia in July 1977, but by December an agreement was signed between the two neighbours setting them on the road to reconciliation. However, General Numeiry continued to pursue a policy of extreme hostility towards the USSR over its role in the conflict in the Horn of Africa, and generally to consolidate those trends in foreign policy established after the abortive 1971 coup: closer ties with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a pro-Western and strongly anti-Soviet orientation. The year also saw major adjustments in economic policies and the beginning of a new Six-Year Development Plan.


The interdependence of these domestic, foreign and economic issues was specially marked during 1977. There was a growing realization that political stability cannot be maintained in the face of continuing economic difficulties, persistent outside pressures and internal opposition. The rapid economic development envisaged in the Six-Year Plan cannot be achieved without the uninterrupted flow of foreign investment, which in turn cannot be guaranteed unless stability is maintained. Equally, outside challenges and pressures—particularly from hostile pro-Soviet neighbours—cannot be effectively met or resolved without assistance from the West and pro-West Arab countries, and without the consolidation of the internal front and the economic base. Hence, the mounting emphasis in 1977 on national unity, on the ‘opening to the West’ and on the economic ‘big push’.


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