Mohamed Beshir Hamid

1981-82: The Martial Arts of Survival


Volume 12

Annual Survey and Documents
Sudan Chapter
Mohamed Beshir Hamid

Download the FULL 1981-1982 record as PDF

The Martial Arts of Survival

The one tangible and incredible achievement by President Ja’far Muhammad Numeiry during 1981/82 was the fact that he managed to survive.1 It was not just simply the question of surviving the unraveling of the country’s virtually bankrupt economy, the explosive tensions between the North and South regions and discord in the latter, the politically risky posture of an unabashedly pro-American foreign policy, and the wave of popular discontent that seemed to grip all levels of Sudanese society; Numeiry’s survival was all the more remarkable in that almost all these crises were largely self-inflicted.

The adoption of the stringent austerity measures demanded by the IMF was tantamount to an act of political hara-kiri. Ntimeiry’s proposal to redivide Southern Sudan into three regions, and his constitutionally questionable interventions in Southern politics had the undesirable effect of arousing Southern suspicions and of eroding his important power base there. His strident denunciations of Libya and the Soviet Union were almost an invitation to retaliation and subversion from his pro-Soviet neighbours and, at home fed a latent anti-American and anti-Egyptian backlash. In the face of the groundswell of protest to his policies, President Numeiry proceeded to effect the amazing feat of demolishing his entire regime, which he blamed for all the ills afflicting the country- and, then, rising phoenix-like from the ashes to proclaim his own political immortality.



Paradoxically, the process of national reconciliation which, since it began in 19772, might have contributed to the longevity of Numeiry’s rule, seemed to be a major, casualty of his controversial policies. The political turmoil precipitated by these policies created a situation that was, in effect, a recipe for revolution.


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