12 - Who's Who
 National Islamic Front / National Congress Government

The National Islamic Front engineered the military coup to overthrow the elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and abort the peace process in June 1989. It began life as an Islamist student movement, the Islamic Charter Front (later known as the Muslim Brotherhood) in the 1960s. In the mid-1960s it clamoured for - and got - the expulsion of the legitimately elected Communist Party from Sudan's parliament. During the Cold War it benefited both from US anti-communism and indiscriminate Saudi finance for Islamic groups. Taking its inspiration as a modern, urban-based Islamic party from the movement in Egypt, it has campaigned for the application of sharia law and regularly uses Islamic sloganeering.

In reality, its totalitarian outlook represents only a narrow fraction of the spectrum of Islamic political thought. The NIF was defeated twice in the 1980s - in the April 1985 popular uprising against its coalition with Nimeiri, and in the 1986 general elections.

The National Congress was launched as the party of government with the introduction of new political laws in early 1999. These laws were nicknamed "tewali" after their use of an obscure Arabic word to cloak their limitations. Despite a sprinkling of other politicians, it is completely dominated by the NIF. The new laws have failed to convince the opposition that liberalisation is in the air. The NIF knows that if it shares power in any meaningful way, its political programme will be halted and it will be overthrown. It is prepared to use unprecedented levels of physical violence. Beneath its surface political activity, over the years it has acquired arms and trained loyalist militias.

Omar al-Bashir
Sudan's President, former paratrooper Lt-General Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, nominally led the 1989 coup. He is regarded more as a figurehead than as politically powerful in his own right, although as early as 1986 the Baathist 'El Destour' magazine identified him as an NIF member preparing a coup. Bashir went to the same school (Khartoum al-Gadeema), as NIF hawk Ali Osman Mohamed Taha - who became Vice President in 1998 - and was the NIF's Number Three in the army before 1989.

Bashir was designated as the candidate for the National Congress in the next presidential elections to be held in 2001.

Hassan al-Turabi
"Hassan al-Turabi heads a team of sometimes quarrelling but always committed people. The key NIF people in government have been there since the 1989 coup. A number of top people are unknown to the public, particularly in the many senior security posts." (Africa Confidential)

Dr Hassan al-Turabi, long recognised as the eminence grise of the regime, has been the principal architect of the NIF as a modern Islamist party. He built a secretive cell-based structure, learning from the Communist Party's underground methods as well as those of the ultra-right, both of which he studied closely. The NIF infiltrated its placemen by sponsoring recruits in otherwise poorly paid professions including the police, education and the civil service. In the 1986 general elections, however, the NIF won less than 10 per cent of the popular vote, and Dr Turabi failed to secure a seat in his Khartoum constituency.

In October 1999 Turabi regained all the powers he had ceded in December 1998, including the leadership of the ruling National Congress (NC) party, which he lost when 10 members shifted allegiance to Bashir.

Since that defeat, Turabi had been touring the country to build up a support base. His "tanks and missiles with oil money" speech in Ed Damer in April 1999 was typical of his approach - and just a few kilometres from the Atbara blast.

TENSIONS IN THE GOVERNMENT?

Senior NIF members occupy most ministerial posts, and its loyalist cadre hold all security-sensitive positions in the administration. Lt-Gen Bashir has neither the freedom nor the capability to act independently of the National Islamic Front, although there are tensions between loyalists of Bashir and Turabi. These are reflected by differing approaches to relations with Egypt. While the now-deceased First Vice-President Zubeir Muhammad Saleh and President Bashir were emphasising their military connections in attempting to normalise relations, hawks from Turabi's NIF power clique like Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha, the foreign minister at the time, would sabotage them.

Taha's appointment as First Vice President, after the 12 February 1998 plane crash that killed Zubeir, was an indicator that Turabi's candidate had beaten Bashir's candidate, presidential security advisor Bakri Hassan Saleh. The death of Zubeir meant that one of the president's main lines of defence lines against the NIF's complete domination of national policy had gone.

FINANCE AND BUSINESSMEN

AbdelRahim Hamdi, former Minister of Finance in the current Sudan government. A member of the Islamic Charter Front / Muslim Brothers / National Islamic Front since his student days, Hamdi has nonetheless been accused in an NIF newspaper of insufficient commitment to the party's interests above his own. His high-flying career with al-Baraka Bank took him to live in London, and when the Bashir regime made him Minister of Finance after its 1989 coup, he insisted on holding on to his old post as an al-Baraka representative, commuting between London and the Khartoum Hilton. After Arakis Energy secured the contracts for oil exploration work in Sudan, it was reported that Hamdi's daughter had married the son of Lutfur Rahman Khan, Arakis' CEO, but Hamdi refuses to discuss the matter.

Responsible for shaping the government's privatisation and structural adjustment program and fending off the threat of suspension by the World Bank / IMF, Hamdi continues to play a key economic advisory role despite leaving the post of finance minister.

Hamdi's attempt to introduce policies which were at the same time "Islamist" and friendly to the IMF was supported by the NIF, but he eventually became the focus of blame for the failure of the economy and opted for a less public profile. He became the chair of the Sudanese Stock Exchange and is still influential in politics.

An implicit threat was made to Arakis' future in an interview with ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper on 5 August 1996 by the then Minister of Finance, Awad al-Jaz, expressing Sudan's readiness to negotiate with Russia instead. Eventually, however, al-Jaz was over-ruled and Arakis emerged on top. Hamdi is believed to have intervened.

Visiting Johannesburg in August 1999, Abdel Rahim Hamdi told business delegates that Sudan's output could reach 1.4-million barrels a day in five years. It wasn't clear where the extra million barrels were coming from.

Muhammad Abdallah Jar al-Nabi, businessman and strong National Islamic Front supporter, has no direct engineering or oil expertise, and was not considered to be hugely rich, despite profits made building mosques in Uganda. Nonetheless, after returning to Sudan after the 1989 coup he acquired Chevron's Sudan assets at an apparently knockdown price when it quit Sudan in 1990, and his Concorp company acted as a go-between for the NIF in its dealings with foreign oil companies. He was praised in June 1999 by Bashir for building the private Abu Jabra refinery in Khartoum and for his contribution to the oil project.

Concorp is also a 20% owner of the Adar-Yale project consortium in Melut, near Malakal.

Abd al-Wahab Osman: Finance Minister; NIF MP, 1986.

Taj al-Sir Mustafa: veteran NIF; MP; key to security organs' funding; ex-Trade Minister; ex-Industry Minister; founded telecommunications organisation Sudatel (now part owned by al-Shifa investor Salah Idriss)

Salah al-Din Karrar ('Salah Dollar'): Ambassador; ex-Cabinet Affairs Minister; ex-head Revolutionary Command Council Economic Committee, many posts.

Al-Nur Zarroug: businessman; retired sea captain; veteran NIF and London resident. His Warm Seas Shipping gets the lion's share of government contracts for carriage of strategic commodities.

HARDLINERS & SECURITY MEN

Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha
Replacing Zubeir as First Vice President in February 1998, former judge and foreign minister Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha, 51, ranks second only to Hassan al-Turabi in the National Islamic Front hierarchy. He has been an NIF member since his days in Khartoum al-Gadeema secondary school, which he attended at the same time as Omar al-Bashir, and led the Khartoum University Student Union in the 1970s. A hardline leader of the opposition during the 1986-89 democratic period, he refused to join in the shortlived coalitions between the NIF and then-PM Sadiq al-Mahdi's Umma party. It is widely asserted that Taha was a planner of the 1989 coup against Sadiq, and that he visited army bases in the south shortly beforehand to meet NIF officers who then took part in it.

Taha's principal role as Social Planning minister in the early years of the NIF regime was as designer of the massive Islamisation programme in the non-Muslim south and the religiously mixed and tolerant Nuba Mountains. He took overall control of a web of local government and parastatal activities. "A hard-line ideologue, Taha represents the least flexible elements of Sudan's complex ruling coalition."
(BBC 4 November 1997).

Al-Tayeb Ibrahim Mohamed Kheir
Al-Tayeb Ibrahim Kheir trained as a military doctor, but is known as "Tayeb Sikha" (Tayeb of the Iron Bar) because of his part in violent NIF assaults on opponents during his student days. Appointed as Cabinet Affairs Minister after the 1989 coup, he presided over mass dismissals in the civil service. Formerly a Governor of Darfur, Brigadier al-Tayeb Ibrahim was Interior Minister until apparently demoted on 12 August 1995 by transfer to the Ministry of Labour and Administrative Reform, following the assassination attempt on President Mubarak of Egypt. He heads the peace committee for western Sudan. Having survived the February 1998 plane crash at Nasir while Information and Culture minister, he was Minister for Social Planning (better regarded as 'Social Engineering') in 1999.

Nafi'e Ali al-Nafi'e
The former Head of External Security, now Minister for Peace, is a veteran NIF member who trained in Iran in the mid-1980s while working as a University of Khartoum agriculture lecturer. He went on to shape the NIF security police in characteristically brutal style. In 1990, when the regime bizarrely blamed political unrest in Kordofan on the Sudanese Communist Party, Indian Ocean Newsletter commented, "This … seems to be the excuse to implement projects of repression conceived by Nafi'e Ali al-Nafi'e, the Assistant Director of Amm al-Thawra, (Revolution Security, an Islamist entity), and of the Deputy Director of Military Security, Col Kamal Ali Mukhtar."
(ION 8 Dec 1990).

In late 1991, as head of NIF National Security, Nafi'e was accused of personal involvement in the torture and subsequent death of Daoud Yahya Bolad, the (ex-NIF) commander of SPLA forces in northern Darfur, who was a prisoner of war. The biologist Farouk Ibrahim, who was imprisoned by the regime, also accused Nafi'e of torturing him.

Nafi'e was officially removed as external security boss on 12 August 1995, in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Husni Mubarak in Addis Ababa. He was replaced by General Ahmed al-Dabi, who was in turn replaced by Qutbi al-Mahdi in November 1996. In 1999 Nafi'e held the post of Agriculture and Forests Minister, but was widely assumed still to have a major security role.

Former President Ja'afar Nimeiri told Radio Monte Carlo on 13 September 1995: "Bashir cannot do anything unless he is told to by Turabi... I heard that Bashir has reinstated Dr Nafi, the chief security official whom he removed last week. I believe that he is one of those wanted for investigation in Ethiopia after the attempt on the life of President Mubarak. He […] supervised the operation from Khartoum..."

Qutbi al-Mahdi

External Security chief since 1998, formerly Ambassador to Iran, and State Presidency Minister in 1997, Qutbi al-Mahdi reportedly obtained Canadian citizenship in the 1980s. He first entered Canada on a student visa and later worked for the International African Relief Agency in Montreal. He returned to Sudan in 1989 to become the minister of foreign intelligence for the NIF government.

"It's important for the Canadian government to take a hard look at what they can do with this guy, revoke his citizenship or charge him with crimes against humanity," said John Oyemu, president of the African-Sudanese Association of Canada in November 1998, when it was learned that Qutbi al-Mahdi was about to re-visit Canada.

The director of the Canadian government war crimes unit confirmed his unit and Immigration Canada's enforcement unit were investigating the case. An official with the Sudanese Embassy in Ottawa was surprised to hear the news. "That's new information for me," he said. "I disagree he is responsible for committing crimes against humanity."

Gary Kenny, director of the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa, raised concerns that Qutbi al-Mahdi may have ongoing contact with the NIF network in Canada. "There is a concern that Canada is being used as a base to raise money to support the war effort in Sudan. If Mr al-Mahdi is travelling with a Canadian passport, he is violating the spirit of the sanctions and we would hope the Canadian government could prevent him from coming here." (National Post 25 November 1998)

In November 1998 a government delegation led by Qutbi al-Madhi visited NDA leader Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia,and called on him to return to Sudan and engage in his opposition activities at home. Al-Mirghani rejected the invitation outright.

Ibrahim Shams al-Din: Major (tanks); Defence Advisor. Was in Juba with "ex-security" Maj Fatih Erwa (now UN Ambassador) during 1992 siege and killings.

Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Atabani: Culture and Information Minister, medical doctor; Libyan-trained tank driver. Taking part in a coup attempt against Nimeiri in 1976 by "National Front " (MB-Umma-DUP alliance), he and Mahdi Ibrahim held off the army at the Communications building. Married to Umma politician Mubarak Abdullahi al-Fadil's sister-in-law.

General Ahmed al-Dabi: external security boss after the 1995 attack on President Husni Mubarak; then officially replaced. by Quthi al-Mahdi in November 1996; still said to be in security.

Hassan Osman Dahawi: Major General; overall security chief.

NEGOTIATORS

Awad al Jaz, the Energy and Mining Minister, is considered crucial to the NIF's charm campaign. He is also important in security activities.

Mustafa Osman Ismall: veteran NIF; Foreign Minister, effective diplomat known as 'Mr Smile'. After 1989 headed parallel foreign policy body/"Friendship Committees", e.g. Khartoum-based Sudanese-British Friendship Committee.

Nasr al-Din Idris: Career diplomat: Ambassador, South Africa; career diplomat, ex- Ambassador to UN, New York; ex-"gatekeeper" for al-Bashir, as he was for Premier al-Gizouli Dafa'allah in 1985.

Ali al-Haj Mohamed: Federal Rule Chamber Minister (Federal Relations Minister) from Darfur, with a long, mixed track record as NIF negotiator with southerners since 1990 in Addis Ababa, Abuja, Frankfurt and Entebbe.

OIL MEN

Sharif al-Tuhami, a geologist and member of the Umma Party, became Nimeiri's Minister for Energy and Mining after Nimeiri's 1976 National Reconciliation overtures to his hitherto banned opponents. Although Sadiq al-Mahdi's Umma Party soon fell out with Nimeiri, Tuhami remained until the bitter end.

When Nimeiri was toppled in April 1985, Tuhami was one of a limited number of ex-officials to be put on trial, accused of making millions of dollars through an audacious fraud. Through his appointee at the government's General Petroleum Corporation, Tuhami had arranged for several oil tankers en route to Sudan to be diverted before arrival, and their contents sold abroad. The result was a worsening of Sudan's already critical shortage of fuel. Sentenced to several years in prison, Tuhami was eventually released ahead of schedule and became a senior advisor to the NIF's oil committee as well as an appointee to the National Assembly.

Omer Bedawi Abu al-Basher from Kadugli, South Kordofan, has a PhD from the UK in petroleum engineering and is said to be still in business in London. He is a key contact on oil contracts.

MILITIA AND ARMY MEN

Ibrahim al-Senoussi: reputed to have built up NIF militias; veteran of 1976 National Front camps in Libya; background worker.

Mahdi Ibrahim: Ambassador, United States; Veteran NIF; ex-editor NIF paper El Raya; ex-militia organiser.

Omar Abdel Marouf: ex-chemical engineering technician; was People's Defence Force supremo and first civilian State (Junior) Defence Minister.

Bakri Hassan Salih: Presidential Advisor /"gatekeeper"; ex-Interior Minister, ex-security chief.

Ibrahim Suleiman: General; Defence Minister.

 Crackdown on peace dialogue

On November 17, 1999, Sudanese advocate and prominent human rights activist Ghazi Suliman was planning to hold a press conference in front of over 70 journalists, lawyers and politicians from both Northern and Southern Sudan. The aim of the conference was to establish a dialogue with leader of the SPLA, John Garang, who had agreed to link up with the conference via telephone. However, before it could start, government security forces broke into Ghazi Suliman's office where the conference was being held.

They fired 8 tear gas canisters into the office and then proceeded to beat those present. A cameraman for Gezira TV was stabbed in the chest and his equipment smashed up. Lawyer Mamoun Farouq was stabbed in the back; lawyer and human rights defender Ms Nazik Mahgoub Osman was beaten, and lawyer Sat'ih Ahmed El Haj was injured in his leg. A security officer started to beat Ghazi Suliman about the face with a shoe in the police truck, which transported them to the police station. Ghazi Suliman's offices have been vandalized and the equipment completely destroyed; 32 lawyers and journalists were arrested and taken to the police station in the north of Khartoum.
(Sudanese Victims of Torture Group 18 November 1999)

 The Opposition: NDA and SPLA

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) includes former parliamentary parties, trades union and Armed Forces members alongside the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The umbrella alliance formally came together with the 1995 Asmara Agreement, and represents a majority of northern and southern Sudanese. They have both frequently warned Western oil companies against involvement with the National Islamic Front regime.

The two historically largest political parties are the Umma and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which are based on traditional conservative Sunni Muslim sects. Both sects and parties follow hereditary leaders.

Sadiq al Mahdi of the Ansar sect is head of the Umma Party and great-grandson of the Mahdi who ejected the British and Egyptians from Sudan in the late 19th century.

Mohamed Osman al Mirghani of the Khatmiyya sect is head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

These two parties consistently out-polled the NIF when there were free elections. In its 1989 coup, the NIF acted to prevent them from settling the war with the south, because they were considering reforms that would have made the state more respectful of non-Muslims' religious rights, as southerners and northern secularists were demanding.

A Dinka educated in US universities, Col John Garang has been the head of the SPLA since its formation in 1983, and now heads the NDA military section, a highly significant appointment. The SPLA demands freedom of religion for all Sudanese and seeks a "united, secular" Sudan. It includes Muslims and traditional African believers as well as Christians, Southerners and non-Southerners. Nuba Mountains SPLA forces are led by Yusif Kuwa, a Muslim former school teacher whose family includes both Christians and Muslims.

Since 1997 the SPLA has been joined by more Muslim forces from other parts of Sudan, greatly increasing the numbers of Muslims fighting against the purported Islamic state. These include the eastern Beja fighters of the Beja Congress led by Amin Shingrai, the Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF) of Abdel Aziz Khalid, and the SPLA's New Sudan Brigade (NSB). Many are from traditionally privileged elite families in Khartoum who seek an alternative to the NIF police state.

SAF, the Beja Congress, SPLA and others in the opposition opened up an eastern front against the regime in 1997. The NDA brought the road from the capital, Khartoum, to Port Sudan, the country's only sea outlet, into the war zone for the first time. It also took areas close to the strategic Roseires hydroelectric dam. Its forces attacked the pipeline near the northeast town of Atbara in September 1999.

13 - "Peace from within"