March 23, 2012 / 6:43 AM / 7 years ago

Head of Sudan's once-powerful Communist Party dies

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, head of Sudan’s Communist Party, died on Thursday after more than four decades at the helm of what was once one of the African country’s most potent political forces, the party said.

Leader of the Sudanese Communist Party Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud talks to the media, July 22, 2010. Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Nugud, born in 1930, became the party’s secretary general shortly after President Jaafar Nimeiri had his predecessor executed in a broad purge of the party’s leadership following a failed coup in 1971.

Known for his personal charisma, Nugud led the party through the intervening years, which saw resumption of civil war with the country’s south, Nimeiri’s ousting in a popular uprising and a coup which brought the current military government to power.

The Communist Party was a major force in Sudan after the country gained independence from Britain in 1956, helping shape the political landscape of the tumultuous years that followed.

The party long advocated its ideology as an antidote for the sectarian and ethnic divisions which have fuelled Sudan’s long internal conflicts, but never managed to take control.

Party members did help leverage Nimeiri and his “Free Officers” to power in 1969, following several years of parliamentary democracy after a popular revolt ousted the previous military ruler.

But Nimeiri and the Communists soon fell out. In 1971, party members were linked to a short-lived coup against the strongman, who then carried out a massive purge of the group, arresting and executing much of its leadership.

Secretary General Abdel Khaleq Mahjoub was among those executed in the purge. The party, which never fully recovered from the blow, elected Nugud to take his place.

Nugud remained one of the country’s most prominent politicians, and was arrested numerous times, including after President Omar al-Bashir’s government took power in a 1989 coup.

He died in Britain, where he had travelled for medical treatment.

Nugud, who earned a degree in economics and philosophy in Bulgaria, was repeatedly elected to Sudan’s parliament, and held a seat in the last multi-party parliament before the 1989 coup.

He wrote several historical and Marxist-themed books.

Nugud was one of a generation of ageing politicians which still wields influence in Sudan, alongside Umma Party head Sadeq al-Mahdi, Popular Congress Party chief Hassan al-Turabi and Democratic Unionist Party leader Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani.

The Communist Party, however, has remained much diminished. The editor of its mouthpiece, al-Midan newspaper, said authorities had repeatedly blocked the paper from publishing this month after it ignored a warning to avoid writing about the recent killing of a girl by police.

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