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The Gellabi in the Military uniform

Dr. Elshafie Khidir Saeid

Before its independence, it was clear that Sudan will sustain some painful moments regarding the relation between its southern & northern regions.


While the northern Sudanese politicians were busy with the independence negotiation, the southern Sudanese raised a very legitimate and alarming question: What is the share of the south in the independent Sudan?


In fact, an early clear warning was manifested through two incidences: the outbreak of violence/mutiny in the Toreit garrison in August 1954, and the southern parliamentarians accepting to vote for independence only on condition that Federalism for the south will be adopted and included in the constitution of 1956.

Unfortunately, it was as if the intellectual receptors of the northern political elites were disabled! I always keep imagining what would have been the shape of Sudan now had the Sudanese political elites agreed, before or after independence, to adopt federalism, or at least regional autonomy, for the South of the Sudan and included it in the Stanley Beaker constitution?!


In this regard, we have to raise our hats to the prominent Sudanese politician & parliamentarian, the late Hassan Altahir Zarroug who proposed autonomy for the south of Sudan before the declaration of the independence.

After the military coup of 17 November 1958, the civil war spread in the south, and because of the policy of the burned in which land was adopted by the military rulers, the southern politicians fled the country & were granted safe haven in the neighbouring African countries as well as in some European countries.


During that era, and maybe because of the strong ties that were established between the southern leaders & some of the African national liberation movement leaders, the political agenda & slogans of the southern leaders became clearer; ranging from separation to confederation to federation to self-determination and autonomy.

Forward to the Gellabi Era


During the period between 16 to 29, March 1965, following the October 1964 Popular Revolution that overthrew the first military rule of the 17th of November, the Sudanese political forces held a national dialogue process, known as the Round-Table Conference, to discuss the crisis in the country.


The main issue in the agenda was the relationship between North and South.


The congress failed to reach conclusive results, but it formed a committee of twelve members, divided equally between politicians from the North and South, in order to prepare draft proposals for constitutional and administrative reform, to be discussed in a second round table conference.


However, this conference had never been held, and eventually, everything was forgotten.


In 1972, General Nemeri’s regime (1969 – 1285) signed the Addis Ababa agreement with the southern political and military movements, and according to the agreement, the south of Sudan was considered as a national political geographical entity that entertained regional autonomy.


Thus, in the period from 1973 – 1983, the civil war in the south stopped & the item of self-determination disappeared from the political agenda of the southerners.


Paradoxically, the southern political movement bet on the survival of Nemeri in power as a guarantee of the stability & sustainability of the agreement, while the northern political movement was actively acting to overthrow the Nemeri regime, which was projected as an oppressive dictatorship.


However, when Nemieri reconciled with some northern opposition parties, he turned his heels against the southerners & violated the Addis Ababa agreement.

Then, seeking more protection for himself & looking for strong measures that can keep him in power as long as possible, he imposed September’s 1983 Islamic laws, and inaugurated himself as Imam of Muslims, revealing the clear reality that he is the Gellabi in the Marshal or Military uniform. (To be cont.)

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