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General Abboud’s Wisdom Is a Solution

Omer B. Abu Haraz

On November 17, 1958, General Ibrahim Abboud, the then the Commander of Chief of the Armed Forces, assumed rule of Sudan after a weird coup when P.M. Abdallah Khalil of Umma Party in his capacity as Prime Minister and Minister of defense took over under the allegation that the safety and security of the country are threatened by the intervention of a neighboring country – Egypt. The allegation was unfounded because on the same day of the coup – 17 November 1958 the government of Umma Party was supposed to receive a vote of no confidence by the majority in the Constituent Assembly led by the National Unionist Party to reinstate the leader of the NUP Ismail Al-Azhari as P.M. General Abboud formed the High Military Council (HMC) as the sovereign ruling body together with a cabinet for 6 years.

They were the best years in the history of Sudan. The 6-years witnessed stability, security, and sustained development. The economy was strong with substantial foreign currency reserve in the Central Bank of Sudan and no foreign external debts throughout the 6-years rule of Abboud. Abboud’s military rule failed for two reasons – The absence of freedom of expression and the mal-handling of the Southern Sudan civil war.

On October 21, 1964, the Police Force used excessive force in dispersing a rally inside the hostels of the University of Khartoum  (called the barracks as it was the residence of the British soldiers during the colonization era of 1898 – 1956). The police used live ammunition to kill a student.  The rally was about the conflict of   South Sudan. After the killing of the student, the capital citizens took to the streets in big masses condemning the military rule. On October 26, 1964 thousands of protesters headed towards the Presidential palace. General Abboud peered from his office in the Palace and saw the big demonstration shouting (To the Palace till victory).

Late  Major General Awad Abdel Rahman Soghair who was the closest assistance to Abboud told us that Abboud after watching the demonstrations called him and said “Awad, all those people don’t want us?. I replied Yes. Then Ahmed Said, “So, why are we staying, we have to quit  today before tomorrow.” A few hours later, Abboud delivered his historic speech. “Dear compatriots, I told you in many previous occasions that when your gallant army assumed rule, it was not intending to stay in power forever, as we made specific plans for the devolution of the country’s governance to civilian rule. Now and in response to the unanimous will of the people, I decided to:

  • Dissolve the Supreme Council for Armed Forces.
  • Dissolve the Council of Ministers.
  • In the meantime, I will retain all constitutional powers till the handing over to civilian governance.

In few days after Abboud’s speech and after negotiations between the army leader and the political parties late Sir El-Khatim El-Khalifa was appointed P.M.  On December 3, 1964, a five-member sovereign council was announced. On the same day, Abboud left the arena.

The wisdom of General Abboud kept the coherence of Sudan and circumvented slipping in chaos.

The incumbent military rulers should follow suit by:

  • Announcing the relinquishing by the power to civilian rule within 30 days.
  • Dissolving the hybrid sovereign council.
  • Formation of a supreme military council (SMC) to supervise the transition to civilian rule in a two-year transitional period followed by the general election.
  • Calling all political groups and parties to nominate members for a legislative council of 500 members within a week and on the following bases: 25% for Resistance Committees (RC), 25% for the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC)- both factions, 15% for Association of Sudanese Professionals (ASP), 15% for the Armed Struggle factions, 20% of the civil societies.  Nominees from each of the above groups should include at least 20% women.
  • The Legislative Council (LC) to start by adopting a new constitutional document.
  • LC to nominate 5 non-partisan members for a sovereign council of the monthly rotational presidency.
  • LC to elect a prime minister who appoints a cabinet to be endorsed by the LC.
  • After the formation of the above, The SMC moved to the Army H.Q. to assume its constitutional duties and to implement the process of Demobilization, Disarmament, and Reintegration (DDR) of the forces of the armed struggle factions.
  • LC to elect the 6 governors of the agreed-upon new regions.
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