Friday 23 March 2012

Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud: A Sudanese communist

Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, 1930 - 2012
(photo credits Talal Afifi)
Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud (b. 1930), the Political Secretary of the Communist Party of Sudan (CPS), passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 82 in London where he was seeking medical attention. Nugud learned the skills of dodging the punitive apparatus of the state early in his life. He was dismissed in 1952 from the University College Khartoum and incarcerated a whole year for his role in a wave of popular demonstrations against British colonial rule. Upon his release Nugud fled Sudan in disguise to continue his studies in Sofia University, Bulgaria, where he earned a degree in philosophy. He returned to the country in 1958 to become a full time political agitator in the ranks of the CPS battling the military dictatorship of General Abboud (1958-1964). Nugud spent the year 1961 in the prisons of Malakal and Juba for his political activities. 
Following the victory of the 1964 Revolution Nugud was elected a member of parliament in 1965 on a CPS ticket, but was expelled from the house together with the eleven other communist MPs only months later. In November 1965 the parliament voted to ban the CPS and dismiss its elected representatives from the house in an episode of unconstitutional political malice orchestrated by Hassan al-Turabi and his associates in the Islamic Charter Front (ICF). Wary of the accelerating influence of the CPS, considering its decisive role in the 1964 Revolution and the political clout it reaped from the victory, the two sectarian parties, the Umma and the Unionists, backed Turabi in his pledge and delighted in seeing the CPS reduced once again to an illegal organisation. 
Unknowingly, the political parties invited upon themselves a greater evil than the one they thought they had dispelled by banning the CPS. Jaafar Nimayri, the Nasser styled Free Officer, justified his putsch of May 1969 with the claim of defending the progressive gains of the 1964 Revolution against the forces of reaction. Nugud was to say the least well informed of Nimayri’s plans, as was the CPS. The party welcomed the 1969 putsch but refused to grant it the stature of a revolution. Several communist officers sat on Nimayri’s Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) but the CPS under Abd al-Khalig Mahjoub preferred to maintain its autonomy from the regime, a decision that did not find Soviet favour. During the year 1970 the CPS split into two, a faction that chose to dissolve in the regime’s newly established one party, the Sudan Socialist Union, and a majority that backed Abd al-Khalig’s autonomic position. Nimayri eventually dismissed the communist officers in the RCC and they responded with a coup attempt, the 19 July 1971 Corrective Movement. Following two days of military confrontations in the capital Nimayri returned victorious in a counter-coup and the communists were defeated. A bloody period of vendetta followed. Nimayri ordered the execution of the CPS top leadership including the political secretary Abd al-Khalig Mahjoub, and the officers involved in the context of a wide anti-communist purge. Nugud escaped Nimayri’s wrath in hiding together with several other leading figures of the party. He was then picked as Abd al-Khalig’s successor, a position that he occupied until his death this Thursday. Nugud became the master of clandestine activity; he emerged from the underground in 1985 upon the collapse of Nimaryi's regime to lead the CPS through the parliamentary period that lasted only four years. He was elected as a MP representing al-Diem, the Khartoum constituency where a woman was recently killed by the aggressive Public Order Police. 
When al-Bashir took over power in the 1989 putsch Nugud was jailed together with other prominent politicians in Cooper Prison and then placed under house arrest. He escaped his captors and slipped into hiding until early 2005. The Sudan that Nugud re-surfaced in was not the country he had experienced before. The challenge that faced him as political secretary of the CPS in the 2000s was much more formidable than his first test of endurance, the task of rebuilding the CPS following its debilitating confrontation with Nimayri’s regime. From the 1969-1971 setback Nugud drew the conclusion that the struggle for socialism in the conditions of Sudan must complement rather than negate the achievements of liberal democracy. His insights and the direction he devised for the party helped restore the democratic credentials of the CPS as it were. When the CPS re-emerged in 2005 from years of exile activity and clandestine agitation inside the country against the regime of President Bashir, thanks to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the situation had changed radically and was not anymore graspable with the simplistic opposition between dictatorship and parliamentary democracy. The CPS formula for change, restoration of the democratic order through a broad political alliance as a condition for the pursuit of a global solution for Sudan’s multiple crises, put it in one boat with the mainstream parties of the Khartoum establishment including Turabi’s Popular Congress Party (PCP) but did not deliver, a shortcoming of the party’s strategy that Nugud well recognized
Nugud was a sharp intellectual well versed in Marxist classics and the literature of Eurocommunism. He agreed with many of Althusser’s theses and was a great admirer of the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. Among his intellectual accomplishments is a pioneering book on the relations of slavery in Sudan. Before his death Nugud embarked on two research topics, the evolution of the Sudanese state, and the historical role of Sufi brotherhoods in Sudan. The thorough analysis of these three institutions, slavery, the state, and Sufi brotherhoods, he considered instrumental in understanding the historical trajectory of the country. I recall long evenings of conversation with him on these issues, discussions that he preferred over the persistent occupation with current politics. With his death the CPS has lost its leader, the Sudan a politician and an intellectual of calibre, and I personally a mentor and a friend. 

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.