23 Sep 2019


(Hizb al-Umma)

The Umma Party is one of the oldest parties in Sudan with origins dating back to the late 19th century when Mohamed Ahmed from Dongola led the Mahdist movement to victory over the Ottoman colonialists. His son Sayed Abdel Rahman, who was also the spiritual leader of the Mahdist sufi order of the Ansar, founded the Umma in 1945 and became its patron with his son Siddiq serving as party president. Umma’s main objective was the promotion of Sudanese independence against those who favoured unity with Egypt. In the first elections of 1953 it won the second largest number of seats, mainly in Darfur and Kordofan. As the major opposition party to the NUP it managed to achieve its aim of the country’s independence in 1956. Subsequently it formed a coalition with the PDP and Umma’s Abdallah Bey Khalil assumed the office of prime minister. His government was overthrown in 1958 by the military which banned all parties. Umma soon suffered from repressions but continued its activities underground.

When the regime of General Abboud was overthrown in 1964 through a popular uprising, the Umma re-emerged on the political stage under the leadership of Siddiq’s son Sadiq Al Mahdi, an Oxford graduate of history. In the elections of 1965 it won the greatest number of seats with its strongly anti-communist stance and formed a coalition government under Mohamed Ahmed Mahjoub, a famous lawyer and poet. In 1966 Sadiq became the youngest prime minister of his time but was replaced by Mahjoub one year later due to an inner-party dispute between his modernists and the traditionalists of his uncle, the Imam El Hadi El Mahdi. Mahjoub’s government was ousted in 1969 through a coup d’etat of leftist army officers under Jafar Nimeri.

During the initial phase of Nimeri’s “May Revolution” both Umma and Ansar suffered severe repression. In 1971 Nimeri had the Ansar’s headquarter at Aba Island bombed killing a large numbers of Ansar followers. Later the Imam El Hadi was killed as well, while Sadiq managed to escape to exile. From there he organised massive opposition to Nimeri’s regime which reacted in 1977 by offering national reconciliation. Sadiq returned to Sudan but soon went into open opposition calling for an end to the one-party rule. In 1984 he was imprisoned for his criticism of the draconic “September Laws” that Nimeri imposed under the label of Sharia.

Following Nimeri’s overthrow through a popular uprising in 1985 Umma immediately evolved again as one of the two major parties. In the elections of 1986 it won by far the largest number of seats. As a result it formed a coalition with the DUP , in which Sadiq became prime minister for the second time. In the same year Umma held peace talks with the rebel SPLM which resulted in the Koka Dam Declaration. However, the initiative failed because of political wrangling in Khartoum. In 1989 Sadiq was overthrown in a military takeover and imprisoned until 1991.

In the meantime the Umma leadership played a central role in forming the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella of parties opposed to the “National Salvation Revolution” of General Omar Al Bashir, that was joined by the rebel SPLM . In 1994 Umma signed the Chukudum Accord with the SPLM recognising the right of the South to determine its future in a referendum. Five years later Umma left the NDA and Sadiq returned to Sudan from exile. However, he has remained one of the most vociferous critics of the government. When the NCP dominated government and the SPLM signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, Umma welcomed the end of the war but criticised the exclusion of the other parties in the process. Therefore it refused to take part in the subsequent power-sharing deal. As a result it is neither represented in the parliament nor in the government.

While Umma’s principles are “an Islam that is based on rationality, humanism, science, plurality”, they call for “respect of all faiths”. The party particularly focuses on a solution to the Darfur crisis, which is one of its traditional strongholds. In 2008 Umma joined the government’s “People of Sudan Initiative” to resolve the conflict but later withdrew claiming that its proposals were not included. In 2008 Umma suffered a tragic blow when its secretary general Dr. Abdel Nabi Ali Ahmed died in a car accident.

Official website: http://www.umma.org/English.html/

Information Source: www.electionnaire.org

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