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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Sudan’s former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi dies of COVID-19

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Former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi has died from a coronavirus infection. He was 84.

In a brief statement, al-Mahdi’s family said he died on Thursday, three weeks after being admitted to hospital in the United Arab Emirates.

Al-Mahdi was Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister and was overthrown in 1989 in the military coup that brought former President Omar al-Bashir to power.

The moderate Umma Party was one of the largest opposition parties under al-Bashir, and al-Mahdi remained an influential figure even after he was toppled.

Last month, al-Mahdi’s family said he had tested positive for COVID-19, and after a few days in hospital in Sudan, he was transferred to the United Arab Emirates for treatment.

In a statement, the Umma Party said al-Mahdi would be buried on Friday morning in the city of Omdurman in Sudan.

“We offer our condolences to the Sudanese people over his death,” the party said.

The official Sudanese news agency said al-Mahdi was “a unique figure in Sudanese politics and public life for more than 65 consecutive years, shaping events and contributing greatly to the course and development of the country”. It also lauded his commitment to democracy in Sudan.

Al-Mahdi had returned to Sudan in December 2018, following a year-long self-exile, just as protests over worsening economic conditions and al-Bashir’s rule gathered steam. His daughter Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, deputy leader of the Umma Party, was among those detained during the demonstrations.

While a successor to the party head has not yet been announced, she has been the most visible party leader in political negotiations and the media in recent years.

Opposition parties were weakened greatly under al-Bashir’s 30-year rule, and are jostling for power with the military during Sudan’s transition, making the Umma Party’s continued unity crucial to maintaining the balance of power.

After the military forced al-Bashir from power, al-Mahdi pushed for a transfer to civilian rule, warning of the risks of a counter-coup and calling for the powerful, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to be integrated.

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