For the first time in years, Sudan has announced a three-day national mourning and ordered its flag to fly at half-mast in the country and in all its diplomatic missions following the death on Thursday of veteran politician Sadiq al Mahdi, aged 85.
Mahdi passed away in the United Arab Emirates where he was flown in a special jet for treatment for COVID-19.
Mahdi, the head of Ansar religious sect, Arabic for Supporters, was known to be a staunch advocate for democracy and democratic government in his country, for which he was jailed during the rule of President Omar Bashir. Bashir, who ruled Sudan from 1989-2019, ousted then elected Prime Minister Mahdi.
Mahdi, who was known to be a relentless preacher for moderate interpretation of the Islamic code, and a fierce opponent of what he termed “deformed” application of the Islamic code by the Bashir government, enjoyed huge followers as a religious leader, not only in the Sudan but also in Chad, Niger, Mali, Cameroon and Nigeria. These were mostly followers of the West African leader Osman Dan Fodio.
Mahdi’s family was hit hard by COVID-19, with 26 members contracting the virus. He was the most senior and the first to pass away.
The body will be flown back to Sudan on Friday with the party he headed calling on supporters to strictly adhere to health and social distancing measures when attending the burial that would take place on Friday morning in Omdurman, the stronghold of the Ansar sect.
“Today is a sad day for Sudan. The European Union and embassies of its member states have expressed their sincere condolences to the people and government of Sudan, to the members and the supporters of the Umma National Party on the death of H.E. Al Imam Al Sadig Al Sideeg Abdel Rahman Al Mahdi, the former Prime Minister of Sudan,” Mr. Robert van den Dool, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Sudan tweeted on Thursday.
Loads of messages and obituaries have started pouring into the Sudanese main stream media following the announcement of the death.
The Sudanese cabinet and collective presidency issued a statement on “the untimely death of the prime minister, an Oxonian by education a father of a huge family, children and grandchildren and grandson children”.
The statement described Mahdi as “a great statesman, religious figure, thinker and supporter of civilians, human rights, interfaith dialogue and democracy in Sudan. He was a friend of Europe, peace and the world.”
It said through good and bad times, Mahdi showed the power of a strong will applied to a worthy cause. (PANA/NAN)