Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military


Democratic Unionist Party [DUP]

The Muslim population is almost entirely Sunni but is divided into many different groups. The most significant divisions occur along the lines of the Sufi Brotherhood. Islamic orders associated with opposition political parties, particularly the Khatimia (associated with the Democratic Unionist Party) are regularly denied permission to hold large gatherings.

The Khatmiyya Sufi order and the DUP are separate entities. The Khatimiyya embody "moderate Islam," reflecting the Sufi dedication to tolerance and nonviolence. While reflecting these same ideals, the DUP is broader than the Khatimiyya order and includes many Sudanese Christians. The symbolic head of DUP and hereditary Khatmiyyah spiritual guide since 1968 is Al Sayed Mohammed Uthman Al Merghani, a great-grandson of the orders founder. The party's main platform was Sudan's unity. In recent years the party has become factionalized into as many as five different groups -- one of them even contributing members to the Government of National Unity (State Minister of Foreign Affairs Al-Samani Al-Wasila). DUP had long-standing relations with the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), with whom it signed the Peace deal of November 1988 in Ethiopia.

The DUP claims to be the majority party in Sudan, as it had won the popular vote in every election from Sudan's 1956 independence until a coup brought the National Islamic Front to power in 1989. But the contention that the DUP is the majority party in Sudan is simply not true, as the party has been weakened by schisms and defections, and is certainly weaker than both the ruling NCP, the SPLM, and the opposition Umma party of former Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi.

The Democratic Unionist Party is Sudan's oldest party, with origins dating from the first half of the 19th century when the Khatmiyya Sufi order was founded by Mohamed Osman Al Mirghani. Ever since the Khatmiyyah opposed the Mahdist movement in the 1880s, it has been a rival of the Ansar. Although the Khatmiyyah was more broadly based than the Ansar, it was generally less effective politically. In 1943 Khatmiyya followers and Ismail Al Azhari, a professor of mathematics, founded its predecessor, the urban based Ashigga Party, which in 1952 was transformed into the secularist National Unionist Party (NUP).

After a massive victory in the 1953 elections, Azhari became the first Sudanese prime minister under Anglo-Egyptian colonial rule. He led Sudan into independence in 1956, having reversed the partys position on uniting with Egypt. Following the 1958 military takeover, the NUP was disbanded like all other parties. When the Abboud regime was overthrown in 1964, Azhari was elected head of state, and the NUP entered into coalition with the Umma Party. Both sectarian parties revived their traditional patronage systems. In 1967, the NUP merged with the Khatmiyyas Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to form the DUP.

Historically, the DUP and its predecessors were plagued by factionalism, stemming largely from the differing perspectives of secular-minded professionals in the party and the more traditional religious values of their Khatmiyyah supporters. The DUP leader Muhammad Uthman al Mirghani, tried to keep these tensions in check by avoiding firm stances on controversial political issues. In particular, he refrained from public criticism of Nimeiri's September Laws so as not to alienate Khatmiyyah followers who approved of implementing the sharia.

In the 1986 parliamentary elections, the DUP won the second largest number of seats and agreed to participate in Sadiq al Mahdi's coalition government. Like Sadiq al Mahdi, Mirghani felt uneasy about abrogating the sharia, as demanded by the SPLM, and supported the idea that the September Laws could be revised to expunge the "un-Islamic " content added by Nimeiri. By late 1988, however, other DUP leaders had persuaded Mirghani that the Islamic law issue was the main obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the civil war. Mirghani himself became convinced that the war posed a more serious danger to Sudan than did any compromise over the sharia. It was this attitude that prompted him to meet with Garang in Ethiopia where he negotiated a cease-fire agreement based on a commitment to abolish the September Laws.

During the next six months leading up to the June 1989 coup, Mirghani worked to build support for the agreement, and in the process emerged as the most important Muslim religious figure to advocate concessions on the implementation of the sharia. Following the coup, Mirghani fled into exile and he has remained in Egypt. Since 1989, the RCC-NS has attempted to exploit DUP factionalism by coopting party officials who contested Mirghani's leadership, but these efforts failed to weaken the DUP as an opposition group.

In March 2008 several prominent members of the DUP announced their defection to the National Congress Party (NCP) shortly after the start of a DUP-NCP dialogue. Meanwhile preparations were under way for the expected return of elderly DUP leader Mohamed Othman Al-Mirghani after almost 18 years of self-imposed exile in Egypt. Like most other Sudanese political parties in recent years, the DUP suffered several internal splits, but the most recent resulted in the loss of prominent DUP members who had provided financial support over the years. Five factions now carry the name Democratic Unionist Party moniker: the original DUP led by El-Sayed Mohamad Othman Al-Mirghani, DUP Hindi Faction, DUP Haj Mudawi Faction, DUP Mohamed Al-Azhari Faction, and the DUP Mirghani Abdel-Rahman Faction. Each group claimed to legitimately carry the DUP name.

By 2008 the picture of the DUP (Al-Mirghani faction) was of a political force unsure of its own continued reason for being, a party that no longer played a significant role as political opposition. One faction of the party currently participates in the Government of National Unity. The original DUP faction was slowly being weakened by defections to the ruling NCP (to say nothing of party schisms) even as the party negotiated an election alliance with the NCP - because that's where the money is. To a great extent, this lack of vigor and leadership was the result of Al-Mirghani waiting endlessly in the wings in Cairo. The DUP was essentially a spent force, only worth watching in the context of pre-election alliances.

The DUP appeared to lack any clear strategy on how it would compete in the national elections in April 2010. The party instead appeared stuck in a rut, complaining that it did not have a seat at the existing table. Unfortunately, the DUP was by no means alone in this. The 2010 general elections showed that the DUP like Umma suffered both from internal factionalism and from an erosion of its traditional base. In December 2011 there was a cabinet reshuffle, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) being brought into government.





NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list