Dr Hassan Turabi is the most powerful figure in the leadership of the northern Sudanese government. He master-minded the Islamic-dominated military coup d’etat which brought the present regime to power. His brother-in-law, El-Mahdy, served as Prime Minister of Sudan prior to the coup. El-Mahdy escaped house arrest and became a leader of the secularist opposition in neighbouring countries. He describes Turabi as ‘a ruthless power-hungry Islamic ideologue’.
Turabi’s own words confirm his brother-in-law’s assessment. In a news conference with the international media at the end of March, Turabi lashed out at ‘those enemies of Islam who are hampering the purification of the nation from infidelity and religious ignorance’. He went on to accuse outside forces of encouraging the spread of Christianity, especially among African Sudanese.
He added: ‘A major portion of the tribal leadership of these people have sold their people out to a religion which will keep them in ignorance, darkness, slavery and misery – Had they accepted our offer to embrace God’s only true religion (Islam), their people would have been far better off now and the nation would have become unified and prosperous. Only Islam could do away with all the problems of the African nations. Most of these problems exist because of the importation of Christianity into Africa’.
Dr Turabi admitted that African Sudanese have increasingly opted for Christianity, and that defections from Islam are occurring in both the south and north of Sudan. He claimed, however, that in time his Islamic movement would succeed in reversing the situation.