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Sudanese Opposition Figurehead Dies From Coronavirus

Mahdi, 84, the leader of the moderate Umma Party, one of the largest opposition parties under  Omar al-Bashir was taken ill three weeks ago

Sudan’s last democratically elected Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi has died from coronavirus in the United Arab Emirates, according to family sources and a party statement early on Thursday.

Mahdi, 84, the leader of the moderate Umma Party, one of the largest opposition parties under  Omar al-Bashir was taken ill three weeks ago.

He was overthrown in 1989 in the military coup that brought Bashir r to power.

Last month, al-Mahdi’s family said he had tested positive for COVID-19, and was transferred to the UAE for treatment a few days later following a brief hospitalization in Sudan.

Sadiq al-Mahdi in his early days.

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

Mahdi had returned to Sudan in December 2018, following a year-long self-exile, just as protests over worsening economic conditions and 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 Bashir’s three-decade regime, 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 Bashir out from power, Mahdi pushed for a transfer to civilian rule, warning in interviews with Reuters of the risks of a counter-coup and calling for the powerful, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to be integrated.