Hundreds of thousands follow Sudan funeral

Other News Materials 6 November 2008 01:55 (UTC +04:00)

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese flooded the streets of Khartoum Wednesday for the funeral of a former president in a potent show of strength for one of Sudan's strongest opposition parties, AP reported.

Ahmed al-Mirghani was president of Sudan from 1986 to 1989, leading the country's last democratically elected government, before being overthrown in a coup by current leader Omar al-Bashir.

The funeral also saw the return, after two decades in self-imposed exile, of Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, the former president's brother and leader of the powerful Democratic Unionist Party.

Thousands chanted his nickname, Abu Hashem, as they followed the funeral procession from the airport through the city.

The two brothers are heirs of the powerful Mirghania movement - a sect within Sufi Islam that gave birth to the DUP political party.

Ahmed Al-Mirghani went on to live in exile in Egypt until his death at 67 on Sunday.

"This is a man who has been calling for love and peace and who has been working for the Sudan and for the unity of the nation," Mohammed Sirul Khatim al-Mirghani, a family member, told reporters after the body was brought to the family crypt.

Supporters have flocked to the capital from its power bases in northern and eastern Sudan to attend Wednesday's burial and the final ceremony set for Friday.

Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani is expected to speak at the ceremony where many will be watching to see if he criticizes the government or stands with al-Bashir.

The president is facing international disfavor, a pending trial on genocide charges with the International Criminal Court over a bloody civil war in the western Darfur region and a fraying peace agreement with the south.

To shore-up support, al-Bashir has been reaching out to former foes like the Mirghani brothers, suggesting a possible return to politics for the DUP, perhaps as an ally of the government.

Al-Bashir met with the DUP leader in Saudi Arabia this weekend to convince him to return to Sudan and take part in the new peace drive organized by the Qatari government.