NCA VOC FOR PGM/FN BACKGROUNDFR NO, 5~5965 JULY 6, 1978 JOHN ROBERTS

O.A.U. SUMMIT-SPOTLIGHT ON SUDAN ANNCR:

WHEN THE ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY SUMMIT OPENS IN KHARTOUM LATER THIS MONTH (7/17), CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE BODY WILL PASS FROM GABON'S PRFSIDFNT OMAR BONGO TO PRESIDENT JAA'FAR AL-NUMAYRI OF SUDAN. HFRE WITH A BACKGROUND REPORT ON THE SUDANESE PRESIDENT AND HIS COUNTRY IS V,0O.A. WEST AFRICA CORRESPONDENT JOHN ROBERTS,

VOICE:

SUDAN IS THE LARGEST COUNTRY IN AFRICA IN TERMS OF SIZE, AND IT IS ALSO A MAJOR PIFCE IN A COMPLICATED POLITICAL JIG-SAW PUZZLE INVOLVING ITS NEIGHBORS. EVFR SINCE 1971 WHEN COMMUNIST-SUPPORTED DISSIDENTS TRIED TO TOPPLE PRESIDENT NUMAYRI'S REGIME, HE HAS BFEN CLOSELY ALLIED WITH CONSERVATIVE AND WESTERN-ORIENTED COUNTRIFS, PRINCIPALLY EGYPT, JUST TO THE NORTH, AND SAUDI ARABIA ACROSS THF RED SEA. BUT IN RECFNT YEARS, WITH CHRONIC INSTABILITY IN NEIGHBORING CHAD AND ETHIOPIA, AND WITH INTERNAL POLITICAL PROBLEMS LINKED WITH ETHIOPIA AND LIBYA, PRESIODFNT NUMAYRI HAS MOVED TOWARD PATCHING UP RELATIONS WITH HIS SOCIALIST-ORIENTED NEIGHBORS,

IN 1972, PRESIDENT NUMAYRI BROUGHT ABOUT A RECONCILIATION WITH REBELLING CHRISTIAN BLACKS IN THF SOUTH BY GIVING THEM A LARGE MEASURE OF AUTONOMY. THIS WAS ACCOMPLISHFD WITH THE HELP OF THE THEN-EMPFROR HAILF SFLASSI, AND THE STABILITY ALONG SUDAN'S SOUTHERN BORDER WITH ETHIOPIA IS STILL GREATLY DEPENDENT IN THE GOOD WILL OF THF PRESENT SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT

IN ADDIS ABABA. THIS SITUATION HAS LED PRESIDENT NUMAYRIA

BACKGROUNDER NO, 5-5965 PAGE 2 TO DRAW AWAY FROM HIS EARLIER TACIT SUPPORT OF ERITRFAN REBFLS TOWARD A MORE NEUTRAL POSITION,

AT THE SAME TIME, THE PRFSIDENT HAS DEFUSED AN ANCIENT TRIBAL CONFLICT WITHIN SUDAN BY PFRSUADING TO RFTURN A RIVAL MUSLIM LEADER WHOM HF EARLIFR HAD SFNTFNCED TO DFATH FOR LEADING AN ATTEMPTED COUP LAST SFPTEMBER. THE RIVAL IS SAUDIQ MAHDI, GREAT=-GRANDSON OF THE MAHDI WHO DFFFATED THE BRITISH IN 1884, IN RETURN FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL DETAINEES, SADIQ MAHDI AGREED TO DISARM AND REPATRIATE THOUSANDS OF HIS FOLLOWERS IN ETHIOPIA,

THIS RAPPROACHEMENT WAS ASSISTED BY LIBYAN LEADER MU-AMMAR QADHAFI, AND WITH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS NOW RESTORED BETWEEN LIBYA AND SUDAN, PRESIDENT NUMAYRI IS DFEPLY INVOLVED IN EFFORTS TO RECONCILE THE GOVERNMENT OF CHAD WITH THE FROLINAT REBELS IN THE NORTHERN PART OF THAT COUNTRY.

PRESIDENT NUMAYRI HAS BFEN ABLE TO BRING OFF THESE DELICATE MANEUVERS APPARENTLY WITHOUT UNDULY ALARMING EGYPT OR SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT CONSIDERS SUDAN VITAL TO ITS INTERESTS IN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE FAST, AND SAUDI ARABIA IS A MAJOR SUPPLIER OF FUNDS TO SUDAN'S TROUBLED ECONOMY, OBSFRVERS BELIEVE THAT THE SUDANESE PRESIDENT'S OBVIOUS DIPLOMATIC SKILLS WILL STAND HIM IN GOOD STFAD DURING HIS CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE 0.A.U,

WHICH, LIKE THE SUDAN, IS BESET BY TROUBLESOME POLITICAL DIVISION, GH/PY