Educated at Omdurman and graduated from Sudan Military College in 1956 when he was commissioned into the armoured corps.
He went to England in 1959 for a squadron leader's course at the Royal Armoured Corps and returned two years later for a gunnery course. In May 1969 as a colonel he led the armoured corps squadron which ensured the success of the revolution. He became Chief of Staff and was promoted Minister of Defence in the October 1969 reshuffle. Promoted major-general in 1970, he became one of three Vice-Presidents.
On the eve of the pro-Communist coup in July 1971 the Russians refused to receive him although he had already announced his visit to Moscow. He was in Libya when Nimeri was overthrown. President Qaddafi enabled him to fly back, rally loyal troops, and lead a successful counter-coup. Seven months later he resigned.
Once President Nimeri’s right-hand man, having helped him to power in May 1968. He led the countercoup which freed him from Communist captors and restored him to office in July 1971. His reputation as Egypt’s best friend in Khartoum was one of the reasons for his departure from government to facilitate successful negotiations with the Southern Sudanese. A powerful, intelligent army officer who could well make a come back.