KHARTOUM - Sudan's Ambassador to Uganda Najwa Abbas Gadaeldam died Wednesday from COVID-19 in Khartoum. Abbas helped shape Sudan's foreign policy, and she promoted bilateral ties between Sudan and several countries.
Abbas served as Sudan's ambassador to Uganda during the administration of former President Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted from power by military leaders in April 2019 following mass protests across the country over skyrocketing prices for bread.
Abbas played a significant role in rebuilding diplomatic ties between Khartoum and Kampala. During her period as ambassador, Abbas also served as special adviser to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Sudan and South Sudan.
Played 'a huge role'
Dawood Abulazeez, Abbas' cousin, says the ambassador was loved by many in Sudan.
"She was born and raised in Omdurman, and she got all her other studies and schools [schooling] until she reached the University of Khartoum. She graduated from the college of engineering in 1989. She got a master's degree in Germany in microchips," Abulazeez told South Sudan in Focus.
Abbas strengthened Sudan's diplomatic relations with several countries, including Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and South Sudan, according to Abulazeez.
"She has been playing a huge role in fixing so many holes of relations between Sudan and other countries in Africa, locally and Internationally. Former President Bashir asked her to help in repairing some international crises, and after al-Bashir, [General Abdulfatah] al-Burhan also did the same," Abulazeez told VOA.
In February, shortly before a snap legislative election in Israel, which was the third one in less than a year, Abbas organized a controversial meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, between the head of Sudan's Sovereign Council, al-Burhan and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
Secret meeting sparked protests
After the secret meeting, Israel said the two countries had agreed to move toward forging normal diplomatic relations. Only two Arab states - Egypt and Jordan - have diplomatic ties with Israel.
Sudanese government ministers insisted they were unaware of the meeting, and protests erupted in Khartoum because of it.
Haj Hamad, a political science lecturer at Khartoum University, describes the late Abbas as a courageous woman, saying her decision to get involved in rebuilding bilateral ties with Israel was a risky move.
"She has developed some very special relations with Israel, something that is very unique for Sudanese, especially ladies. And I think this is a generation brought up in a culture of boycotting Israel," Hamad told South Sudan in Focus.
Special ties to Israel
Following Sudan's historic revolution, Sudan restored relations with several countries. Hamad says Abbas will forever be remembered for her role in making that happen, especially with regard to Israel.
"It seems she succeeded to develop such kind of relations with such communities, and she was trying her best to sell Israel in the region. Through this kind of popular diplomacy, she had tried to make her outreach to the military, who happened to already [have] relations and coordination of anti-terrorism policies with the U.S," Hamad told VOA.
Israeli TV Channel 13 reported Wednesday the Israeli government sent a plane with medical staff and equipment to Khartoum in an attempt to save Abbas' life, though it noted she died 24 hours after its arrival.