Background[edit | edit source]
Union with Egypt[edit | edit source]
In 1820, the Egyptian wāli Muhammad Ali Pasha army commanded by his son Ismail Pasha invaded and conquered northern Sudan. The region had longstanding linguistic, cultural, religious, and economic ties to Egypt and had been partially under the same government at intermittent periods since the times of the pharaohs. Muhammad Ali was aggressively pursuing a policy of expanding his power with a view to possibly supplanting the Ottoman Empire (to which he technically owed fealty) and saw Sudan as a valuable addition to his Egyptian dominions. During his reign and that of his successors, Egypt and Sudan came to be administered as one political entity, with all ruling members of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty seeking to preserve and extend the "unity of the Nile Valley". This policy was expanded and intensified most notably by Muhammad Ali's grandson, Ismail Pasha, under whose reign most of the remainder of modern-day Sudan was conquered.
British involvement[edit | edit source]
With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt and Sudan's economic and strategic importance increased enormously, attracting the imperial attentions of the Great Powers, particularly the United Kingdom. Ten years later in 1879, the immense foreign debt of Ismail Pasha's government served as the pretext for the Great Powers to force his abdication and replacement by his son Tewfik Pasha. The manner of Tewfik's ascension at the hands of foreign powers greatly angered Egyptian and Sudanese nationalists who resented the ever-increasing influence of European governments and merchants in the affairs of the country. The situation was compounded by Tewfik's perceived corruption and mismanagement and ultimately culminated in the Orabi Revolt. With the survival of his throne in dire jeopardy, Tewfik appealed for British assistance. In 1882, at Tewfik's invitation, the British bombarded Alexandria, Egypt's and Sudan's primary seaport, and subsequently invaded the country. British forces overthrew the Orabi government in Cairo and proceeded to occupy the rest of Egypt and Sudan in 1882. Though officially the authority of Tewfik had been restored, in reality the British largely took control of Egyptian and Sudanese affairs until 1932.
Mahdist Revolt[edit | edit source]
Tewfik's acquiescence to British occupation as the price for securing the monarchy was deeply detested throughout Egypt and Sudan. With the bulk of British forces stationed in northern Egypt, protecting Cairo, Alexandria, and the Suez Canal, opposition to Tewfik and his European protectors was stymied in Egypt. In contrast, the British military presence in Sudan was comparatively limited and eventually revolt broke out. The rebellion in Sudan, led by the Sudanese religious leader Muhammad ibn Abdalla, the self-proclaimed Mahdi (Guided One), was both political and religious. Abdalla wished not only to expel the British, but to overthrow the monarchy, viewed as secular and Western-leaning, and replace it with a pure Islamic government. Whilst primarily a Sudanese figure, Abdalla even attracted the support of some Egyptian nationalists and caught Tewfik and the British off-guard. The revolt culminated in the fall of Khartoum and the death of the British General Charles George Gordon (Gordon of Khartoum) in 1885. Tewfik's forces and those of the United Kingdom were forced to withdraw from almost all of Sudan with Abdalla establishing a theocratic state.
Abdalla's religious government imposed traditional Islamic laws upon Sudan and stressed the need to continue the armed struggle until the British had been completely expelled from the country and all of Egypt and Sudan was under his Mahdiya. Though he died six months after the fall of Khartoum, Abdalla's call was fully echoed by his successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad who invaded Ethiopia in 1887, penetrating as far as Gondar, and the remainder of northern Sudan and Egypt in 1889. This invasion was halted by Tewfik's forces, and was followed later by withdrawal from Ethiopia.
Anglo-Egyptian condominium (1899–1956)[edit | edit source]
Evolution of the condominium[edit | edit source]
After a series of Mahdist defeats, Tewfik's son and successor, Abbas II, and the British decided to re-establish control over Sudan. Leading a joint Egyptian-British force, Kitchener led military campaigns from 1896 to 1898. Kitchener's campaigns culminated in the Battle of Atbara and the Battle of Omdurman. Exercising the leverage which their military superiority provided, the British forced Abbas to accept British control in Sudan. Whereas British influence in Egypt was officially advisory (though in reality it was far more direct), the British insisted that their role in Sudan be formalised. Thus, an agreement was reached in 1899 establishing Anglo-Egyptian rule, under which Sudan was to be administered by a governor-general appointed by Egypt with British consent. In reality, much to the revulsion of Egyptian and Sudanese nationalists, Sudan was effectively administered as a British imperial possession. Pursuing a policy of divide and rule, the British were keen to reverse the process, started under Muhammad Ali, of uniting the Nile Valley under Egyptian leadership, and sought to frustrate all efforts aimed at further uniting the two countries. During World War I, the British invaded and incorporated Darfur into the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1916.
This policy was internalised within Sudan itself, with the British determined to exacerbate differences and frictions between Sudan's numerous different ethnic groups. From 1924 onwards, the British essentially divided Sudan into two separate territories–a predominantly Muslim Arabic-speaking north, and a predominantly Animist and Christian south, where the use of English was encouraged.
The continued British occupation of Sudan fuelled an increasingly strident nationalist backlash in Egypt, with Egyptian nationalist leaders determined to force Britain to recognise a single independent union of Egypt and Sudan. With the formal end of Ottoman rule in 1914, Hussein Kamel was declared Sultan of Egypt and Sudan, as was his brother Fuad I who succeeded him. The insistence of a single Egyptian-Sudanese state persisted when the Sultanate was re-titled the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan, but the British continued to frustrate these efforts.
The failure of the government in Cairo to end the British occupation led to separate efforts for independence in Sudan itself, the first of which was led by a group of Sudanese military officers known as the White Flag League in 1924. The group was led by first lieutenant Ali Abdullatif and first lieutenant Abdul Fadil Almaz. The latter led an insurrection of the military training academy, which ended in their defeat and the death of Almaz after the British army blew up the military hospital where he was garrisoned. This defeat was (allegedly) partially the result of the Egyptian garrison in Khartoum North not supporting the insurrection with artillery as was previously promised.
Abrogation of the condominium[edit | edit source]
Even when the British ended their occupation of Egypt in 1936 (with the exception of the Suez Canal Zone), they maintained their forces in Sudan. Successive governments in Cairo, repeatedly declaring their abrogation of the condominium agreement, declared the British presence in Sudan to be illegitimate, and insisted on full British recognition of King Farouk as "King of Egypt and Sudan", a recognition which the British were loath to grant. It was the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 which finally set a series of events in motion which would eventually end the British occupation of Sudan.
Having abolished the monarchy in 1953, Egypt's new leaders, Muhammad Naguib, who was raised as a child of an Egyptian army officer in Sudan, and Gamal Abdel Nasser, believed the only way to end British domination in Sudan was for Egypt itself to abandon officially its sovereignty over Sudan. Since the British claim to control in Sudan theoretically depended upon Egyptian sovereignty, the revolutionaries calculated that this tactic would leave the UK with no option but to withdraw. Their calculation proved to be correct, and in 1954, the governments of Egypt and the UK signed a treaty guaranteeing Sudanese independence. On 1 January 1956, the date agreed between the Egyptian and British governments, Sudan became an independent sovereign state, ending its nearly 136-year union with Egypt and its 55-year rule by the British.
References[edit | edit source]
- Henderson, K.D.D. "Survey of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1898-1944", Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., London, 1946
Governors[edit | edit source]
In film[edit | edit source]
Several films have dealt with the British military operations in Sudan in this period.
- The Four Feathers (1915, 1921, 1929, 1939, 1977, 2002 versions)
- Storm Over the Nile (1955)
- Khartoum (1966)
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