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Sudan from Present to Past

Sudan History from Past to Present - Sudan Democracy Independence
Sudan’s independence, the flag was raised on 1 January 1956 by PM Ismail Alazhari and opposition leader Mohamed Ahmed Almahjoub. Photo Sudan Films Unit / Flickr.

Sudan’s history is full of political struggles and military coups. This country is also considered a home for Sufi movements, in addition to enjoying a rich heritage of feminism.

Fanack will dive into Sudan’s history from the present to the past. By this, we attempt to get through the conclusive events that laid out this country’s present and identity from a historian’s perspective.

Today’s Sudan (2020 – 1989)

The revolting Kandake Alaa Saleh reignited the history of Kandakes when she sparked the Sudanese revolution that overthrew Omar Hassan al-Bashir after nearly 30 years on the throne.

On the 19th of December 2018, demonstrations broke out due to the chronic economic difficulties. The demonstrations did not subside until the Islamist al-Bashir fell in April 2019.

Al-Bashir’s reign witnessed several incidents that frightened the international community. The International Court of Justice accused al-Bashir with crimes against humanity, including the genocide of some residents and evacuating others between 2003 and 2008. Moreover, Sudan has been split into two states: Sudan and South Sudan. The cessation of the south was as a result of a referendum organized there in 2011.

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On 30 June 1989, the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation, (RCCNS-Sudan) led by brigadier general Omar al-Bashir, took over power. While the army was officially in charge, actual decision and policy-making powers were in the hands of the National Islamic Front.
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A group of young officers led by Colonel Gaafar Mohamed el-Nimeiri seized the government on 25 May 1969. A Revolutionary Command Council was formed and headed by el-Nimeiri. The Revolutionary Command Council suspended the Transitional Constitution, banned political parties, and arrested some politicians.

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In spring 1965, professionals and workers prevailed over the military regime, political parties returned and competed in the elections held by the transitional government at that time. A coalition government was formed and headed by Muhammed Ahmad Mahjoub – a famous politician in Umma political party – in June 1965.

General Ibrahim Aboud led his coup on the 17th of November 1958 that caused the suspension of the constitution and banning the political parties. The military government didn’t have a solution to the problem of the south except promising to defeat the rebels. However, some southerners were appointed in leading positions.

The southern opposition was active abroad and proposed federalism to solve the situation. However, the regime continued raging war and accepted no proposal to solve the crisis.

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The fall of Condominium

The first Sudanese government didn’t last for long, as the army made a military coup only two years of liberal democracy. The independent government faced complicated issues; getting rid of the Condominium and the constitution problem. After independence, the lack of a new constitution caused the continuum of the autonomy constitution of the British administration of 1953.

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The long peace that lasted between 1924 and 1936 came to an end after signing the British-Egyptian treaty that allowed Egyptian officials back to Sudan. The educated Sudanese protested that Sudan’s future had not been negotiated with them and that they had not been consulted. Under these circumstances, the Graduate Congress was established, which remained the main Sudanese political structure until the emergence of Sudanese political parties in 1946.

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National Liberty and Independence

The roots of the Sudanese national movement go back to the growth of the new social class that was connected to economic development. The colonial authorities secured the presence of this class in the services sector, the industrial sector and in the agricultural sector. The same thing applies to the modern education system that was established by the British colonial administration.

In January 1899, a British-Egyptian agreement  brought back Egyptian rule in Sudan. That was done as a part of a Condominium or a joint rule practiced by Britain and Egypt. The khedive and the British Crown shared sovereignty in the country. the Egyptian treasury had a bigger share of the expenses. Yet The condominium was only on papers as the British had all power in their hands.

The Mahdist revolution was a consequence of the brutality and injustice of the Turkish rule. The revolution was characterized by religious terms to refine and renew faith as expressed by its leader Muhammed Ahmad al-Mahdi who was a Sufi religious figure.

In June 1881, Muhammed called upon the people to support him to overthrow the Turkish rule. The revolution started in Aba Island, on the White Nile.

By September 1882, the Mahdists had already controlled the entire of Kordofan. On the 5th of November 1883, they obliterated an Egyptian army of 10,000 soldiers led by a British General in Shaykan. And on the 26th of January 1885, the Mahdists took over Khartoum.

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The Turkish Invasion

In 1821, Ismail Pasha – the army general and youngest son of the nominally Ottoman khedive of Egypt “Muhammad Ali” – led an army into Sinnar. The main purpose of the occupation was controlling the material and human resources of the country. Muhammad Ali was interested in the gold and slaves that Sudan could provide to build the modern state that he aspired to build in Egypt.

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The Christian Kingdoms

Until the emergence of the three Christian kingdoms along the Nile, a state of instability prevailed after the fall of Meroe. Nubia was the homeland the Nubians, who were named “The unknown X group”. The Nubians and their Blemmyes allies (the Bija) attacked the Romans in Upper Egypt but were defeated.

The ancient history immortalized the Nubian queens (Kandakes) in the ancient Meroe civilization on the east bank of the Nile (In today’s Sudan). An example of these queens is Amanishakheto who ruled over Meroe from the 10th year BC to year 1 AD. Other examples include Amanitore, who came to power in year 1 AD, and Amanirenas.

During its classical stage, Meroe was the capital of Kush. The Meroitic Kingdom – known in Greek geography as Ethiopia – lasted until the 4th century AD, when it weakened and disintegrated because of internal rebellion and tribal raids. Eventually, the capital of the Kush Kingdom was captured and burnt by the Kingdom of Aksum.

The emergence of kingdoms from south of Egypt began to the 6th cataract on the Nile. This began with the Kingdom of Kush in its various stages; Kerma, Meroe and Napata. The Kingdom of Kush prospered over 5 centuries during the 2nd millennium BC, as it controlled vast lands in today’s Sudan.

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Further Reading

The emergence of kingdoms south of Egypt, up to the sixth cataract on the Nile, began with the kingdom of Kush in its various phases, Kerma, Meroe, and Napata. The history of this epoch was closely tied to Egypt but possessed dist...
An overview of Sudan's trajectory from democracy through two military coups from 1956 to 1986.
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