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Prehistoric Sudan


By the eighth millennium BC, people of a Neolithic culture had settled into a sedentary way of life there in fortified mud-brick villages, where they supplemented hunting and fishing on the Nile with grain gathering and cattle herding. During the fifth millennium BC migrations from the drying Sahara brought neolithic people into the Nile Valley along with agriculture. The population that resulted from this cultural and genetic mixing developed social hierarchy over the next centuries become the Kingdom of Kush (with the capital at Kerma) at 1700 BC Anthropological and archaeological research indicate that during the predynastic period Nubia and Nagadan Upper Egypt were ethnically, and culturally nearly identical, and thus, simultaneously evolved systems of pharaonic kingship by 3300 BC. Together with other countries lies on Red Sea, Sudan is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt (or "Ta Netjeru", meaning "God's Land"), whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC



Kingdom of Kush


Northern Sudan's earliest historical record comes from Egyptian sources, which described the land upstream from the First Cataract, called Kush, as "wretched." For more than two thousand years the Old Kingdom (c.2700-2180 BC), had a dominating and significant influence over its southern neighbour, and even afterward, the legacy of Egyptian cultural and religious introductions remained important.


Over the centuries, trade developed. Egyptian caravans carried grain to Kush and returned to Aswan with ivory, incense, hides, and carnelian (a stone prized both as jewelry and for arrowheads) for shipment downriver. Egyptian governors particularly valued gold in Nubia and soldiers in the pharaoh's army. Egyptian military expeditions penetrated Kush periodically during the Old Kingdom. Yet there was no attempt to establish a permanent presence in the area until the Middle Kingdom (c.2100-1720 BC), when Egypt constructed a network of forts along the Nile as far south as Samnah, in southern Egypt, to guard the flow of gold from mines in Wawat.


Around 1720 BC, Semitic Canaanite nomads called Hyksos took over Egypt, ended the Middle Kingdom, severed links with Kush, and destroyed the forts along the Nile River. To fill the vacuum left by the Egyptian withdrawal, a culturally distinct indigenous Kushite kingdom emerged at Karmah, near present-day Dunqulah. After Egyptian power revived during the New Kingdom (c.1570-1100 BC), the pharaoh Ahmose I incorporated Kush as an Egyptian ruled province governed by a viceroy. Although Egypt's administrative control of Kush extended only down to the fourth cataract, Egyptian sources list tributary districts reaching to the Red Sea and upstream to the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile rivers. Egyptian authorities ensured the loyalty of local chiefs by drafting their children to serve as pages at the pharaoh's court. Egypt also expected tribute in gold and slaves from local Kushite chiefs.


Once Egypt had established political and military mastery over Kush, officials, priests merchants and artisans settled in the region. The Egyptian language became widely used in everyday activities. Many rich Kushites took to worshipping Egyptian gods and built temples for them. The temples remained centers of official religious worship until the coming of Christianity to the region during the 6th century AD. When Egyptian influence declined or succumbed to foreign domination, the Kushite elite regarded themselves as central powers and believed themselves as idols of Egyptian culture and religion.


By the 11th century BC, the authority of the New Kingdom dynasties had diminished, allowing divided rule in Egypt, and ending Egyptian control of Kush. With the withdrawal of the Egyptians, there ceased to be any written record or information from Kush about the region's activities over the next three hundred years. In the early 8th century BC, however, Kush emerged as an independent kingdom ruled from Napata by an aggressive line of monarchs who slowly extended their influence into Egypt. Around 750 BC, a Kushite king called Kashta conquered Upper Egypt and became ruler of Thebes until approximately 740 BC. His successor, Piankhy, subdued the delta, and conquered Egypt, thus initiating the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and founded a line of kings who ruled Kush and Thebes for about a hundred years. The dynasty's interference with the Assyrian sphere of influence in the Near East caused a confrontation between Egypt and the powerful Assyrian Empire, which controlled a vast empire comprising much of the Middle East, Asia Minor, Caucasus and East Mediterannean from their Mesopotamian homeland. Taharqa (688-663 BC), the last Kushite pharaoh, was defeated and driven out of the Near East by the Assyrian Emperor Sennacherib. Sennacherib's successor Esarhaddon went further, launching a full scale invasion of Egypt in 674 BC, defeating Taharqa and quickly conquering the land. Taharqa fled back to Nubia, and native Egyptian princes were installrd by the Assyrians as vassals of Esarhaddon. However, Taharqa was able to return some years later and wrest back control of a part of Egypt as far as Thebes from the Egyptian vassal princes of Assyria. Esarhaddon died in his capital Nineveh while preparing to return to Egypt and once more eject the Kushites. His successor, Ashurbanipal, sent a general with a small army which again defeated and ejected Taharqa from Egypt. Taharqa died in Nubia two years later. His successor, Tanutamun, attempted to regain Egypt. He successfully defeated Necho I, the puppet ruler installed by Ashurbanipal, taking Thebes in the process. The Assyrians then sent a powerful army southwards. Tantamani was heavily routed, and the Assyrian army sacked Thebes to such an extent it never truly recovered. A native ruler, Psammetichus I was placed on the throne, as a vassal of Ashurbanipal, thus ending the Kushite/Nubian Empire.


Meroe


Egypt's succeeding dynasty failed to reassert full control over Kush. Around 590 BC, however, an Egyptian army sacked Napata, compelling the Kushite court to move to a more secure location further south at Meroe near the Sixth Cataract. For several centuries thereafter, the Meroitic kingdom developed independently of Egyptian influence and domination, which passed successively under Persian, Greek, and, finally, Roman domination. During the height of its power in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC, Meroe extended over a region from the third cataract in the north to Soba, near present-day Khartoum, in the south. An Egyptian influenced pharaonic tradition persisted among a line of rulers at Meroe, who raised stelae to record the achievements of their reigns and erected pyramids to contain their tombs. These objects and the ruins of palaces, temples, and baths at Meroe attest to a centralized political system that employed artisans' skills and commanded the labour of a large work force. A well-managed irrigation system allowed the area to support a higher population density than was possible during later periods. By the 1st century BC, the use of hieroglyphs gave way to a Meroitic script that adapted the Egyptian writing system to an indigenous, Nubian-related language spoken by the region's people. Meroe's succession system was not necessarily hereditary; the matriarchal royal family member deemed most worthy often became king. The queen mother's role in the selection process was crucial to a smooth succession. The crown appears to have passed from brother to brother (or sister) and only when no siblings remained from father to son.


Although Napata remained Meroe's religious center, northern Kush eventually fell into disorder as it came under pressure from the Blemmyes, predatory nomads from east of the Nile. However, the Nile continued to give the region access to the Mediterranean world. Additionally, Meroe maintained contact with Arab and Indian traders along the Red Sea coast and incorporated Greek Hellenistic and Indian Hindu cultural influences into its daily life. Inconclusive evidence suggests that metallurgical technology may have been transmitted westward across the savanna belt to West Africa from Meroe's iron smelteries.


Relations between Meroe and Egypt were not always peaceful. As a response to Meroe's incursions into Upper Egypt, a Roman army moved south and razed Napata in 23 BC. The Roman commander quickly abandoned the area, however, deeming it too poor to warrant colonization.


In the 2nd century AD, the Nobatae occupied the Nile's west bank in northern Kush. They are believed to have been one of several well-armed bands of horse- and camel-borne warriors who sold their vagility to the Meroitic Population for protection; eventually they intermarried and established themselves among the Meroitic people as a military aristocracy. Until nearly the 5th century, Rome subsidized the Nobatae and used Meroe as a buffer between Egypt and the Blemmyes. Meanwhile, the old Meroitic kingdom contracted because of the expansion of the powerful Ethiopic Kingdom of Aksum to the east. By AD 350, King Ezana of Axum had captured and destroyed Meroe city, ending the kingdom's independent existence, and conquering its territory into modern-day northern Sudan.


Christian Nubia


By the 6th century, three states had emerged as the political and cultural heirs of the Meroitic kingdom. Nobatia in the north, had its capital at Faras, in what is now Egypt; the central kingdom, Muqurra, was centered at Dunqulah, the old city on the Nile about 150 kilometers south of modern Dunqulah; and Alwa, in the heartland of old Meroe in the south, had its capital at Sawba. In all three kingdoms, warrior aristocracies ruled Meroitic populations from royal courts where functionaries bore Greek titles in emulation of the Byzantine court.


The earliest references to Nubia's successor kingdoms are contained in accounts by Greek and Egyptian Coptic authors of the conversion of Nubian kings to Christianity in the 6th century AD. According to tradition, a missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora arrived in Nobatia and started preaching the gospel about 540 AD. It is possible that the conversion process began earlier, however, under the aegis of Coptic missionaries from Egypt. The Nubian kings accepted the Monophysite Christianity practiced in Egypt and acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Egyptian Coptic patriarch of Alexandria over the Nubian church. A hierarchy of bishops named by the Coptic patriarch of Alexandria and consecrated in Egypt directed the church's activities and wielded considerable secular power. The church sanctioned a sacerdotal kingship, confirming the royal line's legitimacy. In turn the monarch protected the church's interests. The queen mother's role in the succession process paralleled that of Meroe's matriarchal tradition. Because women transmitted the right to succession, a renowned warrior not of royal birth might be nominated to become king through marriage to a woman in line of succession.


The emergence of Christianity reopened channels to Mediterranean civilization and renewed Nubia's cultural and ideological ties to Egypt. The church encouraged literacy in Nubia through its Egyptian-trained clergy and in its monastic and cathedral schools. The use of Greek in liturgy eventually gave way to the Nubian language, which was written using an indigenous alphabet that combined elements of the old Meroitic and Coptic scripts. Egyptian Coptic, however, often still appeared in ecclesiastical and secular circles. Additionally, early inscriptions have indicated a continuing knowledge of colloquial Greek in Nubia as late as the 12th century AD. After the 7th century AD, Semitic Arabic gained importance in the Nubian kingdoms, especially as a medium for commerce.


The Christian Nubian kingdoms, which survived for many centuries, achieved their peak of prosperity and military power in the 9th and 10th centuries AD. However, Muslim Arab invaders, who in 640 had conquered Egypt, posed a threat to the Christian Nubian kingdoms. Nobatia and Muqurra merged into the kingdom of Dunqulah sometime before 700. Although the Arabs soon abandoned attempts to reduce Nubia by force, Arab Muslim domination of Egypt and persecution of native Egyptian Christians often made it difficult to communicate with the Coptic patriarch or to obtain Egyptian-trained clergy. As a result, the Nubian church became isolated from the rest of the Christian world.



  


Christian Nubia in the three states period. Makuria would later absorb Nobatia. Note that the border between Alodia and Makuria is unclear, but it was somewhere between the 5th and 6th Cataracts.

Nubian pyramids in Meroe.

 Taharqa (688-663 BC), the last Kushite pharaoh

Nubian Pharoahs

Naqa-Nubia


Christianity and Islam


By the 6th century, fifty states had emerged as the political and cultural heirs of the Meroitic Kingdom. Nobatia in the north, also known as Ballanah, had its capital at Faras, in what is now Egypt; the central kingdom, Muqurra (Makuria), was centred at Dunqulah, about 13 kilometres (10 miles) south of modern Dunqulah; and Alawa (Alodia), in the heartland of old Meroe, which had its capital at Sawba (now a suburb of modern-day Khartoum). In all three kingdoms, warrior aristocracies ruled Meroitic populations from royal courts where functionaries bore Greek titles in emulation of the Byzantine court. A missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora arrived in Nobatia and started preaching Christianity about 540 AD. The Nubian kings became Monophysite Christians. However, Makuria was of the Melkite Christian faith, unlike Nobatia and Alodia.


After many attempts at military conquest failed, the Arab commander in Egypt concluded the first in a series of regularly renewed treaties known as Albaqut al-sharim (pactum) with the Nubians that governed relations between the two peoples for more than 678 years. Islam progressed in the area over a long period of time through intermarriage and contacts with Arab merchants and settlers, particularly the Sufi nobles of Arabia. Additionally, exemption from taxation in regions under Muslim rule were also a powerful incentive for conversion. In 1093, a Muslim prince of Nubian royal blood ascended the throne of Dunqulah as king. The two most important Arab tribes to emerge in Nubia were the Jaali and the Juhayna. Today's northern Sudanese culture often combines Nubian and Arabic elements.


During the 16th century, a people called the Funj, under a leader named Amara Dunqus, appeared in southern Nubia and supplanted the remnants of the old Christian kingdom of Alwa, establishing As-Saltana az-Zarqa (the Blue Sultanate), also called the Sultanate of Sennar. The Blue Sultanate eventually became the keystone of the Funj Empire. By the mid-16th century, Sennar controlled Al Jazirah and commanded the allegiance of vassal states and tribal districts north to the Third Cataract and south to the rainforests. The government was substantially weakened by a series of succession arguments and coups within the royal family. In 1820, Muhammad Ali of Egypt sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan. His forces accepted Sennar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi VII.



Egyptian Turks Period


In 1821, the Albanian-Ottoman ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, had invaded and conquered northern Sudan. Although technically the Wāli of Egypt under the Ottoman Sultan, Muhammad Ali styled himself as Khedive of a virtually independent Egypt. Seeking to add Sudan to his domains, he sent his third son Ismail (not to be confused with Ismail the Magnificent mentioned later) to conquer the country, and subsequently incorporate it into Egypt. This policy was expanded and intensified by Ibrahim's son, Ismail I, under whose reign most of the remainder of modern-day Sudan was conquered. The Egyptian authorities made significant improvements to the Sudanese infrastructure (mainly in the north), especially with regard to irrigation and cotton production. In 1879, the Great Powers forced the removal of Ismail and established his son Tewfik I in his place. Tewfik's corruption and mismanagement resulted in the Orabi Revolt, which threatened the Khedive's survival. Tewfik appealed for help to the British, who subsequently occupied Egypt in 1882. Sudan was left in the hands of the Khedivial government, and the mismanagement and corruption of its officials. During the 1870s, European initiatives against the slave trade caused an economic crisis in northern Sudan, precipitating the rise of Mahdist forces.


Eventually, a revolt broke out in Sudan, led by Muhammad Ahmad ibn Abd Allah, the Mahdi (Guided One), who sought to end foreign presence in Sudan. Mahdi revolution succeed in January 1885. Later that year, the Mahdi's forces attacked and entered Khartoum[clarification needed], which had been defended by the British Governor-General, Charles George Gordon (also known as Gordon of Khartoum), who was killed. Egypt and Britain subsequently withdrew forces from Sudan leaving the Mahdi and his successor to form a 14 year rule of Sudan.


  

Ismail Pacha Sultan of Egypt & Sudan

Muhammad Ali Pacha


History of Mahdist Sudan


Developments in Sudan during the late 19th century cannot be understood without reference to the British position in Egypt. In 1869, the Suez Canal opened and quickly became Britain's economic lifeline to India and the Far East. To defend this waterway, Britain sought a greater role in Egyptian affairs. In 1873, the British government therefore supported a programme whereby an Anglo-French debt commission assumed responsibility for managing Egypt's fiscal affairs. This commission eventually forced khedive Ismail to abdicate in favor of his more politically acceptable son, Tawfiq (1877–1892).


After the removal in 1877 of Ismail, who had appointed him to the post, Charles George Gordon resigned as governor general of Sudan in 1880. His successors lacked direction from Cairo and feared the political turmoil that had engulfed Egypt. As a result, they failed to continue the policies Gordon had put in place. The illegal slave trade revived, although not enough to satisfy the merchants whom Gordon had put out of business. The Sudanese army suffered from a lack of resources, and unemployed soldiers from disbanded units troubled garrison towns. Tax collectors arbitrarily increased taxation.



Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi


In this troubled atmosphere, Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, a fakir, or holy man, who combined personal magnetism with religious zealotry, emerged, determined to expel the Turks and restore Islam to its primitive purity. The son of a Dunqulah boatbuilder, Muhammad Ahmad had become the disciple of Muhammad ash Sharif, the head of the Sammaniyah order. Later, as a shaykh of the order, Muhammad Ahmad spent several years in seclusion and gained a reputation as a mystic and teacher. In 1880, he became a Sammaniyah.


Even after the Mahdi proclaimed a jihad, or holy war, against the Turkiyah, Khartoum dismissed him as a religious fanatic. The government paid more attention when his religious zeal turned to denunciation of tax collectors. To avoid arrest, the Mahdi and a party of his followers, the Ansar, made a long march to Kurdufan, where he gained a large number of recruits, especially from the Baqqara. From a refuge in the area, he wrote appeals to the shaykhs of the religious orders and won active support or assurances of neutrality from all except the pro-Egyptian Khatmiyyah. Merchants and Arab tribes that had depended on the slave trade responded as well, along with the Hadendowa Beja, who were rallied to the Mahdi by an Ansar captain, Usman Digna.



Advancing attacks


Early in 1882, the Ansar, armed with spears and swords, overwhelmed a British-led 7,000-man Egyptian force not far from Al Ubayyid and seized their rifles, field guns and ammunition. The Mahdi followed up this victory by laying siege to Al Ubayyid and starving it into submission after four months. The Ansar, 30,000 men strong, then defeated an 8,000-man Egyptian relief force at Sheikan. Next the Mahdi captured Darfur and imprisoned Rudolf Carl von Slatin, an Austrian in the khedive's service, who later became the first Egyptian-appointed governor of Darfur Province.


The advance of the Ansar and the Hadendowa rising in the east imperiled communications with Egypt and threatened to cut off garrisons at Khartoum, Kassala, Sennar, and Sawakin and in the south. To avoid being drawn into a costly military intervention, the British government ordered an Egyptian withdrawal from Sudan. Gordon, who had received a reappointment as governor general, arranged to supervise the evacuation of Egyptian troops and officials and all foreigners from Sudan.



British response


After reaching Khartoum in February 1884, Gordon soon realized that he could not extricate the garrisons. As a result, he called for reinforcements from Egypt to relieve Khartoum. Gordon also recommended that Zubayr, an old enemy whom he recognized as an excellent military commander, be named to succeed him to give disaffected Sudanese a leader other than the Mahdi to rally behind. London rejected this plan. As the situation deteriorated, Gordon argued that Sudan was essential to Egypt's security and that to allow the Ansar a victory there would invite the movement to spread elsewhere.


Increasing British popular support for Gordon eventually forced Prime Minister William Gladstone to mobilize a relief force under the command of Lord Garnet Joseph Wolseley. A "flying column" sent overland from Wadi Halfa across the Bayuda Desert bogged down at Abu Tulayh (commonly called Abu Klea), where the Hadendowa broke the British line. An advance unit that had gone ahead by river when the column reached Al Matammah arrived at Khartoum on 28 January 1885, to find the town had fallen two days earlier. The Ansar had waited for the Nile flood to recede before attacking the poorly defended river approach to Khartoum in boats, slaughtering the garrison, killing Gordon, and delivering his head to the Mahdi's tent. Kassala and Sennar fell soon after, and by the end of 1885, the Ansar had begun to move into the southern region. In all Sudan, only Sawakin, reinforced by Indian army troops, and Wadi Halfa on the northern frontier remained in Anglo-Egyptian hands.


Mahdiyah


The Mahdiyah (Mahdist regime) imposed traditional Sharia Islamic laws. Sudan's new ruler also authorized the burning of lists of pedigrees and books of law and theology because of their association with the old order and because he believed that the former accentuated tribalism at the expense of religious unity.


The Mahdiyah has become known as the first genuine Sudanese nationalist government. The Mahdi maintained that his movement was not a religious order that could be accepted or rejected at will, but that it was a universal regime, which challenged man to join or to be destroyed. The Mahdi modified Islam's five pillars to support the dogma that loyalty to him was essential to true belief. The Mahdi also added the declaration "and Muhammad Ahmad is the Mahdi of God and the representative of His Prophet" to the recitation of the creed, the shahada. Moreover, service in the jihad replaced the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, as a duty incumbent on the faithful. Zakat (almsgiving) became the tax paid to the state. The Mahdi justified these and other innovations and reforms as responses to instructions conveyed to him by God in visions.


The Mahdist regime was also known for its severe persecution of Christians in Sudan, including Copts.



Khalifa


Six months after the capture of Khartoum, the Mahdi died of typhus. The task of establishing and maintaining a government fell to his deputies—three caliphs chosen by the Mahdi in emulation of the Prophet Muhammad. Rivalry among the three, each supported by people of his native region, continued until 1891, when Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, with the help primarily of the Baqqara Arabs, overcame the opposition of the others and emerged as unchallenged leader of the Mahdiyah. Abdallahi—called the Khalifa (successor)—purged the Mahdiyah of members of the Mahdi's family and many of his early religious disciples.


Originally, the Mahdiyah was a jihad state, run like a military camp. Sharia courts enforced Islamic law and the Mahdi's precepts, which had the force of law. After consolidating his power, the Khalifa instituted an administration and appointed Ansar (who were usually Baqqara) as amirs over each of the several provinces. The Khalifa also ruled over rich Al Jazirah. Although he failed to restore this region's commercial wellbeing, the Khalifa organized workshops to manufacture ammunition and to maintain river steamboats.


Regional relations remained tense throughout much of the Mahdiyah period, largely because of the Khalifa's commitment to using the jihad to extend his version of Islam throughout the world. For example, the Khalifa rejected an offer of an alliance against the Europeans by Emperor Yohannes IV of Ethiopia. In 1887, a 60,000-man Ansar army invaded Ethiopia, penetrated as far as Gondar, and captured prisoners and booty. The Khalifa then refused to conclude peace with Ethiopia. In March 1889, an Ethiopian force, commanded by the emperor, marched on Metemma; however, after Yohannes fell in the ensuing Battle of Gallabat, the Ethiopians withdrew. Abd ar Rahman an Nujumi, the Khalifa's best general, invaded Egypt in 1889, but British-led Egyptian troops defeated the Ansar at Tushkah. The failure of the Egyptian invasion ended the Ansars' invincibility. The Belgians prevented the Mahdi's men from conquering Equatoria, and in 1893, the Italians repulsed an Ansar attack at Akordat (in Eritrea) and forced the Ansar to withdraw from Ethiopia.



Reconquest of Sudan


In 1892, Herbert Kitchener (later Lord Kitchener) became sirdar, or commander, of the Egyptian army and started preparations for the reconquest of Sudan. The British thought they needed to occupy Sudan in part because of international developments. By the early 1890s, British, French, and Belgian claims had converged at the Nile headwaters. Britain feared that the other colonial powers would take advantage of Sudan's instability to acquire territory previously annexed to Egypt. Apart from these political considerations, Britain wanted to establish control over the Nile to safeguard a planned irrigation dam at Aswan.


In 1895, the British government authorized Kitchener to launch a campaign to reconquer Sudan. Britain provided men and matériel while Egypt financed the expedition. The Anglo-Egyptian Nile Expeditionary Force included 25,800 men, 8,600 of whom were British. The remainder were troops belonging to Egyptian units that included six battalions recruited in southern Sudan. An armed river flotilla escorted the force, which also had artillery support. In preparation for the attack, the British established army headquarters at Wadi Halfa, and extended and reinforced the perimeter defenses around Sawakin. In March 1896, the campaign started; in September, Kitchener captured Dunqulah. The British then constructed a rail line from Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamad and an extension parallel to the Nile to transport troops and supplies to Berber. Anglo-Egyptian units fought a sharp action at Abu Hamad, but there was little other significant resistance until Kitchener reached Atbarah and defeated the Ansar. After this engagement, Kitchener's soldiers marched and sailed toward Omdurman, where the Khalifa made his last stand.


On 2 September 1898, the Khalifa committed his 52,000-man army to a frontal assault against the Anglo-Egyptian force, which was massed on the plain outside Omdurman. The outcome never was in doubt, largely because of superior British firepower. During the five-hour battle, about 11,000 Mahdists died, whereas Anglo-Egyptian losses amounted to 48 dead and fewer than 400 wounded.


Mopping-up operations required several years, but organized resistance ended when the Khalifa, who had escaped to Kurdufan, died in fighting at Umm Diwaykarat in November 1899. Many areas welcomed the downfall of his regime. Sudan's economy had been all but destroyed during his reign and the population had declined by approximately one-half because of famine, disease, persecution, and warfare. Moreover, none of the country's traditional institutions or loyalties remained intact. Tribes had been divided in their attitudes toward Mahdism, religious brotherhoods had been weakened, and orthodox religious leaders had vanished.



Anglo-Egyptian Sudan


In the 1890s, the British sought to re-establish their control over Sudan, once more officially in the name of the Egyptian Khedive, but in actuality treating the country as a British colony. By the early 1890s, British, French and Belgian claims had converged at the Nile headwaters. Britain feared that the other powers would take advantage of Sudan's instability to acquire territory previously annexed to Egypt. Apart from these political considerations, Britain wanted to establish control over the Nile to safeguard a planned irrigation dam at Aswan.


Lord Kitchener led military campaigns against the Mahdists from 1896 to 1898. Kitchener's campaigns culminated in a decisive victory in the Battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898. Following this, in 1899, Britain and Egypt reached an agreement under which Sudan was run by a governor-general appointed by Egypt with British consent. In reality, much to the revulsion of Egyptian and Sudanese nationalists[citation needed], Sudan was effectively administered as a British colony. The British were keen to reverse the process, started under Muhammad Ali Pasha, of uniting the Nile Valley under Egyptian leadership, and sought to frustrate all efforts aimed at further uniting the two countries. During World War II, Sudan was directly involved militarily in the East African Campaign. Formed in 1925, the Sudan Defence Force (SDF) played an active part in responding to the early incursions (occupation by Italian troops of Kassala and other border areas) into the Sudan from Italian East Africa during 1940. In 1942, the SDF also played a part in the invasion of the Italian colony by British and Commonwealth forces. From 1924 until independence in 1956, the British had a policy of running Sudan as two essentially separate territories, the north (Muslim) and south (Christian). The last British Governor-General was Sir Robert Howe.



Independence and National Rule



The continued British occupation of Sudan fueled 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 and successor Fuad I. They continued their insistence of a single Egyptian-Sudanese state even when the Sultanate was retitled as the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan, but the British continued to frustrate such reaches for independence.


The Egyptian Revolution of 1952 finally heralded the beginning of the march towards Sudanese independence. Having abolished the monarchy in 1953, Egypt's new leaders, Muhammad Naguib, whose mother was Sudanese, and later Gamal Abdel-Nasser, believed the only way to end British domination in Sudan was for Egypt to officially abandon its claims of sovereignty over Sudan.


The British on the other hand continued their political and financial support for the Mahdi successor Sayyid Abdel Rahman who, they believed, could resist the Egyptian pressures for Sudanese independence. Rahman was able to resist the pressures, but his regime was plagued with political ineptitude, which garnered him a loss of support in northern and central Sudan. Egypt and Britain both sensed a great political instability forming, and opted to allow the Sudanese in the north and south to have a free vote on independence to see whether they wished for a British withdrawal.

Sudan's flag raised at independence ceremony on 1 January 1956 by the Prime Minister Ismail al-Azhari and in presence of opposition leader Mohamed Ahmed Almahjoub


A polling process was carried out resulting in composition of a democratic parliament and Ismail al-Azhari was elected first Prime Minister and led the first modern Sudanese government. On 1 January 1956, in a special ceremony held at the People's Palace, the Egyptian and British flags were lowered and the new Sudanese flag, composed of green, blue and white stripes, was raised in their place by the prime minister Ismail al-Azhari.



  

Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi

Sudan independence

Gordon Pasha


Battle of Omdurman


At the Battle of Omdurman (2 September 1898), an army commanded by the British Gen. Sir Herbert Kitchener defeated the army of Abdullah al-Taashi, the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad. It was a demonstration of the superiority of a highly disciplined European-led army equipped with modern rifles and artillery over a vastly larger force armed with older weapons, and marked the success of British efforts to re-conquer the Sudan. However, it was not until the 1899 Battle of Umm Diwaykarat that the final Mahdist forces were defeated.


Omdurman is today a suburb of Khartoum in central Sudan, with a population of some 1.5 million. The village of Omdurman was chosen in 1884 as the base of operations by the Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. After his death in 1885, following the successful siege of Khartoum, his successor (Khalifa) Abdullah retained it as his capital.


Battle account


The battle took place at Kerreri, 11 km north of Omdurman. Kitchener commanded a force of 8,000 British regulars and a mixed force of 17,000 Sudanese and Egyptian troops. Kitchener arrayed his force in an arc around the village of Egeiga, close to the bank of the Nile, where a gunboat flotilla waited in support, facing a wide, flat plain with hills rising to the left and right. The British and Egyptian cavalry was placed on either flank.


Abdullah's followers, known as Ansar and sometimes referred to as Dervishes, numbered around 50,000, including some 3,000 cavalry. They were split into five groups--a force of 8,000 under Osman Azrak was arrayed directly opposite the British, in a shallow arc along a mile (1.6 km) of a low ridge leading onto the plain, and the other Mahdist forces were initially concealed from Kitchener's force. Abdullah al-Taashi and 17,000 men were concealed behind the Surgham Hills to the west and rear of Osman Azrak's force, with 20,000 more positioned to the northwest, close to the front behind the Kerreri hills, commanded by Ali-Wad-Helu and Sheikh ed-Din. A final force of around 8,000 was gathered on the slope at the right flank of Azrak's force.


The battle began in the early morning, at around 6:00 a.m. After the clashes of the previous day, the 8,000 men under Osman Azrak advanced straight at the waiting British, quickly followed by about 8,000 of those waiting to the northwest, a mixed force of riflemen and spearmen. The British artillery opened fire at around 2750 m, inflicting severe casualties on the Mahdist forces before they even came within range of the Maxim guns and volley fire. The frontal attack ended quickly, with around 4,000 Mahdist casualties; none of the attackers got closer than 50 m to the British trenches. A flanking move from the Ansar right was also checked, and there were bloody clashes on the opposite flank that scattered the Mahdist forces there.



Kitchener was anxious to occupy Omdurman before the remaining Mahdist forces could withdraw there. He advanced his army on the city, arranging them in separate columns for the attack. The British light cavalry regiment, the 21st Lancers, was sent ahead to clear the plain to Omdurman. They had a tough time of it. The 400-strong regiment attacked what they thought were only a few hundred dervishes, but in fact there were 2,500 infantry hidden behind them in a depression. After a fierce clash the Lancers drove them back (resulting in three Victoria Crosses being awarded). On a larger scale the British advance allowed the Khalifa to re-organize his forces. He still had over 30,000 men in the field and directed his main reserve to attack from the west while ordering the forces to the northwest to attack simultaneously over the Kerreri Hills.


Kitchener's force wheeled left in echelon to advance up Surgham ridge and then southwards. To protect the rear, a brigade of 3,000, mainly Sudanese commanded by Hector MacDonald, was reinforced with Maxims and artillery and followed the main force at around 1350 m. Curiously, the supplies and wounded around Egeiga were left almost unprotected.


MacDonald was alerted to the presence of around 15,000 enemy troops moving towards him from the west, out from behind Surgham. He wheeled his force and lined them up to face the enemy charge. The Mahdist infantry attacked in two prongs and MacDonald was forced to repeatedly re-order his battalions. The brigade maintained a punishing fire. Kitchener, now aware of the problem, "began to throw his brigades about as if they were companies".MacDonald's brigade was soon reinforced and the Mahdist forces were forced back and finally broke and fled or died where they stood. The Mahdist forces to the north had regrouped too late and entered the clash only after the force in the central valley had been routed. They pressed Macdonald's Sudanese brigades hard, but the Lincolnshire Regiment was quickly brought up and with sustained section volleys repulsed the advance. A final desperate cavalry charge of around 500 horsemen was utterly destroyed. The march on Omdurman was resumed at about 11:30.


Aftermath


Around 10,000 Mahdists were killed, 13,000 wounded and 5,000 taken prisoner. Kitchener's force lost 47 men killed and 382 wounded, the majority from MacDonald's command. One eye-witness described the appalling scene:


    They could never get near and they refused to hold back . . . It was not a battle but an execution . . . The bodies were not in heaps—bodies hardly ever are; but they spread evenly over acres and acres. Some lay very composedly with their slippers placed under their heads for a last pillow; some knelt, cut short in the middle of a last prayer. Others were torn to pieces . . .


Controversy over wounded Mahdist killed after the battle began soon afterwards.[4] Churchill thought Kitchener was too brutal in his killing of the wounded.[5]


The Khalifa escaped and survived until 1899, when he was killed in the Battle of Umm Diwaykarat.


Several days after the battle, Kitchener was sent to Fashoda, due to the developing Fashoda Incident.



  

Battle of Omdurman (Karari )

Kalifa Altaishi in Umm Diwaykarat

British army in Omdurman

Battle of Omdurman

Economy of Sudan