The Nile unites Sudan with Egypt, and its
relations go back to Pharaonic times. Britain intervened
in both countries in the 19th century, which in Sudan
led to the Islamist / nationalist Mahadist uprising. The
British defeated the Mahdists in the battle of Omdurman
in 1898. Prior to Sudan's independence in the 1950s, a
new uprising began in black, southern Sudan, directed
against the Arabs in the north.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Sudan, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The history of northern and central Sudan is closely
linked to that of Egypt. The Nile enabled early high
cultures in both countries. When about 5,000 years ago,
the Egyptians began to expand their kingdom south, into
today's Sudan, they encountered black people, Nubians,
who were Egyptian.
When Egypt weakened in the 9th and 8th centuries BC,
the independent Nubian kingdom of Kush arose. Its rulers
conquered all of Egypt and founded a dynasty of
Pharaohs, who ruled Egypt for a few hundred years.
Later, the Cushites established a new kingdom with
capital in Meroe, northeast of today's Khartoum. In the
300s after Christ, the kingdom was conquered by
In the 500s, new Nubian kingdoms arose, which were
Christianized by missionaries from Egypt. When the Arabs
conquered Egypt in 640, the Nubians began to convert to
Islam. Arab immigration increased during the Egyptian
Mamluk empire, which subdued Nubia in 1276. The
Christian kingdoms perished.
Egypt became part of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire in
the 16th century. Much of central Sudan was dominated by
indigenous black Sultans. The Darfur Sultanate in the
West would last until it was incorporated with (then
Egyptian) Sudan in 1874. The Sultanate engaged in trade,
Under British rule
In the early 19th century, the King of Egypt,
Muhammad Ali, wanted to make Egypt the most powerful
nation of Islam. He occupied large areas of Nubia and
conducted an increasingly intensive search for slaves to
his army. Following European pressure, Muhammad Ali's
son Ismail tried to end the slave trade. To his aid he
took British officer Charles Gordon, who in 1877 was
appointed general governor of Sudan.
Britain had increased its influence in Egypt from the
1850s. The construction of the Suez Canal in 1854-1869
had left Egypt indebted, and in 1879 the great powers
persuaded the Turkish sultan to oust Ismail. In response
to a nationalist uprising, British troops occupied
Egypt. Thus, in practice, Sudan also came under British
The foreign power led to the uprising in Sudan. A
member of the Sufi word sammaniyah, Muhammad Ahmed,
declared himself in 1881 to be one of the expected
savior of the Muslims, mahdi. His call to holy war,
jihad, attracted large crowds who defeated the armies of
the Egyptians despite inferior armament.
The British eventually thought of colonizing Sudan
and incorporating the country's southern part into its
East African empire. They did not mind that the Mahdists
disengaged Sudan from Egypt. That General Gordon was
instructed to do away with mahdin. However, the plans
failed. The Mahdists invaded Khartoum in 1885, and
Gordon was killed.
The Mahdist uprising is fought
The same year, the Berlin Conference was held, where
the major powers divided Africa. The British wanted to
take control of the Nile quickly, so as not to
jeopardize planned irrigation projects in Egypt. A
British-Egyptian army was sent to Sudan and defeated the
Mahdists in the battle of Omdurman in 1898. At least
20,000 Sudanese have fallen.
Britain and Egypt agreed in 1899 to rule Sudan
jointly. The Darfur Sultanate, which the British
restored after the battle of Omdurman, again became a
province in Sudan in 1916. Since the British General
Governor of Sudan was assassinated in Cairo in 1924, the
British took over the entire administration of Sudan in
cooperation with local chiefs.
The British invested in ports, railways and
irrigation plants to produce cotton and rubber. In
classic colonial fashion, they played different groups
against each other. First the khatmiya words, whose
followers were mainly merchants, were favored. When they
were too influenced by Egyptian nationalism, the British
sought support from the Mahdis who wanted to break with
Tensions between north and south
In the north, the emergence of commercial
agriculture, industry and modern administration gave
rise to a working class and a middle class. In both
layers, after the Second World War, political parties
emerged. In 1945 the Mahdis formed the religiously
oriented Umma Party and the khatmiya adherents in 1952
what was then called the National Unionist Party (NUP).
Railway workers formed the backbone of the Sudanese
Communist Party, which was formed in 1946. By
controlling the trade union movement, the party became
one of the strongest communist parties in Africa and the
Britain, after the Second World War, was forced to
hand over power to the Sudanese (in practice the North
Sudanese). A local parliament was established in 1948
and internal self-government was introduced in 1953. The
NUP formed government after general elections. The party
advocated union with Egypt, but opinion in the north
demanded independence, which all parties were forced to
In southern Sudan dominated by black people, there
was widespread fear of being governed by an Arab regime
in Khartoum. Local leaders in the south have fueled
rumors of Arab massacres in South Sudanese.
When the southern provinces did not gain autonomy,
local military associations mutated in 1955. It became
the beginning of a protracted civil war between the
south and the north. The unions later formed the
backbone of the guerrilla movement Anya Nya (The Serpent
Gift), which received strong support from the Dinka
New step towards referendum
Parliament adopts a law regulating the conditions for the planned referendum
on the future status of southern Sudan;
The AU wants to set up a special court for Darfur
AU offers to set up a special court for Darfur. Both Sudanese and foreign
lawyers are expected to lead the work of the court, whose task would be to
investigate crimes committed during the conflict in the area.
Spit penalty for wearing pants
Ten women are sentenced to spit punishment for wearing pants in public. A
female journalist is sentenced to a fine of SEK 1,400 for the same "crime".
"The war in Darfur is over"
The commander of the International Peace Force in Darfur (Unamid) is
criticized by various foreign activist groups when he says that "the war in
Darfur is in effect over".
Continued dispute over the oil fields
A few days later, North Sudan announces that it no longer wants to give the
South its share of the revenue from the two oil fields. South Sudan is again
beginning to demand control of the disputed oil fields.
Arbitration on Abyei
The Permanent Arbitration Tribunal in The Hague states that the boundaries
should be redrawn in eastern and western Abyei. The district's land area is set
at 10,459 square miles. Northern Sudan is granted full control over two disputed
oil fields, including the important Heglig. Both sides accept the court's
New party in the south
Former Foreign Minister Lam Akol in South Sudan breaks with SPLM and forms a
new party, SPLM-DC (Democratic Change).
ICC prosecution for murder in Darfur
The ICC initiates the first legal process related to the conflict in Darfur.
A rebel leader is charged with the murders of ten AU soldiers in September 2007.
Nine prisoners are executed
Nine men from Darfur are executed for the 2006 murder of a well-known
Arrest warrant for the President
The ICC Criminal Court in The Hague issues an international arrest warrant
for al-Bashir, who responds with ordering aid organizations to leave Darfur.
Settlement agreement in Darfur
The JEM rebel movement in Darfur signs a standstill agreement with the
Islamist leader al-Turabi seizes
Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi (see Political system) is arrested after
urging President al-Bashir to surrender to the International Criminal Court in
The Hague (ICC), which wants to try al-Bashir for suspected war crimes.