About Sudan
Sudan From A-Z Part One
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Feb 26, 2009 - 5:56:43 AM


                                         Sudan From A-Z    





Size: Total area 2,505,813 square kilometers; land area 2,376,000 square kilometers; coastline 716 kilometers; largest country in Africa.

Topography: Plateau and plains predominate. Mountainous areas behind Red Sea coast, in far south, and in Far West. Only interior highlands of consequence are Nuba Mountains west of White Nile River. All significant streams flow to White Nile and Blue Nile rivers, which join just north of Khartoum to form River Nile. Extensive swamps in south, especially along Bahr al Ghazal (southernmost part of White Nile).

Climate: Rainfall ranges from rare and occasional in far northern desert to relatively abundant and frequent (rainy seasons of six to nine months) in southern third of Sudan. In most years central third has enough rain for agriculture but lack of rain in 1980s and 1991 has caused years of drought. Dust storms (often preceding rainstorms) common in north and northern parts of central Sudan, reducing visibility and causing much discomfort. Mean temperatures and daily maximums generally high; desert temperatures often quite cool at night.


Population: Census of 1983 set population at 21.6 million people; July 1990 population estimate approximately 25 million. Annual growth rate between 2.8 and 3.1 percent. Half of population under eighteen years of age. About 20 percent of population urban, concentrated chiefly in three cities--Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North--constituting national capital area.

Languages: About 400 languages, but Arabic primary and official language. English common second language in south. Other languages include Bedawiye used by Beja and various dialects of Niger-Kurdufanian and Nilo-Saharan.

Ethnic Groups: Largest ethnic category in 1983 (nearly 40 percent of total, nearly 55 percent in north) comprises those considering themselves Arabs, but category internally split by regional and tribal loyalties and affiliation to various Muslim politico-religious groups. Major Muslim (but non-Arab) groups are Nubians in far north, nomadic Beja in northeast, and Fur in west. Southern non-Muslim groups include Dinka (more than 10 percent of total population and 40 percent in south), Nuer, and numerous smaller Nilotic and other ethnic groups.

Religion: More than half of total population Muslim, most living in north where Muslims constitute 75 percent or more of population. Relatively few Christians, most living in south. Most people in south and substantial minority in north adherents of various indigenous religions.

Education: Six-year primary education increasingly available, but in early 1990s south and many northern communities still suffered from shortage of schools and teachers; many schools in south destroyed by civil war. Small proportion of primary school graduates continued in three-year junior secondary and upper secondary schools or attended technical schools. Most schools in urban locations; many lacked adequately trained teachers. Universities producing adequate numbers of highly educated graduates but Sudanese with skills relevant to largely agricultural economy still in short supply. Estimate of adult literacy about 30 percent.

Health: By 1991 civil war had destroyed most medical facilities in south, and famine in 1980s and 1991 had serious impact on general health. Weak modern medical infrastructure suffering personnel shortages and urban-rural imbalance; most personnel and facilities concentrated in capital area. Malaria and gastrointestinal diseases prevalent through much of country; tuberculosis widespread in north but also occurs in south; schistosomiasis (snail fever) more restricted to territory near White Nile and Blue Nile rivers and adjacent irrigated areas; sleeping sickness spreading in south; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) also increasing.


Salient Features: Government-dominated mixed economy. Modern agriculture sector and most of modern industry controlled by government corporations directly or through joint ventures; virtually all small- and medium-sized industry, most services, traditional agriculture, and handicrafts controlled privately. Civil war in south, massive influx of refugees from neighboring countries, and drought in 1980s and 1991 have hampered economic development. New economic recovery program announced June 1990 to end economic stagnation, develop agriculture, liberalize trade, abolish most government monopolies, progressively eliminate budget deficit, and develop energy resources.

         Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, and Forestry: Agriculture and livestock raising provided livelihood for about 80 percent of population and roughly 95 percent of exports in early 1990s. Agriculture characterized by modern market-oriented sector of irrigated and mechanized rainfed farming concentrated in central part of country and large traditional sector engaged in subsistence activities elsewhere. Principal modern sector crops: cotton, sorghum, groundnuts, sugarcane, wheat, sesame. Traditional sector crops: sorghum, millet, sesame, groundnuts. Fisheries still largely subsistence occupation. Apart from gum arabic, a major export, forests used mainly for fuel.

Manufacturing: Public enterprises dominant in modern manufacturing activity, mainly foodstuffs, beverages, textiles. Output of government plants generally well below capacities because of raw materials shortages, power outages, lack of spare parts, and lack of competent managerial staff and skilled laborers. Three-quarters of large-scale modern manufacturing in Al Khartum State.

Mining: Contributed less than 1 percent to gross domestic product (GDP) in 1990. Most petroleum exploration operations ended in 1984 because of civil war in south and had not resumed as of mid-1991.

Energy: Chief sources of energy in 1990: domestic wood, charcoal, hydroelectric power, imported petroleum; large hydroelectric potential only partially exploited. Central area of country served by electric power grid; some towns elsewhere had local generating facilities.

Foreign Trade: Agricultural products (cotton, gum arabic, groundnuts, sesame, livestock) dominate exports. Large trade deficit since late 1970s, accentuated by increased costs of petroleum imports. Main destinations of exports in 1986: Saudi Arabia, Japan, Britain, other European Community (EC) members. Main suppliers: Saudi Arabia (petroleum), Britain, other EC members, United States, Japan, China.


Railroads: In 1990 government-owned Sudan Railways about 4,800 kilometers of 1.067-meter-gauge from Port Sudan to most major interior production and consumption centers except in far south. Also 716 kilometers of 1.6096-meter-gauge plantation line. Substantial loss of rail traffic to road transport after mid-1970s attributable to inefficient operations, but railroad still important for low-cost volume movement of agricultural exports and for inland delivery of heavy capital equipment, construction materials, and other goods for economic development.

Roads: In 1990 road system of between 20,000 and 25,000 kilometers, of which more than 3,000 kilometers paved or asphalted and about 3,700 kilometers gravel. Remaining roads fair-weather earth and sand tracks.

Inland Waterways: In 1990, about 1,750 kilometers navigable, but service on White Nile River in south largely discontinued by civil war.

Civil Aviation: Government-owned Sudan Airways in 1990 provided scheduled domestic air transport service to about twenty towns; international service by Sudan Airways and foreign airlines. Khartoum International principal airport; seven other airports had paved runways.

Marine Ports and Shipping: Port Sudan and Sawakin on Red Sea only deepwater ports; some modern port equipment available but most cargo handling manual. National merchant marine (ten ships of 122,200 deadweight tons in 1990) operated to Red Sea, Mediterranean, European ports.

Pipelines: Petroleum-products pipeline, 815 kilometers long, from Port Sudan to Khartoum; intermediate offtake point at Atbarah.


Government: All executive and legislative powers vested in Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC-NS), fifteen-member body of military officers. RCC-NS chairman Lieutenant General Umar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir designated president of the republic and prime minister. RCC-NS appointed members of Council of Ministers, or cabinet, governors of states, and judges of courts. No plans for new elections announced as of mid-1991. Government's authority in southern one-third of Sudan limited to several towns in which military garrisons were based. Rest of south controlled by Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Administrative Divisions: In 1991 RCC-NS decreed division of Sudan into nine states. Each state further subdivided into provinces and local government areas or districts.

Justice: Court system consisted of civil and special courts. Civil courts required to apply Islamic law, or sharia, but also permitted to consider customary law in reaching decisions. Apex of civil judicial system was High Court of Appeal. Lower courts consisted of state courts of appeal and at local level, major courts and magistrate's courts. Special courts, under military jurisdiction, dealt with offenses affecting national security or involving official corruption.

Politics: Although RCC-NS banned all political parties in 1989, it tolerated political activity by National Islamic Front (NIF), a coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. All other parties persecuted, and their leaders had reorganized abroad or in southern areas outside government control. Opposition parties tended to be sectarian. Umma Party and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) represented Muslim constituencies in northern Sudan; Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) drew support from predominantly non-Muslim and non-Arab population of south.

Foreign Affairs: Prior to 1989 coup, Sudan had relatively close relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and United States, and had history of tense relations with Libya. RCC-NS changed orientation of Sudan's foreign policy, particularly by supporting Iraq during Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait retaliated by suspending economic assistance, which constituted crucial component of government's budget.


Armed Forces: In 1991 Sudanese People's Armed Forces (SPAF) totaled approximately 71,500 personnel; army had about 65,000; air force and Air Defense Command each had about 3,000; navy had about 500.

Major Tactical Units: SPAF organized into six regional commands having divisional structures. Main units: two armored brigades, one mechanized infantry brigade, one airborne brigade, one air assault brigade, seventeen infantry brigades, three artillery regiments, two antiaircraft artillery brigades, and one engineering regiment. Strengths of brigades, battalions, and companies varied greatly. Air force organized into two fighterground attack squadrons and two fighter squadrons, of which only one functioning, plus transport squadron, unarmed helicopter squadron, and training aircraft. Air Defense Command equipped with radar-directed antiaircraft guns and Soviet SA-2 missiles. Naval forces, under army command, had some functioning river patrol boats but little or no capacity to patrol Red Sea coast. Much of armed forces equipment nonoperational because of poor maintenance and lack of spare parts.

Civil War: Since 1983 armed rebellion has been conducted by forces of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) with estimated strength of 50,000 to 60,000 in 1991. SPLA controlled most rural areas of south, government forces holding out under siege conditions in major towns. SPLA armed with light weapons, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, some artillery and rocket launchers, and a few armored vehicles. Government forces assisted by tribal militia groups, which guilty of many atrocities against civilians in south. Government also organizing paramilitary body called Popular Defence Forces.


Military Assistance: Most military equipment supplied by Soviet Union, 1968-71; limited cooperation with Soviet Union continued until 1977. Egypt and China subsequently became prominent suppliers. In early 1980s, United States became principal source of aid, notably aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery. United States aid sharply reduced in 1983 and formally terminated in 1989.

Defense Costs: Official data unavailable; defense budget estimated at US$610 million in 1989, constituting 7.2 percent of gross national product.

Internal Security Forces: National police (Sudan Police Force) totaled about 30,000. State Security Organisation main instrument of domestic intelligence and internal security until 1985. After 1989 military coup, separate Islamic-oriented security bodies formed to suppress opposition to regime.


Figure 1. Adminstrative Divisions of Sudan, 1991

SUDAN, LIKE MANY AFRICAN COUNTRIES, consists of numerous ethnic groups. Unlike most states, however, Sudan has two distinct divisions: the north, which is largely Arab and Muslim, and the south, which consists predominantly of black Nilotic peoples, some of whom are members of indigenous faiths and others who are Christians. British policy during the Anglo-Egyptian condominium (1899-1955) intensified the rift because Britain established separate administrations for the two areas and forbade northerners to enter the south. In the 1990s, many southerners continued to fear being ruled by northerners, who lacked familiarity with their beliefs and ethnic traditions and sought to impose northern institutions on them.

Given its proximity to Egypt and the centrality of the Nile River that both countries share, it is not surprising that historically Egypt has influenced Sudan significantly especially the northern part of the country. Ancient Cush, located in present-day northern Sudan, was strongly influenced by Egypt for about 1,000 years beginning ca. 2700 B.C. Although the Hyksos kings of Egypt temporarily broke off contact, Cush subsequently was incorporated into Egypt's New Kingdom as a province about 1570 B.C. and remained under Egyptian control until about 1100 B.C. In a move that reversed the pattern of Egyptian dominance, a Cushite king conquered Upper Egypt in 730 B.C.; in 590 B.C., however, the Cushite capital was sacked by the Egyptians and the court moved farther south along the Nile to Meroe.

By the sixth century A.D., Meroe had broken up into three kingdoms collectively referred to as Nubia. The people of Nubia adopted Christianity and were ministered to largely by Egyptian clergy. The kingdoms reached their peak in the ninth and tenth centuries. Prior to the coming of Islam, the people had contact with the Arabs primarily in the form of trade. Sudan became known as a source of ivory, gold, gems, aromatic gum, and cattle, all products that were transported to markets in Egypt and Arabia. Following the Muslim conquest of the area, in 1276 the Mamluk rulers of Egypt gave Nubia to a Muslim overlord. The Nubians themselves converted to Islam only gradually; a majority of them remained Christian until the fifteenth or sixteenth century. During the sixteenth century, the Muslim religious brotherhoods spread through northern Nubia, and the Ottoman Empire exerted its jurisdiction through military leaders whose rule endured for three centuries.

In 1820 Muhammad Ali, who ruled Egypt on behalf of the Ottomans, sent 4,000 troops to Sudan to clear the area of Mamluks. The invasion resulted in Ottoman-Egyptian rule of Sudan from 1821 to 1885; the rule was accompanied by the introduction of secular courts and a large bureaucracy. The 1880s saw the rise of the Mahdist movement, consisting of disciples of Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, a Sudanese who proclaimed himself the Mahdi or "guided one," and launched a jihad against the Ottoman rulers. Britain perceived the Mahdists as a threat to stability in the region and sent first Charles George Gordon and then Herbert Kitchener to Sudan to assert British control. The British conquest led to the establishment of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium and, initially, to military rule of Sudan, followed by civilian administration. Britain largely ignored southern Sudan until after World War I, leaving Western missionary societies to establish schools and medical facilities in the area.

After World War I, Sudanese nationalism, which favored either independence or union with Egypt, gathered popular support. Recognizing the inevitable, Britain signed a self-determination agreement with Sudan in 1952, followed by the Anglo-Egyptian accord in 1953 that set up a three-year transition period to self-government. Sudan proclaimed its independence January 1, 1956. The country had two short-lived civilian coalition governments before a coup in November 1958 brought in a military regime under Ibrahim Abbud and a collective body known as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Abbud's government sought to arabize the south and in 1964 expelled all western missionaries. Northern repression of the south led to open civil war in the mid-1960s and the rise of various southern resistance groups, the most powerful of which was the Anya Nya guerrillas, who sought autonomy. Civilian rule returned to Sudan between 1964 and 1969, and political parties reappeared. In the 1965 elections, Muhammad Ahmad Mahjub became prime minister, succeeded in June 1966 by Sadiq al Mahdi, a descendant of the Mahdi. In the 1968 elections, no party had a clear majority, and a coalition government took office under Mahjub as prime minister.

In May 1969, the Free Officers' Movement led by Jaafar an Nimeiri staged a coup and established the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). In July 1971, a short-lived procommunist military coup occurred, but Nimeiri quickly regained control, was elected to a six-year term as president, and abolished the RCC. Meanwhile in the south, Joseph Lagu, a Christian, had united several opposition elements under the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement. In March 1972, the southern resistance movement concluded an agreement with the Nimeiri regime at Addis Ababa, and a cease- fire followed. A Constituent Assembly was created in August 1972 to draft a constitution at a time when the growing opposition to military rule was reflected in strikes and student unrest. Despite this dissent, Nimeiri was reelected for another six-year term in 1977.

During the early stages of his new term, Nimeiri worked toward reconciliation with the south. As the south became stronger, however, he considered it a threat to his regime; and in June 1983, after abolishing the Southern Regional Assembly, he redivided the southern region into its three historic provinces. The Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), founded in 1983, opposed this division. They intensified their opposition following the imposition of Muslim sharia law throughout the country. In early 1985, while Nimeiri was returning from a visit to the United States, a general strike occurred that the government could not quell, followed by a successful military coup led by Lieutenant General Abd ar Rahman Siwar adh Dhahab. A Transitional Military Council was created, but the government proved incapable of establishing a national political consensus or of dealing with the deteriorating economic situation and the famine threatening southern and western Sudan. In March 1986, in the Koka Dam Declaration, the government and the SPLM called for a Sudan free from "discrimination and disparity" and the repeal of the sharia.

Sadiq al Mahdi formed what proved to be a weak coalition government following the April 1986 elections. An agreement with the SPLM was signed by Sadiq al Mahdi's coalition partners at Addis Ababa in November 1988; the agreement called for a cease- fire and freezing the application of the sharia. Sadiq al Mahdi's failure to end the civil war in the south or improve the economic and famine situations led to the overthrow of the government at the end of June 1989 by Colonel Umar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir.

Sudan's economic straits reflected its position as Africa's largest nation geographically, but one possessed of large areas of desert and semidesert east and west of the Nile and in the south the world's largest swamp, As Sudd, which led to tropical rain forests in the southernmost area. As a result, although the Nile itself with its tributaries--the Blue Nile and the White Nile, which joined at Khartoum--constituted a vital communications link for the country and a source of water for agriculture, the cultivable area of Sudan was somewhat limited. Moreover, in years of drought the agriculturally productive sector declines appreciably, causing the likelihood of severe famine.

In accordance with the focal role played by the Nile, about one-third of Sudan's 1990 estimated population of 25 million lived around Khartoum and in Al Awsat State. The latter included the rich agricultural region of Al Jazirah, south of Khartoum between the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Although only one-fifth of the population lived in urban areas, two-thirds of the total population resided within 300 kilometers of Khartoum. About 600 ethnic groups speaking around 400 languages were represented. Arabic was the official language of the country, with English spoken widely in the south. Ethnic statistics for the 1990s were lacking, but in 1983 Arabs constituted about two-fifths of the total population, representing the majority in the north where the next largest group was the Nile Nubians. Much of the remainder of Sudan's population consisted of non-Muslim Nilotic peoples living in southern Sudan or in the hilly areas west of the Blue Nile or near the Ethiopian border. Among the largest of these ethnic groups were the Dinka and the Nuer, followed by the Shilluk. Many of these groups migrated with their herds, seeking areas of rainfall, and therefore it was difficult to establish their numbers accurately.

In the early 1990s, agriculture and livestock raising provided the major sources of livelihood for about four-fifths of the population. Wherever possible, Nile waters were used for irrigation, and the government has sponsored a number of irrigation projects. Commercial crops such as cotton, peanuts, sugarcane, sorghum, and sesame were grown, and gum arabic was obtained from trees. Most of these products along with livestock destined primarily for Saudi Arabia also represented Sudan's major exports.

Manufacturing concentrated on food-processing enterprises and textiles, as well as some import substitution industries such as cement, chemicals, and fertilizers. Industry, however, contributed less than one-tenth to gross domestic product in the early 1990s, in comparison with agriculture's more than three-tenths contribution. Sudan was among the world's poorest countries according to the , with an annual per capita income of US$310 in FY  1991.

Several factors accounted for the relative economic insignificance of the industrial sector. Historically, during the colonial period, Britain had discouraged industrialization, preferring to keep Sudan as a source of raw materials and a market for British manufactured goods. Following independence, a paucity of development programs as well as better employment opportunities in the Persian Gulf states have contributed to a shortage of skilled workers. In the early 1990s, Sudan also had limited energy sources--only small amounts of petroleum in the south between Kurdufan State and Bahr al Ghazal State and a few dams producing hydroelectric power. In addition, transportation facilities; were limited; there existed only a sketchy network of railroads and roads, many of the latter being impassable in the rainy season. Inland waterways could also be difficult to use because of low water, cataracts, or swamps. The lack of a good transportation network hindered not only the marketing of produce and consumer goods but also the processing of such minerals as gold, chrome, asbestos, gypsum, mica, and uranium. The lack of capital accumulation also limited financial resources and necessitated funding by the government, which itself had inadequate revenues. Some northern Sudanese hoped that the rise of Islamic banks might result in more capital being invested in private industrial development, especially after the World Bank refused to extend further loans to the country.

Sudan's problems with the World Bank occurred initially in 1984. The World Bank cited Sudan's large external debt--in June 1992 the debt was about US$15.3 billion, of which approximately two-thirds represented payment arrears--and its failure to take steps to restructure its economy as reasons for denying credit. The large debt resulted primarily from the nationalization of major sectors of the economy in the 1970s and the use of funds borrowed from abroad to finance enterprises with low productivity. The government needed to use its revenues to meet the losses of these enterprises. In addition, the civil war, the prolonged drought, widespread malnutrition, famine, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees further sapped the economy.

Not until June 1990 did the government act to reform the economy by instituting a three-year (FY 1991-93) National Economic Salvation Program. The program aimed to reduce the budget deficit, privatize nationalized enterprises, heighten the role of the private sector, and remove controls on prices, profits, and exports. In October 1991, other steps toward economic reform included devaluing the official exchange rate from LSd4.5 to LSd15 to the United States dollar and reducing subsidies on sugar and petroleum products. In February 1992, in a further liberalization of the economy, all price controls were removed and official exchange rates devalued to LSd90 to the United States dollar. Officials hoped that these measures would not cause the inflation rate, which was about 115 percent per year as of March 1992, to worsen. In a further move designed to curb inflation, Sudan instituted a new currency, the dinar, worth ten Sudanese pounds, in May 1992.

Although the World Bank refused to authorize new loans for Sudan, in July 1991 the Bank granted Sudan US$16 million for the Emergency Drought Recovery Project. In addition, in the spring of 1992 Sudan received an agricultural credit of US$42 million from the African Development Bank and some bilateral aid from Iran and Libya. Like the World Bank, the United States and the European Community had suspended loans to Sudan but had provided some humanitarian assistance; the value of United States humanitarian aid in 1991 was estimated to exceed US$150 million. Nevertheless, the drought, the famine, and the massive influx into the north of refugees from the south as a result of the civil war caused the country's already precarious economy to deteriorate further and complicated the government's ability to rule.

Since the military coup of June 30, 1989, the constitution had been suspended, political parties banned, and the legislative assembly dissolved. For practical purposes, in mid-1992 Bashir made political decisions in his capacity as president or head of state, prime minister, commander in chief, and chairman of the legislative body created by the 1989 coup, the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC-NS). The RCC-NS consisted of fifteen members who had carried out the coup along with Bashir. Several members had ties to the National Islamic Front (NIF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist (sometimes seen as fundamentalist) activist group.

Although political parties were illegal under the Bashir government, the NIF represented the equivalent of a party. The nature of the relationship between Bashir and the NIF was not clear. Some well informed Western observers considered Bashir to be a tool of the NIF in spreading its Islamist programs and its strong advocacy of the imposition of the sharia. Other observers believed that Bashir was using the NIF for his own purposes. The leading figure in the NIF was Hassan Abd Allah at Turabi, an Oxford-educated Muslim religious scholar and lawyer, who strongly advocated the spread of Islamism in the Muslim world. As Turabi was ending his tour of the United States and Ottawa in late May in the spring of 1992, he was attacked in Canada by a Sudanese opponent of the NIF and was seriously injured. Whereas by late July Turabi had resumed meetings with government and Islamic officials and speeches to Muslim groups in Khartoum and in London, the effects of his impaired health on the NIF, the RCC- NS, and the political scene were uncertain in mid-August.

In addition to their legislative functions, members of the RCC-NS shared with Bashir and members of the Council of Ministers functions traditionally associated with the executive branch, such as heading government ministries. The Council of Ministers included civilians as well as military officers and in practice was subordinate to the RCC-NS. In April 1991, probably in response to growing criticism of its authoritarian rule, the RCC- NS convened a constitutional conference. However, major opposition groups boycotted the conference. As on previous occasions, the principal intractable problem proved to be the inability of Muslims and non-Muslims to agree on the role of Islamic law as the basis of the legal system at both the national and local levels.

Another vexing problem historically was the relationship of regional and local governmental bodies to the national government. The Nimeiri regime had created a pyramidal structure with councils at various levels. The councils were theoretically elective, but in practice the only legal party at the time, the Sudan Socialist Union, dominated them. In February 1991, the RCC- NS introduced a federal structure, creating nine states that resembled the nine provinces of Sudan's colonial and early independence years. The states were subdivided into provinces and local government areas, with officials at all levels appointed by the RCC-NS. Although the governors of the three southern states were southerners, power lay in the hands of the deputy governors who were Muslim members of the NIF and who controlled finance, trade, and cooperatives. Below them the most important ministerial posts in the southern states also were held by Muslims, including the post of minister of education, culture, youth, guidance, and information.

In a further step, in mid-February 1992, Bashir announced the formation of an appointed 300-member Transitional National Assembly to include all RCC-NS members, federal cabinet ministers, and state governors. Bashir also indicated in March that beginning in May popular conferences based on religious values would be held in the north and in "secure areas" of the south to elect chairmen and members of such conferences. The election process would create a "general mobilization of all political institutions." Although the agendas for conferences over the succeeding ten-year period would be based on national issues set by the head of state and local issues raised by the governors, the government touted the process as one that would "fulfill the revolution's promise to hand over full power to the people." The proposed conference committees were somewhat reminiscent of the popular committees established by the Popular Defence Act of October 1989. Initially, these popular committees had the function of overseeing rationing, but their mandated was broadened to include powers such as arresting enemies of the state.

The control exerted by the RCC-NS over various parts of the country varied. For example, western Sudan, especially Darfur, enjoyed considerable autonomy, which at times approached anarchy, as a result of the various armed ethnic groups and the refugee population that existed within it. The situation was even more confused in the south, where until 1991 the government had controlled the major centers and the SPLM occupied the smaller towns and rural areas. The government launched a military campaign in 1991-92 that succeeded in recapturing many military posts that had served as SPLM and SPLA strongholds. The government's success resulted in part from the acquisition of substantial military equipment financed by Iran, including weapons and aircraft bought from China. Another reason for the successes of the government forces was the split that occurred in August 1991 within the SPLA between Garang's Torit faction (mainly Dinka from southern Al Istiwai) and the Nasir group (mainly Nuer and other non-Dinka from northern Al Istiwai). The two groups launched military attacks against each other, thereby not only destroying their common front against the government but also killing numerous civilians. The Nasir group had defected from the main SPLA body and tried unsuccessfully to overthrow John Garang over human rights violations, Garang's authoritarian leadership style, and his favoritism toward his ethnic group, the Dinka. Abortive peace talks with representatives of both groups as well as the government were held in Abuja, Nigeria, in May and early June 1992. (In December 1989 former United States president Jimmy Carter had attempted without success to mediate peace talks between the government and the SPLA.) The Torit faction sought a secular state and an end to the sharia; the Nasir group wanted self-determination or independence for southern Sudan. During the talks, both groups agreed to push for self-determination, but when the government rejected this proposal, they decided instead to discuss Nigeria's power-sharing plan.

A major basis of southern dissidence was strong opposition to the imposition of the sharia--the SPLA had vowed not to lay down its arms until the sharia was abrogated. The other source of concern was the fear of northern pressures to arabize the education system (the Bashir regime had declared Arabic the language of instruction in the south in early 1992), government offices, and society in general. These fears had led to the civil war, which, with a respite between 1972 and 1983, had been ongoing since 1955.

The Bashir government's need for assistance in pursuing the war in the south determined to a large degree Sudan's foreign policy in the 1990s. Bashir recognized that the measures taken in the south, which outside observers termed human rights abuses, had alienated the West. Historically, the West had been the source of major financial support for Sudan. Furthermore, Sudan's siding with Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War had antagonized Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, principal donors for Sudan's military and economic needs in the preceding several decades.

Bashir therefore turned to Iran, especially for military aid, and, to a lesser extent, to Libya. Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani visited Sudan in December 1991, accompanied by several cabinet ministers. The visit led to an Iranian promise of military and economic assistance. Details of the reported aid varied, but in July 1992, in addition to the provision of 1 million tons of oil annually for military and civil consumption, aid was thought to include the financing of Sudanese weapons and aircraft purchases from China in the amount of at least US$300 million. Some accounts alleged that 3,000 Iranian soldiers had also arrived in January 1992 to engage in the war in the south and that Iran had been granted use of Port Sudan facilities and permission to establish a communications monitoring station in the area; these reports were not verified as of mid-August 1992, however.

The only other country with which Sudan had close relations in the early 1990s was Libya. Following an economic agreement the two countries signed in July 1990, head of state Muammar al Qadhafi paid an official visit to Khartoum in October. Bashir paid a return visit to Libya in November 1991. Libyan officials arrived in Khartoum for talks on unity, primarily economic unity, in January 1992.

While the government was cultivating relations with Iran and Libya, the SPLM and SPLA were seeking other sources of aid in Africa. They had lost their major source of support when the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia was overthrown in May 1991. The SPLM and SPLA subsequently sought help from Kenya, Uganda, and several other African countries, thereby creating tensions between those nations and the Bashir regime. Furthermore, Sudan's relations with Egypt had soured in 1991 as a result of the Bashir government's failure to support Egypt's position in the Persian Gulf War. One manifestation of the deteriorating relations occurred in April 1992 when Sudan became involved in a border confrontation with Egypt. The disagreement resulted from an oil concession Sudan had granted to a subsidiary of Canada's International Petroleum Corporation for exploration of a 38,400-square-kilometer area onshore and offshore near Halaib on the Red Sea coast, an area also claimed by Egypt.

In the matter of determining Sudan's foreign policy as well as domestic policy, the military had played a major role since independence. Initially, the military was seen as being free from specific ethnic or religious identification and thus in a position to accomplish what civilians could not, namely to resolve economic problems and to bring peace to the south. Such hopes proved futile, however. The growing civil war in the south from 1955-72 and again from 1983 to the present, as well as the rising strength of the SPLA and the SPLM posed tremendous problems for the military and for the internal security forces. The civil war was extremely costly; according to one Sudanese government estimate, it cost approximately US$1 million per day. Furthermore, it disrupted the economy--Bashir stated in February 1992 that the loss of oil revenues alone since 1986 amounted to more than US$6 billion. In addition, based on United States Department of State estimates in late 1991, war had displaced as many as 4.5 million Sudanese.

To counter the SPLA, the government armed various non-Arab southern ethnic groups as militias as early as 1985. In addition, in October 1989 the Bashir government created a new paramilitary body, the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) to promote the Islamist aims of the government and the NIF. Although the Bashir regime prominently featured the PDF's participation in the 1991-92 campaign in the south, informed observers believed their role lacked military significance.

In view of the ongoing civil war, internal security was a major concern of the Bashir regime, which reportedly had been the object of coup attempts in 1990, 1991, and 1992. In this regard, the government faced problems on several fronts. There was the outright dissidence or rebellion of several southern ethnic groups. There was also the creation in January 1991 of an opposition abroad in the form of a government in exile. This body, called the National Democratic Alliance, was headed by Lieutenant General Fathi Ahmad Ali, formerly commander of the armed forces under Sadiq al Mahdi. There also was increasing opposition in the north on the part of those who favored a secular state, including professional persons, trade union leaders, and other modernizers. Such persons opposed the application of Islamic hudud punishments, the growing restrictions on the activities and dress of women, and the increasing authoritarianism of the government as reflected, for example, in the repression of criticism through censorship, imprisonment, and death sentences. On a wider scale, members of the public in the north staged protests in February 1992 against the price increases on staples after price supports were removed.

As a result of the repressive measures taken by the government and the actions of armed government militias in the south as well as retaliatory measures of the SPLA forces, the human rights group Africa Watch estimated that at least 500,000 civilian deaths had occurred between 1986 and the end of 1989. The overall number of deaths between 1983 and mid-1992 was far greater, an outcome not only of the civil war, but also of the famine and drought in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In late 1989, the government, which has considered famine relief efforts a political football, ended its cooperation with relief efforts from abroad because it feared such measures were strengthening southern resistance. The pressure of world public opinion, however, obliged Sudan to allow relief efforts to resume in 1990.

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) had initiated Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) in March 1989, which had delivered more than 110,000 tons of food aid to southern Sudan before it was obliged by renewed hostilities to close down operations in October 1989. OLS II was launched in late March 1990, via the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to bring in food flights via Kenya and Uganda. In the spring of 1990, WFP indicated it was helping 4.2 million people in Sudan: 1.8 million refugees in Khartoum; 1.4 million people in rural areas of the south; 600,000 who had sought refuge in southern towns; and 400,000 in the "transition zone" in Darfur and Kurdufan, between the north and the south.

In addition to these sources of suffering, the government, beginning in the 1980s, had undertaken campaigns to destroy the Dinka and the Fur and Zaghawa ethnic groups in Darfur. As of 1991 the Bashir regime was also using armed militias to undertake depopulation campaigns against the Nuba in southern Kurdufan. Moreover, the government had to deal with the return in 1991 of Sudanese citizens who had been working in Iraq and Kuwait; according to estimates of the International Labour Organisation, such persons numbered at least 150,000. Finally, during late November 1991 and early 1992, the government forcibly uprooted more than 400,000 non-Arab southern squatters, who had created shanty towns in the outskirts of Khartoum, and transported them to the desert about fifty kilometers away, creating an international outcry.

In summary, in August 1992 the Bashir government found itself in a very difficult position. Although the country's economic problems had begun to be addressed, the economic situation remained critical. At the peace negotiations in Abuja, slight progress had been made toward ending the civil war in the south, but the central concerns about imposition of the sharia and arabization had not been resolved. Moreover, the regime appeared to be facing growing dissension, not only in the south but from elements in the north as well. These considerations raised serious questions about the stability of the Bashir government.


Archaeological excavation of sites on the Nile above Aswan has confirmed human habitation in the river valley during the Paleolithic period that spanned more than 60,000 years of Sudanese history. By the eighth millennium B.C., 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. Contact with Egypt probably occurred at a formative stage in the culture's development because of the steady movement of population along the Nile River. Skeletal remains suggest a blending of negroid and Mediterranean populations during the Neolithic period (eighth to third millenia B.C.) that has remained relatively stable until the present, despite gradual infiltration by other elements.


Northern Sudan's earliest historical record comes from Egyptian sources, which described the land upstream from the first cataract, called Cush, as "wretched." For more than 2,000 years after the Old Kingdom (ca. 2700-2180 B.C.), Egyptian political and economic activities determined the course of the central Nile region's history. Even during intermediate periods when Egyptian political power in Cush waned, Egypt exerted a profound cultural and religious influence on the Cushite people.

Over the centuries, trade developed. Egyptian caravans carried grain to Cush and returned to Aswan with ivory, incense, hides, and carnelian (a stone prized both as jewelry and for arrowheads) for shipment downriver. Egyptian traders particularly valued gold and slaves, who served as domestic servants, concubines, and soldiers in the pharaoh's army. Egyptian military expeditions penetrated Cush periodically during the Old Kingdom. Yet there was no attempt to establish a permanent presence in the area until the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2100-1720 B.C.), 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 B.C., Asian nomads called Hyksos invaded Egypt, ended the Middle Kingdom, severed links with Cush, and destroyed the forts along the Nile River. To fill the vacuum left by the Egyptian withdrawal, a culturally distinct indigenous kingdom emerged at Karmah, near present-day Dunqulah. After Egyptian power revived during the New Kingdom (ca. 1570-1100 B.C.), the pharaoh Ahmose I incorporated Cush as an Egyptian province governed by a viceroy. Although Egypt's administrative control of Cush 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 chiefs.

Once Egypt had established political control over Cush, officials and priests joined military personnel, merchants, and artisans and settled in the region. The Coptic language, spoken in Egypt, became widely used in everyday activities. The Cushite elite adopted Egyptian gods and built temples like that dedicated to the sun god Amon at Napata, near present-day Kuraymah. The temples remained centers of official religious worship until the coming of Christianity to the region in the sixth century. When Egyptian influence declined or succumbed to foreign domination, the Cushite elite regarded themselves as champions of genuine Egyptian cultural and religious values.

By the eleventh century B.C., the authority of the New Kingdom dynasties had diminished, allowing divided rule in Egypt, and ending Egyptian control of Cush. There is no information about the region's activities over the next 300 years. In the eighth century B.C., however, Cush reemerged as an independent kingdom ruled from Napata by an aggressive line of monarchs who gradually extended their influence into Egypt. About 750 B.C., a Cushite king called Kashta conquered Upper Egypt and became ruler of Thebes until approximately 740 B.C. His successor, Painkhy, subdued the delta, reunited Egypt under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and founded a line of kings who ruled Cush and Thebes for about a hundred years. The dynasty's intervention in the area of modern Syria caused a confrontation between Egypt and Assyria. When the Assyrians in retaliation invaded Egypt, Taharqa (688-663 B.C.), the last Cushite pharaoh, withdrew and returned the dynasty to Napata, where it continued to rule Cush and extended its dominions to the south and east.


Egypt's succeeding dynasty failed to reassert control over Cush. In 590 B.C., however, an Egyptian army sacked Napata, compelling the Cushite court to move to a more secure location at Meroe near the sixth cataract. For several centuries thereafter, the Meroitic kingdom developed independently of Egypt, which passed successively under Persian, Greek, and, finally, Roman domination. During the height of its power in the second and third centuries B.C., Meroe extended over a region from the third cataract in the north to Sawba, near present-day Khartoum, in the south.

The 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 labor 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 first century B.C., the use of hieroglyphs gave way to a Meroitic script that adapted the Egyptian writing system to an indigenous, Nubian-related language spoken later 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 Cush 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 Hellenistic and 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. In 23 B.C., in response to Meroe's incursions into Upper Egypt, a Roman army moved south and razed Napata. The Roman commander quickly abandoned the area, however, as too poor to warrant colonization.

In the second century A.D., the Nobatae occupied the Nile's west bank in northern Cush. They are believed to have been one of several well-armed bands of horse- and camel-borne warriors who sold protection to the Meroitic population; eventually they intermarried and established themselves among the Meroitic people as a military aristocracy. Until nearly the fifth 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 Axum, a powerful Abyssinian state in modern Ethiopia to the east. About A.D. 350, an Axumite army captured and destroyed Meroe city, ending the kingdom's independent existence.

Christian Nubia

By the sixth century, three 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, 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 Coptic authors of the conversion of Nubian kings to Christianity in the sixth century. According to tradition, a missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora arrived in Nobatia and started preaching the gospel about 540. It is possible that the conversion process began earlier, however, under the aegis of Coptic missionaries from Egypt, who in the previous century had brought Christianity to the Abyssinians. The Nubian kings accepted the Monophysite Christianity practiced in Egypt and acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Coptic patriarch of Alexandria over the Nubian church. A hierarchy of bishops named by the Coptic patriarch 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. Coptic, however, often appeared in ecclesiastical and secular circles. Additionally, early inscriptions have indicated a continuing knowledge of colloquial Greek in Nubia as late as the twelfth century. After the seventh century, 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 ninth and tenth centuries. However, Muslim Arab invaders, who in 640 had conquered Egypt, posed a threat to the Christian Nubian kingdoms. Most historians believe that Arab pressure forced Nobatia and Muqurra to merge into the kingdom of Dunqulah sometime before 700. Although the Arabs soon abandoned attempts to reduce Nubia by force, Muslim domination of Egypt 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.


The coming of Islam eventually changed the nature of Sudanese society and facilitated the division of the country into north and south. Islam also fostered political unity, economic growth, and educational development among its adherents; however, these benefits were restricted largely to urban and commercial centers.

The spread of Islam began shortly after the Prophet Muhammad's death in 632. By that time, he and his followers had converted most of Arabia's tribes and towns to Islam (literally, submission), which Muslims maintained united the individual believer, the state, and society under God's will. Islamic rulers, therefore, exercised temporal and religious authority. Islamic law , which was derived primarily from the Quran, encompassed all aspects of the lives of believers, who were called Muslims ("those who submit" to God's will).

Within a generation of Muhammad's death, Arab armies had carried Islam north and east from Arabia into North Africa. Muslims imposed political control over conquered territories in the name of the caliph (the Prophet's successor as supreme earthly leader of Islam). The Islamic armies won their first North African victory in 643 in Tripoli (in modern Libya). However, the Muslim subjugation of all of North Africa took about seventy-five years. The Arabs invaded Nubia in 642 and again in 652, when they laid siege to the city of Dunqulah and destroyed its cathedral. The Nubians put up a stout defense, however, causing the Arabs to accept an armistice and withdraw their forces.

The Arabs

Contacts between Nubians and Arabs long predated the coming of Islam, but the arabization of the Nile Valley was a gradual process that occurred over a period of nearly 1,000 years. Arab nomads continually wandered into the region in search of fresh pasturage, and Arab seafarers and merchants traded in Red Sea ports for spices and slaves. Intermarriage and assimilation also facilitated arabization. After the initial attempts at military conquest failed, the Arab commander in Egypt, Abd Allah ibn Saad, concluded the first in a series of regularly renewed treaties with the Nubians that, with only brief interruptions, governed relations between the two peoples for more than 600 years. So long as Arabs ruled Egypt, there was peace on the Nubian frontier; however, when non-Arabs acquired control of the Nile Delta, tension arose in Upper Egypt.

The Arabs realized the commercial advantages of peaceful relations with Nubia and used the treaty to ensure that travel and trade proceeded unhindered across the frontier. The treaty also contained security arrangements whereby both parties agreed that neither would come to the defense of the other in the event of an attack by a third party. The treaty obliged both to exchange annual tribute as a goodwill symbol, the Nubians in slaves and the Arabs in grain. This formality was only a token of the trade that developed between the two, not only in these commodities but also in horses and manufactured goods brought to Nubia by the Arabs and in ivory, gold, gems, gum arabic, and cattle carried back by them to Egypt or shipped to Arabia.

Acceptance of the treaty did not indicate Nubian submission to the Arabs, but the treaty did impose conditions for Arab friendship that eventually permitted Arabs to achieve a privileged position in Nubia. For example, provisions of the treaty allowed Arabs to buy land from Nubians south of the frontier at Aswan. Arab merchants established markets in Nubian towns to facilitate the exchange of grain and slaves. Arab engineers supervised the operation of mines east of the Nile in which they used slave labor to extract gold and emeralds. Muslim pilgrims en route to Mecca traveled across the Red Sea on ferries from Aydhab and Sawakin, ports that also received cargoes bound from India to Egypt.

Traditional genealogies trace the ancestry of most of the Nile Valley's mixed population to Arab tribes that migrated into the region during this period. Even many non-Arabic-speaking groups claim descent from Arab forebears. The two most important Arabic-speaking groups to emerge in Nubia were the Jaali and the Juhayna . Both showed physical continuity with the indigenous pre-Islamic population. The former claimed descent from the Quraysh, the Prophet Muhammad's tribe. Historically, the Jaali have been sedentary farmers and herders or townspeople settled along the Nile and in Al Jazirah. The nomadic Juhayna comprised a family of tribes that included the Kababish, Baqqara, and Shukriya. They were descended from Arabs who migrated after the thirteenth century into an area that extended from the savanna and semidesert west of the Nile to the Abyssinian foothills east of the Blue Nile. Both groups formed a series of tribal shaykhdoms that succeeded the crumbling Christian Nubian kingdoms and that were in frequent conflict with one another and with neighboring non-Arabs. In some instances, as among the Beja, the indigenous people absorbed Arab migrants who settled among them. Beja ruling families later derived their legitimacy from their claims of Arab ancestry.

Although not all Muslims in the region were Arabic-speaking, acceptance of Islam facilitated the arabizing process. There was no policy of proselytism, however, and forced conversion was rare. Islam penetrated the area over a long period of time through intermarriage and contacts with Arab merchants and settlers. Exemption from taxation in regions under Muslim rule also proved a powerful incentive to conversion.

The Decline of Christian Nubia

Until the thirteenth century, the Nubian kingdoms proved their resilience in maintaining political independence and their commitment to Christianity. In the early eighth century and again in the tenth century, Nubian kings led armies into Egypt to force the release of the imprisoned Coptic patriarch and to relieve fellow Christians suffering persecution under Muslim rulers. In 1276, however, the Mamluks (Arabic for "owned"), who were an elite but frequently disorderly caste of soldier-administrators composed largely of Turkish, Kurdish, and Circassian slaves, intervened in a dynastic dispute, ousted Dunqulah's reigning monarch and delivered the crown and silver cross that symbolized Nubian kingship to a rival claimant . Thereafter, Dunqulah became a satellite of Egypt.

Because of the frequent intermarriage between Nubian nobles and the kinswomen of Arab shaykhs, the lineages of the two elites merged and the Muslim heirs took their places in the royal line of succession. In 1315 a Muslim prince of Nubian royal blood ascended the throne of Dunqulah as king. The expansion of Islam coincided with the decline of the Nubian Christian church. A "dark age" enveloped Nubia in the fifteenth century during which political authority fragmented and slave raiding intensified. Communities in the river valley and savanna, fearful for their safety, formed tribal organizations and adopted Arab protectors. Muslims probably did not constitute a majority in the old Nubian areas until the fifteenth or sixteenth century.

The Rule of the Kashif

For several centuries Arab caliphs had governed Egypt through the Mamluks. In the thirteenth century, the Mamluks seized control of the state and created a sultanate that ruled Egypt until the early sixteenth century. Although they repeatedly launched military expeditions that weakened Dunqulah, the Mamluks did not directly rule Nubia. In 1517 the Turks conquered Egypt and incorporated the country into the Ottoman Empire as a pashalik (province).

Ottoman forces pursued fleeing Mamluks into Nubia, which had been claimed as a dependency of the Egyptian pashalik. Although they established administrative structures in ports on the Red Sea coast, the Ottomans exerted little authority over the interior. Instead, the Ottomans relied on military kashif (leaders), who controlled their virtually autonomous fiefs as agents of the pasha in Cairo, to rule the interior. The rule of the kashif, many of whom were Mamluks who had made their peace with the Ottomans, lasted 300 years. Concerned with little more than tax collecting and slave trading, the military leaders terrorized the population and constantly fought among themselves for title to territory.

The Funj

At the same time that the Ottomans brought northern Nubia into their orbit, a new power, the Funj, had risen in southern Nubia and had supplanted the remnants of the old Christian kingdom of Alwa. In 1504 a Funj leader, Amara Dunqas, founded the Black Sultanate (As Saltana az Zarqa) at Sannar. The Black Sultanate eventually became the keystone of the Funj Empire. By the mid-sixteenth century, Sannar controlled Al Jazirah and commanded the allegiance of vassal states and tribal districts north to the third cataract and south to the rainforests.

The Funj state included a loose confederation of sultanates and dependent tribal chieftaincies drawn together under the suzerainty of Sannar's mek (sultan). As overlord, the mek received tribute, levied taxes, and called on his vassals to supply troops in time of war. Vassal states in turn relied on the mek to settle local disorders and to resolve internal disputes. The Funj stabilized the region and interposed a military bloc between the Arabs in the north, the Abyssinians in the east, and the non-Muslim blacks in the south.

The sultanate's economy depended on the role played by the Funj in the slave trade. Farming and herding also thrived in Al Jazirah and in the southern rainforests. Sannar apportioned tributary areas into tribal homelands (each one termed a dar; pl., dur), where the mek granted the local population the right to use arable land. The diverse groups that inhabitated each dar eventually regarded themselves as units of tribes. Movement from one dar to another entailed a change in tribal identification. (Tribal distinctions in these areas in modern Sudan can be traced to this period.) The mek appointed a chieftain (nazir; pl., nawazir) to govern each dar. Nawazir administered dur according to customary law, paid tribute to the mek, and collected taxes. The mek also derived income from crown lands set aside for his use in each dar.

At the peak of its power in the mid-seventeenth century, Sannar repulsed the northward advance of the Nilotic Shilluk people up the White Nile and compelled many of them to submit to Funj authority. After this victory, the mek Badi II Abu Duqn (1642-81) sought to centralize the government of the confederacy at Sannar. To implement this policy, Badi introduced a standing army of slave soldiers that would free Sannar from dependence on vassal sultans for military assistance and would provide the mek with the means to enforce his will. The move alienated the dynasty from the Funj warrior aristocracy, which in 1718 deposed the reigning mek and placed one of their own ranks on the throne of Sannar. The mid-eighteenth century witnessed another brief period of expansion when the Funj turned back an Abyssinian invasion, defeated the Fur, and took control of much of Kurdufan. But civil war and the demands of defending the sultanate had overextended the warrior society's resources and sapped its strength.

Another reason for Sannar's decline may have been the growing influence of its hereditary viziers (chancellors), chiefs of a non-Funj tributary tribe who managed court affairs. In 1761 the vizier Muhammad Abu al Kaylak, who had led the Funj army in wars, carried out a palace coup, relegating the sultan to a figurehead role. Sannar's hold over its vassals diminished, and by the early nineteenth century more remote areas ceased to recognize even the nominal authority of the mek.

The Fur

Darfur was the Fur homeland. Renowned as cavalrymen, Fur clans frequently allied with or opposed their kin, the Kanuri of Borno, in modern Nigeria. After a period of disorder in the sixteenth century, during which the region was briefly subject to Bornu, the leader of the Keira clan, Sulayman Solong (1596-1637), supplanted a rival clan and became Darfur's first sultan. Sulayman Solong decreed Islam to be the sultanate's official religion. However, large-scale religious conversions did not occur until the reign of Ahmad Bakr (1682-1722), who imported teachers, built mosques, and compelled his subjects to become Muslims. In the eighteenth century, several sultans consolidated the dynasty's hold on Darfur, established a capital at Al Fashir, and contested the Funj for control of Kurdufan.

The sultans operated the slave trade as a monopoly. They levied taxes on traders and export duties on slaves sent to Egypt, and took a share of the slaves brought into Darfur. Some household slaves advanced to prominent positions in the courts of sultans, and the power exercised by these slaves provoked a violent reaction among the traditional class of Fur officeholders in the late eighteenth century. The rivalry between the slave and traditional elites caused recurrent unrest throughout the next century.


As a pashalik of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt had been divided into several provinces, each of which was placed under a Mamluk bey (governor) reponsible to the pasha, who in turn answered to the Porte, the term used for the Ottoman government referring to the Sublime Porte, or high gate, of the grand vizier's building. In approximately 280 years of Ottoman rule, no fewer than 100 pashas succeeded each other. In the eighteenth century, their authority became tenuous as rival Mamluk beys became the real power in the land. The struggles among the beys continued until 1798 when the French invasion of Egypt altered the situation. Combined British and Turkish military operations forced the withdrawal of French forces in 1801, introducing a period of chaos in Egypt. In 1805 the Ottomans sought to restore order by appointing Muhammad Ali as Egypt's pasha.

With the help of 10,000 Albanian troops provided by the Ottomans, Muhammad Ali purged Egypt of the Mamluks. In 1811 he launched a seven-year campaign in Arabia, supporting his suzerain, the Ottoman sultan, in the suppression of a revolt by the Wahhabi, an ultraconservative Muslim sect. To replace the Albanian soldiers, Muhammad Ali planned to build an Egyptian army with Sudanese slave recruits.

Although a part of present-day northern Sudan was nominally an Egyptian dependency, the previous pashas had demanded little more from the kashif who ruled there than the regular remittance of tribute; that changed under Muhammad Ali. After he had defeated the Mamluks in Egypt, a party of them had escaped and had fled south. In 1811 these Mamluks established a state at Dunqulah as a base for their slave trading. In 1820 the sultan of Sannar informed Muhammad Ali that he was unable to comply with the demand to expel the Mamluks. In response the pasha sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan, clear it of Mamluks, and reclaim it for Egypt. The pasha's forces received the submission of the kashif, dispersed the Dunqulah Mamluks, conquered Kurdufan, and accepted Sannar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi IV. The Jaali Arab tribes offered stiff resistance, however.

Initially, the Egyptian occupation of Sudan was disastrous. Under the new government established in 1821, which was known as the Turkiyah or Turkish regime, soldiers lived off the land and exacted exorbitant taxes from the population. They also destroyed many ancient Meroitic pyramids searching for hidden gold. Furthermore, slave trading increased, causing many of the inhabitants of the fertile Al Jazirah, heartland of Funj, to flee to escape the slave traders. Within a year of the pasha's victory, 30,000 Sudanese slaves went to Egypt for training and induction into the army. However, so many perished from disease and the unfamiliar climate that the remaining slaves could be used only in garrisons in Sudan.

As the military occupation became more secure, the government became less harsh. Egypt saddled Sudan with a parasitic bureaucracy, however, and expected the country to be self- supporting. Nevertheless, farmers and herders gradually returned to Al Jazirah. The Turkiyah also won the allegiance of some tribal and religious leaders by granting them a tax exemption. Egyptian soldiers and Sudanese jahidiyah (slave soldiers; literally, fighters), supplemented by mercenaries recruited in various Ottoman domains, manned garrisons in Khartoum, Kassala, and Al Ubayyid and at several smaller outposts. The Shaiqiyah, Arabic speakers who had resisted Egyptian occupation, were defeated and allowed to serve the Egyptian rulers as tax collectors and irregular cavalry under their own shaykhs. The Egyptians divided Sudan into provinces, which they then subdivided into smaller administrative units that usually corresponded to tribal territories. In 1835 Khartoum became the seat of the hakimadar (governor general); many garrison towns also developed into administrative centers in their respective regions. At the local level, shaykhs and traditional tribal chieftains assumed administrative responsibilities.

In the 1850s, the pashalik revised the legal systems in Egypt and Sudan, introducing a commercial code and a criminal code administered in secular courts. The change reduced the prestige of the qadis (Islamic judges) whose sharia courts were confined to dealing with matters of personal status. Even in this area, the courts lacked credibility in the eyes of Sudanese Muslims because they conducted hearings according to the Ottoman Empire's Hanafi school of law rather than the stricter Maliki school traditional in the area.

The Turkiyah also encouraged a religious orthodoxy favored in the Ottoman Empire. The government undertook a mosque-building program and staffed religious schools and courts with teachers and judges trained at Cairo's Al Azhar University. The government favored the Khatmiyyah, a traditional religious order, because its leaders preached cooperation with the regime. But Sudanese Muslims condemned the official orthodoxy as decadent because it had rejected many popular beliefs and practices.

Until its gradual suppression in the 1860s, the slave trade was the most profitable undertaking in Sudan and was the focus of Egyptian interests in the country. The government encouraged economic development through state monopolies that had exported slaves, ivory, and gum arabic. In some areas, tribal land, which had been held in common, became the private property of the shaykhs and was sometimes sold to buyers outside the tribe.

Muhammad Ali's immediate successors, Abbas I (1849-54) and Said (1854-63), lacked leadership qualities and paid little attention to Sudan, but the reign of Ismail (1863-79) revitalized Egyptian interest in the country. In 1865 the Ottoman Empire ceded the Red Sea coast and its ports to Egypt. Two years later, the Ottoman sultan granted Ismail the title of khedive (sovereign prince). Egypt organized and garrisoned the new provinces of Upper Nile, Bahr al Ghazal, and Equatoria and, in 1874, conquered and annexed Darfur. Ismail named Europeans to provincial governorships and appointed Sudanese to more responsible government positions. Under prodding from Britain, Ismail took steps to complete the elimination of the slave trade in the north of present-day Sudan. The khedive also tried to build a new army on the European model that no longer would depend on slaves to provide manpower. However, this modernization process caused unrest. Army units mutinied, and many Sudanese resented the quartering of troops among the civilian population and the use of Sudanese forced labor on public projects. Efforts to suppress the slave trade angered the urban merchant class and the Baqqara Arabs, who had grown prosperous by selling slaves.

There is little documentation for the history of the southern Sudanese provinces until the introduction of the Turkiyah in the north in the early 1820s and the subsequent extension of slave raiding into the south. Information about their peoples before that time is based largely on oral history. According to these traditions, the Nilotic peoples--the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, and others--first entered southern Sudan sometime before the tenth century. During the period from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century, tribal migrations, largely from the area of Bahr al Ghazal, brought these peoples to their modern locations. Some, like the Shilluk, developed a centralized monarchical tradition that enabled them to preserve their tribal integrity in the face of external pressures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The non-Nilotic Azande people, who entered southern Sudan in the sixteenth century, established the region's largest state. In the eighteenth century, the militaristic Avungara people entered and quickly imposed their authority over the poorly organized and weaker Azande. Avungara power remained largely unchallenged until the arrival of the British at the end of the nineteenth century. Geographic barriers protected the southerners from Islam's advance, enabling them to retain their social and cultural heritage and their political and religious institutions. During the nineteenth century, the slave trade brought southerners into closer contact with Sudanese Arabs and resulted in a deep hatred for the northerners.

Slavery had been an institution of Sudanese life throughout history, but southern Sudan, where slavery flourished particularly, was originally considered an area beyond Cairo's control. Because Sudan had access to Middle East slave markets, the slave trade in the south intensified in the nineteenth century and continued after the British had suppressed slavery in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Annual raids resulted in the capture of countless thousands of southern Sudanese, and the destruction of the region's stability and economy. The horrors associated with the slave trade generated European interest in Sudan.

Until 1843 Muhammad Ali maintained a state monopoly on slave trading in Egypt and the pashalik. Thereafter, authorities sold licenses to private traders who competed with government- conducted slave raids. In 1854 Cairo ended state participation in the slave trade, and in 1860, in response to European pressure, Egypt prohibited the slave trade. However, the Egyptian army failed to enforce the prohibition against the private armies of the slave traders. The introduction of steamboats and firearms enabled slave traders to overwhelm local resistance and prompted the creation of southern "bush empires" by Baqqara Arabs.

Ismail implemented a military modernization program and proposed to extend Egyptian rule to the southern region. In 1869 British explorer Sir Samuel Baker received a commission as governor of Equatoria Province, with orders to annex all territory in the White Nile's basin and to suppress the slave trade. In 1874 Charles George Gordon, a British officer, succeeded Baker. Gordon disarmed many slave traders and hanged those who defied him. By the time he became Sudan's governor general in 1877, Gordon had weakened the slave trade in much of the south.

Unfortunately, Ismail's southern policy lacked consistency. In 1871 he had named a notorious Arab slave trader, Rahman Mansur az Zubayr, as governor of the newly created province of Bahr al Ghazal. Zubayr used his army to pacify the province and to eliminate his competition in the slave trade. In 1874 he invaded Darfur after the sultan had refused to guard caravan routes through his territory. Zubayr then offered the region as a province to the khedive. Later that year, Zubayr defied Cairo when it attempted to relieve him of his post, and defeated an Egyptian force that sought to oust him. After he became Sudan's governor general, Gordon ended Zubayr's slave trading, disbanded his army, and sent him back to Cairo.


Developments in Sudan during this period 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 program 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 (1877-92).

After the removal, in 1877, of Ismail, who had appointed him to the post, 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.

In this troubled atmosphere, Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, a faqir 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 leader.

Muhammad Ahmad's sermons attracted an increasing number of followers. Among those who joined him was Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, a Baqqara from southern Darfur. His planning capabilities proved invaluable to Muhammad Ahmad, who revealed himself as Al Mahdi al Muntazar ("the awaited guide in the right path," usually seen as the Mahdi), sent from God to redeem the faithful and prepare the way for the second coming of the Prophet Isa (Jesus). The Mahdist movement demanded a return to the simplicity of early Islam, abstention from alcohol and tobacco, and the strict seclusion of women.

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.

Early in 1882, the Ansar, armed with spears and swords, overwhelmed a 7,000-man Egyptian force not far from Al Ubayyid and seized their rifles 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 Slatin, an Austrian in the khedive's service, who later became the first Egyptianappointed governor of Darfur Province.

The advance of the Ansar and the Beja rising in the east imperiled communications with Egypt and threatened to cut off garrisons at Khartoum, Kassala, Sannar, 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.

After reaching Khartoum in February 1884, Gordon 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 Bayyudah Desert bogged down at Abu Tulayh (commonly called Abu Klea), where the Hadendowa Beja--the so-called Fuzzy Wuzzies--broke the British line. An advance unit that had gone ahead by river when the column reached Al Matammah arrived at Khartoum on January 28, 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 Sannar 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 .

The Mahdiyah (Mahdist regime) imposed traditional 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 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 Ethiopia's negus (king), Yohannes IV. In 1887 a 60,000-man Ansar army invaded Ethiopia, penetrated as far as Gonder, and captured prisoners and booty. The Khalifa then refused to conclude peace with Ethiopia. In March 1889, an Ethiopian force, commanded by the king, marched on Qallabat; however, after Yohannes IV fell in battle, 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 Ansar' 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 decision to occupy Sudan resulted in part from international developments that required the country be brought under British supervision. 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 Barbar. 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 September 2, 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 AngloEgyptian 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.


In January 1899, an Anglo-Egyptian agreement restored Egyptian rule in Sudan but as part of a condominium, or joint authority, exercised by Britain and Egypt. The agreement designated territory south of the twenty-second parallel as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Although it emphasized Egypt's indebtedness to Britain for its participation in the reconquest, the agreement failed to clarify the juridical relationship between the two condominium powers in Sudan or to provide a legal basis for continued British presence in the south. Britain assumed responsibility for governing the territory on behalf of the khedive.

Article II of the agreement specified that "the supreme military and civil command in Sudan shall be vested in one officer, termed the Governor-General of Sudan. He shall be appointed by Khedival Decree on the recommendation of Her Britannic Majesty's Government and shall be removed only by Khedival Decree with the consent of Her Britannic Majesty's Government." The British governor general, who was a military officer, reported to the Foreign Office through its resident agent in Cairo. In practice, however, he exercised extraordinary powers and directed the condominium government from Khartoum as if it were a colonial administration. Sir Reginald Wingate succeeded Kitchener as governor general in 1899. In each province, two inspectors and several district commissioners aided the British governor (mudir). Initially, nearly all administrative personnel were British army officers attached to the Egyptian army. In 1901, however, civilian administrators started arriving in Sudan from Britain and formed the nucleus of the Sudan Political Service. Egyptians filled middle-level posts while Sudanese gradually acquired lower-level positions.

In the condominium's early years, the governor general and provincial governors exercised great latitude in governing Sudan. After 1910, however, an executive council, whose approval was required for all legislation and for budgetary matters, assisted the governor general. The governor general presided over this council, which included the inspector general; the civil, legal, and financial secretaries; and two to four other British officials appointed by the governor general. The executive council retained legislative authority until 1948.

After restoring order and the government's authority, the British dedicated themselves to creating a modern government in the condominium. Jurists adopted penal and criminal procedural codes similar to those in force in British India. Commissions established land tenure rules and adjusted claims in dispute because of grants made by successive governments. Taxes on land remained the basic form of taxation, the amount assessed depending on the type of irrigation, the number of date palms, and the size of herds; however, the rate of taxation was fixed for the first time in Sudan's history. The 1902 Code of Civil Procedure continued the Ottoman separation of civil law and sharia, but it also created guidelines for the operation of sharia courts as an autonomous judicial division under a chief qadi appointed by the governor general. Religious judges and other sharia court officials were invariably Egyptian.

There was little resistance to the condominium. Breaches of the peace usually took the form of intertribal warfare, banditry, or revolts of short duration. For example, Mahdist uprisings occurred in February 1900, in 1902-3, in 1904, and in 1908. In 1916 Abd Allah as Suhayni, who claimed to be the Prophet Isa, launched an unsuccessful jihad.

The problem of the condominium's undefined borders was a greater concern. A 1902 treaty with Ethiopia fixed the southeastern boundary with Sudan. Seven years later, an AngloBelgian treaty determined the status of the Lado Enclave in the south establishing a border with the Belgian Congo (present-day Zaire). The western boundary proved more difficult to resolve. Darfur was the only province formerly under Egyptian control that was not soon recovered under the condominium. When the Mahdiyah disintegrated, Sultan Ali Dinar reclaimed Darfur's throne, which had been lost to the Egyptians in 1874 and held the throne under Ottoman suzerainty, with British approval on condition that he pay annual tribute to the khedive. When World War I broke out, Ali Dinar proclaimed his loyalty to the Ottoman Empire and responded to the Porte's call for a jihad against the Allies. Britain, which had declared a protectorate over Egypt in 1914, sent a small force against Ali Dinar, who died in subsequent fighting. In 1916 the British annexed Darfur to Sudan and terminated the Fur sultanate .

During the condominium period, economic development occurred only in the Nile Valley's settled areas. In the first two decades of condominium rule, the British extended telegraph and rail lines to link key points in northern Sudan but services did not reach more remote areas. Port Sudan opened in 1906, replacing Sawakin as the country's principal outlet to the sea. In 1911 the Sudanese government and the private Sudan Plantations Syndicate launched the Gezira Scheme (Gezira is also seen as Jazirah) to provide a source of high-quality cotton for Britain's textile industry. An irrigation dam near Sannar, completed in 1925, brought a much larger area in Al Jazirah under cultivation. Planters sent cotton by rail from Sannar to Port Sudan for shipment abroad. The Gezira Scheme made cotton the mainstay of the country's economy and turned the region into Sudan's most densely populated area.

In 1922 Britain renounced the protectorate and approved Egypt's declaration of independence. However, the 1923 Egyptian constitution made no claim to Egyptian sovereignty over Sudan. Subsequent negotiations in London between the British and the new Egyptian government foundered on the Sudan question. Nationalists who were inflamed by the failure of the talks rioted in Egypt and Sudan, where a minority supported union with Egypt. In November 1924, Sir Lee Stack, governor general of Sudan and sirdar, was assassinated in Cairo. Britain ordered all Egyptian troops, civil servants, and public employees withdrawn from Sudan. In 1925 Khartoum formed the 4,500-man Sudan Defence Force (SDF) under Sudanese officers to replace Egyptian units.

Sudan was relatively quiet in the late 1920s and 1930s. During this period, the colonial government favored indirect rule, which allowed the British to govern through indigenous leaders. In Sudan, the traditional leaders were the shaykhs--of villages, tribes, and districts--in the north and tribal chiefs in the south. The number of Sudanese recognizing them and the degree of authority they held varied considerably. The British first delegated judicial powers to shaykhs to enable them to settle local disputes and then gradually allowed the shaykhs to administer local governments under the supervision of British district commissioners.

The mainstream of political development, however, occurred among local leaders and among Khartoum's educated elite. In their view, indirect rule prevented the country's unification, exacerbated tribalism in the north, and served in the south to buttress a less-advanced society against Arab influence. Indirect rule also implied government decentralization, which alarmed the educated elite who had careers in the central administration and envisioned an eventual transfer of power from British colonial authorities to their class. Although nationalists and the Khatmiyyah opposed indirect rule, the Ansar, many of whom enjoyed positions of local authority, supported the concept.

Britain's Southern Policy

From the beginning of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, the British sought to modernize Sudan by applying European technology to its underdeveloped economy and by replacing its authoritarian institutions with ones that adhered to liberal English traditions. However, southern Sudan's remote and undeveloped provinces--Equatoria, Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile--received little official attention until after World War I, except for efforts to suppress tribal warfare and the slave trade. The British justified this policy by claiming that the south was not ready for exposure to the modern world. To allow the south to develop along indigenous lines, the British, therefore, closed the region to outsiders. As a result, the south remained isolated and backward. A few Arab merchants controlled the region's limited commercial activities while Arab bureaucrats administered whatever laws existed. Christian missionaries, who operated schools and medical clinics, provided limited social services in southern Sudan.

The earliest Christian missionaries were the Verona Fathers, a Roman Catholic religious order that had established southern missions before the Mahdiyah. Other missionary groups active in the south included Presbyterians from the United States and the Anglican Church Missionary Society. There was no competition among these missions, largely because they maintained separate areas of influence. The government eventually subsidized the mission schools that educated southerners. Because mission graduates usually succeeded in gaining posts in the provincial civil service, many northerners regarded them as tools of British imperialism. The few southerners who received higher training attended schools in British East Africa (present-day Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania) rather than in Khartoum, thereby exacerbating the north-south division.

British authorities treated the three southern provinces as a separate region. The colonial administration, as it consolidated its southern position in the 1920s, detached the south from the rest of Sudan for all practical purposes. The period's "closed door" ordinances, which barred northern Sudanese from entering or working in the south, reinforced this separate development policy. Moreover, the British gradually replaced Arab administrators and expelled Arab merchants, thereby severing the south's last economic contacts with the north. The colonial administration also discouraged the spread of Islam, the practice of Arab customs, and the wearing of Arab dress. At the same time, the British made efforts to revitalize African customs and tribal life that the slave trade had disrupted. Finally, a 1930 directive stated that blacks in the southern provinces were to be considered a people distinct from northern Muslims and that the region should be prepared for eventual integration with British East Africa.

Although potentially a rich agricultural zone, the south's economic development suffered because of the region's isolation. Moreover, a continual struggle went on between British officials in the north and south, as those in the former resisted recommendations that northern resources be diverted to spur southern economic development. Personality clashes between officials in the two branches in the Sudan Political Service also impeded the south's growth. Those individuals who served in the southern provinces tended to be military officers with previous Africa experience on secondment to the colonial service. They usually were distrustful of Arab influence and were committed to keeping the south under British control. By contrast, officials in the northern provinces tended to be Arabists often drawn from the diplomatic and consular service. Whereas northern provincial governors conferred regularly as a group with the governor general in Khartoum, their three southern colleagues met to coordinate activities with the governors of the British East African colonies

Britain's Southern Policy

From the beginning of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, the British sought to modernize Sudan by applying European technology to its underdeveloped economy and by replacing its authoritarian institutions with ones that adhered to liberal English traditions. However, southern Sudan's remote and undeveloped provinces--Equatoria, Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile--received little official attention until after World War I, except for efforts to suppress tribal warfare and the slave trade. The British justified this policy by claiming that the south was not ready for exposure to the modern world. To allow the south to develop along indigenous lines, the British, therefore, closed the region to outsiders. As a result, the south remained isolated and backward. A few Arab merchants controlled the region's limited commercial activities while Arab bureaucrats administered whatever laws existed. Christian missionaries, who operated schools and medical clinics, provided limited social services in southern Sudan.

The earliest Christian missionaries were the Verona Fathers, a Roman Catholic religious order that had established southern missions before the Mahdiyah. Other missionary groups active in the south included Presbyterians from the United States and the Anglican Church Missionary Society. There was no competition among these missions, largely because they maintained separate areas of influence. The government eventually subsidized the mission schools that educated southerners. Because mission graduates usually succeeded in gaining posts in the provincial civil service, many northerners regarded them as tools of British imperialism. The few southerners who received higher training attended schools in British East Africa (present-day Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania) rather than in Khartoum, thereby exacerbating the north-south division.

British authorities treated the three southern provinces as a separate region. The colonial administration, as it consolidated its southern position in the 1920s, detached the south from the rest of Sudan for all practical purposes. The period's "closed door" ordinances, which barred northern Sudanese from entering or working in the south, reinforced this separate development policy. Moreover, the British gradually replaced Arab administrators and expelled Arab merchants, thereby severing the south's last economic contacts with the north. The colonial administration also discouraged the spread of Islam, the practice of Arab customs, and the wearing of Arab dress. At the same time, the British made efforts to revitalize African customs and tribal life that the slave trade had disrupted. Finally, a 1930 directive stated that blacks in the southern provinces were to be considered a people distinct from northern Muslims and that the region should be prepared for eventual integration with British East Africa.

Although potentially a rich agricultural zone, the south's economic development suffered because of the region's isolation. Moreover, a continual struggle went on between British officials in the north and south, as those in the former resisted recommendations that northern resources be diverted to spur southern economic development. Personality clashes between officials in the two branches in the Sudan Political Service also impeded the south's growth. Those individuals who served in the southern provinces tended to be military officers with previous Africa experience on secondment to the colonial service. They usually were distrustful of Arab influence and were committed to keeping the south under British control. By contrast, officials in the northern provinces tended to be Arabists often drawn from the diplomatic and consular service. Whereas northern provincial governors conferred regularly as a group with the governor general in Khartoum, their three southern colleagues met to coordinate activities with the governors of the British East African colonies.

Rise of Sudanese Nationalism

Sudanese nationalism, as it developed after World War I, was an Arab and Muslim phenomenon with its support base in the northern provinces. Nationalists opposed indirect rule and advocated a centralized national government in Khartoum responsible for both regions. Nationalists also perceived Britain's southern policy as artificially dividing Sudan and preventing its unification under an arabized and Islamic ruling class.

Ironically, however, a non-Arab led Sudan's first modern nationalist movement. In 1921 Ali Abd al Latif, a Muslim Dinka and former army officer, founded the United Tribes Society that called for an independent Sudan in which power would be shared by tribal and religious leaders. Three years later, Ali Abd al Latif's movement, reconstituted as the White Flag League, organized demonstrations in Khartoum that took advantage of the unrest that followed Stack's assassination. Ali Abd al Latif's arrest and subsequent exile in Egypt sparked a mutiny by a Sudanese army battalion, the suppression of which succeeded in temporarily crippling the nationalist movement.

In the 1930s, nationalism reemerged in Sudan. Educated Sudanese wanted to restrict the governor general's power and to obtain Sudanese participation in the council's deliberations. However, any change in government required a change in the condominium agreement. Neither Britain nor Egypt would agree to a modification. Moreover, the British regarded their role as the protection of the Sudanese from Egyptian domination. The nationalists feared that the eventual result of friction between the condominium powers might be the attachment of northern Sudan to Egypt and southern Sudan to Uganda and Kenya. Although they settled most of their differences in the 1936 Treaty of Alliance, which set a timetable for the end of British military occupation, Britain and Egypt failed to agree on Sudan's future status.

Nationalists and religious leaders were divided on the issue of whether Sudan should apply for independence or for union with Egypt. The Mahdi's son, Abd ar Rahman al Mahdi, emerged as a spokesman for independence in opposition to Ali al Mirghani, the Khatmiyyah leader, who favored union with Egypt. Coalitions supported by each of these leaders formed rival wings of the nationalist movement. Later, radical nationalists and the Khatmiyyah created the Ashigga, later renamed the National Unionist Party (NUP), to advance the cause of Sudanese-Egyptian unification. The moderates favored Sudanese independence in cooperation with Britain and together with the Ansar established the Umma Party.

The Road to Independence

As World War II approached, the SDF assumed the mission of guarding Sudan's frontier with Italian East Africa (present-day Ethiopia). During the summer of 1940, Italian forces invaded Sudan at several points and captured Kassala. However, the SDF prevented a further advance on Port Sudan. In January 1941, the SDF, expanded to 20,000 troops, retook Kassala and participated in the British offensive that routed the Italians in Eritrea and liberated Ethiopia. Some Sudanese units later contributed to the British Eighth Army's North Africa victory.

In the immediate postwar years, the condominium government made a number of significant changes. In 1942 the Graduates' General Conference, a quasi-nationalist movement formed by educated Sudanese, presented the government with a memorandum that demanded a pledge of self-determination after the war to be preceded by abolition of the "closed door" ordinances, an end to the separate curriculum in southern schools, and an increase in the number of Sudanese in the civil service. The governor general refused to accept the memorandum but agreed to a governmentsupervised transformation of indirect rule into a modernized system of local government. Sir Douglas Newbold, governor of Kurdufan Province in the 1930s and later the executive council's civil secretary, advised the establishment of parliamentary government and the administrative unification of north and south. In 1948, over Egyptian objections, Britain authorized the partially elected consultative Legislative Assembly representing both regions to supersede the advisory executive council.

The pro-Egyptian NUP boycotted the 1948 Legislative Assembly elections. As a result, pro-independence groups dominated the Legislative Assembly. In 1952 leaders of the Umma-dominated legislature negotiated the Self-Determination Agreement with Britain. The legislators then enacted a constitution that provided for a prime minister and council of ministers responsible to a bicameral parliament. The new Sudanese government would have responsibility in all areas except military and foreign affairs, which remained in the British governor general's hands. Cairo, which demanded recognition of Egyptian sovereignty over Sudan, repudiated the condominium agreement in protest and declared its reigning monarch, Faruk, king of Sudan.

After seizing power in Egypt and overthrowing the Faruk monarchy in late 1952, Colonel Muhammad Naguib broke the deadlock on the problem of Egyptian sovereignty over Sudan. Cairo previously had linked discussions on Sudan's status to an agreement on the evacuation of British troops from the Suez Canal. Naguib separated the two issues and accepted the right of Sudanese self-determination. In February 1953, London and Cairo signed an Anglo-Egyptian accord, which allowed for a three-year transition period from condominium rule to self-government. During the transition phase, British and Egyptian troops would withdraw from Sudan. At the end of this period, the Sudanese would decide their future status in a plebiscite conducted under international supervision. Naguib's concession seemed justified when parliamentary elections held at the end of 1952 gave a majority to the pro-Egyptian NUP, which had called for an eventual union with Egypt. In January 1954, a new government emerged under NUP leader Ismail al Azhari.

The South and the Unity of Sudan

During World War II, some British colonial officers questioned the economic and political viability of the southern provinces as separate from northern Sudan. Britain also had become more sensitive to Arab criticism of the southern policy. In 1946 the Sudan Administrative Conference determined that Sudan should be administered as one country. Moreover, the conference delegates agreed to readmit northern administrators to southern posts, abolish the trade restrictions imposed under the "closed door" ordinances, and allow southerners to seek employment in the north. Khartoum also nullified the prohibition against Muslim proselytizing in the south and introduced Arabic in the south as the official administration language.

Some southern British colonial officials responded to the Sudan Administrative Conference by charging that northern agitation had influenced the conferees and that no voice had been heard at the conference in support of retaining the separate development policy. These British officers argued that northern domination of the south would result in a southern rebellion against the government. Khartoum therefore convened a conference at Juba to allay the fears of southern leaders and British officials in the south and to assure them that a postindependence government would safeguard southern political and cultural rights.

Despite these promises, an increasing number of southerners expressed concern that northerners would overwhelm them. In particular, they resented the imposition of Arabic as the official language of administration, which deprived most of the few educated English-speaking southerners of the opportunity to enter public service. They also felt threatened by the replacement of trusted British district commissioners with unsympathetic northerners. After the government replaced several hundred colonial officials with Sudanese, only four of whom were southerners, the southern elite abandoned hope of a peaceful, unified, independent Sudan.

The hostility of southerners toward the northern Arab majority surfaced violently when southern army units mutinied in August 1955 to protest their transfer to garrisons under northern officers. The rebellious troops killed several hundred northerners, including government officials, army officers, and merchants. The government quickly suppressed the revolt and eventually executed seventy southerners for sedition. But this harsh reaction failed to pacify the south, as some of the mutineers escaped to remote areas and organized resistance to the Arab-dominated government of Sudan.


The Azhari government temporarily halted progress toward self-determination for Sudan, hoping to promote unity with Egypt. Although his pro-Egyptian NUP had won a majority in the 1953 parliamentary elections, Azhari realized that popular opinion had shifted against union with Egypt. As a result, Azhari, who had been the major spokesman for the "unity of the Nile Valley," reversed the NUP's stand and supported Sudanese independence. On December 19, 1955, the Sudanese parliament, under Azhari's leadership, unanimously adopted a declaration of independence; on January 1, 1956, Sudan became an independent republic. Azhari called for the withdrawal of foreign troops and requested the condominium powers to sponsor a plebiscite in advance of the scheduled date.

The Politics of Independence

Sudan achieved independence without the rival political parties having agreed on the form and content of a permanent constitution. Instead, the Constituent Assembly adopted a document known as the Transitional Constitution, which replaced the governor general as head of state with a five-member Supreme Commission that was elected by a parliament composed of an indirectly elected Senate and a popularly elected House of Representatives. The Transitional Constitution also allocated executive power to the prime minister, who was nominated by the House of Representatives and confirmed in office by the Supreme Commission.

Although it achieved independence without conflict, Sudan inherited many problems from the condominium. Chief among these was the status of the civil service. The government placed Sudanese in the administration and provided compensation and pensions for British officers of the Sudan Political Service who left the country; it retained those who could not be replaced, mostly technicians and teachers. Khartoum achieved this transformation quickly and with a minimum of turbulence, although southerners resented the replacement of British administrators in the south with northern Sudanese. To advance their interests, many southern leaders concentrated their efforts in Khartoum, where they hoped to win constitutional concessions. Although determined to resist what they perceived to be Arab imperialism, they were opposed to violence. Most southern representatives supported provincial autonomy and warned that failure to win legal concessions would drive the south to rebellion.

The parliamentary regime introduced plans to expand the country's education, economic, and transportation sectors. To achieve these goals, Khartoum needed foreign economic and technical assistance, to which the United States made an early commitment. Conversations between the two governments had begun in mid-1957, and the parliament ratified a United States aid agreement in July 1958. Washington hoped this agreement would reduce Sudan's excessive reliance on a one-crop (cotton) economy and would facilitate the development of the country's transportation and communications infrastructure.

The prime minister formed a coalition government in February 1956, but he alienated the Khatmiyyah by supporting increasingly secular government policies. In June some Khatmiyyah members who had defected from the NUP established the People's Democratic Party (PDP) under Mirghani's leadership. The Umma and the PDP combined in parliament to bring down the Azhari government. With support from the two parties and backing from the Ansar and the Khatmiyyah, Abd Allah Khalil put together a coalition government.

Major issues confronting Khalil's coalition government included winning agreement on a permanent constitution, stabilizing the south, encouraging economic development, and improving relations with Egypt. Strains within the Umma-PDP coalition hampered the government's ability to make progress on these matters. The Umma, for example, wanted the proposed constitution to institute a presidential form of government on the assumption that Abd ar Rahman al Mahdi would be elected the first president. Consensus was lacking about the country's economic future. A poor cotton harvest followed the 1957 bumper cotton crop, which Sudan had been unable to sell at a good price in a glutted market. This downturn depleted Sudan's reserves and caused unrest over government-imposed economic restrictions. To overcome these problems and finance future development projects, the Umma called for greater reliance on foreign aid. The PDP, however, objected to this strategy because it promoted unacceptable foreign influence in Sudan. The PDP's philosophy reflected the Arab nationalism espoused by Gamal Abdul Nasser, who had replaced Egyptian leader Naguib in 1954. Despite these policy differences, the Umma-PDP coalition lasted for the remaining year of the parliament's tenure. Moreover, after the parliament adjourned, the two parties promised to maintain a common front for the 1958 elections.

The electorate gave a plurality in both houses to the Umma and an overall majority to the Umma-PDP coalition. The NUP, however, won nearly one-quarter of the seats, largely from urban centers and from Gezira Scheme agricultural workers. In the south, the vote represented a rejection of the men who had cooperated with the government--voters defeated all three southerners in the preelection cabinet--and a victory for advocates of autonomy within a federal system. Resentment against the government's taking over mission schools and against the measures used in suppressing the 1955 mutiny contributed to the election of several candidates who had been implicated in the rebellion.

After the new parliament convened, Khalil again formed an Umma-PDP coalition government. Unfortunately, factionalism, corruption, and vote fraud dominated parliamentary deliberations at a time when the country needed decisive action with regard to the proposed constitution and the future of the south. As a result, the Umma-PDP coalition failed to exercise effective leadership.

Another issue that divided the parliament concerned SudaneseUnited States relations. In March 1958, Khalil signed a technical assistance agreement with the United States. When he presented the pact to parliament for ratification, he discovered that the NUP wanted to use the issue to defeat the Umma-PDP coalition and that many PDP delegates opposed the agreement. Nevertheless, the Umma, with the support of some PDP and southern delegates, managed to obtain approval of the agreement.

Factionalism and bribery in parliament, coupled with the government's inability to resolve Sudan's many social, political, and economic problems, increased popular disillusion with democratic government. Specific complaints included Khartoum's decision to sell cotton at a price above world market prices. This policy resulted in low sales of cotton, the commodity from which Sudan derived most of its income. Restrictions on imports imposed to take pressure off depleted foreign exchange reserves caused consternation among town dwellers who had become accustomed to buying foreign goods. Moreover, rural northerners also suffered from an embargo that Egypt placed on imports of cattle, camels, and dates from Sudan. Growing popular discontent caused many antigovernment demonstrations in Khartoum. Egypt also criticized Khalil and suggested that it might support a coup against his government. Meanwhile, reports circulated in Khartoum that the Umma and the NUP were near agreement on a new coalition that would exclude the PDP and Khalil.

On November 17, 1958, the day parliament was to convene, a military coup occurred. Khalil, himself a retired army general, planned the preemptive coup in conjunction with leading Umma members and the army's two senior generals, Ibrahim Abbud and Ahmad Abd al Wahab, who became leaders of the military regime. Abbud immediately pledged to resolve all disputes with Egypt, including the long-standing problem of the status of the Nile River. Abbud abandoned the previous government's unrealistic policies regarding the sale of cotton. He also appointed a constitutional commission, headed by the chief justice, to draft a permanent constitution. Abbud maintained, however, that political parties only served as vehicles for personal ambitions and that they would not be reestablished when civilian rule was restored.

The Abbud Military Government, 1958-64

The coup removed political decision making from the control of the civilian politicians. Abbud created the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to rule Sudan. This body contained officers affiliated with the Ansar and the Khatmiyyah. Abbud belonged to the Khatmiyyah, whereas Abd al Wahab was a member of the Ansar. Until Abd al Wahab's removal in March 1959, the Ansar were the stronger of the two groups in the government.

The regime benefited during its first year in office from successful marketing of the cotton crop. Abbud also profited from the settlement of the Nile waters dispute with Egypt and the improvement of relations between the two countries. Under the military regime, the influence of the Ansar and the Khatmiyyah lessened. The strongest religious leader, Abd ar Rahman al Mahdi, died in early 1959. His son and successor, the elder Sadiq al Mahdi, failed to enjoy the respect accorded his father. When Sadiq died two years later, Ansar religious and political leadership divided between his brother, Imam Al Hadi al Mahdi, and his son, the younger Sadiq al Mahdi.

Despite the Abbud regime's early successes, opposition elements remained powerful. In 1959 dissident military officers made three attempts to displace the Abbud government and to establish a "popular government." Although the courts sentenced the leaders of these attempted coups to life imprisonment, discontent in the military continued to hamper the government's performance. In particular, the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), which supported the attempted coups, gained a reputation as an effective antigovernment organization. To compound its problems, the Abbud regime lacked dynamism and the ability to stabilize the country. Its failure to place capable civilian advisers in positions of authority, to launch a credible economic and social development program, and to gain the army's support created an atmosphere that encouraged political turbulence.

Abbud's southern policy proved to be his undoing. The government suppressed expressions of religious and cultural differences and bolstered attempts to arabize society. In February 1964, for example, Abbud ordered the mass explusion of foreign missionaries from the south. He then closed parliament to cut off outlets for southern complaints. Southern leaders had renewed in 1963 the armed struggle against the Sudanese government that had continued sporadically since 1955. The rebellion was spearheaded from 1963 by guerrilla forces known as the Anya Nya (the name of a poisonous concoction).

Return to Civilian Rule, 1964-69

Recognizing its inability to quell growing southern discontent, the Abbud regime asked the civilian sector to submit proposals for a solution to the southern problem. However, criticism of government policy quickly went beyond the southern issue and included Abbud's handling of other problems, such as the economy and education. Government attempts to silence these protests, which were centered in the University of Khartoum, brought a reaction not only from teachers and students but also from Khartoum's civil servants and trade unionists. The so-called October Revolution of 1964 centered around a general strike that spread throughout the country. Strike leaders identified themselves as the National Front for Professionals. Along with some former politicians, they formed the leftist United National Front (UNF), which made contact with dissident army officers.

After several days of rioting that resulted in many deaths, Abbud dissolved the government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. UNF leaders and army commanders who planned the transition from military to civilian rule selected a nonpolitical senior civil servant, Sirr al Khatim al Khalifa, as prime minister to head a transitional government.

The new civilian regime, which operated under the 1956 Transitional Constitution, tried to end political factionalism by establishing a coalition government. There was continued popular hostility to the reappearance of political parties, however, because of their divisiveness during the Abbud regime. Although the new government allowed all parties, including the SCP, to operate, only five of fifteen posts in Khatim's cabinet went to party politicians. The prime minister gave two positions to nonparty southerners and the remaining eight to members of the National Front for Professionals, which included several communists.

Eventually two political parties emerged to represent the south. The Sudan African National Union (SANU), founded in 1963 and led by William Deng and Saturino Lahure, a Roman Catholic priest, operated among refugee groups and guerrilla forces. The Southern Front, a mass organization led by Stanislaus Payasama that had worked underground during the Abbud regime, functioned openly within the southern provinces. After the collapse of government-sponsored peace conferences in 1965, Deng's wing of SANU--known locally as SANU-William--and the Southern Front coalesced to take part in the parliamentary elections. SANU remained active in parliament for the next four years as a voice for southern regional autonomy within a unified state. Exiled SANU leaders balked at Deng's moderate approach and formed the Azania Liberation Front based in Kampala, Uganda.

Anya Nya leaders remained aloof from political movements. The guerrillas were fragmented by ethnic and religious differences. Additionally, conflicts surfaced within Anya Nya between older leaders who had been in the bush since 1955, and younger, better educated men like Joseph Lagu, a former Sudanese army captain, who eventually became a strong guerrilla leader, largely because of his ability to get arms from Israel.

The government scheduled national elections for March 1965 and announced that the new parliament's task would be to prepare a new constitution. The deteriorating southern security situation prevented elections from being conducted in that region, however, and the political parties split on the question of whether elections should be held in the north as scheduled or postponed until the whole country could vote. The PDP and SCP, both fearful of losing votes, wanted to postpone the elections, as did southern elements loyal to Khartoum. Their opposition forced the government to resign. The president of the reinstated Supreme Commission, who had replaced Abbud as chief of state, directed that the elections be held wherever possible. The PDP rejected this decision and boycotted the elections.

The 1965 election results were inconclusive. Apart from a low voter turnout, there was a confusing overabundance of candidates on the ballots. As a result, few of those elected won a majority of the votes cast. The Umma captured 75 out of 158 parliamentary seats while its NUP ally took 52 of the remainder. The two parties formed a coalition cabinet in June headed by Umma leader Muhammad Ahmad Mahjub, whereas Azhari, the NUP leader, became the Supreme Commission's permanent president and chief of state.

The Mahjub government had two goals: progress toward solving the southern problem and the removal of communists from positions of power. The army launched a major offensive to crush the rebellion and in the process augmented its reputation for brutality among the southerners. Many southerners reported government atrocities against civilians, especially at Juba and Waw. Sudanese army troops also burned churches and huts, closed schools, and destroyed crops and cattle. To achieve his second objective, Mahjub succeeded in having parliament approve a decree that abolished the SCP and deprived the eleven communists of their seats.

In October 1965, the Umma-NUP coalition collapsed because of a disagreement over whether Mahjub, as prime minister, or Azhari, as president, should conduct Sudan's foreign relations. Mahjub continued in office for another eight months but resigned in July 1966 after a parliamentary vote of censure, which resulted in a split in the Umma. The traditional wing led by Mahjub, under the Imam Al Hadi al Mahjub's spiritual leadership, opposed the party's majority. The latter group professed loyalty to the imam's nephew, the younger Sadiq al Mahdi, who was the Umma's official leader and who rejected religious sectarianism. Sadiq became prime minister with backing from his own Umma wing and from NUP allies.

The Sadiq al Mahdi government, supported by a sizable parliamentary majority, sought to reduce regional disparities by organizing economic development. Sadiq al Mahdi also planned to use his personal rapport with southern leaders to engineer a peace agreement with the insurgents. He proposed to replace the Supreme Commission with a president and a southern vice president and called for the approval of autonomy for the southern provinces.

The educated elite and segments of the army opposed Sadiq al Mahdi because of his gradualist approach to Sudan's political, economic, and social problems. Leftist student organizations and the trade unions demanded the creation of a socialist state. Although these elements lacked widespread popular support, they represented an influential portion of educated public opinion. Their resentment of Sadiq increased when he refused to honor a Supreme Court ruling that overturned legislation banning the SCP and ousting communists elected to parliamentary seats. In December 1966, a coup attempt by communists and a small army unit against the government failed. The government subsequently arrested many communists and army personnel.

In March 1967, the government held elections in thirty-six constituencies in pacified southern areas. The Sadiq al Mahdi wing of the Umma won fifteen seats, the federalist SANU ten, and the NUP five. Despite this apparent boost in his support, however, Sadiq's position in parliament had become tenuous because of concessions he promised to the south in order to bring an end to the civil war. The Umma traditionalist wing opposed Sadiq al Mahdi because of his support for constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and his refusal to declare Sudan an Islamic state. When the traditionalists and the NUP withdrew their support, his government fell. In May 1967, Mahjub became prime minister and head of a coalition government whose cabinet included members of his wing of the Umma, of the NUP, and of the PDP. In December 1967, the PDP and the NUP formed the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) under Azhari's leadership.

By early 1968, widening divisions in the Umma threatened the survival of the Mahjub government. Sadiq al Mahdi's wing held a majority in parliament and could thwart any government action. Mahjub therefore dissolved parliament. However, Sadiq refused to recognize the legitimacy of the prime minister's action. As a result, two governments functioned in Khartoum--one meeting in the parliament building and the other on its lawn--both of which claimed to represent the legislature's will. The army commander requested clarification from the Supreme Court regarding which of them had authority to issue orders. The court backed Mahjub's dissolution; the government scheduled new elections for April.

Although the DUP won 101 of 218 seats, no single party controlled a parliamentary majority. Thirty-six seats went to the Umma traditionalists, thirty to the Sadiq wing, and twenty-five to the two southern parties--SANU and the Southern Front. The SCP secretary general, Abd al Khaliq Mahjub, also won a seat. In a major setback, Sadiq lost his own seat to a traditionalist rival.

Because it lacked a majority, the DUP concluded an alliance with Umma traditionalists, who received the prime ministership for their leader, Muhammad Ahmad Mahjub, and four other cabinet posts. The coalition's program included plans for government reorganization, closer ties with the Arab world, and renewed economic development efforts, particularly in the southern provinces. The Muhammad Ahmad Mahjub government also accepted military, technical, and economic aid from the Soviet Union. Sadiq al Mahdi's wing of the Umma formed the small parliamentary opposition. When it refused to participate in efforts to complete the draft constitution, already ten years overdue, the government retaliated by closing the opposition's newspaper and clamping down on pro-Sadiq demonstrations in Khartoum.

By late 1968, the two Umma wings agreed to support the Ansar chief Imam Al Hadi al Mahdi in the 1969 presidential election. At the same time, the DUP announced that Azhari also would seek the presidency. The communists and other leftists aligned themselves behind the presidential candidacy of former Chief Justice Babikr Awadallah, whom they viewed as an ally because he had ruled against the government when it attempted to outlaw the SCP.


On May 25, 1969, several young officers, calling themselves the Free Officers' Movement, seized power. At the conspiracy's core were nine officers led by Colonel Jaafar an Nimeiri, who had been implicated in plots against the Abbud regime. Nimeiri's coup preempted plots by other groups, most of which involved army factions supported by the SCP, Arab nationalists, or conservative religious groups. He justified the coup on the grounds that civilian politicians had paralyzed the decision-making process, had failed to deal with the country's economic and regional problems, and had left Sudan without a permanent constitution.

Revolutionary Command Council

The coup leaders, joined by Awadallah, the former chief justice who had been privy to the coup, constituted themselves as the ten-member Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which posssessed collective executive authority under Nimeiri's chairmanship. On assuming control, the RCC proclaimed the establishment of a "democratic republic" dedicated to advancing independent "Sudanese socialism." The RCC's first acts included the suspension of the Transitional Constitution, the abolition of all government institutions, and the banning of political parties. The RCC also nationalized many industries, businesses, and banks. Furthermore, Nimeiri ordered the arrest of sixty-three civilian politicians and forcibly retired senior army officers.

Awadallah, appointed prime minister to form a new government to implement RCC policy directives, wanted to dispel the notion that the coup had installed a military dictatorship. He presided over a twenty-one-member cabinet that included only three officers from the RCC, among them its chairman, Nimeiri, who was also defense minister. The cabinet's other military members held the portfolios for internal security and communications. Nine members of the Awadallah regime were allegedly communists, including one of the two southerners in the cabinet, John Garang, minister of supply and later minister for southern affairs. Others identified themselves as Marxists. Since the RCC lacked political and administrative experience, the communists played a significant role in shaping government policies and programs. Despite the influence of individual SCP members, the RCC claimed that its cooperation with the party was a matter of convenience.

In November 1969, after he claimed the regime could not survive without communist assistance, Awadallah lost the prime ministership. Nimeiri, who became head of a largely civilian government in addition to being chief of state, succeeded him. Awadallah retained his position as RCC deputy chairman and remained in the government as foreign minister and as an important link with leftist elements.

Conservative forces, led by the Ansar, posed the greatest threat to the RCC. Imam Al Hadi al Mahdi had withdrawn to his Aba Island stronghold (in the Nile, near Khartoum) in the belief that the government had decided to strike at the Ansar movement. The imam had demanded a return to democratic government, the exclusion of communists from power, and an end to RCC rule. In March 1970, hostile Ansar crowds prevented Nimeiri from visiting the island for talks with the imam. Fighting subsequently erupted between government forces and as many as 30,000 Ansar. When the Ansar ignored an ultimatum to surrender, army units with air support assaulted Aba Island. About 3,000 people died during the battle. The imam escaped only to be killed while attempting to cross the border into Ethiopia. The government exiled Sadiq al Mahdi to Egypt, where Nasser promised to keep him under guard to prevent him from succeeding his uncle as head of the Ansar movement.

After neutralizing this conservative opposition, the RCC concentrated on consolidating its political organization to phase out communist participation in the government. This strategy prompted an internal debate within the SCP. The orthodox wing, led by party secretary general Abd al Khaliq Mahjub, demanded a popular front government with communists participating as equal partners. The National Communist wing, on the other hand, supported cooperation with the government.

Soon after the army had crushed the Ansar at Aba Island, Nimeiri moved against the SCP. He ordered the deportation of Abd al Khaliq Mahjub. Then, when the SCP secretary general returned to Sudan illegally after several months abroad, Nimeiri placed him under house arrest. In March 1971, Nimeiri indicated that trade unions, a traditional communist stronghold, would be placed under government control. The RCC also banned communistaffiliated student, women's, and professional organizations. Additionally, Nimeiri announced the planned formation of a national political movement called the Sudan Socialist Union (SSU), which would assume control of all political parties, including the SCP. After this speech, the government arrested the SCP's central committee and other leading communists.

The SCP, however, retained a covert organization that was not damaged in the sweep. Before further action could be taken against the party, the SCP launched a coup against Nimeiri. The coup occurred on July 19, 1971, when one of the plotters, Major Hisham al Atta, surprised Nimeiri and the RCC meeting in the presidential palace and seized them along with a number of proNimeiri officers. Atta named a seven-member revolutionary council, in which communists ranked prominently, to serve as the national government. Three days after the coup, however, loyal army units stormed the palace, rescued Nimeiri, and arrested Atta and his confederates. Nimeiri, who blamed the SCP for the coup, ordered the arrest of hundreds of communists and dissident military officers. The government subsequently executed some of these individuals and imprisoned many others.

Having survived the SCP-inspired coup, Nimeiri reaffirmed his commitment to establishing a socialist state. A provisional constitution, published in August 1971, described Sudan as a "socialist democracy" and provided for a presidential form of government to replace the RCC. A plebiscite the following month elected Nimeiri to a six-year term as president.

The Southern Problem

The origins of the civil war in the south date back to the 1950s. On August 18, 1955, the Equatoria Corps, a military unit composed of southerners, mutinied at Torit. Rather than surrender to Sudanese government authorities, many mutineers disappeared into hiding with their weapons, marking the beginning of the first war in southern Sudan. By the late 1960s, the war had resulted in the deaths of about 500,000 people. Several hundred thousand more southerners hid in the forests or escaped to refugee camps in neighboring countries.

By 1969 the rebels had developed foreign contacts to obtain weapons and supplies. Israel, for example, trained Anya Nya recruits and shipped weapons via Ethiopia and Uganda to the rebels. Anya Nya also purchased arms from Congolese rebels and international arms dealers with monies collected in the south and from among southern Sudanese exile communities in the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America. The rebels also captured arms, equipment, and supplies from government troops.

Militarily, Anya Nya controlled much of the southern countryside while government forces occupied the region's major towns. The guerrillas operated at will from remote camps. However, rebel units were too small and scattered to be highly effective in any single area. Estimates of Anya Nya personnel strength ranged from 5,000 to 10,000.

Government operations against the rebels declined after the 1969 coup. However, when negotiations failed to result in a settlement, Khartoum increased troop strength in the south to about 12,000 in 1969, and intensified military activity throughout the region. Although the Soviet Union had concluded a US$100 million to US$150 million arms agreement with Sudan in August 1968, which included T-55 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and aircraft, the nation failed to deliver any equipment to Khartoum by May 1969. During this period, Sudan obtained some Soviet-manufactured weapons from Egypt, most of which went to the Sudanese air force. By the end of 1969, however, the Soviet Union had shipped unknown quantities of 85mm antiaircraft guns, sixteen MiG-21s, and five Antonov-24 transport aircraft. Over the next two years, the Soviet Union delivered an impressive array of equipment to Sudan, including T-54, T-55, T56 , and T-59 tanks; and BTR-40 and BTR-152 light armored vehicles .

In 1971 Joseph Lagu, who had become the leader of southern forces opposed to Khartoum, proclaimed the creation of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM). Anya Nya leaders united behind him, and nearly all exiled southern politicians supported the SSLM. Although the SSLM created a governing infrastructure throughout many areas of southern Sudan, real power remained with Anya Nya, with Lagu at its head.

Despite his political problems, Nimeiri remained committed to ending the southern insurgency. He believed he could stop the fighting and stabilize the region by granting regional selfgovernment and undertaking economic development in the south. By October 1971, Khartoum had established contact with the SSLM. After considerable consultation, a conference between SSLM and Sudanese government delegations convened at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February 1972. Initially, the two sides were far apart, the southerners demanding a federal state with a separate southern government and an army that would come under the federal president's command only in response to an external threat to Sudan. Eventually, however, the two sides, with the help of Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie, reached an agreement.

The Addis Ababa accords guaranteed autonomy for a southern region--composed of the three provinces of Equatoria (present-day Al Istiwai), Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile (present-day Aali an Nil)--under a regional president appointed by the national president on the recommendation of an elected Southern Regional Assembly. The High Executive Council or cabinet named by the regional president would be responsible for all aspects of government in the region except such areas as defense, foreign affairs, currency and finance, economic and social planning, and interregional concerns, authority over which would be retained by the national government in which southerners would be represented. Southerners, including qualified Anya Nya veterans, would be incorporated into a 12,000-man southern command of the Sudanese army under equal numbers of northern and southern officers. The accords also recognized Arabic as Sudan's official language, and English as the south's principal language, which would be used in administration and would be taught in the schools.

Although many SSLM leaders opposed the settlement, Lagu approved its terms and both sides agreed to a cease-fire. The national government issued a decree legalizing the agreement and creating an international armistice commission to ensure the well-being of returning southern refugees. Khartoum also announced an amnesty, retroactive to 1955. The two sides signed the Addis Ababa accords on March 27, 1972, which was thereafter celebrated as National Unity Day.

Political Developments

After the settlement in the south, Nimeiri attempted to mend fences with northern Muslim religious groups. The government undertook administrative decentralization, popular with the Ansar, that favored rural over urban areas, where leftist activism was most evident. Khartoum also reaffirmed Islam's special position in the country, recognized the sharia as the source of all legislation, and released some members of religious orders who had been incarcerated. However, a reconciliation with conservative groups, which had organized outside Sudan under Sadiq al Mahdi's leadership and were later known as the National Front, eluded Nimeiri.

In August 1972, Nimeiri sought to consolidate his position by creating a Constituent Assembly to draft a permanent constitution. He then asked for the government's resignation to allow him to appoint a cabinet whose members were drawn from the Constituent Assembly. Nimeiri excluded individuals who had opposed the southern settlement or who had been identified with the SSU's pro-Egyptian faction.

In May 1973, the Constitutent Assembly promulgated a draft constitution. This document provided for a continuation of presidential government, recognized the SSU as the only authorized political organization, and supported regional autonomy for the south. The constitution also stipulated that voters were to choose members for the 250-seat People's Assembly from an SSU-approved slate. Although it cited Islam as Sudan's official religion, the constitution admitted Christianity as the faith of a large number of Sudanese citizens . In May 1974, voters selected 125 members for the assembly; SSU-affiliated occupational and professional groups named 100; and the president appointed the remaining 25.

Discontent with Nimeiri's policies and the increased military role in government escalated as a result of food shortages and the southern settlement, which many Muslim conservatives regarded as surrender. In 1973 and 1974 there were unsuccessful coup attempts against Nimeiri. Muslims and leftist students also staged strikes against the government. In September 1974, Nimeiri responded to this unrest by declaring a state of emergency, purging the SSU, and arresting large numbers of dissidents. Nimeiri also replaced some cabinet members with military personnel loyal to him.

Conservative opposition to Nimeiri coalesced in the National Front, formed in 1974. The National Front included people from Sadiq's wing of Umma; the NUP; and the Islamic Charter Front, then the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic activist movement. Their activity crystallized in a July 1976 Ansar-inspired coup attempt. Government soldiers quickly restored order by killing more than 700 rebels in Khartoum and arresting scores of dissidents, including many prominent religious leaders. Despite this unrest, in 1977 Sudanese voters reelected Nimeiri for a second six-year term as president

National Reconciliation

Following the 1976 coup attempt, Nimeiri and his opponents adopted more conciliatory policies. In early 1977, government officials met with the National Front in London, and arranged for a conference between Nimeiri and Sadiq al Mahdi in Port Sudan. In what became known as the "national reconciliation," the two leaders signed an eight-point agreement that readmitted the opposition to national life in return for the dissolution of the National Front. The agreement also restored civil liberties, freed political prisoners, reaffirmed Sudan's nonaligned foreign policy, and promised to reform local government. As a result of the reconciliation, the government released about 1,000 detainees and granted an amnesty to Sadiq al Mahdi. The SSU also admitted former supporters of the National Front to its ranks. Sadiq renounced multiparty politics and urged his followers to work within the regime's one-party system.

The first test of national reconciliation occurred during the February 1978 People's Assembly elections. Nimeiri authorized returning exiles who had been associated with the old Umma Party, the DUP, and the Muslim Brotherhood to stand for election as independent candidates. These independents won 140 of 304 seats, leading many observers to applaud Nimeiri's efforts to democratize Sudan's political system. However, the People's Assembly elections marked the beginning of further political decline. The SSU's failure to sponsor official candidates weakened party discipline and prompted many assembly deputies who also were SSU members to claim that the party had betrayed them. As a result, an increasing number of assembly deputies used their offices to advance personal rather than national interests.

The end of the SSU's political monopoly, coupled with rampant corruption at all levels of government, cast increasing doubt on Nimeiri's ability to govern Sudan. To preserve his regime, Nimeiri adopted a more dictatorial leadership style. He ordered the State Security Organisation to imprison without trial thousands of opponents and dissidents . Nimeiri also dismissed or transferred any minister or senior military officer who appeared to be developing his own power base. Nimeiri selected replacements based on their loyalty to him rather than on their abilities. This strategy caused the president to lose touch with popular feeling and the country's deteriorated political situation.

On June 5, 1983, Nimeiri sought to counter the south's growing political power by redividing the Southern Region into the three old provinces of Bahr al Ghazal, Al Istiwai, and Aali an Nil; he had suspended the Southern Regional Assembly almost two years earlier. The southern-based Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its military wing, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which emerged in mid-1983, unsuccessfully opposed this redivision and called for the creation of a new united Sudan.

Within a few months, in September 1983 Nimeiri proclaimed the sharia as the basis of the Sudanese legal system. Nimeiri's decrees, which became known as the September Laws, were bitterly resented both by secularized Muslims and by the predominantly non-Muslim southerners. The SPLM denounced the sharia and the executions and amputations ordered by religious courts. Meanwhile, the security situation in the south had deteriorated so much that by the end of 1983 it amounted to a resumption of the civil war.

In early 1985, antigovernment discontent resulted in a general strike in Khartoum. Demonstrators opposed rising food, gasoline, and transport costs. The general strike paralyzed the country. Nimeiri, who was on a visit to the United States, was unable to suppress the rapidly growing demonstrations against his regime.


The combination of the south's redivision, the introduction throughout the country of the sharia, the renewed civil war, and growing economic problems eventually contributed to Nimeiri's downfall. On April 6, 1985, a group of military officers, led by Lieutenant General Abd ar Rahman Siwar adh Dhahab, overthrew Nimeiri, who took refuge in Egypt. Three days later, Dhahab authorized the creation of a fifteen-man Transitional Military Council (TMC) to rule Sudan. During its first few weeks in power, the TMC suspended the constitution; dissolved the SSU, the secret police, and the parliament and regional assemblies; dismissed regional governors and their ministers; and released hundreds of political detainees from Kober Prison. Dhahab also promised to negotiate an end to the southern civil war and to relinquish power to a civilian government in twelve months. The general populace welcomed and supported the new regime. Despite the TMC's energetic beginning, it soon became evident that Dhahab lacked the skills to resolve Sudan's economic problems, restore peace to the south, and establish national unity.

By the time Dhahab seized power, Sudan's economy was in shambles. The country's international debt was approximately US$9 billion. Agricultural and industrial projects funded by the International Monetary Fund  and the World Bank remained in the planning stages. Most factories operated at less than 50 percent of capacity, while agricultural output had dropped by 50 percent since 1960. Moreover, famine threatened vast areas of southern and western Sudan.

The TMC lacked a realistic strategy to resolve these problems. The Dhahab government refused to accept IMF economic austerity measures. As a result, the IMF, which influenced nearly all bilateral and multilateral donors, in February 1986, declared Sudan bankrupt. Efforts to attract a US$6 billion twenty-five- year investment from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development failed when Sudan mismanaged an initial US$2.3 billion investment. A rapid expansion of the money supply and the TMC's inability to control prices caused a soaring inflation rate. Although he appealed to forty donor and relief agencies for emergency food shipments, Dhahab was unable to prevent famine from claiming an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 lives. He also failed to end hostilities in the south, which constituted the major drain on Sudan's limited resources.

Shortly after taking power, Dhahab adopted a conciliatory approach toward the south. Among other things, he declared a unilateral cease-fire, called for direct talks with the SPLM, and offered an amnesty to rebel fighters. The TMC recognized the need for special development efforts in the south and proposed a national conference to review the southern problem. However, Dhahab's refusal to repeal the sharia negated these overtures and convinced SPLM leader Garang that the Sudanese government still wanted to subjugate the south.

Despite this gulf, both sides continued to work for a peaceful resolution of the southern problem. In March 1986, the Sudanese government and the SPLM produced the Koka Dam Declaration, which called for a Sudan "free from racism, tribalism, sectarianism and all causes of discrimination and disparity." The declaration also demanded the repeal of the sharia and the opening of a constitutional conference. All major political parties and organizations, with the exception of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the National Islamic Front (NIF), supported the Koka Dam Declaration. To avoid a confrontation with the DUP and the NIF, Dhahab decided to leave the sharia question to the new civilian government. Meanwhile, the SPLA kept up the military pressure on the Sudanese government, especially in Aali an Nil, Bahr al Ghazal, and Al Istiwai provinces.

The TMC's greatest failure concerned its inability to form a national political consensus. In late April 1985, negotiations between the TMC and the Alliance of Professional and Trade Unions resulted in the establishment of a civilian cabinet under the direction of Dr. Gazuli Dafalla. The cabinet, which was subordinate to the TMC, devoted itself to conducting the government's daily business and to preparing for the election. Although it contained three southerners who belonged to the newly formed Southern Sudanese Political Association, the cabinet failed to win the loyalty of most southerners, who believed the TMC only reflected the policies of the deposed Nimeiri. As a result, Sudan remained a divided nation.

The other factor that prevented the emergence of a national political consensus concerned party factionalism. After sixteen years of one-party rule, most Sudanese favored the revival of the multiparty system. In the aftermath of Nimeiri's overthrow, approximately forty political parties registered with the TMC and announced their intention to participate in national politics. The political parties ranged from those committed to revolutionary socialism to those that supported Islamism. Of these latter, the NIF had succeeded the Islamic Charter Front as the main vehicle for the Muslim Brotherhood's political aspirations. However, policy disagreements over the sharia, the southern civil war, and the country's future direction contributed to the confusion that characterized Sudan's national politics.

In this troubled atmosphere, Dhahab sanctioned the promised April 1986 general election, which the authorities spread over a twelve-day period and postponed in thirty-seven southern constituencies because of the civil war. The Umma Party, headed by Sadiq al Mahdi, won ninety-nine seats. The DUP, which was led after the April 1985 uprising by Khatmiyyah leader Muhammad Uthman al Mirghani, gained sixty-four seats. Dr. Hassan Abd Allah at Turabi's NIF obtained fifty-one seats. Regional political parties from the south, the Nuba Mountains, and the Red Sea Hills won lesser numbers of seats. The Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) and other radical parties failed to score any significant victories


In June 1986, Sadiq al Mahdi formed a coalition government with the Umma, the DUP, the NIF, and four southern parties. Unfortunately, however, Sadiq proved to be a weak leader and incapable of governing Sudan. Party factionalism, corruption, personal rivalries, scandals, and political instability characterized the Sadiq regime. After less than a year in office, Sadiq al Mahdi dismissed the government because it had failed to draft a new penal code to replace the sharia, reach an agreement with the IMF, end the civil war in the south, or devise a scheme to attract remittances from Sudanese expatriates. To retain the support of the DUP and the southern political parties, Sadiq formed another ineffective coalition government.

Instead of removing the ministers who had been associated with the failures of the first coalition government, Sadiq al Mahdi retained thirteen of them, of whom eleven kept their previous portfolios. As a result, many Sudanese rejected the second coalition government as being a replica of the first. To make matters worse, Sadiq and DUP leader Mirghani signed an inadequate memorandum of understanding that fixed the new government's priorities as affirming the application of the sharia to Muslims, consolidating the Islamic banking system, and changing the national flag and national emblem. Furthermore, the memorandum directed the government to remove Nimeiri's name from all institutions and dismiss all officials appointed by Nimeiri to serve in international and regional organizations. As expected, antigovernment elements criticized the memorandum for not mentioning the civil war, famine, or the country's disintegrating social and economic conditions.

In August 1987, the DUP brought down the government because Sadiq al Mahdi opposed the appointment of a DUP member, Ahmad as Sayid, to the Supreme Commission. For the next nine months, Sadiq and Mirghani failed to agree on the composition of another coalition government. During this period, Sadiq moved closer to the NIF. However, the NIF refused to join a coalition government that included leftist elements. Moreover, Turabi indicated that the formation of a coalition government would depend on numerous factors, the most important of which were the resignation or dismissal of those serving in senior positions in the central and regional governments, the lifting of the state of emergency reimposed in July 1987, and the continuation of the Constituent Assembly.

Because of the endless debate over these issues, it was not until May 15, 1988, that a new coalition government emerged headed by Sadiq al Mahdi. Members of this coalition included the Umma, the DUP, the NIF, and some southern parties. As in the past, however, the coalition quickly disintegrated because of political bickering among its members. Major disagreements included the NIF's demand that it be given the post of commissioner of Khartoum, the inability to establish criteria for the selection of regional governors, and the NIF's opposition to the replacement of senior military officers and the chief of staff of the executive branch.

In November 1988, another more explosive political issue emerged when Mirghani and the SPLM signed an agreement in Addis Ababa that included provisions for a cease-fire, the freezing of the sharia, the lifting of the state of emergency, and the abolition of all foreign political and military pacts. The two sides also proposed to convene a constitutional conference to decide Sudan's political future. The NIF opposed this agreement because of its stand on the sharia. When the government refused to support the agreement, the DUP withdrew from the coalition. Shortly thereafter armed forces commander in chief Lieutenant General Fathi Ahmad Ali presented an ultimatum, signed by 150 senior military officers, to Sadiq al Mahdi demanding that he make the coalition government more representative and that he announce terms for ending the civil war.

On March 11, 1989, Sadiq al Mahdi responded to this pressure by dissolving the government. The new coalition had included the Umma, the DUP, and representatives of southern parties and the trade unions. The NIF refused to join the coalition because it was not committed to enforcing the sharia. Sadiq claimed his new government was committed to ending the southern civil war by implementing the November 1988 DUP-SPLM agreement. He also promised to mobilize government resources to bring food relief to famine areas, reduce the government's international debt, and build a national political consensus. Sadiq's inability to live up to these promises eventually caused his downfall. On June 30, 1989, Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Umar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir overthrew Sadiq and established the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation to rule Sudan. Bashir's commitment to imposing the sharia on the non-Muslim south and to seeking a military victory over the SPLA, however, seemed likely to keep the country divided for the foreseeable future and hamper resolution of the same problems faced by Sadiq al Mahdi. Moreover, the emergence of the NIF as a political force made compromise with the south more unlikely.


Interested readers may consult several books for a better understanding of Sudan's history. Useful surveys include P.M. Holt's and M.W. Daly's, A History of the Sudan; Peter Woodward's, Sudan, 1898-1989; and Kenneth Henderson's Sudan Republic. Richard Hill's Egypt in the Sudan, 1820-1881 assesses Egypt's nineteenth century conquest and occupation of Sudan. For an excellent analysis of the British period, see M.W. Daly's Empire on the Nile and Imperial Sudan. The postindependence period is discussed in Mansour Khalid's The Government They Deserve; and Gabriel Warburg's Islam, Nationalism, and Communism in a Traditional Society. Apart from these books, the Sudan Notes and Records journal is essential for studying Sudan's historical development.

Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the literature about southern Sudan. Many of Robert Collins's studies are particularly useful, including Land Beyond the Rivers; Shadows in the Grass; and The Waters of the Nile. Two sympathetic assessments of southern Sudan's relationship to Khartoum are Dunstan M. Wai's, The African-Arab Conflict in the Sudan and Abel Alier's, Southern Sudan. For an Arab viewpoint, Mohamed Omer Beshir's The Southern Sudan: Background to Conflict and The Southern Sudan: From Conflict to Peace are pertinent.


Chapter 2. The Society and its Environment

THE FIRST AND OVERWHELMING impression of Sudan is its physical vastness and ethnic diversity, elements that have shaped its regional history from time immemorial. The country encompasses virtually every geographical feature, from the harsh deserts of the north to the rain forests rising on its southern borders. Like most African countries, Sudan is defined by boundaries that European powers determined at the end of the nineteenth century. The British colonial administration in Sudan, established in 1899, emphasized indirect rule by tribal shaykhs and chiefs, although tribalism had been considerably weakened as an administrative institution during the Mahdist period (1884- 98). This loosening of loyalties exacerbated problems in governmental structure and administration and in the peoples' identification as Sudanese. To this day, loyalty remains divided among family, clan, ethnic group, and religion, and it is difficult to forge a nation because the immensity of the land permits many of Sudan's ethnic and tribal groups to live relatively undisturbed by the central government.

The Nile is the link that runs through Sudan, and influences the lives of Sudan's people, even though many of them farm and herd far from the Nile or its two main tributaries, the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Not only do nomads come to the river to water their herds and cultivators to drain off its waters for their fields, but the Nile facilitates trade, administration, and urbanization. Consequently, the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile became the administrative center of a vast hinterland because the area commanded the river, its commerce, and its urban society. This location enabled the urban elites to control the scattered and often isolated population of the interior while enjoying access to the peoples of the outside world.

Although linked by dependence on the Nile, Sudan's population is divided by ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences. Many Sudanese in the north claim Arab descent and speak Arabic, but Sudanese Arabs are highly differentiated. Over many generations, they have intermingled in varying degrees with the indigenous peoples. Arabic is Sudan's official language (with Arabic and English the predominant languages in the south), but beyond Khartoum and its two neighboring cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North a variety of languages is spoken. A more unifying factor is Islam, which has spread widely among the peoples of northern Sudan. But, once again, the Sunni  Muslims of northern Sudan form no monolithic bloc. Some, especially in the urban centers, are strictly orthodox Muslims, while others, mostly in the rural areas, are attracted more to Sufism, an Islamic mystical tendency, in their search for Allah. Within this branch and tendency of Islam are a host of religious sects with their own Islamic rituals and syncretistic adaptations.

The Sudanese of the south are of African origin. Islam has made only modest inroads among these followers of traditional religions and of Christianity, which was spread in the twentieth century by European missionaries, and Arabic has not replaced the diverse languages of the south. The differences between north and south have usually engendered hostility, a clash of cultures that in the last 150 years has led to seemingly endless violence. The strong regional and cultural differences have inhibited nation building and have caused the civil war in the south that has raged since independence, except for a period of peace between 1972 and 1983. The distrust between Sudanese of the north and those of the south--whether elite or peasants--has deepened with the long years of hostilities. And the cost of war has drained valuable national resources at the expense of health, education, and welfare in both regions.

Geographical Regions

Northern Sudan, lying between the Egyptian border and Khartoum, has two distinct parts, the desert and the Nile Valley. To the east of the Nile lies the Nubian Desert; to the west, the Libyan Desert. They are similar--stony, with sandy dunes drifting over the landscape. There is virtually no rainfall in these deserts, and in the Nubian Desert there are no oases. In the west there are a few small watering holes, such as Bir an Natrun, where the water table reaches the surface to form wells that provide water for nomads, caravans, and administrative patrols, although insufficient to support an oasis and inadequate to provide for a settled population. Flowing through the desert is the Nile Valley, whose alluvial strip of habitable land is no more than two kilometers wide and whose productivity depends on the annual flood.

Western Sudan is a generic term describing the regions known as Darfur and Kurdufan that comprise 850,000 square kilometers. Traditionally, this has been regarded as a single regional unit despite the physical differences. The dominant feature throughout this immense area is the absence of perennial streams; thus, people and animals must remain within reach of permanent wells. Consequently, the population is sparse and unevenly distributed. Western Darfur is an undulating plain dominated by the volcanic massif of Jabal Marrah towering 900 meters above the Sudanic plain; the drainage from Jabal Marrah onto the plain can support a settled population. Western Darfur stands in stark contrast to northern and eastern Darfur, which are semidesert with little water either from the intermittent streams known as wadis or from wells that normally go dry during the winter months. Northwest of Darfur and continuing into Chad lies the unusual region called the jizzu , where sporadic winter rains generated from the Mediterranean frequently provide excellent grazing into January or even February. The southern region of western Sudan is known as the qoz , a land of sand dunes that in the rainy season is characterized by a rolling mantle of grass and has more reliable sources of water with its bore holes and hafri (sing., hafr) than does the north. A unique feature of western Sudan is the Nuba Mountain range of southeast Kurdufan in the center of the country, a conglomerate of isolated dome-shaped, sugarloaf hills that ascend steeply and abruptly from the great Sudanic plain. Many hills are isolated and extend only a few square kilometers, but there are several large hill masses with internal valleys that cut through the mountains high above the plain.

Sudan's third distinct region is the central clay plains that stretch eastward from the Nuba Mountains to the Ethiopian frontier, broken only by the Ingessana Hills, and from Khartoum in the north to the far reaches of southern Sudan. Between the Dindar and the Rahad rivers, a low ridge slopes down from the Ethiopian highlands to break the endless skyline of the plains, and the occasional hill stands out in stark relief. The central clay plains provide the backbone of Sudan's economy because they are productive where settlements cluster around available water. Furthermore, in the heartland of the central clay plains lies the Jazirah , the land between the Blue Nile and the White Nile (literally in Arabic "peninsula") where the great Gezira Scheme (also seen as Jazirah Scheme) was developed. This project grows cotton for export and has traditionally produced more than half of Sudan's revenue and export earnings.

Northeast of the central clay plains lies eastern Sudan, which is divided between desert and semidesert and includes Al Butanah, the Qash Delta, the Red Sea Hills, and the coastal plain. Al Butanah is an undulating land between Khartoum and Kassala that provides good grazing for cattle, sheep, and goats. East of Al Butanah is a peculiar geological formation known as the Qash Delta. Originally a depression, it has been filled with sand and silt brought down by the flash floods of the Qash River, creating a delta above the surrounding plain. Extending 100 kilometers north of Kassala, the whole area watered by the Qash is a rich grassland with bountiful cultivation long after the river has spent its waters on the surface of its delta. Trees and bushes provide grazing for the camels from the north, and the rich moist soil provides an abundance of food crops and cotton.

Northward beyond the Qash lie the more formidable Red Sea Hills. Dry, bleak, and cooler than the surrounding land, particularly in the heat of the Sudan summer, they stretch northward into Egypt, a jumbled mass of hills where life is hard and unpredictable for the hardy Beja inhabitants. Below the hills sprawls the coastal plain of the Red Sea, varying in width from about fifty-six kilometers in the south near Tawkar to about twenty-four kilometers near the Egyptian frontier. The coastal plain is dry and barren. It consists of rocks, and the seaward side is thick with coral reefs.

The southern clay plains, which can be regarded as an extension of the northern clay plains, extend all the way from northern Sudan to the mountains on the Sudan-Uganda frontier, and in the west from the borders of Central African Republic eastward to the Ethiopian highlands. This great Nilotic plain is broken by several distinctive features. First, the White Nile bisects the plain and provides large permanent water surfaces such as lakes Fajarial, No, and Shambe. Second, As Sudd, the world's largest swamp, provides a formidable expanse of lakes, lagoons, and aquatic plants, whose area in high flood waters exceeds 30,000 square kilometers, or approximately the size of Belgium. So intractable was this Sudd as an obstacle to navigation that a passage was not discovered until the midnineteenth century. Then as now, As Sudd with its extreme rate of evaporation consumes on average more than half the waters that come down the White Nile from the equatorial lakes. These waters also create a flood plain known as the toic that provides grazing when the flood waters retreat to the permanent swamp and sluggish river, the Bahr al Jabal, as the White Nile is called here.

The land rising to the south and west of the southern clay plain is referred to as the Ironstone Plateau (Jabal Hadid), a name derived from its laterite soils and increasing elevation. The plateau rises from the west bank of the Nile, sloping gradually upward to the Congo-Nile watershed. The land is well watered, providing rich cultivation, but the streams and rivers that come down from the watershed divide and erode the land before flowing on to the Nilotic plain flow into in As Sudd. Along the streams of the watershed are the gallery forests, the beginnings of the tropical rain forests that extend far into Zaire. To the east of the Jabal Hadid and the Bahr al Jabal rise the foothills of the mountain ranges along the Sudan-Uganda border--the Imatong, Didinga, and Dongotona--which rise to more than 3,000 meters. These mountains form a stark contrast to the great plains to the north that dominate Sudan's geography.


The country's soils can be divided geographically into three categories. These are the sandy soils of the northern and west central areas, the clay soils of the central region, and the laterite soils of the south. Less extensive and widely separated, but of major economic importance, is a fourth group consisting of alluvial soils found along the lower reaches of the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers, along the main Nile to Lake Nubia, in the delta of the Qash River in the Kassala area, and in the Baraka Delta in the area of Tawkar near the Red Sea in Ash Sharqi State.

Agriculturally, the most important soils are the clays in central Sudan that extend from west of Kassala through Al Awsat and southern Kurdufan. Known as cracking soils because of the practice of allowing them to dry out and crack during the dry months to restore their permeability, they are used in the areas of Al Jazirah and Khashm al Qirbah for irrigated cultivation. East of the Blue Nile, large areas are used for mechanized rainfed crops. West of the White Nile, these soils are used by traditional cultivators to grow sorghum, sesame, peanuts, and (in the area around the Nuba Mountains) cotton. The southern part of the clay soil zone lies in the broad floodplain of the upper reaches of the White Nile and its tributaries, covering most of Aali an Nil and upper Bahr al Ghazal states. Subject to heavy rainfall during the rainy season, the floodplain proper is inundated for four to six months--a large swampy area, As Sudd, is permanently flooded--and adjacent areas are flooded for one or two months. In general this area is poorly suited to crop production, but the grasses it supports during dry periods are used for grazing.

The sandy soils in the semiarid areas south of the desert in northern Kurdufan and northern Darfur states support vegetation used for grazing. In the southern part of these states and the western part of southern Darfur are the so-called qoz sands. Livestock raising is this area's major activity, but a significant amount of crop cultivation, mainly of millet, also occurs. Peanuts and sesame are grown as cash crops. The qoz sands are the principal area from which gum arabic is obtained through tapping of Acacia senegal (known locally as hashab). This tree grows readily in the region, and cultivators occasionally plant hashab trees when land is returned to fallow.

The laterite soils of the south cover most of western Al Istiwai and Bahr al Ghazal states. They underlie the extensive moist woodlands found in these provinces. Crop production is scattered, and the soils, where cultivated, lose fertility relatively quickly; even the richer soils are usually returned to bush fallow within five years.


Except for a small area in northeastern Sudan where wadis discharge the sporadic runoff into the Red Sea or rivers from Ethiopia flow into shallow, evaporating ponds west of the Red Sea Hills, the entire country is drained by the Nile and its two main tributaries, the Blue Nile (Al Bahr al Azraq) and the White Nile (Al Bahr al Abyad). The longest river in the world, the Nile flows for 6,737 kilometers from its farthest headwaters in central Africa to the Mediterranean. The importance of the Nile has been recognized since biblical times; for centuries the river has been a lifeline for Sudan.

The Blue Nile flows out of the Ethiopian highlands to meet the White Nile at Khartoum. The Blue Nile is the smaller of the two; its flow usually accounts for only one-sixth of the total. In August, however, the rains in the Ethiopian highlands swell the Blue Nile until it accounts for 90 percent of the Nile's total flow. Several dams have been constructed to regulate the river's flow--the Roseires Dam (Ar Rusayris), about 100 kilometers from the Ethiopian border; the Meina al Mak Dam at Sinjah; and the largest, the forty-meter-high Sennar Dam constructed in 1925 at Sannar. The Blue Nile's two main tributaries, the Dindar and the Rahad, have headwaters in the Ethiopian highlands and discharge water into the Blue Nile only during the summer high-water season. For the remainder of the year, their flow is reduced to pools in their sandy riverbeds.

The White Nile flows north from central Africa, draining Lake Victoria and the highland regions of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. At Bor, the great swamp of the Nile, As Sudd begins. The river has no well-defined channel here; the water flows slowly through a labyrinth of small spillways and lakes choked with papyrus and reeds. Much water is lost to evaporation. To provide for water transportation through this region and to speed the river's flow so that less water evaporates, Sudan, with French help, began building the Jonglei Canal (also seen as Junqali Canal) from Bor to a point just upstream from Malakal. However, construction was suspended in 1984 because of security problems caused by the civil war in the south.

South of Khartoum, the British built the Jabal al Auliya Dam in 1937 to store the water of the White Nile and then release it in the fall when the flow from the Blue Nile slackens. Much water from the reservoir has been diverted for irrigation projects in central Sudan, however, or it merely evaporates, so the overall flow released downstream is not great.

The White Nile has several substantial tributaries that drain southern Sudan. In the southwest, the Bahr al Ghazal drains a basin larger in area than France. Although the drainage area is extensive, evaporation takes most of the water from the slowmoving streams in this region, and the discharge of the Bahr al Ghazal into the White Nile is minimal. In southeast Sudan, the Sobat River drains an area of western Ethiopia and the hills near the Sudan-Uganda border. The Sobat's discharge is considerable; at its confluence with the White Nile just south of Malakal, the Sobat accounts for half the White Nile's water.

Above Khartoum, the Nile flows through desert in a large Sshaped pattern to empty into Lake Nasser behind the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. The river flows slowly above Khartoum, dropping little in elevation although five cataracts hinder river transport at times of low water. The Atbarah River, flowing out of Ethiopia, is the only tributary north of Khartoum, and its waters reach the Nile for only the six months between July and December. During the rest of the year, the Atbarah's bed is dry, except for a few pools and ponds.


Although Sudan lies within the tropics, the climate ranges from arid in the north to tropical wet-and-dry in the far southwest. Temperatures do not vary greatly with the season at any location; the most significant climatic variables are rainfall and the length of the dry season. Variations in the length of the dry season depend on which of two air flows predominates, dry northeasterly winds from the Arabian Peninsula or moist southwesterly winds from the Congo River basin.

From January to March, the country is under the influence of the dry northeasterlies. There is practically no rainfall countrywide except for a small area in northwestern Sudan in where the winds have passed over the Mediterranean bringing occasional light rains. By early April, the moist southwesterlies have reached southern Sudan, bringing heavy rains and thunderstorms. By July the moist air has reached Khartoum, and in August it extends to its usual northern limits around Abu Hamad, although in some years the humid air may even reach the Egyptian border. The flow becomes weaker as it spreads north. In September the dry northeasterlies begin to strengthen and to push south and by the end of December they cover the entire country. Yambio, close to the border with Zaire, has a nine-month rainy season (April-December) and receives an average of 1,142 millimeters of rain each year; Khartoum has a three-month rainy season (JulySeptember ) with an annual average rainfall of 161 millimeters; Atbarah receives showers in August that produce an annual average of only 74 millimeters.

In some years, the arrival of the southwesterlies and their rain in central Sudan can be delayed, or they may not come at all. If that happens, drought and famine follow. The decades of the 1970s and 1980s saw the southwesterlies frequently fail, with disastrous results for the Sudanese people and economy.

Temperatures are highest at the end of the dry season when cloudless skies and dry air allow them to soar. The far south, however, with only a short dry season, has uniformly high temperatures throughout the year. In Khartoum, the warmest months are May and June, when average highs are 41° C and temperatures can reach 48° C. Northern Sudan, with its short rainy season, has hot daytime temperatures year round, except for winter months in the northwest where there is precipitation from the Mediterranean in January and February. Conditions in highland areas are generally cooler, and the hot daytime temperatures during the dry season throughout central and northern Sudan fall rapidly after sunset. Lows in Khartoum average 15° C in January and have dropped as low as 6° C after the passing of a cool front in winter.

The haboob, a violent dust storm, can occur in central Sudan when the moist southwesterly flow first arrives (May through July). The moist, unstable air forms thunderstorms in the heat of the afternoon. The initial downflow of air from an approaching storm produces a huge yellow wall of sand and clay that can temporarily reduce visibility to zero.





Glossary -- Sudan

fiscal year (FY) An annual period established for accounting purposes. The Sudanese fiscal year extends from July 1 to the following June 30.

GDP--(gross domestic product) A value measure of the flow of domestic goods and services produced by an economy over a period of time, such as a year. Only output values of goods for final consumption and intermediate production are assumed to be included in the final prices. GDP is sometimes aggregated and shown at market prices, meaning that indirect taxes and subsidies are included; when these indirect taxes and subsidies have been eliminated, the result is GDP at factor cost. The word gross indicates that deductions for depreciation of physical assets have not been made. Income arising from investments and possessions owned abroad is not included, only domestic production. Hence, the use of the word domestic to distinguish GDP from gross national product (q.v.).

GNP--gross national product The gross domestic product (q.v.) plus net income or loss stemming from transactions with foreign countries including income received from abroad by residents and subtracting payments remitted abroad to nonresidents. GNP is the broadest measurement of the output of goods and services by an economy. It can be calculated at market prices, which include indirect taxes and subsidies. Because indirect taxes and subsidies are only transfer payments, GNP is often calculated at factor cost by removing indirect taxes and subsidies.

hadith Tradition based on the precedent of Prophet Muhammad's words and deeds that serves as one of the sources of Islamic law.

hafr (pl., hafri) An excavated water reservoir fed by rainfall.

imam A word used in several senses. In general use and lower- cased, it means the leader of congregational prayers; as such it implies no ordination or special spiritual powers beyond sufficient education to carry out this function. It is also used figuratively by many Sunni (q.v.) Muslims to mean the leader of the Islamic community. Among Shia (q.v.) Muslims, the word takes on many complex and controversial meanings; in general, however, it indicates that particular descendant of the House of Ali who is believed to have been God's designated repository of the spiritual authority inherent in that line. The identity of this individual and the means of ascertaining his identity have been the major issues causing divisions among Shia.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Established along with the World Bank (q.v.) in 1945, the IMF is a specialized agency affiliated with the United Nations and is responsible for stabilizing international exchange rates and payments. The main business of the IMF is the provision of loans to its members (including industrialized and developing countries) when they experience balance of payments difficulties. These loans frequently carry conditions that require substantial internal economic adjustments by the recipients, most of which are developing countries.

jazirah Peninsula or island; with upper case, term refers to the cultivated lands south of Khartoum between the Blue Nile and the White Nile.

jizzu Located in the area of latitude 16o in northwest Darfur and in Chad; region beyond the semidesert where the late rains produce a combination of grass and herbaceous plants in winter such that camels and sheep can graze without additional water supply.

khalwa Small Islamic rural school that stressed memorization of the Quran and provided some instruction in the reading and writing of Arabic.

naziriyah Formerly, among nomadic and seminomadic Arab groups, an administrative and local court under a nazir, comprising several umudiyat (q.v.). A naziriyah included either an entire tribe or a section of a large tribe.

qoz General term used for sand dunes.

Sahel A narrow band of land bordering the southern Sahara, stretching across Africa. It is characterized by an average annual rainfall of between 150 and 500 millimeters and is mainly suited to pastoralism.

sharia Traditional code of Islamic law, both civil and criminal, based in part on the Quran (q.v.). Also drawn from the hadith (q.v.); the consensus of Islamic belief (ijma; i.e., consensus of the authorities on a legal question); and analogy (qiyas; i.e., an elaboration of the intent of law).

shaykh Leader or chief. Word of Arabic origin used to mean either a political or a learned religious leader. Also used as an honorific.

Shia(s) (or Shüte, from Shiat Ali, the Party of Ali) A member of the smaller of the two great divisions of Islam. The Shia supported the claims of Ali and his line to presumptive right to the caliphate and leadership of the Muslim community, and on this issue they divided from he Sunni (q.v.) in the first great schism within Islam. Later schisms have produced further divisions among the Shia over the identity and number of Imams (q.v.). Shia revere Twelve Imams, the last of whom is believed to be in hiding.

sudd Barrier or obstruction; with lower case the term designates clumps of aquatic vegetation that block the Nile channel; with upper case, the term is used loosely for the entire White Nile swamps.

Sunni From sunna meaning "custom," giving connotation of orthodoxy in theory and practice. A member of the larger of the two great divisions of Islam. The Sunnis supported the traditional method of election to the caliphate and accepted the Umayyad line. On this issue they divided from the Shia (q.v.) in the first great schism within Islam.

Three Towns Sudanese reference to the cities of Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman. Located in close proximity to the juncture of the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers, they form a single metropolitan area.

transhumant Transhumance is the seasonal movement of livestock along well-established routes by herders or by an ethnic group as a whole.

umudiyah (pl., umudiyat) Formerly a political division under an umda, encompassing a number of villages in the case of sedentary peoples or a section of a tribe in the case of nomadic peoples. Among nomadic or



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