The British-Egyptian condominium in sudan
After the death of al Mahdi his successors tried to extend the area under the control of his movement, the Ansar. This involved an invasion of Ethiopia by an Ansar force of sixty thousand troops. This force penetrated deep into the Ethiopian empire and a counter attack led by the Ethiopian emperor failed to dislodge the Ansar. Since the Ethiopian emperor was killed in the attack, the Ethiopian force withdrew leaving the Ansar occupying Ethiopian territory. After the success in Ethiopia the Ansar leaders decided to invade Egypt in 1889. There they were met by an Egyptian army under British leadership. This resulted in a defeat of the Ansar.
The Ansar’s spread was stopped by the Belgians in southern Sudan and by the Italians in Eritrea. The setback imposed by the Italians led to the Ansar retreating from Ethiopia. The end of Ansar control had begun.
Herbert Kitchener was made commander of the Egyptian army in 1892. France and Belgium were considering military action against the Ansar. This would not only eliminate a serious threat to them but also allow them territorial expansion into Sudan. Since Britain wanted to control Sudan through its control in Egypt, it ordered in 1895 an invasion to reconquer Sudan. The invasion force included about nine thousand British troops and seventeen thousand Egyptian and Sudanese troops.
The actual invasion commenced in 1896 and Kitchener’s forces quickly gained control of northern Sudan and defeated the Ansar forces in a battle at Atbarah. The Ansar forces retreated to the region near Khartoum. The Anglo-Egyptian forces occupied a city name Omdurman, just north of Khartoum. There the military situation stabilized until 1898 when the Ansar moved 52 thousand troops to Omdurman to attack the Anglo-Egyptian force.
The Ansar force was numerically larger than the Anglo-Egyptian force but the Anglo-Egyptian force was better trained and better armed. The Anglo-Egyptian force of about 29 thousand was fighting in a defensive position and the rule of thumb is that it takes an offensive force three times the defensive force to overwhelm the defense. Thus the Ansar force had little chance of success. In fact, the battle was a colossal disaster for the attacking Ansar; it lost eleven thousand troops in a five hour battle while killing only 48 of the defenders.
The leader of the Ansar survived the battle at Omdurman but was killed in another battle in 1899. Thus ended the regime of the Ansar. The population of Sudan had endured famine and warfare for two decades. Sudan was restored to Egypt, but with an agreement that it would be ruled jointly by Britain and Egypt. It was even called the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan..
Under the Condominium the British administrators tried to normalize conditions in Sudan and provide effective government. This entailed arranging for tax assessment and collection. Codes of law were formulated and a judicial system set up to enforce those laws.
At first the top administrators were British officers serving with the Egyptian army. Later British civilian administrators were brought in to fill those top posts. The middle level administrative posts were filled by Egyptians and the lower level posts by Arabic Sudanese.
There were some notable successes of the British rule during the period of the Condominium. Rail lines were built connecting the major cities along the Nile in northern Sudan. Telegraph lines were created along the rail lines at the same time. A new port, called Port Sudan, was created on the Red Sea coast of Sudan which became the major port. The growing of long staple cotton had been a success in Egypt and the Gezira Scheme was created in 1911 to grow such cotton in the region south of the confluence of the White and Blue Nile Rivers. The word gezira meanspeninsula in Arabic and this area being bounded by the two rivers seemed like a peninsula. Long staple cotton became the major source of export earnings for Sudan. In 1925 a major dam was built to provide irrigation for extension of the Gezira Scheme.
During the Condominium Britain devoted relatively little attention to the southern non-Arabic section of Sudan. Darfur was annexed to Sudan during this period. The British did try to isolate the southern area from control by the northern section. Arabs from the north were prohibited from traveling to the south but Christian missionaries were allowed to operate there. Elsewhere in Sudan Britain generally ruled through the local native authorities.
In 1922 Britain relinquished its rule over Egypt but the status of Sudan was left undefined. Egypt claimed Sudan as Egyptian territory, but at that stage Sudanese nationalists began to work toward Sudanese independence. The governor general of Sudan was assassinated in Cairo in 1924 and Britain subsequently withdrew all Egyptian military and civilian administrators from Sudan. A small Sudanese army was created to take the place of the withdrawn Egyptian troops.
Britain had intentions of partitioning Sudan into an Arabic north and a non-Arabic south. Some of the southern natives were trained as administrators but in English rather than Arabic. Ultimately the British program of separating the southern area from control by Khartoum failed. The British were able however to fend off the Egyptian attempts to reassert control over Sudan. Finally in 1952 the leader of the military group which overthrew the monarchy in Egypt accepted the concept of Sudanese independence. In the subsequent elections in Sudan the party that won, the National Unionist Party (NUP), advocated an eventual reunion of Egypt and Sudan. However, by 1956 the sentiment even in the NUP had shifted away from union with Egypt and the Sudanese Parliament declared Sudan fully independent on January 1, 1956.