San José State University
Department of Economics
& Tornado Alley
of the Democratic Republic of Sudan
Sudan with 967.5 thousand square miles of area is the largest country in Africa. The name comes from the name for the band of savannah land in Africa along 12°N ± 4°. The Arabic name for this geographic band was bilad as sudan, which means literally land of blacks. The Republic of Sudan is of course only part of the geographic region of the sudan.
The geography of Sudan is largely plateaus with mountains in the south and to the west (Jabal Marrah) along with mountains along the Red Sea coast (the Red Sea Hills). The economy is dominated by the river valleys of the Nile Rivers, White and Blue, and their tributaries. There is a small range in the central part of the country called the Nuba Mountains. South of the Nuba Mountains there is an immense swamp of vegetation, called the Sudd, at the confluence of two tributaries of the White Nile, the Bahr al Ghazal (river of the gazelles) and the Bahr al Jabal (river of the mountain). This swamp results in the loss by evaporation and transpiration of about one half of the water of the Nile. A canal to bypass the Sudd, called the Jonglei Canal, was started and 240 km of the required 360 km were completed by 1983 but work was stopped in 1983 due to civil strife and has not yet been resumed.
The population of Sudan in July of 2008 was estimated to be 40.2 million with a median age of 19. This is up from 21.6 million in 1983. The population growth rate is about 3 percent per year as a result of a birth rate of 34.3 per 1000 population and a death rate of 13.6 per thousand. There is a small but significant net in-migration. The number of children per woman is 4.6.
In the time of the pharaohs in Egypt, the land which is the northern part of Sudan was known as the Land of Cush, cush being an Egyptian word meaning desolate or wretched. This was the land above the first cataract of the Nile.
As wretched as the land was it still had commodities that the Egyptians desired such as gold, carnelian stone, incense and ivory. And there were slaves which could be purchased from the Cushites. The Egyptian paid for this trade in grain.
This trade continued under the Old Kingdom (2770-2180 BCE) and the Middle Kingdom (2180-1720 BCE) but ended when the Hyksos conquered Egypt. During the period when Egypt was under Hyksos' control and not dominating Cush, a Cushite Kingdom developed. When the Egyptian overthrew the Hyksos they then conquered Cush and annexed it as a province of the New Kingdom (1570-1100 BCE). Cush was assimilated into the Egyptian cultural sphere.
When the Egyptian New Kingdom power waned Cush was able to emerge once again as an independent state about 800 BCE. The New Kingdom's power had waned so much that Cush was able to conquer Upper Egypt around 750 BCE and a decade or so later conquered Lower Egypt once again reuniting Egypt but now under Cushite control. The Cushite dynasty then confronted the Assyrian Empire in what is now Syria. This led to an Assyrian invasion of Egypt that drove the Cushite rulers out of Egypt proper and back into Cush.
After the Cushite rulers were driven out of Egypt around 670 BCE, native Egyptian re-established the Egyptian Kingdom. A generation later this new Egyptian Kingdom invaded and destroyed the Cushite capital and Napata, thus forcing the Cushites to establish a new capital further into the interior of Cush at Meroe. Napata survived as a religious center even after Meroe became the political capital.
Egyptian pressure on Cush disappeared in the following centuries as Egypt became the target of conquerors from its north.
The Cushite Kingdom at Meroe survived, prospered and expanded. It reached as far south as the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile where the city of Khartoum now stands. But this prosperity and expansion made it too the subject of invasions. These invasion came from the north (the Roman army in Egypt), from the east (desert nomads called Blemmeyes), from the west (desert nomads called Nobatae who settled in Meroe), and from the southeast (the Axum Kingdom of Ethiopia). Finally an Axum invasion conquered Meroe and destroyed the Cushite Kingdom. Three separate kingdoms later emerged in the region. These were:
The organized states of Nubia were converted to the Monophysite Christianity of Coptic Egypt by about 600 CE. The church hierarchy was rooted in Alexandria. This link to Alexandria was important because it required frequent communication between the Nubian kingdoms and Alexandria. Arab invaders conquered Egypt in 640 and soon attempted unsuccessfully to conquer the Nubian kingdoms. While Arab control of Egypt would not necessarily limit Nubian contact with Alexandria, Arab military pressure on Nubia did isolate the Nubian Christians from the Alexandrian church hierarchy.
After the unsuccessful attempts by Arabs to invade and conquer Nubia the Arab rulers of Egypt negotiated treaties which allowed trade and travel. Such treaties governed the relationship between Nubia and Egypt for six centuries. The treaties were generally respected by Arab rulers, but when there were new conquerors who came into control of Egypt the treaties lost force. The Nubians made a few military incursions into Egypt to rescue Coptic Christians from persecution by Muslims.
Trouble began to develop for Nubia when the Mamluks (soldier-slaves) came to power in Egypt. When a dispute in Dunqulah as to the proper claimant to the kingship of Muqurra, the Mamluks took the side of one claimant and deposed the other. Dunqulah was brought within the Egyptian Mamluks' sphere of influence.
(To be continued.)
The conversion of north Sudan to Islam took place gradually over the course of many centuries. Arab traders married local women and raised families in Nubia. It was during an era in which the Islamic world represented the most advanced civilization so the culture of the Moslems elicited admiration and respect among non-Moslems.
With a substantial population of Arabs in Nubia and the extensive intermarriage it was not too long before the kingship and clan headships fell to Muslim heirs. After that it was not long in historical terms before Nubia was predominantly Muslim. That was about the 16th century.
The southern part of Nubia where the kingdom Alwa once ruled there emerged in the early 16th century a Muslim kingdom around the city of Sennar. This region was significant because it contained agriculturally productive al Gezira (the peninsula). Gezira was where the White Nile and the Blue Nile come together. A leader, Amara Dunqas created a sultanate and put a confederation of tribes.
In the western province of Darfur (the homeland of the Fur tribe) significant changes were taking place. First it must be noted that there are significant numbers of people of West African descent living in Sudan. Some of are descendants of ancient migrations from such palaces as what is now Nigeria. Others are pilgrims who journeyed to Mecca and on there way home passed through Sudan and, upon meeting others who were of their culture, decided to stay. From five to ten percent of the sudan population are of West African descent. About 60 percent of the Sudanese of West African descent are of Nigerian origin and of these the Hausa tribe is predominant. Others of West African descent are from the Fulani tribe which is dispersed over West Africa. The people of West African descent are dispersed throughout Sudan but with a heavier concentration in Darfur.
The Fur people are a farming people who reside in western Sudan and in Chad across the border.
(To be continued.)
The epic tale of the millenium length journey of the Turkic people from north central Asia to Anatolia and beyond to North Africa and the gates of Vienna is told elsewhere. The Huns who battled the armies of the Romans and the Celts in France were in all likelihood, Turks.
When the Turks in Anatolia set their sights on Egypt it was being ruled by the military clan of the Mamluks. The Turks defeated the Mamluks in short order by allowed some to remain in power as their representatives. The Turk leaders in those days were eminently practical administrators. Over time the effectiveness and efficiency of the central Ottoman government deteriorated and the local governors began to achieve autonomy. By the end of the 18th century the Mamluks in Egypt were again independent. By 1798 brought a French invasion which defeated the Mamluks. The French invasion was part of a geopolitical struggle between France and Britain, which France ultimately lost.
Once the European powers were out of Egypt the Ottoman Empire attempted to reassert control. The Ottoman authorities appointed an Albanian military officer, Mohammad Ali, as ruler of Egypt. Mohammad Ali was a notably effective general and leader. After defeating the Mamluks (and driving some into Sudan) he set about trying to promote economic development in Egypt. One project that proved successful was to encourage Egyptian farmers to grow long staple cotton. This cotton was used to produce finer quality cloth and commanded a higher price.
Mohammad Ali had so many things in Egypt to concern himself about that he devoted little or no attention to the territories in Sudan that were nominally part of Egypt. However, a group of the Mamluk who were driven from power in Egypt went to Dunqulah, the city that had been a capital of a Nubian kingdom and began creating a kingdom. Slave trading was the basis of the economy.
In 1820, after the Mamluks in Dunqulah had be organizing an independent kingdom in Sudan, Mohammad Ali called upon the sultan of Sennar to drive out the Mamluks from Dunqulah but the sultan was not able to do so. Mohammad Ali then sent in four thousand troops which in short order captured Dunqulah and went on to conquer the area around the confluence of the White and Blue Nile Rivers. The Sultan of Sennar accepted suzerainty of Mohammad Ali as the pasha of the Ottoman Empire in Egypt. This campaign in 1820 made Sudan part of Egypt.
After an unsuccessful attempt to take Sudanese to Egypt for training, Mohammad Ali sent Egyptian bureaucrats to Sudan to serve as administrators. These bureaucrats were largely unconstrained in their rule of Sudanese. A new seat of government was created at Khartoum, at the confluence of the White and Blue Nile Rivers and at the apex of the fertile land of the Gezira.
The slave trade continued as it always had from time immemorial. Mohammad Ali made it a monopoly of the regime from the early days of his conquest of Sudan. In 1843 the regime sold licenses for the slave trade to private individuals and in 1854 the regime itself ceased to engage in slave trading. Britain had since early in the 19th century been trying to suppress slave trading. In 1860 the Egyptian regime prohibited trade in slaves. However the regime did provide the military force necessary to enforce the prohibition and slave trading continued. In 1869 a British officer was given authority by the regime to suppress slave trading in the southern-most reaches of Sudan, in the territory beyond Muslim control. Later Charles Gordon was given that assignment and still later Gordon was made governor of 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 an Ansar defeat.
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-British force but the Anglo-British force was better trained and better armed. The Anglo-British 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 means peninsula 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 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.
As with many countries there developed in Sudan numerous political parties and often there differences had to do with the personalities of their leadership rather than their ideologies. Below the major political parties at the time of independence are tabulated.
|Political Parties of Sudan c. 1960|
|National Union Party||NUP||c. 1937||Ismail al Azhari||Initially favored union with Egypt but later became nationalistic||urban areas and|
agricultural workers in the Gezira Scheme
|People's Democratic Party||PDP||c. 1956||Ali al Mirghani||Splinter Party from the NUP|
|Umma||c. 1936||Abd Allah Khalil||Religious||Political arm of the Ansar (the Mahdists)|
|National Front for Professionals||Leftist in Khartoum|
|Sudanese Communist Party||Marxist||State ownership of economic resources|
|Democratic Unionist Party||DUP|
|Sudan African National Union||SANU||1963||William Deng|
|Autonomy for the southern provinces|
|Southern Front||c. 1963||Independence for the southern provinces|
|Anya Nya |
|c. 1963||Independence for the southern provinces|
In addition to the formal political party there were two religious organizations that were influential in Sudanese politics. One was the Ansar, the followers of al Mahdi. This organization was dominated by the descendants of al Mahdi. One of his sons led the organization until his death. Later a grandson controlled it. The second organization was the Khatmiyyah, a more traditional religious organization which advocated political union with Egypt.
After the fall of the Azhari government, Abd Allah Khalil, a retired general, with the backing of the Umma and the PDP formed a new government in 1957. There were divisions within the coalition that hampered the effectiveness of its rule.
The Khalil government set a price for the long staple cotton crop which was above the market price. Consequently the Sudan cotton was not sold. This folowed some years of adverse developments in the world coton market. There was a bumper crop of cotton in 1957 and the price of cotton fell. The next year the price of cotton was back up but Sudan's cotton crop was small. Thus the foreign trade credits for Sudan were relatively low in 1957 and 1958 due to circumstances beyond the control of the government. But setting the price above the market price was a financial disaster directly created by Sudanese government policy. Apparently the economic policy makers in the Khalil government thought they could establish what the Sudanese cotton was worth.
The loss of revenue due to the cotton crop not being sold then resulted in economic depression and the restrictions on imports. Demonstration broke out against the government of Khalil. The Umma and the PDP which had supported Khalil were withdrawing their support. Khalil faced a loss of power for his political point of view and his ideological opponents gaining control of the government. Rather than let this happen, Khalil in 1958 helped plan a military takeover of the government. This resulted in a government by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by Ibrahim Abbud, a general associated with the Khatmiyyah, and Ahmad Abd al Wahab, a general associated with the Ansar. Later Abbud ousted Wahab and became the dominant figure in the government.
This Abbud government ended the disasterous policy of setting the price for Sudanese cotton above the market price. In other areas of policy the Abbud government was not successful. In 1959 there were attempted coups d'etat which failed. The Sudanese Communist Party was viewed as supporting these coups.
The Abbud government fell as a result of its lack of effective policies concerning the economy and the failures of its policies concerning the southern provinces.
In 1964 there were demonstrations and a general strike in Khartoum which spread to the rest of Sudan. The strike was organized by a group called itself the National Front for Professionals,a party of leftists in the civil service, the army and the University of Khartoum. Later this organization brought in some professional politicians and formed a political party called the United National Front. Abbud relinquished power to the leadership of the UNF in Khartoum.
A senior bureaucrat, Sirr al Khatim al Khalifa, was made prime minister for a transitional government. He made appointments which were clearly intended to achieve some conciliation of political division. Representatives from the southern provinces were given roles in the government. The Sudanese Communist Party was allowed to legally operate and some communists were given positions in the government. Elections to the national assembly were held in 1965. The candidates of the Ummma and the NUP won 127 of the 158 seats, although often on the basis of pluralities rather than majorities in their districts. The prime ministership was held by a representative of the Umma, Muhammad Ahmad Mahjub, but the leader of the NUP, Azhari, was made president.
The Umma being of traditional religious orientation was not happy with having communists holding positions of power in the government. It made their removal a key objective of the Mahjub government. Under Mahjub's leadership of the Sudanese parliament the Sudanese Communist Party was deprived of its legal status so the representatives elected as member of that party no longer were members of parliament.
It looked like the Mahjub government was achieving its objectives but its tenure was uncertain because it needed the support of both the Umma and the NUP. The Umma and NUP had divided the power of the government by one controlling the prime-ministership and the the presidency. However the coalition partners left the division of power between the president and the prime minister unspecified. When disagreements over this issue broke out the Mahjub government fell. That led to a split in the Umma and in the NUP.
Sadiq al Mahdi
In May of 1967 Mahjub was again made prime minister. By 1968 the Mahjub government could not function effectively because the Sadiq-wing of the Umma held a majority in Parliament. Mahjub called for new elections and dissolved parliament. Sadiq and his supporters refused to accept this adjournment of Parliament and continued to function as a legislature. This was a political crisis that ended only when the national Supreme Court ruled that Mahjub's dissolving of Parliament was legal.
In 1967 the PDP had joined with the NUP to form the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This was a potent combination which won 101 out of the 218 legislative seats in the 1968 election. This fell short of a majority so the DUP negotiated an agreement with the traditional (non-Sadiq) wing of the Umma. In return for their support the traditionalist Umma got to name Mahjub as prime minister. Sadiq in this election failed to win re-election. The leader of the Communist Party, however, did win election.
The Umma-DUP coalition government accepted economic and military aid from the Soviet Union. Sidiq and his supporters refused to help the government create a new constitution. The country had been operating under a transitional constitution for about ten years. The Government retaliated by prohibiting street demonstrations supporting Sadiq and closing newspapers supporting him.
An election of the national president was scheduled for 1969. The two wings of the Umma decided to heal the schism and support a descendant of al Mahdi, Imam Al Hadi al Mahdi, a brother of Sadiq al Mahdi (the elder). The DUP was going to support the former prime minister, Ismail Azhari for president. The Sudanese Communist Party supported Babikr Awadallah, the former Chief Justice of the Sudanese Supreme Court. The election maneuvering proved to be of no avail.
Nimeiri set up a Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) made up of the nine officers of the Free Officers' Movement and Judge Babikr Awadallah and declared himself chairman of this organization. He then set about implementing a social program for Sudan. This included nationalizing many businesses including banks. He banned all political parties and suspended the Transitional Constitution (which is the only constitution Sudan had had). Nimeiri arrested 63 politicians and retired the top level officers in the army.
Judge Awadallah was made prime minister of a cabinet of 21 members. This cabinet included nine Communists and other members identified themselves as being Marxists. Although there were only three military officers in the Awadallah cabinet these three, including Nimeiri, held all the very important positions. For example, Nimeiri was defence minister and one of the other military officers was head of internal security.
The Ansar then under the leadership of a grandson of al Mahdi, Imam Al Hadi al Mahdi opposed Nimeiri and tried to organize his overthrow. Nimeiri set out to crush the Ansar and effectively did so. The head of Ansar, Imam Al Hadi al Mahdi, perceived that Nimeiri intended to destroy him and took refuge on Aba Island in the Nile River near Khartoum. Al Mahdi had lived on Aba Island as a student of Islam. It was a near sacred place. Nimeiri demanded Imam Al Hadi surrender but he did not. Thousands of Ansar members tried to defend Imam Al Hadi. About three thousand were killed. Imam Al Hadi escaped from battle on Aba Island but was shot trying to cross the border into Ethiopia. Nimeiri exiled Sadiq al Mahdi to Egypt to prevent him from taking the leadship of Ansar.
After having depended upon the Communist Party for the formation of his government Nimeiri turned on them. He exiled the top leader and took control of the labor unions. These unions had been a major power base for the Communist Party. Other organization which were controlled by Communists were prohibited.
The Communist Party fought back and in 1971 a Communist army officer took Nimeiri and his top leaders prisoner. This officer held Nimeiri and other members of the RCC prisoners in the presidential palace for three days until loyal army units stormed the palace released Nimeiri and the RCC members.
In the south the Anya Nya with Joseph Lagu as its leader controlled most the territory outside of the cities. Lagu in 1971 proclaimed the formation of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM).
In 1972 delegates from Nimieri's government in Khartoum and the Lagu's SSLM met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Against all odds and expectations the two sides reached an agreement. The three southern most provinces would have a degree of autonomy in matters not of a national scope. An elected Southern Regional Assembly would form a regional government. The national government would have some veto powers over who would lead that regional government but there was real concession of autonomy on the part of Khartoum. The language issue was resolved in that Arabic would be the national language but English would be the principal language in the South. The soldiers of the Anya Nya would be incorporated into official Sudanese Army units. There was an amnesty that extended back to the days when the insurrection in the South first began.
(To be continued.)
At its maximum extent after the winter rains the Sudd covers an area equal to that of the state of Mississippi. Imagine such a trackless swamp covered with impenetrable vegetation.
The available statistics for Sudan are limited in scope, accuracy and precision. The International Monetary Fund has Gross Domestic Product (GDP) statistics for Sudan but uncorrected for price changes. The IMF does give a consumer price index (CPI) but in the early years only of one significant digit. The CPI for 1987 is not available. Despite the limited precision and the limited scope of this index it was used to construct estimates of real GDP and real GDP percapita for the period 1968 to 1991, as shown below.
|Estimated Gross Domestic Product of Sudan,
Aggregate and Percapita for 1968 to 1991
1990 Sudan £)
Real GDP |
(1990 Sudan £)
The graphs of the information in the above table are shown below.
The figures indicate an economic stagnation around 1976 and a probable declining standard of living from that year to 1991.
(To be continued.)
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