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Sudan (or The Sudan; officially the Republic of the Sudan or Republic of Sudan) is the largest African country by area. The country is situated at a crossroads between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, Kenya and Uganda to the southeast, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, and Libya to the northwest. It is the tenth largest country in the world by area.
Early history of Sudan
In the fifth century, Rome subsidized the Nobatae and used Meroe as a buffer between Egypt and the Blemmyes. About AD 350, an Axumite army from Abbyssinia captured and destroyed Meroe city, ending the kingdom's independent existence.
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 (Makuria), was centered at Dunqulah, about 150 kilometers south of modern Dunqulah; and Alawa (Alodia), in the heartland of old Meroe, which had its capital at Sawba (now a suburb of modern-day Khartoum). In all three kingdoms, warrior aristocracies ruled Meroitic populations from royal courts where functionaries bore Greek titles in emulation of the Byzantine court.
A missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora arrived in Nobatia and started preaching the Gospel of Christ about 540. The Nubian kings became Monophysite Christians. However, Makuria was of the Melkite Christian faith, unlike Nobatia and Alodia.
The spread of Islam
After many attempts at military conquest failed, the Arab commander in Egypt concluded the first in a series of regularly renewed treaties known as AlBaqt (pactum) with the Nubians that governed relations between the two peoples for more than six hundred years.
Islam progressed in the area over a long period of time through intermarriage and contacts with Arab merchants and settlers. In 1315, a Muslim prince of Nubian royal blood ascended the throne of Dunqulah as king.
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. Today's Northern Sudanese culture combines Nubian and Arabic elements.
Kingdom of Sinnar
During the 1600s, the people called the Funj under a leader named Amara Dunqus appeared in southern Nubia and supplanted the remnants of the old Christian kingdom of Alwa, establishing As-Saltana az-Zarqa (the Black Sultanate)at Sinnar. The Black Sultanate eventually became the keystone of the Funj Empire. By the mid-sixteenth century, Sinnar controlled Al Jazirah and commanded the allegiance of vassal states and tribal districts north to the third cataract and south to the rain forests. The government was substantially weakened by a series of succession arguments and coups within the royal family. In 1820 Muhammad Ali of Egypt sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan. The pasha's forces accepted Sinnar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi IV.
Foreign Control: Egyptian Rule - 1821-1885
In 1820, Northern Sudan came under Egyptian rule when Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, sent armies led by his son Ismail Pasha and Mahammed Bey to conquer eastern Sudan. The Egyptians developed Sudan’s trade in ivory. Ismail Pasha, khedive of Egypt from 1863-1879, tried to extend Egyptian (and therefore British) influence south.
Egyptian maladministration and misrule eventually led to a revolt led by religious leader Muhammad ibn Abdalla, the self-proclaimed Mahdi (Guided One), who sought to purify Islam in Sudan. He led a nationalist revolt against Egyptian/British rule culminating in the fall of Khartoum and the death of the British General Charles George Gordon in 1885. The revolt was successful and Egypt and the British abandoned Sudan, and the resulting state was a theocratic Mahdist state.
Mahdist Rule: The Mahdiya
History of Sudan (1884-1898)
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. 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. Six months after the fall of Khartoum, the Mahdi died of typhus, and after a power struggle amongst his deputies, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, with the help primarily of the Baqqara Arabs of western Sudan, overcame the opposition of the others and emerged as unchallenged leader of the Mahdiyah. After consolidating his power, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad assumed the title of Khalifa (successor) of the Mahdi, instituted an administration, and appointed Ansar (who were usually Baqqara) as emirs over each of the several provinces. 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. In 1887, a 60,000-man Ansar army invaded Ethiopia, penetrating as far as Gondar. In March 1889, king Yohannes IV of Ethiopia, marched on Metemma; however, after Yohannes fell in battle, the Ethiopian forces 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 broke the spell of the Ansar's 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.
Return of Foreign Control: Anglo-Egyptian Sudan - 1899-1955
In the 1890s, the British sought to regain control of Sudan. 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. Lord Kitchener led military campaigns from 1896-98, culminating in the Battle of Omdurman. Following defeat of the Mahdists, an agreement was reached in 1899 establishing Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, under which Sudan was run by a governor-general appointed by Egypt with British consent. In reality, Sudan was a colony of Great Britain. From 1924 until independence in 1956, the British had a policy of running Sudan as two essentially separate colonies, the south and the north.
The first real independence attempt was made in 1924 by a group of Sudanese military officers known as The White Flag Association. The group was led by first lieutenant Ali Abdullatif and first lieutenant Abdul Fadil Almaz. The latter led an insurrection of the military training academy, which ended in their defeat and the death of Almaz after the British army blew up the military hospital where he was garrisoned. This defeat was (allegedly) partially the result of the Egyptian garrison in Khartoum North not supporting the insurrection with artillery as was previously promised.
Afterwards, the newly elected government led by the first prime minister Ismael Al-Azhari, went ahead with the process of Sudanization of the state's government, with the help and supervision of an international committee. In November 1955, it declared the intentions of the Sudanese people to exercise their right to independence. This was duly granted and on January 1, 1956, Sudan was formally declared independent. In a special ceremony held at the People's Palace, the British and Egyptian flags were brought down and the new Sudanese flag, composed of green, blue and yellow stripes, was raised in their place.
Sources: Wikipedia and CIA World Factbook
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