Desert land, not defended by mountain barriers, since ancient times Sudan was an easy prey for people of all races. The subsequent invasions left a profound trace that impressed the two most characteristic footprints on the Sudanese population. The first is the great variety of ethnic groups into which the inhabitants are divided: Berbers, Beni-Amer, Azande, Dinka, Bari; the second is the extraordinary vitality and activity of the Sudanese people; in all their vicissitudes these men learned that working together means bringing freedom and prosperity to their country.
According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Sudan, the first known colonization was the Egyptian one, which occurred around 2000 BC. Then it was the turn of the Ethiopians, who founded a kingdom with the capital Napata and remained at the helm of the country for several centuries. The Arab invasion began around the tenth century, which led to the spread of Islamism. Then Mamelucchi and Arabi made the political conquest of Sudan.
The Arabs established a domain that lasted until the end of the eighteenth century. The Arab domination was very hard for the Sudanese populations. The first white travelers who visited the town in the late 1700s saw misery and hunger everywhere; but the worst aspect of the people’s conditions was the slave trade.
This sad condition changed when the Egyptian armies appeared on the Sudanese borders. A young and already celebrated leader, Mohamed Ali, led them. This brilliant general, who aimed to conquer all of North Africa, had no difficulty in defeating the various local sultans and conquered most of Sudan.
The Egyptians organized the vast territory into different regions and began to exploit the wealth hitherto enjoyed only by a few. Construction also began on Khartoum, which would later become the capital of the future Sudanese state.
After Mohamed Ali’s death in 1849, there was a period of stagnation, then the conditions of the country continued to progress thanks to the new viceroy of Egypt, Ismail, elected in 1863. He was a great prince, who gave the started great public works and fought slave traders hard. In his work of justice and peace, Ismail made use of the collaboration of two Europeans: the English colonel Gordon and the Italian explorer Romolo Gessi.
That was the time when English power was growing in Africa, and it was natural that Sudan was also part of its aims. In 1885, British troops replaced Egyptian troops throughout the territory, and another period of submission began for Sudan, harder than that of the Egyptian viceroys.
The people were tired of being subjected to the interests and exploitation of the foreigner, and waited only for the good opportunity to rebel.
Who set fire to the dust of the revolt was Mohammed Ahmas ibn Fahal, called the Mahdi, that is, “sent by the Lord”. He was able to galvanize popular enthusiasm, and quickly gathered thousands of followers. The fight exploded violently and in a short time the British were driven out. Mahdi followers rejoiced, Sudan was now a free country. But it didn’t last long; after some time the Mahdi was struck by a mysterious disease that led him to death and the ranks of his followers became disorganized. Taking advantage of the situation, England moved on to counterattack and to lead General Sir Herbert Kitchener, British troops reconquered all of Sudan.
In the first 40 years of the twentieth century, Sudan was part of the British colonies, but the qualities of its people imposed themselves on the British who gradually granted more and more freedom to the Sudanese.
Shortly before the Second World War a General Congress was founded, that is, a kind of Chamber with the task of administering the affairs of the country; representatives of indigenous peoples were also admitted to it. When they reached a sure majority, they asked the British government to have their complete freedom; in 1953 England promised that within 3 years it would grant full autonomy.
In fact, in 1956 the Sudanese finally took over the leadership of their state. Having gained independence, Sudan gave itself a new Constitution and a different administrative order. The country was divided into 9 provinces: Khartoum, Cassala, North, Darfur, Kordofan, Blue Nile, Upper Nile, Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria.
The early life of the new state was a little rough and slowly saw the fading of that Unionist Party that had been the main architect of independence. Instead, a majority was formed with the Umma Party and the People’s Democratic Party and this majority took power under the presidency of Abdullah Khalil. In the general elections of February-March 1958 this structure was reconfirmed. There were, however, bitter power struggles between the parties and some stiffening of the southern populations. The military took advantage of this to complete a coup on November 17, 1958 which served to form an extra-party government presided over by General Ibrahim Abboud. The Constitution was suspended and Parliament dissolved.
This military government registered some successes but had the hostility of the bureaucracy. In the south, the rebels continued their demonstrations, especially when some foreign missionaries were expelled in 1964. The Anya Nya Organization, made up of southern rebels, annoyed the government so much that the idea of granting the required independence to the south began to make its way. This project did not attract the northern accession which rebelled and brought down the military government.
After the election of a mixed interim government, the June 1965 elections took place which were not sufficient to give the country stability. Thus there was still a coalition government that did not go very far and eventually the moderates prevailed and in July 1966 there was a government presided over by Sadiq al-Mahdi, great-grandson of the “envoy of the Lord”.
In March 1969 another coup, another government, another chief: Giafar en-Numeiri. Once again the Constitution was suspended and Parliament was dissolved again, the Democratic Republic of Sudan, inspired by socialism, proclaimed itself; all the elements of the past regime moved away from state offices and another historical period began, with the granting of autonomy to the southern regions.
A project of federation with Egypt and Libya was carried out and in this regard a military revolt arose, soon tamed, which provoked harsh repressions. Which had repercussions on foreign policy as there was a rapprochement with the West and the Arab states.
The government’s greatest success was when a pacification agreement of the south was signed in Addis Ababa in 1971 which then led to free elections in 1973 with the creation of a southern regional assembly and a new constitution.
In March 1974 all political prisoners were freed, as a consequence of an internal détente, born despite the country’s economic and social difficulties.
In April 1977 en-Numeiri was confirmed as president and in April 1978 a definitive national conciliation agreement was signed between the government and all opponents. In the 1980s Numeiri found himself having to face pressing negative situations and was forced to turn to Egypt and the United States. In October 1982 he signed an “Integration Charter” for the promotion of some common institutions between Sudan and Egypt. Then he was reelected in 1983 with a large majority and in August 1984 he had to face both the request of Islamic fundamentalists who wanted Koranic legislation, and the insurrectional movements of the south to a large extent Christians.
In April 1985 another military coup led to the Sawwar al-Dahab government. The latter immediately in 1986 declared all the agreements made with Egypt lapsed and formed a mixed government with the participation also of the Islamic National Front. Prime Minister was Sadiq el-Mahdi; the new government was forced to immediately face three serious problems: the economic crisis with heavy foreign debt; the renewal of the rebellions in the south and the opposition of the other members towards the claims of the Muslims. And while trying to solve these problems, in June 1989 another coup, led by General Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Basir, overthrew the government.
All the parties were dissolved immediately, participation in Islam increased and in 1990/91, on the occasion of the Gulf War, Saddam Husayn was given broad consent.
In October 1993 al-Basir was confirmed to the government but the internal situation saw the persistence of difficulties in the various sectors.
In foreign policy, the United States, while including Sudan on the list of terrorist countries, never opposed the government of al-Basir in order not to complicate matters in the Red Sea area.
In the southern regions, deprived of external aid, the rebellions subsided also by virtue of a 1994 revision relating to the previous agreements.
In April 1995 the controversies with Uganda intensified, also for southern Sudan, but better and privileged agreements were established with Libya and Iran.
The rivalries and armed clashes between north and south continued; no attempt had succeeded in bringing peace back to the country. Talks had taken place in Nairobi, Kenya, but to no avail. In 1994, even a government reshuffle had been carried out which had given greater strength to the Islamic National Front, led by Hasan al-Turabi.
Legislative and presidential elections were held in March 1996. Al-Basir was confirmed with 75.7% of the vote but the Islamist National Front was also quite successful and al-Turabi was elected president of the National Assembly. Over the following year, rebels from the south intensified their armed struggle by also conquering strategic positions in the north.
However, some hope of success began to appear in May 1998, when the talks were re-established, also in Nairobi. An agreement was signed in May for which a popular referendum was prepared for the self-determination of the south. For this event, however, no date was specified. Also in that month another referendum was proposed, for a new Constitution that would allow ample freedom of expression, of worship and of political association. Only in January 1999 was political freedom guaranteed, by means of a law which, however, was not considered adequate for the needs of the country.
But in general the situation did not improve in the south, where the population was still subjected to misery and harassment of all kinds. The armed conflict resumed.
The United Nations, which intervened during the years 1998 and 1999 to detect the actual condition of the region, declared that over two million people lived there on the verge of survival. In greater number were the ethnic groups of the Dinka and the Nuba; the latter, of Muslim faith, were confined to the mountains south of Khartoum and were certainly the most tormented.
In foreign policy, Sudan was opposed by the western world, especially by the United States, first because it was considered the greatest promoter of Islamic and international terrorism; then because during the Gulf War, he had sided in favor of Iraq.
Furthermore, he also made himself unpopular with Egypt accusing him of being the instigator of the assassination of M. Mubarak, Egyptian president, in Addis Ababa in June 1995.
Finally Y. Museveni, Ugandan president, accused Sudan of wanting to destroy the cultural identity of black Africa and for this purpose he provided his support to the Army for the Liberation of the People of Sudan, which had long tried to prevent expansionism Arabic and Islamic.
And precisely because of the conviction rooted in the United States that Sudan, together with Iran and Afghanistan, was the forge of Islamic terrorism, American President Bill Clinton ordered that the pharmaceutical industry SHIFA be bombed in Khartoum, accused of to provide the fundamentalists with the chemical weapons that had served them for the attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar al-Salam on August 7, 1998. The bombing was completed on August 20, 1998.
Instead, relations with Egypt improved, which in February 1998 also restored trade on the Nile.
And in July 1999, after 15 years of a grueling civil war, al-Basir declared that the government was willing to deal with southern rebels. Talks started in July and always in Nairobi.
Towards the end of that year there was a clash at the top of the state between al-Basir and al-Turabi, his supporter but also a convinced fundamentalist ideologue. And in December al-Basir declared a state of emergency, dissolved the Parliament and initiated a new government, this time made up exclusively of elements loyal to him.