History & Politics

The ties between Sudan and Egypt

Sudan has been inhabited for over 70,000 years, with settlements appearing around 8,000BC.

Child soldiers

Child SoldiersIn this video… the Sudanese government does not formerly recognise child soldiers. However, children are abducted and forced to become child soldiers. Some voluntarily join rebel movements, especially if they are abandoned and have nowhere to go.

The area was known as ‘Nubia’ to the ancient Egyptians, whose powerful rulers often raided the region. Throughout history, Sudan and Egypt have often been one territory.

From around 800BC, it was the turn of rulers in Sudan to conquer Egypt. From an area known as ‘the Kush’, the Kushite king conquered Upper Egypt. The Kushites were eventually pushed back and moved their capital south to Meroe. The kingdom’s pyramid tombs, palaces and temple remains can still be seen along the Nile – see ‘Tourism & Communications’.

A new millennium

By c.AD350, the city of Meroe had been destroyed. Christian missionaries came to the region during the sixth century AD and converted some of the Nubian kings.

When Arab warriors began arriving from Egypt, the Nubians made an arrangement with them. Arab Muslims would agree not to settle in the region, if Nubians stayed out of Egypt. This treaty lasted hundreds of years, though with Arab merchants trading along the Nile, the two peoples inevitably mixed and intermarried.

The Muslim era truly begins

City history

City HistoryIn this video… at the museum opposite the Mahdi's tomb, a guide explains how the Mahdi (Al-Madi in Arabic, meaning the ‘Divinely Guided’) chose Omdurman as his capital.

During the sixteenth century, a people called the Funj became dominant in the region. Their leader converted to Islam and the Funj Empire became known as the Sultanate of Sennar (the capital).

In 1820, northern Sudan was again invaded from Egypt, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. The sultan’s third son was sent to rule Sudan, which was valued as a route for slaves and gold out of Africa.

Kicking out their rulers

By the 1880s, the Sudanese were discontent with rule from Egypt, which was now under British influence. In 1881, a religious leader called Muhammad Ahmad rose up. Known as the Mahdi/Al-Mahdi (the ‘Divinely Guided’), he set up an administration called the Khalifah. The Mahdi died five months after the capture of Khartoum.

When the British took over Egypt, they also occupied Sudan to protect the Nile waters. Defeating the Mahdists in 1898, the British gave Sudan its own status. However, the north and south were run separately until 1947. Nine years later, Sudan became independent in 1956.

Sudan separates

The country’s recent history has been marred by civil war between the mainly-Muslim north and the Christian/animist south. In July 2011, the two countries separated.

Following the split, fighting broke out in the Nuba mountain region of South Kordofan, where many groups are non-Muslim. Fighting has also occurred along border areas with South Sudan and around oil fields. Conflict in the western region of Darfur is ongoing.

The current president of Sudan, Omar Bashir (in power for 22 years), has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.