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Sudan - History


Turkish and Egyptian forces conquer the territory of today’s Sudan.


Muhammed Ahmad declares himself al-Mahdi, or awaited guide, and begins reconquest of Sudan. Mahdi’s forces capture Khartoum. British General Charles Gordon is killed.

1896 – 1898

Anglo-Egyptian forces defeat Mahdists in the Battle of Omdurman. The Mahdi’s successor is killed. British and French compete for control of Nile at Fashoda.

1899 – 1945

Anglo-Egyptian Condominium rules the Sudan jointly. Military campaigns force ethnic groups to submit to Anglo-Egyptian rule.


Sudan declares independence. First civil war erupts between southern rebels and the government in northern Sudan.

1958 – 1964

Mahdist and other parties win majorites in parliamentary elections. General Ibrahim Abboud stages a coup but is ousted in the October Revolution of 1964.

1965 – 1968

National Union Party and Umma party coalitions maintain majorities in Parliamentary elections.

1969 - 1971

Ja’far Numeri leads a military coup, bans political parties and jails Communists. The regime adopts socialist reforms, nationalizing banks and businesses.


Islamic reforms culminate in 1983 "September Laws" introducing shar’ia, or Islamic law, to all areas of life throughout the country.

1985 - 1986

Numeri government overthrown. Umma party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi becomes Prime Minister.


Omer al-Bashir leads a military coup, and Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the National Islamic Front, emerges as leader.

1993 - 1996

President al-Bashir consolidates executive and legislative power in the appointed Transitional National Assembly. Al-Bashir is elected President for five years, and Hassan al-Turabi becomes speaker of the National Assembly in 1996.

1998 – 2000

New constitution goes into effect after nationwide referendum. Al-Bashir dissolves parliament and declares state of emergency and detains Hassan al-Turabi. Opposition parties boycott presidential elections as Bashir is re-elected for five years.

2003 - 2005

Hassan al-Turabi released from detention after nearly three years in detention and ban on his party is lifted.

2010 – 2011

President Bashir gains new term in first contested presidential polls since 1986. South Sudan votes for full independence of Southern Sudan from the north in a referendum. South Sudan declares independence.

Throughout its history Sudan has been divided between its Arab heritage, identified with northern Sudan, and its African heritages to the south. The two groups are divided along linguistic, religious, racial, and economic lines, and the cleavage has generated ethnic tensions and clashes. Moreover, the geographical isolation of Sudan's southern African peoples has prevented them from participating fully in the country's political, economic, and social life. Imperial Britain acknowledged the north-south division by establishing separate administrations for the two regions. Independent Sudan further reinforced this cleavage by treating African southerners as a minority group.

Another major factor that has affected Sudan's evolution is the country's relationship with Egypt. As early as the eighth millennium BC, there was contact between Sudan and Egypt. Modern relations between the two countries began in 1820, when an Egyptian army under Ottoman command invaded Sudan. In the years following this invasion, Egypt expanded its area of control in Sudan down the Red Sea coast and toward East Africa's Great Lakes region. The sixty-four-year period of Egyptian rule, which ended in 1885, left a deep mark on Sudan's political and economic systems. The emergence of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium in 1899 reinforced the links between Cairo and Khartoum. After Sudan gained independence in 1956, Egypt continued to exert influence over developments in Sudan.

Similarly, the period of British control (1899-1955) has had a lasting impact on Sudan. In addition to pacifying and uniting the country, Britain sought to modernize Sudan by using technology to facilitate economic development and by establishing democratic institutions to end authoritarian rule. Even in 1991, many of Sudan's political and economic institutions owed their existence to the British.

Lastly, Sudan's postindependence history has been shaped largely by the southern civil war. This conflict has retarded the country's social and economic development, encouraged political instability, and led to an endless cycle of weak and ineffective military and civilian governments. The conflict appeared likely to continue to affect Sudan's people and institutions for the rest of the twentieth century.

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Page last modified: 02-03-2017 19:54:04 ZULU