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The Turkiyah - Pacification of Sudan - 1820-1885

As a pashalik of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt had been divided into several provinces, each of which was placed under a Mamluk bey (governor) reponsible to the pasha, who in turn answered to the Porte, the term used for the Ottoman government referring to the Sublime Porte, or high gate, of the grand vizier's building. In approximately 280 years of Ottoman rule, no fewer than 100 pashas succeeded each other. In the eighteenth century, their authority became tenuous as rival Mamluk beys became the real power in the land. The struggles among the beys continued until 1798 when the French invasion of Egypt altered the situation. Combined British and Turkish military operations forced the withdrawal of French forces in 1801, introducing a period of chaos in Egypt. In 1805 the Ottomans sought to restore order by appointing Muhammad Ali as Egypt's pasha.

With the help of 10,000 Albanian troops provided by the Ottomans, Muhammad Ali purged Egypt of the Mamluks. In 1811 he launched a seven-year campaign in Arabia, supporting his suzerain, the Ottoman sultan, in the suppression of a revolt by the Wahhabi, an ultraconservative Muslim sect. To replace the Albanian soldiers, Muhammad Ali planned to build an Egyptian army with Sudanese slave recruits.

Although a part of present-day northern Sudan was nominally an Egyptian dependency, the previous pashas had demanded little more from the kashif who ruled there than the regular remittance of tribute; that changed under Muhammad Ali. After he had defeated the Mamluks in Egypt, a party of them had escaped and had fled south. In 1811 these Mamluks established a state at Dunqulah as a base for their slave trading. In 1820 the sultan of Sannar informed Muhammad Ali that he was unable to comply with the demand to expel the Mamluks. In response the pasha sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan, clear it of Mamluks, and reclaim it for Egypt. The pasha's forces received the submission of the kashif, dispersed the Dunqulah Mamluks, conquered Kurdufan, and accepted Sannar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi IV. The Jaali Arab tribes offered stiff resistance, however.

Initially, the Egyptian occupation of Sudan was disastrous. Under the new government established in 1821, which was known as the Turkiyah or Turkish regime, soldiers lived off the land and exacted exorbitant taxes from the population. They also destroyed many ancient Meroitic pyramids searching for hidden gold. Furthermore, slave trading increased, causing many of the inhabitants of the fertile Al Jazirah, heartland of Funj, to flee to escape the slave traders. Within a year of the pasha's victory, 30,000 Sudanese slaves went to Egypt for training and induction into the army. However, so many perished from disease and the unfamiliar climate that the remaining slaves could be used only in garrisons in Sudan.

As the military occupation became more secure, the government became less harsh. Egypt saddled Sudan with a parasitic bureaucracy, however, and expected the country to be self- supporting. Nevertheless, farmers and herders gradually returned to Al Jazirah. The Turkiyah also won the allegiance of some tribal and religious leaders by granting them a tax exemption. Egyptian soldiers and Sudanese jahidiyah (slave soldiers; literally, fighters), supplemented by mercenaries recruited in various Ottoman domains, manned garrisons in Khartoum, Kassala, and Al Ubayyid and at several smaller outposts. The Shaiqiyah, Arabic speakers who had resisted Egyptian occupation, were defeated and allowed to serve the Egyptian rulers as tax collectors and irregular cavalry under their own shaykhs. The Egyptians divided Sudan into provinces, which they then subdivided into smaller administrative units that usually corresponded to tribal territories. In 1835 Khartoum became the seat of the hakimadar (governor general); many garrison towns also developed into administrative centers in their respective regions. At the local level, shaykhs and traditional tribal chieftains assumed administrative responsibilities.

In the 1850s, the pashalik revised the legal systems in Egypt and Sudan, introducing a commercial code and a criminal code administered in secular courts. The change reduced the prestige of the qadis (Islamic judges) whose sharia courts were confined to dealing with matters of personal status. Even in this area, the courts lacked credibility in the eyes of Sudanese Muslims because they conducted hearings according to the Ottoman Empire's Hanafi school of law rather than the stricter Maliki school traditional in the area.

In the early 19th Century the Sudan was costing Egypt more money than its revenue yielded, though it must not be forgotten that large sums found their way illicitly into the hands of the pashas. In an endeavor to make the country more profitable, they extended their conquests to the south, and in 1853 and subsequent years trading posts were established on the Upper Nile, the pioneer European merchant being John Petherick, British consular agent at Khartum. Petherick sought for ivory only, but those who followed him soon found that slave-raiding was more profitable than elephant hunting.

The viceroy Said, who made a rapid tour through the Sudan in 1857, found it in a deplorable condition. The viceroy ordered many reforms to be executed and proclaimed the abolition of slavery. The reforms were mainly inoperative and slavery continued. The project which Said also conceived of linking the Sudan to Egypt by railway remained unfulfilled. The Sudan at this time (c. 1865) was described by Sir Samuel Baker as utterly ruined by Egyptian methods of government and the retention of the country only to be accounted for by the traffic in slaves. The European merchants above Khartum had sold their posts to Arab agents, who oppressed the natives in every conceivable fashion.

Ismail Pasha, who became viceroy of Egypt in 1863, gave orders for the suppression of the slave trade, and to check the operations of the Arab traders a military force was stationed at Fashoda (1865), this being the most southerly point then held by the Egyptians. Ismail's efforts to put an end to the slave trade, if sincere, were ineffective, and, moreover, south of Kordofan the authority of the government did not extend beyond the posts occupied by their troops. Ismail, however, was ambitious to extend his dominions and to develop the Sudan on the lines he had conceived for the development of Egypt. He obtained (1865) from the sultan of Turkey a firman assigning to him the administration of Suakin and Massawa; the lease which Mehemet Ali had of these ports having lapsed after the death cf that pasha.

Ismail subsequently (1870-1875) extended, his sway over the whole coast from Suez to Cape Guardafui and garrisoned the towns of Berbera, Zaila, &c, while in 1874 the important town of Harrar, the entrepot for southern Abyssinia, was seized by Egyptian troops. The khedive had also seized Bogos, in the hinterland of Massawa, a province claimed by Abyssinia. This action led to wars with Abyssinia, in which the Egyptians were generally beaten. Egyptian authority was withdrawn from the coast regions south of Suakin in 1884, and also Abyssinia, Eritrea and Somalia.

At the same time that Ismail annexed the seaboard he was extending his sway along the Nile valley to the equatorial lakes, and conceived the idea of annexing all the country between the Nile and the Indian Ocean. An expedition was sent (1875) to the Juba River with that object, but it was withdrawn at the request of the British government, as it infringed the rights of the sultan of Zanzibar. The control of all territories south of Gondokoro had been given (April 1, 1869) to Sir Samuel Baker, who, however, only left Khartum to take up his governor's post in February 1870. Reaching Gondokoro on l the 26th of May following, he formally annexed that station, which he named Ismailia, to the khedival domains. Baker remained as governor of the Equatorial Provinces until August 1873.

In March 1874 Colonel C.G. Gordon took up the same post. At the head of the "Ever Victorious Army", in 1864 he had previously brought the Taiping revolt to a conclusion. The suppression of this serious movement was undoubtedly due in great part to the skill and energy of Gordon, who had shown remarkable qualities as a leader of men. The emperor promoted him to the rank of Titu, the highest grade in the Chinese army, and also gave him the Yellow Jacket, the most important decoration in China. He wished to give him a large sum of money, but this Gordon refused. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel for his Chinese services, and made a Companion of the Bath. Henceforth he was often familiarly spoken of as "Chinese" Gordon.

Both Baker and Gordon made strenuous efforts towards crushing the slave trade, but their endeavors were largely thwarted by the inaction of the authorities at Khartum. Under Gordon the Upper Nile region as far as the borders of Uganda came effectively under Egyptian control, though the power of the government extended on the east little beyond the banks of the rivers. On the west the Bahr-el-Ghazal had been overrun by Arab or semi-Arab slave-dealers. Nominally subjects of the khedive, they acted as free agents, reducing the country over which they terrorized to a state of abject misery.

Though spasmodic efforts were made to promote agriculture and open up communications, the Sudan continued to be a constant drain on the Egyptian exchequer. The khedive Ismail revived Said's project of a railway, and a surveyfor a line from Wadi Haifa to Khartum was made (1871), while a branch line to Massawa was also contemplated. As with Said's project these schemes came to naught. In October 1876 Gordon left the Equatorial Provinces and gave up his appointment In February 1877, under pressure from the British and Egyptian governments, he went to Cairo, where he was given the governorship of the whole of the Egyptian territories outside Egypt; namely, the Sudan provinces proper, the Equatorial Provinces, Darfur, and the Red Sea and Somali coasts. He replaced at Khartum Ismail Pasha Eyoub, a Turk made governor-general in 1873, who had thwarted as much as he dared all Gordon's efforts to reform.

Gordon remained in the Sudan until August 1879. Writing from Darfur in April 1879 Gordon said: "The government of the Egyptians in these far-off countries is nothing else but one of brigandage o( the very worst description. It is so bad that all hope of ameliorating it is hopeless."

During his tenure of office he did much to give the Sudanese the benefit of a just and considerate government. In 1877 Gordon suppressed a revolt in Darfur and received the submission of Suliman Zobeir (a son of Zobeir Pasha), who was at the head of a gang of slave-traders on the Bahr-el-Ghazal frontier. In 1878 there was further trouble in Darfur and also in Kordofan, and Gordon visited both these provinces, breaking up many companies of slave-hunters. Meantime Suliman (acting on the instructions of his father, who was still at Cairo) had broken out into open revolt against the Egyptians in the Bahr-elGhazal. The crushing of Suliman was entrusted by Gordon to Romolo Gessi (1831-1881), an Italian who had previously served under Gordon on the Upper Nile. Gessi, after a most arduous campaign (1878-79), in which he displayed great military skill, defeated and captured Suliman, whom, with other ringleaders, he executed. The slave-raiders were completely broken up and over 10,000 captives released. A remnant of Zobcir's troops under a chief named Rabah succeeded in escaping westward. Having conquered the province Gessi was made governor of the Bahr-el-Ghazal and given the rank of pasha.

When Gordon left the Sudan he was succeeded at Khartum by Raouf Pasha, under whom all the old abuses of the Egyptian administration were revived. At this time the high European officials in the Sudan, besides Gessi, included Emin Pasha then a bey only governor of the Equatorial Province since 1878, and Slatin Pasha then also a bey governor of Darfur. Gessi, who had most successfully governed his province, found his position under Raouf intolerable, resigned his post in September 1880 and was succeeded by Frank Lupton, an Englishman, and formerly captain of a Red Sea merchant steamer, who was given the rank of bey. At this period (18S0-1882) schemes for the reorganization and better administration of the Sudan were elaborated on paper, but the revolt in Egypt under Arabi and the appearance in the Sudan of a Mahdi prevented these schemes from being put into execution (assuming that the Egyptian authorities were sincere in proposing reforms).

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Page last modified: 07-01-2014 19:01:48 ZULU