The Mahdist revolt, led by Mohammad Ahmed Al-Mahdi, crowned the previous revolts and protests that had been resistant to Ottoman colonization of Sudan. Put starkly: the Mahdist revolt is regarded as the first truly national movement organized by Sudanese people against colonial rule. Although Islamic in nature, the Mahdist revolt owed more to nationalist motives: under the banner of Al-Mahdi, people of all hues and from all parts of Sudan united as one to defeat the Ottoman Turks in one battle after another. They liberated their homeland finally with the conquest of Khartoum in January 1885.The Mahdist State derived its model from the state that Prophet Mohammad established in Medina. Al-Mahdi established Bait Al-Mal (i.e. treasury), Judiciary, Dar Al-Fatwa (Juristic opinion Chamber), and an army. Al-Mahdi was installed head of state, reflecting his status in Sudan as the Caliph of the Prophet. The state hierarchy also included deputies of the Mahdi and, soon, his secretaries (ministers); the latter were tasked with running the civil, administrative, judicial, military, and other civic functions of the Mahdist State.The state inherited the governance apparatus of Ottoman rule by using former officials that had been ushered in by the Ottomans. It also kept the centralized system of governance established under during the Ottoman era.Put simply, in the context of the development of the independent Sudanese state, the Mahdist state was the first independent entity to encompass the present-day borders of Sudan.The infant Mahdist state made use of economic institution established by the Ottomans such as a government printing press, an ammunition factory, and a steam arsenal .It also added petty trade and industrial businesses like oil mills, flour mills, and soap factories to the state’s economic asset base, which, in turn, got rented to traders for operational purposes. Concurrently, however, the Mahdist State abolished civic education (primary and missionary schools), replacing it with traditional Qu’aranic schools (Khalwas) notwithstanding that a dual educational system had co-existed peacefully during Turko-Egyptian rule. The new state abolished the Ottoman era Civil Law, too, replacing it with a mix of Islamic Sharia Law and other conventions originating from Mahdist traditions and other local customs. The Mahdist State, moreover, kept generally the same administrative structure of the Ottoman period, but replaced the post of Governor-General with that of the Caliph of the Prophet, which Al-Mahdi assumed; Al-Mahdi installed Caliph Abdullah Taaishi as his deputy. The posts of province commissioners were replaced also by those of regional Waalis (Governors).Local and external factors combined to expedite the downfall of the Mahdist State, namely:• the spread of disease and famine that claimed myriad lives• poor health services and poor transportation systems• excessive military expenditure due to a series of wars waged by the Mahdist State that, according to the historian, Noam Shugair, led to the death of almost one-fifth of the Sudanese population• massive rural-urban migration prompting an acute shortage of agricultural labor in rural areas• British colonial forces introduced cheap imports that eliminated the market for native handicrafts steadily; they had been flourishing at the beginning of the Mahdist State, notably textiles, shoe-making, and wood and steel manufacturing. Put bluntly, Sudan turned steadily into a consumer of European goods: national industries crumbled, and diversification of food crops production became hobbled. In these circumstances, not surprisingly, the Mahdist State plunged into disarray, making it an easy prey in 1898 to the invading British forces under General Kitchener. Sudan under Condominium rule (1898-1955)
The Condominium Rule Agreement formed the political and constitutional bedrock for the administration of Sudan for more than half a century. Its implementation reflected local, regional and international conditions that underlined that Sudan – bursting with natural resource endowments - could never be immune from colonial expansionism and events in the Arab world – even though it is located at the heart of Africa. The British occupied Egypt and, like previous colonizers, thought it natural to try to extend their influence to Sudan. Therefore, the British government, and without consulting the Egyptian government first, decided to invade Sudan in March 1896. For this purpose, they built up an expedition comprising of British and Egyptian soldiers. Several factors played a key role in expediting this decision; Italy had been defeated by the Abyssinians in the famous Battle of Adowa;, the British fear of a Sudanese–Ethiopian alliance developing against European influence in the African continent; and the fear of French designs on Sudan following a French attempt to enter Upper Nile and menace British interests like the Nile Valley and Suez Canal in the region. The United Kingdom also had its beady eye on exploiting Sudan’s fertile Gezira plains to producing cotton for textile industries in the UK.Lord Cromer, the mastermind of Anglo-Egyptian rule over Sudan, innovated a formula that would enable Britain to have the real influence in Sudan; Egypt would be tasked with a secondary administrative role in Sudan and also get saddled with the cost of paying for the administration of Sudan. (Egypt had covered the expenses for the joint expedition foray to Sudan). Following the success of their invasion, the British colonizers embarked on enforcing their policy in Sudan; they demarcated new geographical borders for Sudan, albeit maintaining the names of provinces, and some other administrative features, too. Concurrently, however, Anglo-Egyptian rule reduced the number of administrators in Sudan to nine compared to twenty-three commissioners during Ottoman occupation. The British also created a legislative structure of sorts, comprising the governor-general, the inspector-general, the administrative secretary, the heads of governmental departments; intelligence agents were also active in the legislative body.Due to the scarcity of educated Sudanese, condominium rule resorted to employing Egyptian officers as Police Commissioners and officers, teachers, and Sharia Court judges. Even so, Britain kept a watchful eye on the number of Egyptian employees, mindful of encouraging anti-British sentiment to expand in Sudan.The formation in 1910 of the Council of the Governor-General - an advisory body comprised of Egyptians - marked a watershed administrative moment of condominium rule in Sudan. Governor-General Wingate rejected a proposal from London of adding a Sudanese member to the council, claiming that there was no such national qualified enough to hold that position.In 1922, the colonial government vested tribal leaders and chieftains with wide powers, notably judicial authority, in particular to nomadic tribal chieftains (by dint of the roaming nature of their economic activities.) Following the 1919 revolt, the British administration reduced the presence of Egyptian colonial administrative officials in Sudan by expelling several of them.The British policy in the educational field centered on restricting opportunities for learning for Sudanese. They limited Sudanese to vocational training, with the aim of linking studies to available jobs and, in turn, putting a lid back on growing nationalistic sentiment in the wake of the infamous 1924 Revolt.The Sudanese Graduates Congress was founded in 1939. It addressed a memorandum of protest to the two Condominium ruling states (UK and Egypt), protesting against the flagrant injustices of the education system on Sudanese. The memorandum demanded Arabic-language and Islamic education, then the norm in Arab countries, and rejected traditionalist African education. The memorandum, moreover, emphasized the dire need to roll out education in southern Sudan - then deprived of any share of awareness and attention by the UK and Egypt.Sudanese Under the Umbrella of Condominium Rule:The British sought to gain the loyalty of Sudanese people rather than their ire. To this end, British colonizers did not enter into direct confrontation with Islam; rather, they sought instead to minimize its influence, and so they harassed Sufi orders and Ulama (Muslim clergymen) as much as they could. The British also kept traditional institutions and native administration, albeit leaving both in a state of perpetual underdevelopment. In spite of all this oppression, the Sudanese mounted several anti-Condominium uprisings, claiming several lives across Sudan. The most rabid regional resistance movement erupted in Darfur, where Sultan Ali Dinar had established an independent state that lasted until his death in 1916 at the hands of British colonizers. Darfur was subjugated by Condominium rule and brought back as part of the occupied Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.National resistance continued in various forms including cultural societies and leagues, ideological forums, and poems and songs. These all rekindled the zeal of nationalists and incited them to expel the British colonizers. These activities crystallized into the founding of the General Graduates Congress in 1939. It assumed the role of a nationalist leadership that, while lacking orientation and powers, managed still to revive the nationalist spirit throughout Sudan all the same.The General Graduates Congress famously issued a memorandum to the UK in 1942 calling for Sudanese self-determination following the end of World War II. As the congress grew into a source of acute concern to the UK, it sought to sew divisions amongst its membership. The British succeeded: members of the congress started bickering endlessly, culminating in the evolution of proto-political parties under the tutelage of Sufi orders. This period also witnessed the emergence of the Sudanese Communist Party, buttressed by its rising counterpart in Egypt, the emergence of the Soviet Union as a world superpower, and the proliferation of railway workers, farmers and civil service trade unions in Sudan. Consequently, simmering flames of resentment ignited quickly throughout Sudan. The noose started to be tightened around the neck of the colonial government: demonstrations, strikes, and revolutionary leaflets all spread like wildfire. The National Movement gained support from political parties and trade unions, it managed to unite and fashion a consensus around a plan to declare independence for Sudan on Monday 19th December, 1955, from within the ‘national’ parliament. Not surprisingly, this pushing of the envelope, highly alarmed, both the UK and Egypt: they submitted to the futility of maintaining their occupation of Sudan, and duly recognized its independence, withdrawing formally from Sudan on 1st January, 1956.