Colonial Warfare pt 20
I own you, little woggy
The Turkiyah, 1821-85
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.
The Turkiyah also encouraged a religious orthodoxy favored in the Ottoman Empire. The government undertook a mosque-building program and staffed religious schools and courts with teachers and judges trained at Cairo's Al Azhar University. The government favored the Khatmiyyah, a traditional religious order, because its leaders preached cooperation with the regime. But Sudanese Muslims condemned the official orthodoxy as decadent because it had rejected many popular beliefs and practices.
Until its gradual suppression in the 1860s, the slave trade was the most profitable undertaking in Sudan and was the focus of Egyptian interests in the country. The government encouraged economic development through state monopolies that had exported slaves, ivory, and gum arabic. In some areas, tribal land, which had been held in common, became the private property of the shaykhs and was sometimes sold to buyers outside the tribe.
Muhammad Ali's immediate successors, Abbas I (1849-54) and Said (1854-63), lacked leadership qualities and paid little attention to Sudan, but the reign of Ismail (1863-79) revitalized Egyptian interest in the country. In 1865 the Ottoman Empire ceded the Red Sea coast and its ports to Egypt. Two years later, the Ottoman sultan granted Ismail the title of khedive (sovereign prince). Egypt organized and garrisoned the new provinces of Upper Nile, Bahr al Ghazal, and Equatoria and, in 1874, conquered and annexed Darfur. Ismail named Europeans to provincial governorships and appointed Sudanese to more responsible government positions. Under prodding from Britain, Ismail took steps to complete the elimination of the slave trade in the north of present-day Sudan. The khedive also tried to build a new army on the European model that no longer would depend on slaves to provide manpower. However, this modernization process caused unrest. Army units mutinied, and many Sudanese resented the quartering of troops among the civilian population and the use of Sudanese forced labor on public projects. Efforts to suppress the slave trade angered the urban merchant class and the Baqqara Arabs, who had grown prosperous by selling slaves.
There is little documentation for the history of the southern Sudanese provinces until the introduction of the Turkiyah in the north in the early 1820s and the subsequent extension of slave raiding into the south. Information about their peoples before that time is based largely on oral history. According to these traditions, the Nilotic peoples--the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, and others--first entered southern Sudan sometime before the tenth century. During the period from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century, tribal migrations, largely from the area of Bahr al Ghazal, brought these peoples to their modern locations. Some, like the Shilluk, developed a centralized monarchical tradition that enabled them to preserve their tribal integrity in the face of external pressures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The non-Nilotic Azande people, who entered southern Sudan in the sixteenth century, established the region's largest state. In the eighteenth century, the militaristic Avungara people entered and quickly imposed their authority over the poorly organized and weaker Azande. Avungara power remained largely unchallenged until the arrival of the British at the end of the nineteenth century. Geographic barriers protected the southerners from Islam's advance, enabling them to retain their social and cultural heritage and their political and religious institutions. During the nineteenth century, the slave trade brought southerners into closer contact with Sudanese Arabs and resulted in a deep hatred for the northerners.
Slavery had been an institution of Sudanese life throughout history, but southern Sudan, where slavery flourished particularly, was originally considered an area beyond Cairo's control. Because Sudan had access to Middle East slave markets, the slave trade in the south intensified in the nineteenth century and continued after the British had suppressed slavery in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Annual raids resulted in the capture of countless thousands of southern Sudanese, and the destruction of the region's stability and economy. The horrors associated with the slave trade generated European interest in Sudan.
Until 1843 Muhammad Ali maintained a state monopoly on slave trading in Egypt and the pashalik. Thereafter, authorities sold licenses to private traders who competed with government- conducted slave raids. In 1854 Cairo ended state participation in the slave trade, and in 1860, in response to European pressure, Egypt prohibited the slave trade. However, the Egyptian army failed to enforce the prohibition against the private armies of the slave traders. The introduction of steamboats and firearms enabled slave traders to overwhelm local resistance and prompted the creation of southern "bush empires" by Baqqara Arabs.
Ismail implemented a military modernization program and proposed to extend Egyptian rule to the southern region. In 1869 British explorer Sir Samuel Baker received a commission as governor of Equatoria Province, with orders to annex all territory in the White Nile's basin and to suppress the slave trade. In 1874 Charles George Gordon, a British officer, succeeded Baker. Gordon disarmed many slave traders and hanged those who defied him. By the time he became Sudan's governor general in 1877, Gordon had weakened the slave trade in much of the south.
Unfortunately, Ismail's southern policy lacked consistency. In 1871 he had named a notorious Arab slave trader, Rahman Mansur az Zubayr, as governor of the newly created province of Bahr al Ghazal. Zubayr used his army to pacify the province and to eliminate his competition in the slave trade. In 1874 he invaded Darfur after the sultan had refused to guard caravan routes through his territory. Zubayr then offered the region as a province to the khedive. Later that year, Zubayr defied Cairo when it attempted to relieve him of his post, and defeated an Egyptian force that sought to oust him. After he became Sudan's governor general, Gordon ended Zubayr's slave trading, disbanded his army, and sent him back to Cairo.
The British atrempt to control Egypt and Sudan would come at a fearful cost.
The Mahdiyah, 1884-98
Developments in Sudan during this period cannot be understood without reference to the British position in Egypt. In 1869 the Suez Canal opened and quickly became Britain's economic lifeline to India and the Far East. To defend this waterway, Britain sought a greater role in Egyptian affairs. In 1873 the British government therefore supported a program whereby an Anglo-French debt commission assumed responsibility for managing Egypt's fiscal affairs. This commission eventually forced Khedive Ismail to abdicate in favor of his more politically acceptable son, Tawfiq (1877-92).
After the removal, in 1877, of Ismail, who had appointed him to the post, Gordon resigned as governor general of Sudan in 1880. His successors lacked direction from Cairo and feared the political turmoil that had engulfed Egypt. As a result, they failed to continue the policies Gordon had put in place. The illegal slave trade revived, although not enough to satisfy the merchants whom Gordon had put out of business. The Sudanese army suffered from a lack of resources, and unemployed soldiers from disbanded units troubled garrison towns. Tax collectors arbitrarily increased taxation.
In this troubled atmosphere, Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, a faqir or holy man who combined personal magnetism with religious zealotry, emerged, determined to expel the Turks and restore Islam to its primitive purity. The son of a Dunqulah boatbuilder, Muhammad Ahmad had become the disciple of Muhammad ash Sharif, the head of the Sammaniyah order. Later, as a shaykh of the order, Muhammad Ahmad spent several years in seclusion and gained a reputation as a mystic and teacher. In 1880 he became a Sammaniyah leader.
Muhammad Ahmad's sermons attracted an increasing number of followers. Among those who joined him was Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, a Baqqara from southern Darfur. His planning capabilities proved invaluable to Muhammad Ahmad, who revealed himself as Al Mahdi al Muntazar ("the awaited guide in the right path," usually seen as the Mahdi), sent from God to redeem the faithful and prepare the way for the second coming of the Prophet Isa (Jesus). The Mahdist movement demanded a return to the simplicity of early Islam, abstention from alcohol and tobacco, and the strict seclusion of women.
Even after the Mahdi proclaimed a jihad, or holy war, against the Turkiyah, Khartoum dismissed him as a religious fanatic. The government paid more attention when his religious zeal turned to denunciation of tax collectors. To avoid arrest, the Mahdi and a party of his followers, the Ansar, made a long march to Kurdufan, where he gained a large number of recruits, especially from the Baqqara. From a refuge in the area, he wrote appeals to the shaykhs of the religious orders and won active support or assurances of neutrality from all except the pro-Egyptian Khatmiyyah. Merchants and Arab tribes that had depended on the slave trade responded as well, along with the Hadendowa Beja, who were rallied to the Mahdi by an Ansar captain, Usman Digna.
Early in 1882, the Ansar, armed with spears and swords, overwhelmed a 7,000-man Egyptian force not far from Al Ubayyid and seized their rifles and ammunition. The Mahdi followed up this victory by laying siege to Al Ubayyid and starving it into submission after four months. The Ansar, 30,000 men strong, then defeated an 8,000-man Egyptian relief force at Sheikan. Next the Mahdi captured Darfur and imprisoned Rudolf Slatin, an Austrian in the khedive's service, who later became the first Egyptianappointed governor of Darfur Province.
The advance of the Ansar and the Beja rising in the east imperiled communications with Egypt and threatened to cut off garrisons at Khartoum, Kassala, Sannar, and Sawakin and in the south. To avoid being drawn into a costly military intervention, the British government ordered an Egyptian withdrawal from Sudan. Gordon, who had received a reappointment as governor general, arranged to supervise the evacuation of Egyptian troops and officials and all foreigners from Sudan.
After reaching Khartoum in February 1884, Gordon realized that he could not extricate the garrisons. As a result, he called for reinforcements from Egypt to relieve Khartoum. Gordon also recommended that Zubayr, an old enemy whom he recognized as an excellent military commander, be named to succeed him to give disaffected Sudanese a leader other than the Mahdi to rally behind. London rejected this plan. As the situation deteriorated, Gordon argued that Sudan was essential to Egypt's security and that to allow the Ansar a victory there would invite the movement to spread elsewhere.
Increasing British popular support for Gordon eventually forced Prime Minister William Gladstone to mobilize a relief force under the command of Lord Garnet Joseph Wolseley. A "flying column" sent overland from Wadi Halfa across the Bayyudah Desert bogged down at Abu Tulayh (commonly called Abu Klea), where the Hadendowa Beja--the so-called Fuzzy Wuzzies--broke the British line. An advance unit that had gone ahead by river when the column reached Al Matammah arrived at Khartoum on January 28, 1885, to find the town had fallen two days earlier. The Ansar had waited for the Nile flood to recede before attacking the poorly defended river approach to Khartoum in boats, slaughtering the garrison, killing Gordon, and delivering his head to the Mahdi's tent. Kassala and Sannar fell soon after, and by the end of 1885 the Ansar had begun to move into the southern region. In all Sudan, only Sawakin, reinforced by Indian army troops, and Wadi Halfa on the northern frontier remained in Anglo-Egyptian hands (see fig. 2).
The Mahdiyah (Mahdist regime) imposed traditional Islamic laws. Sudan's new ruler also authorized the burning of lists of pedigrees and books of law and theology because of their association with the old order and because he believed that the former accentuated tribalism at the expense of religious unity.
The Mahdiyah has become known as the first genuine Sudanese nationalist government. The Mahdi maintained that his movement was not a religious order that could be accepted or rejected at will, but that it was a universal regime, which challenged man to join or to be destroyed. The Mahdi modified Islam's five pillars to support the dogma that loyalty to him was essential to true belief (see Islamic Movements and Religious Orders , ch. 2). The Mahdi also added the declaration "and Muhammad Ahmad is the Mahdi of God and the representative of His Prophet" to the recitation of the creed, the shahada. Moreover, service in the jihad replaced the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, as a duty incumbent on the faithful. Zakat (almsgiving) became the tax paid to the state. The Mahdi justified these and other innovations and reforms as responses to instructions conveyed to him by God in visions.
Six months after the capture of Khartoum, the Mahdi died of typhus. The task of establishing and maintaining a government fell to his deputies--three caliphs chosen by the Mahdi in emulation of the Prophet Muhammad. Rivalry among the three, each supported by people of his native region, continued until 1891, when Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, with the help primarily of the Baqqara Arabs, overcame the opposition of the others and emerged as unchallenged leader of the Mahdiyah. Abdallahi--called the Khalifa (successor)--purged the Mahdiyah of members of the Mahdi's family and many of his early religious disciples.
Originally the Mahdiyah was a jihad state, run like a military camp. Sharia courts enforced Islamic law and the Mahdi's precepts, which had the force of law. After consolidating his power, the Khalifa instituted an administration and appointed Ansar (who were usually Baqqara) as amirs over each of the several provinces. The Khalifa also ruled over rich Al Jazirah. Although he failed to restore this region's commercial wellbeing , the Khalifa organized workshops to manufacture ammunition and to maintain river steamboats.
Regional relations remained tense throughout much of the Mahdiyah period, largely because of the Khalifa's commitment to using the jihad to extend his version of Islam throughout the world. For example, the Khalifa rejected an offer of an alliance against the Europeans by Ethiopia's negus (king), Yohannes IV. In 1887 a 60,000-man Ansar army invaded Ethiopia, penetrated as far as Gonder, and captured prisoners and booty. The Khalifa then refused to conclude peace with Ethiopia. In March 1889, an Ethiopian force, commanded by the king, marched on Qallabat; however, after Yohannes IV fell in battle, the Ethiopians withdrew. Abd ar Rahman an Nujumi, the Khalifa's best general, invaded Egypt in 1889, but British-led Egyptian troops defeated the Ansar at Tushkah. The failure of the Egyptian invasion ended the Ansar' invincibility. The Belgians prevented the Mahdi's men from conquering Equatoria, and in 1893 the Italians repulsed an Ansar attack at Akordat (in Eritrea) and forced the Ansar to withdraw from Ethiopia
Reconquest of Sudan
In 1892 Herbert Kitchener (later Lord Kitchener) became sirdar, or commander, of the Egyptian army and started preparations for the reconquest of Sudan. The British decision to occupy Sudan resulted in part from international developments that required the country be brought under British supervision. By the early 1890s, British, French, and Belgian claims had converged at the Nile headwaters. Britain feared that the other colonial powers would take advantage of Sudan's instability to acquire territory previously annexed to Egypt. Apart from these political considerations, Britain wanted to establish control over the Nile to safeguard a planned irrigation dam at Aswan.
In 1895 the British government authorized Kitchener to launch a campaign to reconquer Sudan. Britain provided men and matériel while Egypt financed the expedition. The Anglo-Egyptian Nile Expeditionary Force included 25,800 men, 8,600 of whom were British. The remainder were troops belonging to Egyptian units that included six battalions recruited in southern Sudan. An armed river flotilla escorted the force, which also had artillery support. In preparation for the attack, the British established army headquarters at Wadi Halfa and extended and reinforced the perimeter defenses around Sawakin. In March 1896, the campaign started; in September, Kitchener captured Dunqulah. The British then constructed a rail line from Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamad and an extension parallel to the Nile to transport troops and supplies to Barbar. Anglo-Egyptian units fought a sharp action at Abu Hamad, but there was little other significant resistance until Kitchener reached Atbarah and defeated the Ansar. After this engagement, Kitchener's soldiers marched and sailed toward Omdurman, where the Khalifa made his last stand.
On September 2, 1898, the Khalifa committed his 52,000-man army to a frontal assault against the Anglo-Egyptian force, which was massed on the plain outside Omdurman. The outcome never was in doubt, largely because of superior British firepower. During the five-hour battle, about 11,000 Mahdists died whereas AngloEgyptian losses amounted to 48 dead and fewer than 400 wounded.
Mopping-up operations required several years, but organized resistance ended when the Khalifa, who had escaped to Kurdufan, died in fighting at Umm Diwaykarat in November 1899. Many areas welcomed the downfall of his regime. Sudan's economy had been all but destroyed during his reign and the population had declined by approximately one-half because of famine, disease, persecution, and warfare. Moreover, none of the country's traditional institutions or loyalties remained intact. Tribes had been divided in their attitudes toward Mahdism, religious brotherhoods had been weakened, and orthodox religious leaders had vanished.
The Anglo-egyptian Condominium, 1899-1955
In January 1899, an Anglo-Egyptian agreement restored Egyptian rule in Sudan but as part of a condominium, or joint authority, exercised by Britain and Egypt. The agreement designated territory south of the twenty-second parallel as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Although it emphasized Egypt's indebtedness to Britain for its participation in the reconquest, the agreement failed to clarify the juridical relationship between the two condominium powers in Sudan or to provide a legal basis for continued British presence in the south. Britain assumed responsibility for governing the territory on behalf of the khedive.
Article II of the agreement specified that "the supreme military and civil command in Sudan shall be vested in one officer, termed the Governor-General of Sudan. He shall be appointed by Khedival Decree on the recommendation of Her Britannic Majesty's Government and shall be removed only by Khedival Decree with the consent of Her Britannic Majesty's Government." The British governor general, who was a military officer, reported to the Foreign Office through its resident agent in Cairo. In practice, however, he exercised extraordinary powers and directed the condominium government from Khartoum as if it were a colonial administration. Sir Reginald Wingate succeeded Kitchener as governor general in 1899. In each province, two inspectors and several district commissioners aided the British governor (mudir). Initially, nearly all administrative personnel were British army officers attached to the Egyptian army. In 1901, however, civilian administrators started arriving in Sudan from Britain and formed the nucleus of the Sudan Political Service. Egyptians filled middle-level posts while Sudanese gradually acquired lower-level positions.
In the condominium's early years, the governor general and provincial governors exercised great latitude in governing Sudan. After 1910, however, an executive council, whose approval was required for all legislation and for budgetary matters, assisted the governor general. The governor general presided over this council, which included the inspector general; the civil, legal, and financial secretaries; and two to four other British officials appointed by the governor general. The executive council retained legislative authority until 1948.
After restoring order and the government's authority, the British dedicated themselves to creating a modern government in the condominium. Jurists adopted penal and criminal procedural codes similar to those in force in British India. Commissions established land tenure rules and adjusted claims in dispute because of grants made by successive governments. Taxes on land remained the basic form of taxation, the amount assessed depending on the type of irrigation, the number of date palms, and the size of herds; however, the rate of taxation was fixed for the first time in Sudan's history. The 1902 Code of Civil Procedure continued the Ottoman separation of civil law and sharia, but it also created guidelines for the operation of sharia courts as an autonomous judicial division under a chief qadi appointed by the governor general. Religious judges and other sharia court officials were invariably Egyptian.
There was little resistance to the condominium. Breaches of the peace usually took the form of intertribal warfare, banditry, or revolts of short duration. For example, Mahdist uprisings occurred in February 1900, in 1902-3, in 1904, and in 1908. In 1916 Abd Allah as Suhayni, who claimed to be the Prophet Isa, launched an unsuccessful jihad.
The problem of the condominium's undefined borders was a greater concern. A 1902 treaty with Ethiopia fixed the southeastern boundary with Sudan. Seven years later, an AngloBelgian treaty determined the status of the Lado Enclave in the south establishing a border with the Belgian Congo (present-day Zaire). The western boundary proved more difficult to resolve. Darfur was the only province formerly under Egyptian control that was not soon recovered under the condominium. When the Mahdiyah disintegrated, Sultan Ali Dinar reclaimed Darfur's throne, which had been lost to the Egyptians in 1874 and held the throne under Ottoman suzerainty, with British approval on condition that he pay annual tribute to the khedive. When World War I broke out, Ali Dinar proclaimed his loyalty to the Ottoman Empire and responded to the Porte's call for a jihad against the Allies. Britain, which had declared a protectorate over Egypt in 1914, sent a small force against Ali Dinar, who died in subsequent fighting. In 1916 the British annexed Darfur to Sudan and terminated the Fur sultanate (see fig. 3).
During the condominium period, economic development occurred only in the Nile Valley's settled areas. In the first two decades of condominium rule, the British extended telegraph and rail lines to link key points in northern Sudan but services did not reach more remote areas. Port Sudan opened in 1906, replacing Sawakin as the country's principal outlet to the sea. In 1911 the Sudanese government and the private Sudan Plantations Syndicate launched the Gezira Scheme (Gezira is also seen as Jazirah) to provide a source of high-quality cotton for Britain's textile industry (see Irrigated Agriculture , ch. 3). An irrigation dam near Sannar, completed in 1925, brought a much larger area in Al Jazirah under cultivation. Planters sent cotton by rail from Sannar to Port Sudan for shipment abroad. The Gezira Scheme made cotton the mainstay of the country's economy and turned the region into Sudan's most densely populated area.
In 1922 Britain renounced the protectorate and approved Egypt's declaration of independence. However, the 1923 Egyptian constitution made no claim to Egyptian sovereignty over Sudan. Subsequent negotiations in London between the British and the new Egyptian government foundered on the Sudan question. Nationalists who were inflamed by the failure of the talks rioted in Egypt and Sudan, where a minority supported union with Egypt. In November 1924, Sir Lee Stack, governor general of Sudan and sirdar, was assassinated in Cairo. Britain ordered all Egyptian troops, civil servants, and public employees withdrawn from Sudan. In 1925 Khartoum formed the 4,500-man Sudan Defence Force (SDF) under Sudanese officers to replace Egyptian units.
Sudan was relatively quiet in the late 1920s and 1930s. During this period, the colonial government favored indirect rule, which allowed the British to govern through indigenous leaders. In Sudan, the traditional leaders were the shaykhs--of villages, tribes, and districts--in the north and tribal chiefs in the south. The number of Sudanese recognizing them and the degree of authority they held varied considerably. The British first delegated judicial powers to shaykhs to enable them to settle local disputes and then gradually allowed the shaykhs to administer local governments under the supervision of British district commissioners.
The mainstream of political development, however, occurred among local leaders and among Khartoum's educated elite. In their view, indirect rule prevented the country's unification, exacerbated tribalism in the north, and served in the south to buttress a less-advanced society against Arab influence. Indirect rule also implied government decentralization, which alarmed the educated elite who had careers in the central administration and envisioned an eventual transfer of power from British colonial authorities to their class. Although nationalists and the Khatmiyyah opposed indirect rule, the Ansar, many of whom enjoyed positions of local authority, supported the concept
Egypt was a demi-colony of Britain, with just enough independence to remind them that they weren't independent. Sudan had, for reasons of imperial greed, been the scene of one of the greatest defeats of a colonial ruler, at Khartoum, yet another story glorified by the British and then Hollywood into meaning something far different than what actually took place. The madness of actually controlling Sudan never seemed to occur to anyone until Gordon's head was on a pike. But in Britain's bloody colonial history, this was one instance where common sense ruled over imperial greed, the British letting Gordon die, but then, his death forced the hand of the British, and they had to kill more locals.
posted by Steve @ 5:36:00 PM