The constant influence of the Pharaohs of Egypt over the
areas the Egyptians called Khus and the Greeks Nubia was one
of the main reasons why in the period from the 3rd
millennium BCE to around year 0 it was not possible to
develop an independent state in the area. The Pharaohs
preferred to have scattered tribes in their hinterland.
Therefore, the kingdom of Napata arose in the 8th century
BCE, when the decay in Egypt was so advanced that the
country could be ruled by foreign dynasties. The last of
these was just Sudanese. The kings of Napata conquered Egypt
in 730 BCE and ruled the country until 663, where it was
conquered by the Assyrians. At the same time, the fall of
the dynasty caused its hinterland in Sudan - although not
occupied - to fall apart. But in its place soon emerged 3
new kingdoms: Nobatia, Dongola and Alodia, which existed for
the following 20 centuries.
While the Persians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs in turn took
control of Egypt, these kingdoms retained political and
cultural autonomy. This was partly due to their position as
middlemen between the Mediterranean and Central Africa, from
which were supplied slaves, ivory and other goods. Yet the
number of major events during this long period is limited:
after the influence of Ethiopia, the country in the 6th
century converted to Christianity ; a century later, the
country was invaded by the Arabs, forcing King Dongola to
open up to Arab traders and Islam. The cooperation was based
on a treaty that lasted for over 600 years.
the Egyptian Mamluks destroyed Dongola in the 14th century
and Alodia around the year 1500. These invasions took place
constantly despite the formation of new kingdoms. There were
now Muslim kingdoms in Sennar - at the Blue Nile (Al-Bahr
al-Azraq) - Kordofan further west and Darfur in the middle
of the desert.
Pacha Mohamed Ali (see Egypt ) decided in 1820 to wipe
out the Mamluks and penetrated Sudan. The Egyptians
established a military base in Khartoum, and from then on
their military presence in the country was constant to
culminate with its total occupation in 1876. The occupation
had widespread consequences: the unification of the country
affected the autonomy of the local chiefs and leaders; new
religious rituals were introduced (although both countries
practiced the Sunni direction within Islam ); slavery was
banned by pressure from the English and this affected the
powerful slave traders who had controlled the country until
very recently; finally, taxes were introduced, which in
particular weighed heavily on farmers and cattle owners,
creating a solid and widespread dissatisfaction.
When, in 1881, Mohamed Ahmad proclaimed himself "Mahdi"
(savior) and initiated a crusade to save Islam, he met with
immediate understanding - especially among the Arab-oriented
people of the north. Britain occupied Egypt in 1882 and
subsequently also entered Sudan, but still failed to stop
the rebellion. In 1885, Mahdi's followers occupied
Khartoum, defeated the English under the leadership of
General Gordon and created the first national government.
But the British could not allow the existence of a state
that opposed the empire's strategy of establishing one
continuous corridor of colonies from Cairo in the north to
Cape Town in the south. In 1898, the British launched a
pinch operation, mobilizing troops all the way from Cairo to
Uganda and Kenya, attacking Mahdi on two fronts.
Also France had a transcontinental Africa project -
albeit in east-west direction - was therefore also
interested in Sudan and also sent troops there. Mahdi was
now under attack on three fronts and was defeated in
September 1898. When the colonial armies after the meeting
in Fachoda, it was close to open war between France and
Britain, but the French ended up recognizing the British
supremacy over the Nile valley and an Anglo-Egyptian control
over Sudan was established.
In Egypt, the king had a goal of creating unity in the
Nile region through political unification between Cairo and
Khartoum. The British opposed these plans and threatened to
give the people of southern Sudan some form of "federal
independence". The people of the south were predominantly
animists and, moreover, a small minority of Christians
facing the Arab and Islamic north. In any case, the British
initiated a closed district policy that prevented
any contact between the South and the North.