Sudan Prehistory and History


The oldest cultures of the Sudan are very little known. Apart from the sporadic Paleolithic remains found along the Blue Nile (Abu Anga), the following phases are placed between the Paleolithic and Mesolithic. Settlements of considerable interest are those of Khartoum for the Mesolithic, of Shaheinab for the Neolithic. At the end of the 4th millennium BC, the first metal objects are found. The material imported from Egypt allows, from the 1st dynasty onwards, to establish a good chronology. The pharaohs of the XII dynasty (beginning of the 2nd millennium BC) extended their dominion over part of the Sudan which, starting from this period, gravitated in the political and cultural orbit of Egypt. In the 8th century. BC, however, it was a dynasty that came from Nubia to conquer Egypt and exercise its authority over the Upper Nile region for over a millennium, Napata and then of Meroe ; its destruction occurred around the 4th century. by the reign of Aksum.


  1. From its origins to independence

Christianity took root deeply in Nubia, thanks to the preaching of Syrian monks in the 6th century, particularly in the kingdoms of Nobazia, Makuria (Dongola) and Alodia. From the 14th century. Arab domination became preponderant and Islam, already present before the collapse of the Christian kingdoms, spread. From the alliance between an Arab tribe and an Islamized black people, the kingdom of Funj was born at the beginning of the 16th century. Egyptian was extended over Darfur, Sennar and Kordofan. ● Egypt appointed a viceroy, assisted by governors for the various provinces, leaving the tribal leaders in their place, and in 1830 Khartoum was built. After the opening of the Suez Canal (1869), European interest in the region became more marked. Against the Egyptian occupation and the European penetration, in 1881 al-Mahdī unleashed the holy war, clashing with the expansionism of Great Britain. Having conquered Khartoum, the Mahdī established a theocratic state, with Omdurman as its capital. In 1896 joint Anglo-Egyptian forces undertook the reconquest of the territory and in 1899 the Sudan became an Anglo-Egyptian condominium, in which, in fact, full powers were in the hands of the British resident. Applying indirect administration, London allowed the two parts of the country to develop differently: the North, firmly in the hands of an Arab-Islamic oligarchy and oriented towards Egypt, progressed more economically, while the South, where the Christian missions operated, remained more tied to its own traditions. The undeclared purpose of the British administration was to unite, at least in part, the Sudan to Uganda, keeping it out of Arab influence. The military who came to power in Egypt with the coup d’état of July 1952 agreed with the British authorities to initiate the Sudan, through a three-year period of self-government, to self-determination about their own future. In the elections for the first Sudanese Parliament (1953), the Nationalist Unionist Party (PNU), an expression of the pro-Western and urbanized elements, prevailed. as well as of orthodox Islamic circles, which in the following January gave life to an executive headed by I. al-Azharī. Independence was proclaimed on January 1, 1956.

  1. The civil war and the fundamentalist Islamic regime

The newborn Republic preferred not to join the Commonwealth and became part of the Arab League, while internally the start of a guerrilla movement in the South immediately made evident the discontent of the southern regions, eager for greater autonomy from the central government. In 1958, General I. ‛Abbūd seized power with a coup d’état, maintained with the support of the armed forces until 1964. Since then, Sudanese political life has been marked by an alternation of military regimes and attempts at democratization ; in the short periods in which, in compliance with fundamental freedoms, democratic elections were held, the Sudan experienced moments of authentic pluralism and tried to positively resolve its southern question. A new civil interlude, which began in 1964, was abruptly closed in May 1969 by the coup d’état of General GM an-Numairī, who dissolved all parties, with the exception of the Sudanese Socialist Union, and gave the country a new Constitution (1973). In the meantime, the regime had reached a global agreement with the guerrillas, which provided for the granting of ample autonomy for the southern provinces of the country. Evolving in an ever more personalistic and authoritarian sense, the an-Numairī regime progressively moved away from the USSR, approaching the USA, Saudi Arabia and, above all, Egypt. The continuing worsening of the country’s economic conditions and the resumption of guerrilla warfare in the southern provinces weakened the regime and in April 1985 an-Numairī was ousted by a group of soldiers who, abolished the 1973 Constitution, promoted a rapid return to democracy: the elections for the Constituent Assembly (1986) were won by the Umma, whose leader, Ṣ. al-Mahdī, established a coalition government. This did not prevent the continuation of the armed struggle in the South, led above all by the People’s Liberation Army of Sudan (ELPS), which made the abolition of Islamic law a condition for starting negotiations with the government. ● In 1989 a coup led by General ‛O.Ḥ.A. al-Bashīr brought to power a group of officers close to the National Islamic Front, headed by its ideologue H. at-Turabi. Became a point of reference for Islamists from all over the world, the government undertook to extend the sharī‛aa throughout the national territory, nullifying the agreements previously reached with the ELPS. The military junta, turning its back on Egypt, brought the country into a state of almost absolute international isolation, also for having supported Iraq in the first Gulf War (1991) and having repeatedly given hospitality to the leader of al-Qā ‛Ida, O. bin Laden. The Sudan then allied itself with Iran, determining the breakdown of diplomatic relations on the Egyptian side (1995). In 1999 al-Bashīr expelled at-Turabi from power, then re-establishing relations with Egypt and siding with the US in the fight against terrorism (2001). The resumption of negotiations with ELPS led to the 2002 truce and the signing of the agreement (2005) with which the Sudan it recognized autonomy in the Christian South for 6 years (with the provision of a subsequent referendum for self-determination), the principle of multi-partyism and the co-option of ELPS in the government. In 2003, however, in the region ofDarfur (➔ # 10132;) another tragic civil war broke out between pro-government Arab militias and black Muslim populations, causing tens of thousands of civilian deaths and the flight of 2 million refugees from the region; following these events in 2006 Sudan and the UN reached an agreement for a peace mission. In 2009, the Hague Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashīr for crimes committed in Darfur. In February 2010, a preliminary agreement was reached between the government and the main rebel group, the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement).In January 2011 the referendum for the self-determination of Southern Sudan was held, which unequivocally sanctioned (98.83% of the votes) the desire for independence of the populations of South Sudan from Karthoum, independence formally proclaimed and celebrated on 9 July 2011 in Juba, the capital of the new state, in the presence of the new president Salva Kiir Mayardit and al-Bashīr. In April 2015 al-Bashīr, in power for over 25 years, he was confirmed president of the Sudan, obtaining 94% of the preferences; in the following years, however, popular discontent increased due to the very long duration of his mandate and the worsening of the country’s economic conditions, culminating in a series of protests in December 2018 that opened an irreversible crisis of the regime, which resulted in April 2019 in the dismissal of the politician following a military coup. In August 2019, the Military Council of the Sudan and the leaders of the protest signed a historic constitutional declaration in Khartoum which provides for the creation of a Council made up of 11 members, both civilian and military, to lead the country for the next three years pending new elections and governed by the military AF.A. al-Burhan for the first 21 months; the country’s economist and former United Nations official A. Hamdok was appointed prime minister of the country. A historic peace agreement was reached in August 2020 between the central government and the rebel forces of the Revolutionary Front of Sudan: signed in Juba (South Sudan) after complex negotiations, it put an end to a conflict that lasted 17 years, arranging between the other points are the granting of administrative autonomy to the states of West Darfur, Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the regulation of tribal land ownership and the integration of the rebel military forces into the Sudanese army. In October 2021, in a context of serious political instability and strong social tensions, control of power was assumed by soldiers who arrested and placed Hamdok and various ministers of his executive under house arrest; in the following month, the premier accepted an agreement with the forces that had deposed him to return to the government, which did not calm the climate of strong social tensions.

Sudan Prehistory

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