By K.K. Prah:

From ?Government and Politics in Africa ? A Reader?

Edited by O. Nnoli, published by AAPS Books, Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2000

An armed struggle has been fought intermittently in the Sudan since August 1955. In Africa its only rival in duration is the Eritrean armed resistance which commenced in September 1961. The early beginnings of the African nationalist insurgency in the Sudan can be traced to the Torit Mutiny August 18, 1955, when members of the equatorial corps garrisoned in Torit revolted against the military authority of the ending Anglo-Egyptian condominium, then officered by Arabist Sudanese. This happened within months of the transfer of state power from the condominium administration into Sudanese hands on January 1, 1956.

After the collapse of the mutiny, armed resistance emerged at various points in the South. Rebel units under Latada and Paul Ali Ghatala operated as separate insurgency groups on both banks of the Nile. Until the early 1980s Paul Ali Ghatala?s unit operated in Western Equatoria. However by 1959, the initial force of the armed resistance had been spent. The fires of armed rebellion seriously rose again in 1963 with the mergence of Anya Nya under the leadership of SANU (Sudan African National Union). Through various turbulent stages of evolution, the war was brought to a major lull by the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972. Where most of the African nationalist insurgents led by Joseph Lagu agreed to the peace of Addis Ababa, some elements under Gordon Mourtat Mayne, Paul Ali Ghatala and others rejected the agreement. Paul Ali Ghatala continued the armed struggle, Gordon Mourtat Mayen and Aggrey Jaden remained in exile as political and historical representations of continued rebellion.

With the explosion of the Akobo Incident in 1975 when the integration process of former Anya Nya units into the national army broke down, the fires of war flared up again. The Anya Nya Patriotic Front surfaced out of small beginnings in the Akobo Incident and formed under the political leadership of Gordon Mourtat Mayen until 1981.

While the Addis Ababa Agreement brought for almost 10 years some measure of peace to the South, in hindsight the 1970s appear more as an armistice than a durable peace. The Nimeire regime which ruled over the peace of Addis Ababa increasingly flaunted and rescinded the terms of the agreement and propelled the Sudanese state willy-nilly into the fiery vortex of a full-scale civil war by 1983. The resurgent armed resistance has been led by Dr. John Garang and Joseph Oduhu, a veteran founding member of the Anya Nya in 1963.

Why has the Sudanese conflicts so far eluded substantial peace? This question can be partly understood in terms of the inability of the warring parties to achieve a political and constitutional arrangement which would resolve the contradictions on which the civil war is premised. The dominant feature of these contradictions is the national question in the Sudan; a situation in which an Arab minority controls state power, dominates the armed forces, the civil bureaucracy, the political elite, commerce, trade, banking and the judiciary, and orders these instruments of state power towards a spoken and unspoken policy of Arabization of the African national majority.

Since the end of the Second World War, more specifically since the Juba Conference of 1947, African nationalist opinion has largely defended the idea of a federal arrangement which will recognize the African majority. This has been repeatedly rejected by successive Sudanese regines. The Addis Ababa Agreement gave some room for African national self-expression in the constitutional form of southern regional autonomy but the looseness and fraglity of the constitutional edifice led to a steady erosion of its basis by the Nimeire regime which as time went on increasingly pursued policies of divide and rule, consistent dismantling of the Addis Ababa Agreement, and Arabization.

The National Question

Only 39 percent of Sudanese regard themselves as Arab.1 In spite of this fact, the Sudan is regarded by most international bodies to be part of the Arab World. This oddity is due to the fact that the prevalent character of the Sudanese state is Arabist. The Sudan in national terms in a minority-ruled state. In a crucial political sense this creates comparisons with white-minority-ruled South Africa and Namibia in sub-Saharan Africa, however limited the scope of these comparisons may be. It is ironical that this comparative perspective of South Africa and the Sudan is noted by the former South African white parliamentary opposition leader Van Zijl Slabbert.2

The Sudanese conflict is often explained as simply a regionalist confrontation. This view is as erroneous as the suggestion that it is largely a religious conflict. While the problem bears both regionalist and religious dimensions, those features of the conflicts belie the more fundamental character of the contradiction which is that the Sudan is largely made up of Africans who are more concentrated in the South where their cultural features are also less Arabized. The southerners have to some degree been Christianized but most lean more profoundly on their traditional African cosmology and ritual. In the North, most of the nationalities have to a great degree been Islamized but again here Africanist beliefs are not uncommon, particularly among the Fur, Fung and Nuba. It is in the North that the African cultural traits have been most diminished and replaced by Arab culture. In many areas of the North, African languages are slowly perishing in the face of Arabizing forces and influences. The Beja, who have historically resisted Arabization, are increasingly being Arabized. The Funj Nuba, Messalit, Zaghawa and Fur, remain largely conscious of their African national identity. However, of all the African nationalities of the North, it is particularly among the Nubian that claims of Arab identity are most rampant. Another irony here is that before the penetration of Arabs in Nubia, this area of the Sudan had been Christianized; from earlier beginnings, by 543-580A.D., Christianity had established pre-eminence over purely African religious practices, and indeed Christianity then became the official religion.3 As recently as 1742 pockets of Christian communities were reported to exist in Nubia.4 Although today many Nubians claim Arab nationality, in as much as they have been culturally Arabized, it is noteworthy that structural linguistic similarities exist between the Nubian languages of the Nile Basin, particularly Dongolawi and Mahas, and the languages of the Nuba Mountains, some of the smaller African nationalities of Darfur, and some languages in the South.

As I have indicated elsewhere, essentially it is possible to classify Northern Sudanese who claim Arab nationality into one of two groups. On the one hand, are the Jaali and the Barabra who are mainly Arabized Nubian riverine cultivators, and on the other, the Juhayna who are mainly nomadic groups. Among especially the Jaali, Nubian dialects still survive in the face of increasing Arabization.5

The dominance of the Arab minority in the Sudanese political economy is practically demonstrated in conditions of extreme underdevelopment in the South and relatively better development in the North. Class variation has tended to run along the crucial national distinctions. This is particularly noticeable among the elites, with African representation singularly weak among the mercantile and banking elements, judicial and military brass. Conversely, Africans are well represented among the ranks of the lowest menial workers in Khartoum and Omdurman.

The need for the dominant groups in Sudanese society to define themselves as differently as possible from African is in some instances reduced to absurdity. For example, as Joseph Oduho explains:

?In every passport given to any Sudanese, whether he be brown, semi white, pitch-black, it is always said ?brown? is the colour. And on my passport it is written that I am brown, and probably if I went one day to Nigeria, they will say, brown? This man! It is one of those things ? that you cannot know until you have lived here a long time to know the real difference between the South and the North.?6

The claim of Arabness in the Sudan carries with it, a subjective notion of cultural and national superiority.7 This situation has tended to encourage Arabization.

Historically, in the collective psyche of the African, perhaps what has crystallized most uniformly in African perceptions of the Arab is the history of slavery. Abdel Rahman Sule, a Southern Moslem who was at the forefront of pro-federalist politics in the 1940s and 1950s, recalls his youth early this century:

?My father was a chief, the effendi who came around our village to kill elephants were Muslims. I used to see what these people were doing. That is how I became a Muslim. In 1927, I was caught with arms from Ethiopia, by then I was already a Muslim. But I was very aware of my Africaness. When I was a kid, if I was woken late in the morning by my father, he would say ?if it had been in the days of the Ansars you would have been taken?. My father always woke me up early so that in his words I am not taken by the Ansars.?8

The veteran politician Clement Mboro, whose father was an Ndogo Chief recollects that during the 1930s ?

?There were ? Arab traders and peddlers coming around to trade ? The attitude of the people was one of distrust ? That they were not sincere, they were not honest, they were not to be trusted ? they used to sell us the black people, they used to trade in people ? Thus we grew up with the feeling that they were not friendly, not sincere ??9

The inability of post-independence Sudan to meet this history squarely, frankly dispassionately; treat it objectively and openly on all fora of social activity has tended to exacerbate the Sudanese national cleavage. Oduho is caustic in his remark:

?Well, people usually are not very happy particularly people from the Northern Sudan, of the mention of the slave trade. And one really cannot understand why this should be so ? All the years I was a school teacher, history was out of the curriculum of the Southern Sudan. It was not allowed to learn history ? when I left the county in 1960, history was not taught. From 1950 to 1960 that entire decade, history was never taught. The history of the Sudan has never been taught in the Southern Sudan. Just to avoid the idea of slavery ? Now they are teaching it, but they skip over it ??10

The effacement of the history of slavery in the Sudan does not only in effect deny the Africans in the South access to knowledge of their national history, but equally this denial debases the history of the northern nationalities. For, as Sir Harold MacMicheal explains, the importation of slave women from the South which has proceeded uninterrupted for centuries, lends further measure to the spurious homogeneity of these Nubian people.11

The unresolved national question and its class underpinnings can be identified as the fundamental cause of the civil war. The absence of a political arrangement which, while recognizing the majority African national character of the Sudan, affords the Arab minority equal national rights constitutes a recipe for continued war. Every single change of government in the Sudan during the past 30 years has to a different degree been prompted by considerations relating to the national question as expressed in the ?Southern problem?. As Ambrose Ring Thiik observes: ?This war started over 30 years ago because the unrealistic attitudes on the part of the Northern Sudanese who took over from the British, combined with the lack of any national consensus, prevented the working out of constitutional arrangements acceptable to the South?.12

Thus the African national resistance led by the Sudan People?s Liberation Army/Sudan People?s Liberation Movement (SPLA/SPLM) has come to represent the latest installment of Africans in the Sudan in their quest for self-determination, national liberation, and majority-rule within a constitutional formula for the whole of the Sudan. Since 1983, the civil war has ceased to be confined to the geographical area of the South, and has spread, although weakly, to other predominantly African areas of the North, such as the Southern Kordofan region and the southern Blue Nile area. These developments emphasize the fact that the conflict is not merely regional but rather represents African resistance to Arab minority rule.

The Consitutional Dilemma

Present-day Sudan, like all countries on the African continent, is a creation of colonial powers; in this case Britain. Although the condominium arrangement of 1898 stipulated Egyptian partnership, Britain remained to all intents and purposes the very senior partner in the arrangement. Few have expressed British thinking on this matter as succinctly as Lord Cromer. He thought that the facts were plain enough. Fifteen years previously, Egyptian misgovernment had led to a successful rebellion in the Sudan. British rule had developed the military and financial resources of Egypt to such an extent as to justify the adoption of a policy of re-conquest. But England not Egypt had re-conquered the country.

He admitted that it was the Egyptian Treasury which bore the lion?s share of the expeditionary costs. Egyptian troops had been the teaming ranks of the military expedition, but they were commanded and directed by British officers. ?? the guiding had been that of England?. For Cromer, it was absurd to presume that without Britain?s role and assistance in the form of men and money the Egyptian government could have re-conquered the Sudan.13 However, although in the condominium arrangement England was the unchallenged senior partner, ?it would have been unjust to ignore Egyptian claims in deciding on the future political status of the Sudan?.14 Herein lay the extent and limits of Egyptian suzerainty and overlordship in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. During the period of condominium rule (1898-1956) many British administrators, particularly those who had experience of the south experience realized that the Sudanese arrangement was a potential powder keg. However, for various reasons of imperial self-interest, the British withdrew without a constitutional dispensation which could have defused the political and constitutional time bomb embedded in the situation.

Realizing the cultural dichotomy between African and Arab Sudan, the British formulated the southern policy in 1930, but long before this the de facto approach had been one of recognizing the difference between the social, economic, and political interest of the areas of high African concentration in the southern end of the country, and the Arabized provinces of the north particularly in the riverine areas north of the 120 latitude.

The method favoured by the British to insulate the African South from the Arab North was one of Anglicization and Christianization. In 1903, the condominium government apportioned areas of the region south of the 100 latitude to different Christian missions. This arrangement was largely blessed with the 1905 Regulations and Conditions under which Missionaries Work. A 1906 Act gave further financial concessions to the missionaries. African resistance to British domination was relentless and persisted well into the 1930s. Education was seen by Cromer as a crucial method of pacification. It was felt that English would support Christian proselytization. Northern Muslim soldiers became the next target in the strategy of the administrators and missionaries in the South. In 1911 Governor Owen of Mongalla suggested the institution of a new all-African southern army, to replace the northern Sudanese troops. In 1914, the first unit of the new Equatorial Corps was operationalized. In 1914 Sunday replaced Friday as the day of rest in the Lado Enclave. This regulation was implemented in Mongalla Province in 1917. In this latter province in the same year, Governor Owen ?deported? serious Muslims in the area to the North. In the same year the Governor withdrew from all Muslim festivals. In 1922 the condominium administration passed the Passports and Permits Ordinance, together with the Closed Districts Order. This latter law made parts of Northern Kordofan, Kassala, Gezira, Darfur and Equatoria closed districts. On the basis of these ordinances, the South was virtually closed to Northern elements. The 1925 Permits to Trade Order submitted that only natives of the South were allowed to carry on trade in the South without a permit. Further elaborations were made to this order in 1928. Syrian and Greek traders were courted since they represented the Christian religious confession. To reinforce British thinking on administrative practice in general and the insulation of the South from Arabizing influences in particular, the notions of indirect rule as developed by Lugard found fertile experimental and practical ground in the Sudan.

The statutory beginnings of indirect rule in the Sudan can be traced to the Powers of Nomad Sheikh Ordinance of 1922. By 1923, this had ordered and regularized the traditional judicial functions of about 300 sheikhs. In 1927, the Powers of Sheikhs Ordinance further extended the powers and authority recognized and enjoyed by the sheikhs of nomadic ethnicities to the sedentary groups.15 In the South a meeting of governors in 1922 had sponsored the relegation of local administration ?in the hands of native authorities ? under British supervision?. African ethnic consciousness was encouraged. The 1928 Rejaf Language Conference selected six African languages as media for instruction. As from the same year grants-in-aid were made to missionary schools.16

Thus, by and large, by the late 1920s a formidable array of ordinances, regulations and arrangements had been instituted which in effect closed the South to (unrestricted) Arabizing influences, and their effect of eroding the African identity of southern Sudan. Peter Woodward is right when he argues that this line of policy associated particularly with MacMichael ?was not a piece of unavoidable pragmatism?.17 The easier course of action would have been to allow Arabizaiton to seep into the South, under the rationale of pursuing a united and easier Sudanese policy. Such a policy of opportunistic pragmatism would have, as is noted by the then British foreign secretary Arthur Henderson, implied ?a policy which deliberately and of set purpose aimed at encouraging the conversion to Islam of a population who have neither racial nor other affinities with the Moslem Arabs?.18 There was through the period of condominium rule a distinct lobby within the British administrative cadre which felt that at some future date, the South should be appended on to the British empire in East Africa. This idea never got off the drawing board. Oduho has however argued that in practice the administrative arrangements for the South in effect did not only isolate the South from the North, but also from East Africa.

?Well, this idea of isolating the Southern Sudan against the influence of the North ? also ? isolated us against the influences of East Africa. And so, we were left nowhere, really, the people of the Southern Sudan ? Southern Sudanese had nowhere to go ? The Northern Sudan looked on Egypt as Australia or America in the early days looked at Britain. We ? identified ourselves culturally?through traditional religions and so on ??19

Thus in a serious sense, the southern policy, as it has come to be know did not begin in 1930. It had been steadily under construction from the initial years of condominium rule. While the system differentiated the northern people and cultures from the southern, it was in practice not socially hermetic, and not pursued with rigour. Indeed, until the mid-1920s the Baggara were slave-taking in Bahr al Ghazal and selling them in remote markets in the North.20 It is important to note that the administration and more stringent enforcement of the southern policy was galvanized into motion after the discovery in 1929 that extensive slave trading was still going on from the Beni Shanqul across to the White Nile.21 It was after this revelation that the authorities decided to enforce more consistently the closed districts legislation and close the South to Northerners, including northern administrators.22

The Civil Secretary, Sir Harold MacMichael, issued on January 25, 1930 a confidential memorandum to the governors of the southern provinces, in which he summarized the key tenets of government administrative policy in the South.

The policy of the government in southern Sudan was to build up a series of self-contained racial or tribal units with structure and organization, based to whatever extent the requirements of equity and good government permitted, upon indigenous customs, traditional usage and beliefs.

Mohammed Omer Beshir?s suggestion that ?its ultimate objective ? the separation of the South from the North ? guided the Sudan government policy until 1945?23 is superficial and simplistic; more pointedly, that argument confuses the effect with the cause. This ultimately is the reading that can be made into the Governor-General of Sudan?s letter to the British High Commissioner in Cairo in 1945:

?It is only be economic and educational development that these people can be quipped to stand up for themselves in the future, whether their lot can be eventually cast with northern Sudan or with East Africa (or partly with each).?24

The southern policy was predicted on the assumption that the South was distinctively and undeniably African. But the primary and self-interested objective was to achieve effective administration through the enlightenment of Lugardian principles of indirect rule. The three decades of armed resistance by the fierce and militant African ethnicities in the South was brought to a close by the Nuer Settlement of 1933. As late as 1938, the Government Secretary?s annual report for the previous year attested to the fact that in ?parts of the territory a risk of local disturbances and outbreaks of violence must always be taken into account?.25 This was to be avoided.

This administrative policy was welcomed in the South by the administrators, and remained the official guiding formulation on southern policy until after the Second World War.

The 1930s saw the emergence of Northern Sudanese nationalism which was largely independent of active Egyptian influence, and which represented the rise of a middle socio-economic stratum mainly representative of petty-bourgeois interest but with some element of the small but fledgling commercial bourgeoisie. They initially surfaced as literary, cultural, and mutual-aid societies and were predominantly led by the effendis (petty administrators), the educated, and urbanized elites. Appearing first on the political scene in 1931, they made a more mature appearance with British encouragement in 1938 as the Graduates Congress. They represented a new breed, away from the more politically subservient traditional leaders. The Graduates Congress had emerged in direct response to the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936. The treaty sought to give Egypt greater manoeuvereability in Sudanese affairs, which had been curbed since the assassination of Sir Lee Stack in 1924, two years after Egypt was granted independence. The Congress broke up when Mahdist and Khatmia sympathizers within the Congress disagreed over policy and objectives. These two streams represented traditional religious affiliation in the North. The Khatmia elements grouped themselves into the Ashiqqa (Brothers) in 1943, the Mahdists formed the Umma26 party. The working classes in the North largely represented by the railway workers, became increasingly articulate during the mid-1940s. The Sudanese Communist Party as early as 1954 advanced the position of ?autonomy? for the South, however in substance this position by-passed confrontation with the fact that the Sudan was an African country with an Arab national minority.27

The South throughout this period remained fairly peripheral to the economic and social processes engendered by the penetration of colonial capitalism into northern Sudan.

The British reviewed and abandoned the old southern policy formally in 1946. In his memorandum on Southern Sudan policy of December 16, 1946, the Civil Secretary James Robertson restated the new formula to read amongst other points that: ?? the peoples of the Southern Sudan are distinctively African and Negroid, but that geography and economics combine (so far as can be foreseen at the present time) to render them inextricably bound for future development to the Middle-Eastern and arabicised Northern Sudan.?28

In order to meet and contain anti-colonial nationalist consciousness in the North and in accordance with the advice of Stafford Cripps to Douglas Newbold ?Not to wait upon events,?29 an Advisory Council was created in 1944. The central question in the politics of the North after 1945 was the issue of the eventuality of political independence, and what shape or form this might take. On these matters the two dominant streams of North Sudanese politics, the NUP (Khatimia), and the Umma (Mahdist) and their predecessors reflected opposing viewpoints. While the NUP supported an arrangement of Sudanese-Egyptian federation in line with their old and much vaunted notion of ?unity of the Nile Valley?, the Mahdist grouping favoured independence with some measure of Commonwealth or British linkage. Most of the co-operation for both the Advisory Council and the later Legislative Assembly of 1948 derived from the Mahdist elements. However, the success of the 1952 coup in Egypt created a favourable political atmosphere for the NUP. The threat of prejudicing their imperial prospects in Egypt, the Middle East, and the empire east of Suez demanded remaining in collaborative terms with the Egyptians and their political sympathizers in the Sudan. American influence in British Middle East politics was not insignificant.

The October 1946 agreement (the Sidqui-Bevin Protocol) reached between the British and Egyptians undertook ?to follow in the Sudan, within the framework of the unity between the Sudan and Egypt under the common crown of Egypt?. It represented an attempt to buy the favour of Egypt by ?selling the Sudan to Egypt?.30 While Southern opinion on these events and later ones was not invited, the Umma-supported demonstrations in the North helped to swiftly dampen British support for the terms of the Protocol. During mid-1947, the issue was taken to the UN Security Council where it fell like a damp squid. The Sudanese were generally marginalized in these discussions. Although by and large the Northern Sudanese had some platforms and institutional forms for political expression, in the South there were neither the platforms nor the cadre of educated voices to articulate their interests. The Juba Conference of June 1947 saw the initiation of the constitutional debates in the Sudan which have so far failed to produce a constitutional structure capable of containing the conflicting interests in Sudanese society. The principal architect of the conference, James Robertson, has written that:

?I thought that before advising the Governor-General in Council about this matter I ought to satisfy myself about the capacity of the Southerners to sit in a Legislative Assembly and play a constructive part in the discussions and deliberations ? I looked upon the conference solely as a means of finding out the capabilities of the Southerners, and it was therefore quite inaccurate for some people to say later that at the Juba Conference the Southern representatives agreed to come in with the North ? the only decision resulting from the conference was taken by myself. I decided that I could, after what I had seen of the Southerners who attended, endorse the recommendation of the Administrative conference, and ask the Governor-General ? in-Council to accept its proposal that the new Legislative Assembly should be representative of the whole Sudan.?31

It has been suggested that ?the change of attitude of certain educated Southerners who had first spoken against any participation in the Legislative Assembly and later changed their minds, was due to the efforts of Mohamed Saleh Eff Shingeiti, a Northern member of the Conference?.32 This view is corroborated by Sir James Robertson, who writes that:

?I guessed at the time that my friend Mohamed Shingeiti, one of the Northern Representatives I took with me, had been busy during the night persuading the Southern Officials that Northern rates of pay would surely come to the South, if they agreed to come in with the North. This apparently persuaded Clement Mboro and others ??33

Sir James Robertson?s guess was apparently wrong. Clement Mboro who was the most articulate of the educated southerners at the Conference bears a different testimony. He recollects that in the minds of most of the southern intelligentsia who took part in the Juba Conference it was clear that the best course of action was to throw in their lot with the North, and join whatever constitutional arrangement could be reached on the basis of the unity of the Sudan. This was quite well understood by all to be the declared course of action since 1946. Again most of the intelligentsia were of the view that separate constitutional arrangements for the South within the unity of the Sudan was undesirable. The only prominent dissenting view on this was Hassan Fertak, who felt that separate constitutional measures within one Sudan were necessary. Most of the chiefs were of a different view. Their position was that age and experience had taught them that it would be injudicious to go it together with the North. Separation was a better option. In the event, the views of the intelligentsia prevailed. Mboro remarks that they never met Shingeiti except in the conference room.34

?The one who attempted to influence us was Ibrahim Badri. He happened to have worked for many years in Bahr el Ghazel. He happened to know me, to know my father. I remember him, myself and Stanislau Paysame sitting, he pressed my hand, he said, ?My son, the best thing for you is to opt out of this thing with the North ? the Sudan is already united ? but for your constitutional development, you had better have your own local arrangement here. Have your own local council, your own local autonomy, but not to join in with the North straight? ??35

The Advisory Council was promulgated under the Advisory Council for the Northern Sudan Order of 1943. This Council presided over by the Governor-General and deputized by the Civil Secretary met eight times from 1945 and was annulled in 1948.

The scheduling of the Juba Conference was one of the principal decisions reached at the Sudan Administrative Conference of April 22, 1946. The other concrete decision taken was with regards to the need and composition of a new Legislative Assembly to replace the Advisory Council. A British draft for the legistlature was in some details objected to by the Egyptians particularly with regard to the marginalization of the Egyptian role. These objections were largely overruled by the eventual Executive Council and Legislative Assembly Ordinance. This ordinance created a 12 to 18 member Executive Council, 50 percent of whom had to be Sudanese. The Legislative Assembly was structured to have 10 nominated members, 52 northerners and 13 southerners. Work on government legislation was shared between the institutions of the Executive Council and the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly which first met on December 15, 1948 under Abdalla Bey Khalil saw the formal incorporation of southern opinion into the developing constitutional dispensation for the Sudan prior to the attainment of the status of independence.

While political debate in the North was preoccupied with the formula for independence with regard to the degree of merger, co-operation with or independence from Egypt, Southern politicians were most concerned with ideas for the sort of federal structure for an independent Sudan which would protect the economic, cultural, and national interests of the Africans in the South.

US anxiety matched by pressure on the British government to conclude an understanding with the Egyptian regime which would protect western interests in the Middle East in general, and the Suez Canal in particular only served to raise Sudanese fears, mainly within the Umma, that Britain might sell the Sudan for a bargain with Egypt. Thus when the Egyptian monarch announced in the Egyptian parliament that the 1899 and 1936 Anglo-Egyptian treaties were to be withdrawn, the Umma-dominated Legislative Assembly went ahead and passed a resolution demanding self government in 1951. Ensuing discussions resulted in the creation of a constitutional Amendment Commission to propose constitutional changes. This Commissions started its work on March 29, 1951. The new, pro-Egyptian unionist political party, the National Front, the unionist Ashiqqa, and Khatmia under Ali el Mirghani, supported a position of independence under the Egyptian crown rather than outright merger, and all boycotted the Constitutional Amendment Commission, as they had done with the Legislative Assembly and the Advisory Councils.36

When the Egyptian government on October 8, 1951 abrogated the 1899 and 1936 agreements and enunciated a constitution for the Sudan, it was rejected by all shades of political opinion in the Sudan except the Ashiqqa.37 The British rejected the Egyptian constitution and ultimately prepared a report which served as a draft for the Self-Government Statute, adopted by the Legislative Assembly on April 23, 1952. The British Government endorsed the draft statute in October of the same year.38

In July 1952, King Farouk was overthrown, Gen. Neguib?s new administration entered into negotiation with the Umma and reached agreement calling for self-determination for the Sudan preceded by a period of transitional government. All the northern Sudanese parties signed an agreement with the Egyptians on January 10, 1953 endorsing the Egyptian proposals. The British outflanked these developments with an Anglo-Egyptian agreement signed on February 12, 1953. The transitional period to self determination was not to exceed 3 years. The negotiations for the Anglo-Egyptian agreement excluded southern participation on the grounds that the South had no political parties. This show of disregard for southern opinion whatever the formal explanation offered was regarded with great suspicion by southern leadership. Benjamin Lwoki, a prominent southern leader later complained that: ?Southerners were not happy when the 1953 Agreement was signed. None were present. The Legislative Assembly was dead ? telegrams of protest had been ignored. The terms of the Agreement had not been carried out.?39

One of the results of the Anglo-Egyptian agreement was that a Governor-General?s Commission was set up to assist the country in its transition to independence. This body did not include southern opinion. A Sudanization Committee was formed in February 1954 to localize administrative posts in the civil service. Of about 800 posts which were Sudanized, only four southerners were made Assistant District Commissioners and two Mamurs (Executive Officer). These developments did not help to allay southern fears regarding the intentions of the North. In 1951, a group of southerners had formed a political caucus; this became the Southern Party in 1953.

In the elections of November-December 1953, the NUP won a majority, and political moves towards independence continued amidst attempts to woo the South.

By the beginning of the 1950s, southern political awareness and militancy was on the upsurge. An older group of educated southerners who had been operating since 1947 as the Southern Sudan Intelligentsia Committee, evolved in 1954 into the Liberal Party incorporating and inheriting the mantle of the Southern Party. This group found a more sympathetic ear among the Umma than the NUP. The Liberal Party at this stage carried the bulk of enlightened southern opinion. A conference of the Liberal Party was organized in October 1954, in Juba. There was widespread criticism of the Sudanization process. More importantly the delegates agreed almost unanimously that a federal constitutional status with the North should be accorded South. When a tour of the South was undertaken by NUP politicians led by the Prime Minister Al Azhari, they received a frosty reception. When the government raised the salaries of police, prison officers and some bureaucrats to match northern scales, they left out the Article III clerical category to which class most of the petty southern intelligentisia belonged. In mid-1955, the Liberal Party issued a call for all southerners regardless of party affiliations to form a ?southern block? to pursue the objective of Southerners, particularly a federal constitution.40

The general southern position during this period favoured a federal constitution, although there was a small group of Southerners which remained unhappy about any linkage with the North and preferred outright separation. The political atmosphere was charged. When 300 southern workers in June and July were dismissed en masse from the Zande Scheme in Western Equatoria tensions mounted. On July 25, a Southern M.P., Elia Kuze was imprisoned after an unsatisfactory trial. On the 26th, a demonstration took place in the industrial town of Nzara. Six Azande were killed and many others were wounded. From then on events moved swiftly to a violent climax.

The Torit Mutiny of August 18, 1955, was the ringing historical testimony that the African people of the Sudan were on the brink of war against the emergent Arabist-minority state. The constitutional demand of southerners had previously been largely a call for a federal status, but in the ensuing years the southern viewpoint increasingly hardened. So that, by the time the exodus of December 1960 took place, when southern leaders like Saturnina Lohure, Ferdinand Adiang, William Deng, Joseph Oduha, Alexis Bakuma and others crossed the border into Uganda and the Congo, the view that it was impossible to coexist with the northern elite in a unified state was gaining currency, and separation or secession was beginning to be seriously favoured by the more militant sections of African leadership. Barely three years after the exodus of 1960, the Anya Nya was formed.

When in December 1955 parliament sought a unanimous vote for independence, they failed mainly because the southern representation was apprehensive and skeptical of northern post independence intentions. As Deng Awur Wenyin has argued: ?? the Southerners stood in the way, because they thought (and rightly) that if the situation was like that for them while the colonizers (Britain and Egypt) were still here, how would it look after they left.?41 Vague promises to consider Southern demands were made by northern politicians.

The Sudan became independent on the January 1, 1956 under the constitutional terms of the Transitional Constitution, 1956. Two years later, elections were held for a new Constituent Assembly which was opened with election procedures for a Prime Minister. The Liberal Party fielded Stanislau Paysama against Abdalla Bey Khalil (Umma) and Ishamil Al Azhari (NUP), knowing well they could not win, but anxious to show that the independent will of the political South would not falter. The primary object of the Constituent Assembly was to prepare a permanent constitution for the Sudan ? when the draft constitution was drawn up and presented to parliament, it disregarded the demand for federation. The southern parliamentarians walked out during the debate. The terminal statement prior to departure of the Southern leadership is significant. It drew attention to: ?The South claims to federate with the North, the right that the South undoubtedly posseses as a consequence of the principle of free self-determination which reason and democracy grant to a free people.?42

Even more significantly, parliamentarians and notables from other predominantly African areas of northern Sudan, specifically the Beja nationalities of the northeast and representatives from Darfur and Kordofan subsequently advanced similar demands for federal status.43 These developments were regarded as ominous signs and induced the narrow riverine Arabist elite, led by the Prime Minister, to arrange a military takeover. The Abboud regime ruthlessly pursued a policy of Arabization in the South.

The nationalist resistance of the Anya Nya grew with time but was weakened by excessive factionalism, leadership squabbles, regionalism and the absence of a consistent and coherent ideology of national liberation. Thus by 1967, warlordism was emergent, and tactics often tended to alienate the rural masses who formed the main support base.

The collapse of the Abboud regime in October 1964 was a direct consequence of the failure of the regime to bring forward viable solutions. In 1965, the escalating chaos prompted the convention of a round-table conference with the African nationalist insurgents, but this failed to open the way substantially for moves to bring the expanding insurgency to an end. Rather, throughout this period the articulation of arguments for an Islamic state developed increasing stridency. These trends were keenly opposed by the Southern Front and the Sudan African National Union (SANU). However the telling and more decisive opposition to theocratic constitutionalism was the fledgling bush war. As one regime after the other moved centre-stage with no ability to resolve the ?southern problem? the Free Officers Movement under Nimeire seized power on May 25, 1969. The June 9, Declaration recognized the cultural diversity of the country and this led the way to the Addis Ababa Agreement of March 27, 1972. While the agreement gave regional autonomy to the South, it addressed the problem in largely regionalist terms. Questions of religion, culture and nationality were given scant attention. Nimeire forged the Sudan Socialist Union as an instrument of civil rule and political machinery in the absence of political parties. In 1973, elections were held for the first People?s National Assembly. Its function was to propose a permanent constitution. The resulting constitution, while conceding regional autonomy, placed Islam centrally in the state and adopted Islamic law and custom as the main sources of legislation.

Within 10 yeats, the Nimeire regime made a full circle. Piece by piece the Nimeire regime dismantled the basis and structure of regional autonomy for the South. Throughout the 1970s the Nimeire government made an adept use of the principle of divide and rule in the South, exploiting for this purpose latent ethnic and regionalist feelings of people caught up in the holism of their largely precapitalist social world. The main focus of such strife and division, which was keenly exploited by the Nimeire regime, was the rivalry between the people of the Upper Nile and Bahr al Ghazal on the one hand and equatorians on the other. One key factor making the southerners particularly susceptible to the politics of divide and rule was the class character of southern leadership. Consisting largely of petty bureaucratic elements, they relied on government appointments and favours in order to maintain their socioeconomic status. Indeed, much of the redivision campaign can be understood in terms of the expansion of this class, competition for positions, and the expansion of state bureaucratic positions which redivision implicity promised. Above all, redivision of the South in June 1983 represented an open contradiction to the Addis Ababa Agreement, and the Southern Regional Self-Government Act of 1972.

The implementation of the Jonglei Canal Scheme to bring water to Egypt and drain the Sudd was taken up without proper political consensus in the South, and against informed ecological advice. Equally opportunistic was the project for the Kosti oil refinery which attempted to situate the refining of oil found in the South out of the region, and then pipe it out through the Red Sea coast at Port Sudan.

In 1980, some of the northern parliamentarians in concert with the government redrew the boundaries between the North and the South in order to bring key areas of Gogrial district in the Bahr el Ghazal and the oil-rich areas of Lakes Province, the Renk area, into the North. Despite a protest walkout by southern members of the National Assembly the new map was endorsed.

The imposition of Sharia Law in September 1983 was the most dramatic arbitrary act by the Nimeire regime against the rights of the non-Muslim Africans of the Sudan. However by then the systematic attack on all agreements and understandings regarding southern autonomy had already triggered off increased armed rebellion, and the SPLA/SPLM emerged to lead African national resistance.


The contradictions of Sudanese society which have for three decades kept the fires of war burning, arise out of the fact that the sharp class struggles run, as it were, parallel to the national and cultural cleavages within the society. The overwhelming proportion of the African people of the Sudan are concentrated in the lower ranks of the class structure. The small group of elevated Africans are of the bureaucratic bourgeois element and in general lack the capital and resources to develop along independent social lines.

The partial convergence of the national and class struggles premised a situation of uneven development between the North and the South. The ideological apparatus of rule of the dominant classes in the Sudan consists of the twin pillars of Islamization and more importantly Arabization. More than anything it is this latter which expresses the subjugation of the African masses within the class structure, and continues to constitute the focal point of the African nationalist struggle against Arab-minority rule. Unless there is a constitutional dispensation which recognizes the fundamental and overwhelming African character of the Sudan, and which recognizes equal rights for the Arab minority, it is unlikely that durable peace can be achieved in the Sudan. The experience of the past three decades bears testimony to this contention.


1. According to the 1958 Census Results.

2. Van Zyl Slabbert, (1985) The Last White Parliament. Johannesburg, p. 92. Van Zyl Slabbert was discussing the work of the German social scientist Theo Hanf.

3. See Giovanni Vantini, (1981), Christianity in the Sudan, p. 33, Bologna.

4. Giovanni Vantini, ibid. p. 205.

5. ?African Nationalist and the Origins of War in the Sudan?, Lesotho Law Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2. 1986.

6. Interview, Joseph Oduho, August 19, (1982), Juba.

7. Joseph Oduho, ibid.

8. Interview, Abdel Rahman Sule, June 7, (1983), Juba.

9. Interview, Clement Mboro, August 17, (1983), Nairobi.

10. Interview, Joseph Oduho, op cit.

11. H.A. MacMichael, (1922), A History of the Arabs in the Sudan, p. 113, Cambridge.

12. A.R. Thiik, (1985), ?Political and Constitutional Crisis in the Sudan?, Sudan Today, London.

13. The Earl of Cromer, (1908), Modern Egypt. Vol. 2. London, p. 112.

14. The Earl of Cromer, ibid. p. 113.

15. P.M. Holt and M.W. Daly, (1970), The History of the Sudan (3rd edition), pp. 136-137, London.

16. P.M. Holt and M.W. Daly, ibid.

17. Peter Woodward, (1979), Condominium and Sudanese Nationalism, p. 11, London.

18. Letter of Lloyd to Arthur Henderson, June 19, (1929), quoted here from Peter Woodward, ibid.

19. Interview Joseph Oduho, op cit.

20. K.D. Henderson, (1965), Sudan Republic, p. 162, New York.

21. K.D. Henderson, ibid. p. 164.

22. K.D. Henderson, ibid.

23. M.O. Beshir, (1979), The Southern Sudan. Background to Conflict, p. 59, Khartoum.

24. Quoted here from M.O. Beshir, ibid.

25. Report on the Administration, Finances and Condition of the Sudan in 1937.

26. Meaning ?Nation?. Umma party is the political face of the Ansar Sect.

27. It is significant that in substance, the rationalizations of the Sudanese Communist Party do not differ from the 1928 formulation on the national question in South Africa as understood by Sidney Bunting.

28. James Robertson, (1974), Transition in Africa, London.

29. Peter Woodward, op cit., p. 33.

30. James Robertson, op cit., p. 96.

31. James Roberston, op cit. p. 107.

32. M.O. Beshir, The Southern Sudan, op cit., p. 66. The author indicates the source to be a letter from the Governor, Bahr al Ghazal, to District Commissioners, September 23, 1947, Sudan Government Archives.

33. James Robertson, op cit., p. 108.

34. Interview, Clement Mboro, August 17, (1983), Nairobi.

35. Interview, Clement Mboro, Ibid.

36. See P.M. Holt and M.W. Daly, op cit., 154-155.

37. Muddathir Abd Al Rahim, 1969, Imperialism and Nationalism in the Sudan, p. 192, Oxford.

38. P.M. Holt and M.W. Daly, op cit., p. 155.

39. Report of the Commission on Enquiry into the Southern Sudan Disturbances of August, 1955.

40. Deng Awur Wenyin, (1985), The Southern Sudan and the Making of a Permanent Constitution in the Sudan, mimeo, Khartoum.

41. Quoted here from A.R. Thiik, (1985), ?Political and Constitutional Crisis in the Sudan?, Sudan Today, p. 15, London.

42. R.A. Thiik, Ibid.

43. R.A. Thiik, Ibid.

Sudan Sensitisation Project (SSP)

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  • Africa
    Some one has to answer a question I have been asking myself for over 40 years why for some of us, my own blood relative who may have Chinese or Inuit blood, would be less African because my immediate biological parents are Xhosa and Sotho as is the case now. The same question crops up when some are Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Mormon when all of them bear the same ancestral gene as myself and like my Colored cousins who are part Polish, Part Dutch or Part English were oppressed by the same colonial and Apartheid forces in recent times.
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