Sudan is one of those countries that has a fascinating history about which few Brits are aware. We should know more about it. There are periods in it like the empire of Kush and Meroe, which are particularly interesting.
Britain started getting seriously involved in the area in the late nineteenth century, mainly via our involvement in Egypt. Nineteenth-century Egypt fancied expanding south into the Sudan and sent expeditions that gradually conquered the country. So as we became more involved in Egypt, we became more involved in the Sudan as well. So much so, in fact, that it even reached the stage where the Khedive of Egypt was appointing a Brit, one Charles George Gordon, as governor of the Sudan. He did at least try to stamp out slave-trading here.
It’s at this point that Muhammad Ahmed comes into the picture. He led a religious and political rebellion against foreign rule and his followers had quite a lot of success against us. For instance, they defeated a British and Egyptian force near Al Ubayyid in 1882 and subsequently besieged and took Al Ubayyid. What happened then is that Gordon got himself stuck in Khartoum surrounded by the rebels and in January 1885 a British relief column reached the city two days after it had fallen and Gordon had been killed. Muhammad Ahmed himself died some six months after Gordon, but his regime lived on and attempted to spread into surrounding areas. Finally, in 1896, Kitchener, at the head of the British and Egyptian Nile Expeditionary Force, set off to invade Sudan. After assorted engagements on the way, Kitchener’s army arrived for the decisive battle at Omdurman on 2 September 1898. The massive firepower that Kitchener’s force was able to deploy helped to ensure a crushing defeat for the forces opposing him, with thousands of them dying, compared to only a few of the British and Egyptian force.
After that, in 1916 during the First World War, we were afraid that the Sultan of Darfur would assist the Ottomans against us in Egypt, so we invaded Darfur and incorporated it into Sudan. We recognised Sudan’s independence on 1 January 1956.