History of Sudan

Northern Sudan and South Sudan: Two Separate Countries

By James Yugu Yangkole

1.            Northern Sudan

Until the conquests of Mohammed Ali Pasha from 1821 (for Northern Sudan) to about 1869 (for Southern Sudan), Sudan did not exist as one political entity.  The Northern Sudan, up to that point in time, was divided into two loosely knit separate entities: the riverain areas of Central and Northern Sudan and Kordofan as one entity under the Funj Kingdom and Darfur as another separate kingdom.  The Two kingdoms were eventually united by religion, language and the Turko-Egyptian conquest and administration.

2.            Southern Sudan

Up to the middle of the 19th century, South Sudan, in its known geographical expression and complex, did not share a political entity with Northern Sudan.  The Sudd, the Nile System, the forests and a hostile climate effectively shielded off the South from the Arab invasion and Islamic-Arab assimilation.  The Shilluk then dominated the White Nile with their canoes; the Nuer and the Dinka contained the Baggara Arabs in the North and the West, when both sides could only use spears and clubs.  But with the invention of the sailing boat and modern arms, the Southern tribes became ill equipped.  This enabled Mohammed Ali’s agents to penetrate South Sudan, thus exposing the people of South Sudan to the great dangers they had been resisting for well over 150 years.

3.            Consequences of Mohammed Ali’s Success

The conquest of South Sudan offered an opportunity for the extension of the ancient Arab-Islamic frontier to continue a forced “civilizing process” of Islamic and Arab assimilation in South Sudan and beyond.  This process now appears as “the civilization project,” the comprehensive propagation of Islamic faith and religion, the education system, the public control of mass media and the government-controlled humanitarian work and general governmental protection.

4.         The Traditional Rulers of Sudan

The people who have been ruling the Sudan since 1/1/1956 are known as Jellaba.  They are a social group which have developed since the fourteenth century from elements of foreign and local traders.  They have established themselves in trading centers that later became important urban centers and towns like Dueim, Omdurmara, Sennar, etc.  A hybrid of different races, and nationalities from the indigenous Africans and the immigrant Arabs, Turks, Greeks and others, they interacted and intermarried in the long historical process which took place mainly in the riverine Northern Sudan.  It is hard today to trace the original inhabitants of the riverine areas and the Gezira.  They have undergone a precise and complete assimilation.  The Jellaba were better prepared to inherit the political and state power in 1956.  They were also developed and aided by the colonial regime to assume power when direct colonialism became untenable.  As such the independence was an affair between the Anglo-Egyptian colonial regime and the Jellaba.  The South was not consulted.

The tragedy of the Jellaba is their narrow Arabo-Islamic outlook and their total failure to look beyond these two parameters of Arabism and Islamism as the sole uniting factors for the Sudan  The Jelluba have set up an economic system which is responsible for the deepening of the inherited disparities among the regions of the Sudan.  The funds and other resources of the marginalized areas were always transferred and invested in the Jellaba areas of Central Sudan.

5.            Response of South Sudan

The South has drawn clear lines to resist the forced assimilation.  Despite the heterogeneous nature of the people of South Sudan, regional nation has been expressed in armed movements (the Anyanya in the 1960s and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement from 1980-s to date), formation of Southern political parties (the Liberal Party, the Federal Party, the Southern Front, Sudan Africa National Union and Union of Sudan African Parties) to mention but a few.  The people of South Sudan reject the imposed unity.  They are aware their assimilation means forever assigning them to the tasks of “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”*While we have excellent reason to affirm and publish these reports, because of only very limited knowledge of the situation, RMNI is not responsible for the accuracy of this report in every particular.