Ancient and Medieval Sudan

Note: Because most archeological work in Sudan has been done along the northern banks of the Nile, more is known about the ancient history in these areas of Sudan than in other areas. The chronology below reflects this. More historical and archeological work is waiting to be done.

2700-2100 BC Period of growing contact with Egypt and some Egyptian conquest in Nubia (located along the Nile in northern Sudan).

1900-1575 BC Rise of Nubian independence during Egypt’s Middle Kingdom.

1575-1090 BC Egyptian conquest and rule in the northern Sudan under the New Kingdom pharaohs.

1090-750 BC Emergence of the kingdom of Kush centered in Napata (near the modern day town of Merowe and the 4th cataract of the Nile).

750-656 BC Nubian Kingdom at Kush conquers Egypt and establish the 25th Dynasty of Pharaohs.

656-590 BC Kush withdraws back to Sudan. In 590 BC, the Kush capital moves to Merowe.

590 BC-350 AD Rise and gradual decline of the Kingdom of Kush at Merowe. Strong iron age society emerged with a distinctive Sudanese culture.

350-550 Other kingdoms develop along the Nile in northern Sudan (Nobatia, Alwa, Makuria).

543-570 Conversion of rulers of Sudanese Nile Kingdoms to Christianity.

640 Arab Muslim conquest of Egypt and beginning of Muslim contacts with northern Sudan.

ca 1200 Rise of Daju Dynasty in Darfur.

1300-1350 Defeat of last Christian king in Nubia and ascension of first Muslim king to the throne in Dongola.

1400s Replacement of Daju Dynasty by the Tunjur Dynasty in Darfur.

1504 Fall of Soba, capital of Alwa, and end of last Christian kingdom in Sudan. Beginning of Funj sultanate (a feudal-like kingdom controlling the central Nile valley region during a time of increasing Islamization in northern Sudan).

1580 Beginning of Keira sultanate in Darfur.

Foreign Conquest and the Anti-Colonial Struggle

1820-1822 Mohammed Ali’s Turco-Egyptian forces conquer much of northern Sudan bringing the Funj sultanate to an end. The Keira sultanate maintains its independence from the Turco-Egyptian regime until 1874. The Bahr al-Ghazal region in the south is conquered in 1871.

1863-1879 Egyptian government introduces anti-slavery measures, encouraged by Britain.

1881 Muhammed Ahmad declares himself al-Mahdi, the awaited guide. Mahdist conquest of Sudan begins.

1885 Mahdist forces capture Khartoum ending Turco-Egyptian rule. Gen. Charles Gordon, a British citizen working for the Turco-Egyptian regime and in charge of the evacuation of Khartoum, is killed. Later that year, Muhammed Ahmad dies and is succeeded by Abdallah al-Tai’ishi, known as the Khalifa.

1896 Anglo-Egyptian forces begin conquest of the Mahdist State in Sudan.

1898 Battle of Omdurman - Mahdist forces are defeated; the Khalifa is killed. The Keira sultanate in Darfur under Ali Dinar asserts its autonomy. British and French forces nearly fight at Fashoda in a rivalry over control of the Nile waters.

1899 Anglo-Egyptian Condominium is established. Britain and Egypt are legally equal rulers over Sudan, although Britain is the de facto senior partner.

1899-1945 Intermittently, "pacification" or military campaigns take place in the South and the Nuba Mountains in order to make various ethnic groups submit to Anglo-Egyptian rule.

1916 Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur is defeated by Anglo-Egyptian forces ending the Keira Dynasty. Darfur is fully incorporated into Sudan.

1924 Anti-Imperialist Demonstrations. Lee Stack, Governor-General of Sudan, is murdered in Cairo. Britain reacts by reducing Egyptian influence in Sudan.

1925 Completion of Sennar Dam and opening of the Gezira Scheme.

1943-45 Formation of first political parties in Sudan including the Ashigga and the Umma (Mahdists) Party.

1947 Juba Conference: Southern leaders accept the idea of unification with Northern Sudan.

1948 Opening of Legislative Assembly.

1953 Anglo-Egyptian Agreement. Outlines end of Anglo-Egyptian Condominium and steps to self-rule. First parliamentary elections see the National Unionist Party (NUP) win the majority.

1955 Equatoria Corps mutiny in the south, beginning the first long civil war between southern rebels and the government based in the North.

Sudanese Independence

1956 SUDANESE INDEPENDENCE PROCLAIMED. Political power shifts to a coalition between the Umma Party and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), an off-shoot of the NUP.

1958 The Umma-PDP coalition maintain their majority in parliamentary elections. In November, General Ibrahim Abboud leads a successful military coup.

1959 Nile Waters Agreement with Egypt outlines Egyptian compensation for lands to be flooded by rising waters behind the Aswan Dam.

1962-63 Intensification of conflict in the south.

1964 October Revolution. Popular demonstrations led by professional groups (doctors, lawyers, etc.) oust the Abboud Regime.

1965 Elections for a new parliament are held. An NUP-Umma coalition wins.

1968 Elections are held again. The Umma party forms a government.

1969 Military coup led by Ja’far Numeri overthrows the elected government. Political parties are banned. Known as the "May Revolution," the new regime adopts its own form of socialism.

1970 Banks and number of businesses are nationalized.

1971 After an abortive coup attempt, Communists are purged, jailed and executed. The Numeri regime re-establishes political and economic ties with western powers. Over the next decade Sudan will become one of the largest recipient of US aid in sub-Saharan Africa.

1972 Addis Ababa Agreement ends conflict between the north and south and establish an autonomous region in the south.

1976 Attempted coup by Mahdists is nearly successful and leads to secret talks between the government and the Mahdists led by Sadiq al-Mahdi. An amnesty is declared the next year and leads to six year "process" of National Reconciliation.

1977-1983 Islamic reforms are introduced culminating with the 1983 "September Laws" which extend shar’ia or Islamic law to all areas of life throughout the country.

1983 A local government reorganization divides the autonomous Southern region into three separate regions. Questions emerge over control of oil fields located in the south. Economic troubles over the last decade have left the economy in shambles. The 105th battalion, composed of southerners, mutinies at Bor in the South marking the beginning of the second civil war.

1984-85 A devastating drought hits Sudan.

1985 As in 1964, demonstrations in the streets led by professional organizations cause the overthrow of Numeri’s regime. A Transitional Military Council rules for one year.

1986 Parliamentary elections are held. Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, becomes Prime Minister. The civil war continues.

1988 November: The opposition party, the Democratic Unionist Party, and the Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) sign a peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia calling for an end to the September laws. The agreement forces the government to enter into talks with the SPLA.

1989 June: Omer al-Bashir leads a successful military coup, pre-empting announcement of an agreement to end the September Laws and possibly the war in the south. Eventually, Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the National Islamic Front, emerges with a major, if un-official, role in leading this regime. al-Bashir becomes chairman of the newly formed Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC). He serves concurrently as chief of state, chairman of the RCC, prime minister, and minister of defense.

1989 August: The rebel army, the SPLA, splits into factions, which begin fighting each other as well as the government.

1990 The Bashir government reveals its intentions to establish an Islamic state.

1991 The Bashir government sides with Iraq during the Gulf War, losing the support of Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.

1992-93: The IMF threatens to expel Sudan from the Fund.

1993 September: the six member Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) (Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan), under the leadership of Daniel Arap Moi, president of Kenya and chair of IGADD, agrees to mediate the conflict in Sudan.

1993 October: The RCC is dissolved after appointing al-Bashir as President. The RCC's executive and legislative powers are devolved to the president and the Transitional National Assembly (TNA), an appointed legislative body,

1995 A cease-fire is declared by all sides to allow medical personal in to deal with a variety of diseases present in the South. It lasts for four months.

1995 May: Mass arrests of dissidents including the former Prime Minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi.

1996 March: Presidential and National Assembly elections are held. Omer Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir of the National Congress Party is elected as president for a five year term. He wins 75.7% of the vote. 40 other candidates share 24.3%. The government is dominated by the National Congress Party, the Movement for National Salvation and the National Islamic Front. The National Assembly is unicameral (400 seats; 275 elected by popular vote, 125 elected by a supraassembly of interest groups known as the National Congress). Elections are held on a non-party basis.

1996 Hassan al-Turabi becomes speaker of the National Assembly

30 June 1998: A new constitution drafted by the Presidential Committee goes into effect on after being approved in nationwide referendum.

1999 January: A new constitutional amendments allows the formation of political parties, or rather political "associations."

1999 July: Oil explorations in south-central Sudan begin again on a limited basis with several foreign partners.

1999 December: al-Bashir dissolves parliament and declares a state of emergency in a move to curb the influence of parliament speaker Hassan al-Turabi, for years the leading ideologue in Bashir's Islamist regime.

2000 May and June: Al-Bashir supporters sack Hassan al-Turabi as the secretary-general of the ruling National Congress Party, which Bashir heads. Turabi sets up the Popular National Congress party in protest.

2000 October: The United States successfully persuades other countries to vote for Mauritius and deny Sudan its expected rotation to the "Africa" seat on the Security Council.

2000 December 11 & 12: Dates set for parliamentary and presidential elections. Ninety seats in the 360-seat parliament, covering 270 constituencies, are reserved for women, teachers, businessmen, farmers and herders. Al-Turabi says he will not run against Bashir for president, but would put forward a candidate in his place.

(Since 2000, much has taken place -- oil has begun to flow, peace talks have continued as has the war. This will be updated eventually)


Last update 2/8/04