History of Sudan: European Dominance & The Mahdist Movement

History of Sudan: European Dominance & The Mahdist Movement Last updated on Saturday 24th April 2010

Egypt's power over the Sudan held fast for more than half a century. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, however, European interest in the region was growing, particularly from Britain and France.

The canal project had proved very expensive, and as a result Egypt found itself heavily in debt to these foreign powers. Internal unrest triggered by the slave trade mounted steadily during this period, and foreign intervention was inevitable. In 1873 a British general, Charles George Gordon, was appointed governor of Egyptian Sudan.

A local military leader, Mohammed Ahmad (1844-85) joined forces with Alkaleefa Abdullahi At-Ta’aishi, and proclaimed himself the Mahdi. This is a traditional Muslim figure chosen by Allah to lead the jihad (holy war) in defence of Islam, and to rid the world of evil. The Mahdist revolt began in 1880 and resulted in the capture of Khartoum in 1885, with a complete victory over the Egyptian army. British relief forces, desperately requested by General Gordon, arrived too late; Gordon was already dead and the Mahdists in complete control.

The Mahdi was succeeded by Alkaleefa Abdullahi (1846-99), and living conditions in the Sudan deteriorated as a result of incessant warfare, including a failed attempt to conquer Egypt. Egypt was then almost totally controlled by Britain and in 1896 a British military expedition against the Alkaleefa Abdullahi was dispatched, led by General Horatio Herbert Kitchener.

On the 2nd of September 1898, Kitchener's forces overwhelmingly defeated the caliph at the Battle of Karari, Omdurman. Karari was and end to an era and a beginning of a new era. The Mahdist state was overthrown and the era of The Condominium began.Â

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