The Sudan Emerges into Nationhood
IN August 1947, in the episodic manner of a flash in a newsreel, the affairs of the Sudan were thrown into the glare of world publicity when Egypt accused Britain, among other things, of depriving her of the Sudan. When the case was being discussed by the Security Council there were certain dark and fine-looking men at Lake Success, speaking excellent English and, with one impressive exception, wearing European dress, who claimed to represent the Sudanese nation and to decide its destiny. Unfortunately they did not all claim the same destiny. There was an Umma Party demanding complete independence, and some parties demanding various degrees of association with Egypt. Spectators whose attention was not immediately monopolized by the next item on the newsreel, Greece or Indonesia, may well have wondered whether a new nation were being born in this obscure part of Africa, and, if so, what were its expectations of success or even of life.
The problem of the Sudan which baffled the Security Council can be understood only with some help from geography and history. Between Egypt and Kenya a vast indeterminate region stretches from the desert of the north through a land of precarious rain-grown crops to the green hills and bushlands of the equatorial belt. The three zones are threaded but not linked by that astonishing trickle of water, the Nile, which goes on to give life to Egypt. Until quite recently this formless region had little history, except perhaps near the rivers, from which seeped some traces of the events in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Christendom. When, in the later Middle Ages, Arab tribes entered the Sudan and spread into the harsh immensity of the northern plains, they brought religious uniformity but no political unity, and they did not reach the equatorial and Negro south. It was only in the early nineteenth century when a vigorous Albanian, ruling Egypt nominally as viceroy of the Turkish Sultan, led his restless Turkish and Balkan soldiers to easy victoryRead the full article on ForeignAffairs.com