The condominium

The condominium
The battle of Karari, which took place on the 1 September 1899, effectively heralded the end of the Khalif’s reign; Kitchener’s superior forces were victorious, and his troops proceeded to a reckless pillage of Omdurman. Khalifa ‘Abdullahi remained at large, but his fate was sealed, and it was merely a matter of time before the conquering armies caught up with him; he was finally overtaken and killed by forces under Wingate, in November 1899 at the battle of Umm Dibaykarat in southern Kordofan. Thereafter the conquering forces turned to the spoils, and to the future status of the Sudan.

The reconquest of the Sudan had been undertaken by a joint army, acting, in theory, on behalf of the Khedive of Egypt, but from the outset it was clear that the British were not going to let the territories of the Sudan return to a purely Egyptian sphere of control. This was facilitated by the British occupation of Egypt itself (which had occurred in 1882). British public opinion back home was against returning the area to the people who, it was felt, had stirred up the Mahdist rebellion in the first place by their ‘ill-advised’ policies, and who had therefore to take some of the blame for the demise of General Gordon, by then a popular hero in the British Isles.

On the other hand, the annexation of the region as a British colony was at the time not in question either. International politics had effectively put a stop to any prospective British claims, with the Fashoda incident, in 1898. The arrival of French forces, under Captain Marchand at Fashoda on the Upper Nile on 10 July 1898 Precipitated a rapid advance by Kitchener, and his subsequent announcement that the French were violating the rights of Egypt, as well as those of Britain, an argument designed to undermine the French postion in a way which left British interests intact. This was the more surprising in view of the disinclination of the British sovereign, Queen Victoria, towards Fashoda; the Queen of England could hardly bring herself to consent to war ‘for so miserable and small an object’, according to her message to Lord Salisbury on 30 October 1898.

The result of this dilemma was the ‘Agreement between Her Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of His Highness the Khedive of Egypt relative to the future adminstration of the Sudan’, which is known in general as the Condominium Agreement. Lord Cromer, the British Agent and Consul-General in Egypt, was basically responsible for the drafting of this agreement, as he also had a great deal to do with the rationale behind the reconquest, and the British involvement int eh Sudan, anxious in the first instance to let the Egyptians shoulder the financial burdens that the governance of Sudan might demand.

The Condominium Agreement effectively shelved the question of sovereignty, but in practice the government of Sudan was a British affair. The Governor-General of Sudan was nominated by the British, and possessed supreme military and civilian authority in the land, with the power to rule by decree. His appointment was conditional on ratification by the Egyptians, but of course, since the latter were under British ‘protection’ the result was that appointments were given a rubber stamp. All the governors-general were British, from the inception of the Condominium Government to Sudanese independence, though Sir Robert Howe, the penultimate British Governor-General, proposed on this resignation in 1955 that his successor should come from a neutral country in order to ensure impartiality during the self-government period; his advice was not heeded.

The subsequent history of the Condominium Government is usually dealt with in terms of a number of fairly clear-cut periods. From the reconquest to the outbreak of the First World War, the Sudan Government was concerned largely with establishing an administrative framework, and pacifying the various forms of resistance it encountered. The internal security of the country was probably the single most important ‘policy’ pursued. The Great War itself saw some fundamental changes, including the annexation of Darfur in 1916, and the enlistment of Sudanese notables to support the war cause.

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