The Omdurman (Karrari) battle in 2nd September 1998 marked the end of the independent “Mahadiya” era and the beginning of the Colonial Condominium reign, which was challenged with several Mahdyia-originated revolts that it suppressed brutally. It worked on dispelling the Ansar, and depriving them of their power. Later, the Condominium government was also challenged with the 1924 revolt and repressed it rudely.
The Graduates’ Congress
These confrontations, the global rise in National consciousness after the Declaration of Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen Points, the foundation of the League of Nations, and the rising conflict about Sudan’s position and future in the course of the British- Egyptian negotiations, ignited the political movement’s firebrand amongst the Sudanese graduates (Al Khirijoon) and developed the Graduates’ Club established in the twenties with its cultural, social and literary activities, into the Graduates’ Conference with its articulate political goals in 1937. The conference led the national movement amongst the graduates and succeeded one of the most important National Consensus Stations by presenting the Graduates’ Memorandum to the Sudan’s Condominium Government in 3rd April 1942.
The Need for a new political entity
The Ansar were again gathered, socially organized and economically activated by the endeavors of Sayed Abdelrahman Al Mahdi, who sought to coordinate with the graduates’ conference’s leaders and custody their efforts towards independence. However, after the conference’s elections held in November 1944, it was dominated by the ASHIGAA group which resolved to issue a decision explaining the Conference’s Memorandum text about the Sudanese National Demand, as the union with Egypt under the Egyptian Crown. Also, after World War II, there existed a vigorous official Egyptian attitude to settle the Sudan Cause in the peace conference or via bilateral Egyptian- British negotiations. These two factors urged the establishment of an entity representing the Sudanese independence-seeking opinion: the Umma Party.
Umma party originated as an alliance between four groups: The Ansar, some tribal chiefs, some Sufi Sects and some graduates seeking Sudan’s independence under the slogan: Sudan is for Sudanese.
The Establishment of the party
The founding meeting for the party started in December 1944, the party’s constitution and bylaws were drafted and Sayed Abdulla Khalil was elected as its Secretary General, who submitted the party’s constitution to the Civil Secretary and requested authentication in 18th Feb 1945, it was registered as a club since there was no law for political parties at that time, the party announced its foundation in 1st March 1945.
Umma party is the first popular Sudanese party, since the four groups originated in the graduates’ conference (Ashigaa, Unionist, Liberalist & Nationalist) in October 1944 were directed to the conference membership, they didn’t claim themselves as parties or open membership for the public, they also didn’t ask for official authentication.
The position of Sayed Abdelrahman Al Mahdi in Umma Party
The party’s constitution referred to Sayed Abdelrahman Al Mahdi (appointed as Imam of Ansar later in 1946), as the party patron. However, Saror Ramly asked him about his position In the party and whether he is his president, Sayed Abderahman said he is an ordinary member, but Allah gave him extraordinary abilities that he will grant to the party, together with his health, his posterity and all his belongings to serve the Sudan Cause. However, the party didn’t nominate a president until in Feb 1949, when Sayed Al Siddig Al Mahdi was elected as the party’s president.
The Party’s First Constitution (1945):
The constitution stated that the goal of the party is the acquisition of Sudan’s whole territories’ independence, while preserving friendly relations with both Britain and Egypt.
The fact that the party adopted the 12 points of the graduates’ Conference Memo as its program in his pursuit for independence, was behind the briefed nature of the 1945 constitution.
The Battle for Independence
The party strove for announcing the Sudanese pro-independence voice in the International forums and to the condominium governments since its establishment. In December 1950, it led a battle in the legislative assembly marked by the proposal of his member: Sayed Mohamed Haj El Amin, requesting the immediate Self- rule for Sudan. The British dominated government led a huge propaganda amongst its supporters to caution from Sudan becoming a Kingdom of Sayed Abdelrahman if that proposal was passed, despite that, the proposal of the decision won the voting with the difference of one voice only (39 against 38). The government then led an open battle against Umma party, and formed an opposing party, namely, the socialist republican party in 1951.
On the Egyptian side, the party led a heated campaign against the Egyptian government and its Sudanese Unionist allies, who worked restlessly to unify Sudan with Egypt under the Egyptian Crown. However, the Egyptian revolution in 23rd July 1952 developed the Egyptian official position towards the Sudan affair. It went for better dealing with the pro- independence Sudanese movement and the British Government, that resulted in signing the Agreement for Self- Rule and Self-determination for Sudan in 12th Feb. 1953, and holding general elections in November & Dec 1953.. The elections which Umma party failed to win, for several reasons, of which two are most important, these are:
First: The unveiled intervention of the Egyptian government in support of the National Unionist party, with direct and indirect methods. The establishment of that party as a collection of all the Unionist groups was actually completed in the evening of 2nd Nov. 1952, in General Mohamed Najeeb’s residence, the then Egyptian President.
Second: The relative weight of the Umma and Unionist parties in the Parliament, didn’t reflect the voting counts for the two of them. 229,221 voted for Unionist and got 43 seats, while 190,822 voted for Umma, which got 22 seats only. That was due to lack of evenness of the electoral circles, the regions mostly populated by Khatimiya –Unionist proponents- were sparsely populated compared to the other circles.
The National Unionists considered the elections a sign of the Sudanese Peoples advocacy for unifying with Egypt, the Ummas didn’t agree with this explanation, actually, some of them sought to drop recognition for the elections, however, the party discussed the issue and decided to accept the elections’ results, and work with all political and constitutional methods to undo it. Umma party then started a huge campaign inside and outside the Parliament opposing the unification call. A campaign that covered all the popular sects in rural and urban areas, after a short period of the elections defeat, the party regained its morale. Sayed Ismael Al Azhary, the president of the National Unionist party made a tour to the different regions of Sudan, wherever he went, he was received with huge masses calling for Independence.
The official opening of the Sudanese Parliament was appointed as 1st March 1954. The Independence Movement decided to meet the opening ceremony’s guests, headed by President Najeeb, with a huge peaceful gathering advocating for independence. When President Najeeb arrived, his caravan organizers decided to change the course line to avoid the Umma masses, however, the Umma reception’s organizers, headed by Amir Abdullahi Nugdalla, decided to move to where President Najeeb’s residence is –in the Republican Palace, to let him hear the Independence voice. The police force prevented that by force, and a miserable collision took place between the two parties, which yielded in casualties from both sides, a trial was then held, which found the Umma caravan leaders innocent from planning the events, but accused some of them of riots and disobedience.
Some took these events as a sign of the violence and even savagery of the Ummas, however, the Ummas kept on explaining how and why their peaceful demonstration rushed into such a course. They were for Ummas a sign of the Condominium reign ‘s treachery, and a sign for the Ummas’ brevity of the armless facing the guns with no glimpse of fear. The testimony of General Najeeb, however, assures that the Umma Caravan was peaceful, he wrote in his autobiography saying that the Independence advocators were right, they just wanted him to hear their voice, and that he thinks the British planned for the events so as to cause a constitutional breakdown resulting in centralizing all authorities in the hands of the Governor General again. However, non of that happened, and the March events, despite its bitterness and violence, didn’t deviate the conflict from its political or constitutional line.
The Passage to Independence:
The independence’ movement’s campaign gained accelerated support. In Oct 1945 the Front Against Colonialism joined its ranks, the Islamic Group, the Sudanese Laborers’ Union and the Gazira Scheme’s Farmers’ Union followed. A telegraph was sent by the Sudanese Students in UK’s Union to President Azhary’s Government to egg on independence. In Jan 1955, KUSU (Khartoum University Students’ Union) called for independence. Actually, when the year 1955 showed up, the independence movement was prevalent in the Sudanese political sphere. Other factors, like the conflicts amongst the unionists about the content and interpretation of the required Union, along with the mounting monitoring interventions of Egyptian politicians, especially Sagh Salah Salim, led to Azhary advocating the establishment of an independent sovereign Sudanese Republic, and maintaining strong bondage with Egypt. A consensus about independence was then reached. It was further strengthened with the August 1955 rebellion of the Southern Command. The events which convinced all the Sudanese Peoples of the priority to reassuring Sudan’s unity before tackling the issue of unifying with an other state. Thus, independence was announced with consensus in the Parliament in 23rd Dec. 1955, and was declared officially on the 1st of Jan 1956.
Umma party with the rest of Sudanese Patriots could thus achieve its first declared goal: Independence.. In the new national era the party continued its role in serving the national interests, with different goals and new slogans.
The Independence’ Government 1956-1958:
The 1953 elections great powers were: the National Unionist & Umma Parties, the former had comfortable majority to govern, but, it experienced several schisms, the most serious one was the one originating from confrontation between President Azhary and Sayed Ali Al Mirghani, the leader of the Khitmiya Sufi sect the latter led the Public Democratic Party. A period of wavering allies started. Sayed Abdelrahman Al Mahdi and Sayed Ali Al Mirghani coordinated what is known as “the meeting of the two lords” resulting in a coalition between Umma Party UP and the Public Democratic party PDP, in June 1956, Azhary’s Government was forced to resign and a new government of Up-PDP coalition took place.
The 1958 Elections:
The major parties standing for these elections were: NUP allying with the leftist groups, the UP and the PDP. The UP got 62, NUP got 40 and PDP got 26 seats in the Parliament.
A UP-PDP government was again established. It faced several difficulties due to inconsistency of the two parties, and the system of the standard democracy that was not adapted to the country’s cultural and social environment, the coalition was fragile, and found increasing opposition from all outside and even from within the parties themselves. The president and majority of UP leaders thought the NUP a more suitable ally than the PDP. However, the SG of UP, Sayed Abdullahi Khalil who was the premier, opposed that, he proposed to- resolve the coalition conflict and safeguard the country from any possible activity towards union with Egypt against Sudan’s sovereignty, and against any possible quo d’etat- he proposed to the UP political Bureau PB to handle the executive authority of the country to the Armed Forces Leadership AFL, the PB rejected this proposal with overwhelming majority. However, in 17th Nov 1958, he effected his rejected proposal .. Sayed Khalil afterwards conveyed to the judicial committee - interrogating the quo causes after October 1964 revolution- that he wanted to prevent the other wing in the party presided by Sayed Siddig Al Mahdi from dominating the party issues. Sayed Khalil, agreed with the AFL, namely, the general command of the armed forces, to consist a national government ruling for a transition period enough to settle the country’s conflicts, and to run free general elections to restore civil democratic reign afterwards. He convinced Sayed Abdelrahman Al Mahdi by that program and guaranteed his approval of the quo.. The UP president, however, supported by the majority in the PB who rejected the Premier’s proposal before, stood sharply against that quo from the start.
Soon after the quo, the General Command GC revoked the agreement with the premier about the national government. Later, namely in March 1959, an internal “correction” movement in the AFL took place, it forced the GC to eliminate any pro-UP officer from the GC, and to drop any national scope to go for Anti-UP line, the result of that was UP becoming a target of the regimes oppression, actually, the premier himself was arrested with the other political leaders opposing the regime.
Finally, the fact that some UP leaders played major role in November Quo d’etat, is undeniable, the lessons to UP in particular and Sudan’s political movement should remain:
- Leaders should yield to democratic decisions.
- The failures of the democratic regime are incomparable of the autocratic ones’ failures, and as Churchill said: “”
- Using the military to effect political goals will always fail, the civil part of the coalition will pay the bill of speed more retardation. The military will pay that less in its efficiency and precision. The country will pay uncountable economic, social and political retardation bills.
- The solution to the failures of the standard democracy is not the military quos. It is the sustainable democracy solving the adaptation problems of democracy.
The Abboud regime was the first military reign in modern Sudan, in the next section we will trace the national movement with some stress on UP role in overthrowing that regime. It was a jump in the darkness of ignorance and lack of experience, when democratic experience was in its crawling stage, supported by an international environment in which military adventures in the Third world countries were the norm.