Sunday 14 April 2019

1422. 🇪🇬🇸🇩🇸🇸 An Egyptian Revolution And Sudanese Coups And Wars.

  🇪🇬 The postal service of Egypt issued a single stamp on 9 March 2019 which commemorates the Centenary of what it calls the Egyptian revolution of 1919. The design features the Egyptian nationalist leader Saad Zaghloul.
  Although nominally under Ottoman rule the British occupied Egypt in August 1882 after the nationalist Urabi uprising against Khedive Tewfiq by landing an Anglo-Indian force at the southern end of the Suez Canal while the French landed in the north at Alexandria. They combined forces and defeated the Egyptian army at Tel el Kabir and restored the Khedive. The British chief representative in Egypt, Lord Cromer, took the view that financial stability in the country was essential and began work on improving agriculture in Egypt by means of a widespread irrigation system. In doing so the British became the de facto power in Egypt and controlled the Khedive.
  While the Egyptian upper classes benefitted from British rule the middle classes were less satisfied and a nationalist resistance to the British grew among them. In 1914 the British and Ottomans were at war and Egypt was declared a British protectorate and the British deposed Khedive Abbas II who supported the Central Powers and established a relation of his, Hussain Kamal, as Sultan of Egypt on 19 December 1914. After the end of the First World War nationalism grew in Egypt and Saad Zaghloul,  a lawyer, led an official delegation - wafd - to the Paris Peace Conference to demand that Egypt be recognised as an independent country and that Egypt and Sudan be treated as being unified. In turn the British demanded that Zaghloul end his political agitation and when he refused they exiled him firstly to Malta and then to Seychelles. The British had exiled other prominent nationalist figures in Seychelles and they all employed letter writing as non-violent means of political protest. In Zaghloul's absence disturbances in Egypt grew culminating in the Revolution of 1919 against the British protectorate and the eventual result was that Great Britain recognised Egypt's independence in 1922. When Zaghloul returned from exile his Wafd Party won the elections held on 12 January 1924 and Zaghloul became the first prime minister of a Wafdist government.

  After 1922 Great Britain gradually took over more control of Sudan which was by then an Anglo-Egyptian condominium but the situation was unpopular and efforts began to try to make Sudan a separate territory. In 1924, the White Flag League which was a group of Sudanese military officers led by Lieutenant Ali Abd al Latif and Lt. Abdul Fadil Almaz staged an insurrection but they were defeated and Almaz was killed when the British blew up a military hospital where he was garrisoned. The Sudanese postal service issued two stamps with a common design on 26 July 1975 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of what was called the 1924 Revolution.

  The Egyptians had been expanding their territory southwards since 1805 under the Ottoman Governor Mohammed Ali and in 1870 to 1871 an expedition on behalf of the Egyptian Khedive under Sir Samuel Baker was sent up the White Nile to Khartoum and Gondokoro. Baker was appointed Governor of Equatoria Province and then succeeded by General Charles Gordon. The British suffered a devastating defeat at the Mahdi's hands at the Battle of El Obeid or Shaikan in Kordofan on 3 and 4 November 1883 where the British commander, Hicks Pasha, and about 6500 of his troops were slaughtered. The Centenary of the battle was commemorated by the Sudanese Post Office on 16 June 1984 by the issue of a set of 3 stamps.

  During his Governorship Gordon devoted a lot of time to the suppression of the slave trade. He returned to England in 1880 due to ill-health but Khedive Isma'il Pasha appointed him Governor-General of the Sudan and he returned to the territory in February 1884 to evacuate Egyptian forces from Khartoum which was threatened by Sudanese rebels led by Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi (known to the British as 'The Mahdi'.
  The Mahdi had declared a jihad against the Egyptian administration in Khartoum and defeated two expeditions sent to capture him in the space of one year. Support for him grew throughout Sudan and his movement became known as the Ansar. Eventually the Mahdist forces laid siege to Khartoum where General Gordon was situated and then took the city and killed Gordon on 26 January 1885. The defeat and death of Gordon was a great shock to the British establishment and people and rocked Gladstone's government at home for failing to rescue the besieged Gordon.
  The Mahdi established the Mahdiya, a state based on Shariya law, across Sudan. Severe persecution of local Christians took place but The Mahdi died from typhus just six months after the fall of Khartoum on 22 June 1885. His deputies took on the task of maintaining the state but there was rivalry between the three Caliphs who had been chosen by The Mahdi until Abdallahi ibn Muhammad overcome the others in 1891 and became known as the sole Khalifa. In an effort to extend the Mahdist faith across Egypt the Khalifa sent a 6000-strong army into Egypt but the Egyptian army with British troops defeated the Khalifa's forces at the Battle of Toski.
  The weakness of the Khalifa's forces was therefore demonstrated to the British and in March 1896 an Anglo-Egyptian force entered northern Sudan under Colonel Herbert Kitchener and the British won victories at the Battle of Ferkeh on 7 June 1896 and the Battle of Hafir in September 1896. 
Anglo-Egyptian forces then defeated an army of 15000 Mahdist at the Battle of Atbara on 8 April 
1898 and then achieved the final victory at the Battle of Omdurman also called the Battle of Kerreri. 
Hence the Mahdist State came to an end and Sudan came under British rule as an Anglo-Egyptian Condominium.  The Sudan postal service issued a set of 3 stamps on 15 May 1999 to commemorate the Battle of Kerreri (depicted below).

  The first stamps of Sudan were issued on 1 March 1897 in the form of 8 Egyptian 'Sphinx and Pyramid' stamps overprinted in Arabic and English reading 'Soudan'.

  The first unique design was used on stamps issued on 1 March 1898 in the form of the iconic 'Camel postman' design which was the work of EA Stanton. In all there were 8 values in the set and the design was used in various forms in later issues. Other stamp issues released during the Condominium included a set of 17 definitives released on 1 September 1951 which depicted various aspects of the country including a whale-headed stork, a set of 8 stamps issued on 1 July 1950 which depicted views of the country and a set of 12 airmail stamps all depicting a view of a statue of General Gordon seated on a camel in Khartoum with an aircraft flying over it. The excellence of most of the issues of the Condominium was multiplied by the use of intaglio printing.
  Most memorable of all was the magnificent set of 9 intaglio-printed stamps issued on 1 January 1935 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of General Gordon. Four of the stamps featured a portrait of General Gordon (the 13 mills value is depicted above), 3 values depicted the Gordon Memorial College in Khartoum and the two highest values showed the General Gordon Memorial Service held in Khartoum. I think this is one of the most magnificent sets issued during the Imperial phase of Commonwealth philately, a real work of art in miniature and a 'joy to behold'.

  As the years passed, Sudanese nationalist opinions grew stronger and in 1938 Ismail Al-Azhari, a former teacher and public administrator, joined other educated Sudanese in forming the Graduates' General Congress which claimed in 1942 to speak for all Sudanese nationalists. The wartime British government rejected this claim and the Congress then split into moderate and more extreme factions. While the moderates were prepared to work with the British towards full independence the more extreme group - the Ashiqqa (Brothers) - wished to reunite with Egypt. Al-Azhari, as leader of of the Ashiqqa, gained much support from the Khatmiyya brotherhood, one of two main Muslim groups in Sudan, whilst the moderates - the Umma - were supported by the anti-Egyptian Mahdist sect.
  Between 1943 and 1952 Al-Azhari as the leading advocate of unity between Egypt and Sudan resisted any act which might weaken the 'unity of the Nile Valley' and in 1948 his party boycotted elections which would have established a legislative assembly in Sudan. He was arrested and imprisoned for subversion by the British in 1948 to 1949. In 1952 the King of Egypt, Farouk, was overthrown in a revolution and while Farouk had been a strong proponent of Egypt-Sudan unity, the new revolutionary regime under General Muhammad Neguib, himself half-Sudanese, was more open to the approval of Sudanese independence. Thus in February 1953 an Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese agreement paved the way for Sudanese self-government within three years. As a result the first Sudanese Parliament was inaugurated in 1954 with Al-Azhari as the country's first prime minister, his newly formed National Unionist Party having won the elections of 1953.
  A pair of stamps was issued on 9 January 1954 to commemorate the introduction of self-government and the Camel Postman design was employed quite appropriately I believe.

  In 1954, Al-Azhari acknowledged the General wish of the Sudanese not to remain tied to Egypt and he reversed his previous policy of unity with Egypt but at the same time failed to find a means of tying the Christian south of Sudan to the Moslem north and the relations between the two communities were to remain a problem for successive governments in the future Sudan.
  The proclamation of the independent Republic Of Sudan was made on 1 January 1956. Sudan followed the example of Burma (Myanmar) by not joining The Commonwealth. A set of 3 stamps depicting a map of the country between a pair of wings was issued on 15 September 1956 to commemorate the event.

  Al-Azhari formed a government in February 1956 but lost the support of the Khatmiyyah by establishing a secular rather than a religious form of government and later in the year the opposition brought down the government and Al-Azhari was replaced by Abdallah Khalil who led a coalition of the Ansar and Khatmiyyah. Corruption, mismanagement of the cotton trade, factionalism, vote fraud and antagonism from Egypt led to Khalil planning a pre-emotive coup agagainst his own government and on 17 November 1958 when a newly elected Parliament was to reconvene, the first of Sudan's long list of military coups took place and General Ibrahim Aboud seized power.
  On 2 August 1958 the Sudan Post Office had issued a set of 3 stamps to commemorate the Arab Post Conference as depicted below.

  Few countries have issued stamps to commemorate military coups but the first anniversary of the Aboud coup was commemorated by the issue of another set of 3 stamps which was released on 17 November 1959. The common design depicted a soldier shaking hands with a farmer.
  The Aboud government grew unpopular because of its inability to deal satisfactorily with the growing civil war caused by forces from southern Sudan which were opposed to Aboud's growing policies of Arabisation and Islamisation and rather than suppress the rebellion by armed force and bloodshed he dissolved his government on 26 October 1964 and resigned on 15 November in favour of a civilian provisional government led by Sirr Al Khatim Al-Khalifa.

  A set of 3 stamps was also issued on 11 November 1965 to commemorate the first anniversary of the 21 October 1964 revolution.

  A round table Conference called by Al-Khalifa and held in Juba and then Khartoum between 16 to 29 March 1965 to resolve the problem of the conflict with the south ended in failure. As a result Al-
Khalifa resigned and subsequent elections brought another democratically elected government to power under Mohamed Ahmed Mahjub. Under Mahjub the army launched a major offensive to crush the southern rebellion and burnt churches, closed schools, destroyed crops and made off with cattle and committed atrocities against the population of the south. Mahjub's government collapsed in the face of a disagreement between Mahjub as prime minister and President Al-Azhari as to who should conduct foreign relations. Mahjub continued in government until July 1966 when a government led by Sadiq al Mahdi took power.
  Al Mahdi attempted to be more conciliatory towards the south but concessions he wished to make failed to receive Parliamentary support and Mahjub became prime minister again in 1967. After elections Mahjub formed a government and began to accept aid from the Soviet Union. However dissatisfaction continued and on 25 May 1969 Sudan experienced its third military coup led by Colonel Gaafar Nimiery.
  Stamps were issued on 25 May 1970 and 21 October 1970 to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1969 coup. A further set of 3 stamps was issued on 10 November 1971 to commemorate the second anniversary of the same coup. A further 3 stamps were issued on 1 October 1979 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Nimiery's coup.

  Nimiery became prime minister of Sudan and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and began reforms of a socialist and pan-Arab nature. He ordered the bombing of Aba island which resulted in the deaths of several thousand members of the Umma Party, the Ansar which had opposed him. In 1971 he dissolved the RCC and established the Sudanese Socialist Union which was commemorated by the issue of a set of 3 stamps on 15 October 1972.

  In 1972 Nimeiry signed the Addis Ababa Agreement whereby autonomy was granted to the non-Muslim South thus ending the civil war and ushering in eleven years of peace. He had become President in 1971 and in 1973 he increased greatly the powers of the office. He declared Sudan to be a democratic socialist state. 
  The 5th anniversary of the end of the First civil war was commemorated by a set of 3 stamps issued on 20 July 1977. Meanwhile Nimeiry had initially pursued policies sympathetic to the Soviet Union but after a failed  Communist coup which initially deposed him on 19 July 1971 but was reversed by a counter-coup by Nimeiry on 22 July which resulted in the execution of the coup leader Major Hisham al Atta and other coup leaders and the move back to western-orientated policies by the restored president.
  In late 1975 Nimeiry was again removed from power in a coup by the Communist branches of the Armed Forces led by Brigadier Hassan Hussein Osman but Nimeiry was restored within hours after a counter coup by his deputy. Osman like his hapless coup-staging predecessors was executed.

  In 1976 armed, Libya-backed insurgents under Sadiq al Mahdi crossed the border into Sudan and attacked Khartoum and Omdurman. Several thousand people were killed and Nimeiry was only saved by the arrival of a column of tanks in Khartoum. A wave of executions followed but a National Reconciliation between Nimeiry and al Mahdi took place in 1977 but this led to a deterioration in relations between Khartoum and the leaders in south Sudan and after Nimeiry shifted to more profoundly Islamist policies in 1981 and imposed Sharia law in 1983 a second civil war began with the dissolution of the southern Sudan assembly.
  On 6 April 1985 while Nimeiry was visiting the United States a coup led by General Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab ousted him from power. Elections took place in 1986 and Sadiq al-Mahdi became prime minister. A set of 3 stamps was issued on 6 April 1986 to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the 1985 coup.

  Sadiq al-Mahdi was deposed in turn by a coup led by Colonel Omar al-Bashir on 30 June 1989 and he first took the post of Chairman of the Revolutionary Council and then made himself President on 16 October 1993. Al-Bashir won national Presidential elections in 1996 and subsequently and he set up a transitional government following a peace accord between the 2 sides of the north-south civil war. The third anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was commemorated by the issue of a set of 4 stamps on 22 January 2008.

 As a result of a campaign against rebels in the Darfur region al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal court on 14 July 2008 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He remained in power however until 11 April 2019 when after months of civil protests he was overthrown by the Sudanese Armed Forces and placed under house arrest. We have seen on our televisions however that the protesting people of Sudan have not been content to see the tyrant removed but the leader of the coup, Awad Ibn Auf, considered to be too close to al-Bashir was also forced to resign after just 24 hours in power. He has been replaced by Lt-Gen Abdel Fatteh Abdelrahman Burhan who has promised to 'uproot the regime' and hold elections.
  There is little in Sudan's modern history to suggest that a return to democratic government will be anything other but short lived but if there were to be a sustained period of freely-elected civilian rule then the chance would exist for Sudan to finally join The Commonwealth. Various texts claim that in the past Sudan has shown an interest in joining the organisation though I haven't actually seen any real evidence of it. In contrast, South Sudan - the independent state which emerged from the Second Civil War - has formally applied to join The Commonwealth but a civil war within that new state between forces of the President and his Vice-President has certainly put that application on hold. This week the two combatants have had a meeting with Pope Francis to aid their reconciliation and perhaps an end may now be in sight to the ongoing traumas of Sudan and South Sudan.

  The modern history of Sudan has been illustrated beautifully by many stamp issues since 1898 with many modern political twists and turns being recorded on various stamps. Once more stamps prove to be a very special form of historical recording and are more the interesting for that.

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