SUDAN – ‘The land of the Blacks’, and its many troubles
By Femi Olugbile
The name Sudan derives from the Arabic ‘bilad as sudan’, which translates as ‘The Land of the Blacks’.
There is a sad irony pertaining to that truthful description of the ownership and original identity of the land.
Sudan is the meeting point between the black man and the Arab on the African continent. It is also the centre of what many pan-Africanists suspect as a determined effort by the Arab world to wipe out the footprint of the black race as an initiator of, and contributor to human civilisation. Four decades ago, controversial Nigerian literary critic Chinweizu made an urgent cry out to the world that the happenings in Sudan were not only designed to scrub out the imprint of the black man from his rightful place in human history, but to annihilate the black race from the earth and take over his land and his history entirely.
Sudan contains the ruins of Nubia, a cradle of civilisation that thrived two and a half thousand years before the birth of Christ, long before the advent of Islam. The area under the remit of Nubians in anthropology covered the northern part of Sudan and the Southern part of Egypt. Going by archaeological findings, ‘Nubia’, which the Egyptians knew as Kush, extended from Aswan in Egypt to Khartoum, in Sudan, and possibly farther. Kush rivalled Pharaonic Egypt in wealth, power, and cultural development. They built several monuments, including great pyramids. Between 1970 BC and 1520 BC, Egyptian Pharaohs occupied Nubia, and the two cultures intermingled. Nubia regained its independence in 11th century BC. In 742 BC, Piye, the Nubian King of Napata conquered Egypt and founded the 25th Dynasty, shifting his capital from Napata to Meroe. Nubia ruled Egypt for nearly a century. Around 300 AD, the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum invaded Meroe and defeated it, ending its glorious era.
The building of Aswan dam buried many of the ancient monuments and temples of Kush underwater, and displaced Nubians from their traditional home. Today, out of a population of about one million, half live in Egypt, and half in Sudan, surviving mostly in sociologically deprived circumstances.
The Republic of the Sudan is situated in the northeast of Africa, sharing borders with Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad in the west, Egypt to the north, Eritrea in the northeast, Ethiopia in the southeast, Libya in the northwest, South Sudan to the south. It is also bounded by the Red Sea.
It is said that after the fall of Kush, Nubians formed three Christian Kingdoms of Nobatia, Makuria and Alodia in the territory now known as Sudan. In the 14th and 15th centuries AD, most of the country was gradually settled by Arab nomads. In the 19th century, Sudan was conquered by Egyptians under Muhammad Ali. From 1899, Egypt and United Kingdom held a ‘condominium’ over Sudan, and it was governed as a British possession. It became independent in January 1956.
Since independence, the story of Sudan has centred, all too often, on strife, and, like in some parts of Northern Nigeria, the wielding of the Islamic religion as an instrumentality, not of piety, but of power. Gafar El Nimeiry imposed Islamic rule, which exacerbated the rift between north and south and led to a long civil war between the National Islamic Front and Southern rebels.
From 1989 to 2019, a military dictatorship led by Omar al-Bashir ruled the country with an iron fist. The government supported radical Islamic causes and was a known haven for ‘jihadi’ terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.
Paradoxically, Sudan harbours some famous learning institutions known for Islamic studies, but also for such specialisations as Medicine. Many Nigerians, especially Muslims from the North, lived and studied in Sudan for various periods.
In 2019, Bashir was overthrown in a coup d’état, following several months of street protests.
It seemed like a new beginning for the ‘land of the blacks.’
Sadly, the celebration proved premature. Real suffering, such as they had not seen before, was about to be unleashed on the Sudanese.
Early in 2023, fighting broke about between the two Generals who were supposed to midwife the transition to Democracy – General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the Army chief, and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the leader of the paramilitary ‘Rapid Support Group’.
Each of the Generals is going for broke to win the country for himself, a-la-Nimeiry, a-la-al Bashir. The people, mostly women, who fought and died in the street protests have, it seems, died in vain.
Murder and mayhem have reigned in Sudan since, as the Generals slug it.
Thousands of Sudanese have been killed in Khartoum and surrounding areas, the stronghold of the rogue ‘Rapid Support Group’. Hundreds of thousands have become refugees. The Government forces are supported by Egypt and some western countries. The Rapid Support Group is backed by Russia’s Wagner Group, and secretly by the United Arab Emirates. The RSG target mostly non-Arab black Sudanese, killing, raping, and driving them from their homes. They have formed alliance with the Janjaweed in Darfur to start another round of ethnic cleansing and enslavement.
Intrepid award-winning CNN journalist, Nima Elbagir, a black Sudanese, recently made an emotional journey to her hometown, near Khartoum. The reportage reveals horror stories of crimes against humanity and untold suffering of innocent Africans, mostly black.
Who will rescue ‘the Land of the Blacks’ from genocide and ethnic cleansing? Was Chinweizu right- that this was the plan all along?
Nima Elbagir concludes her piece by stating matter-of-factly that if the rampaging ‘Rapid Support Group’ were to succeed in seizing the whole of Sudan, not only would more blacks be sold into the 21st Century slavery in Darfur, but Sudanese like her in the diaspora would never be able to visit their homeland again.
Sudan in 2024 is a blight on the face of Africa, and it is time for all Africans to take a close look at what is happening there.