The end of World War II marked a new phase in British colonial history in its vast empire around the world. The subjects of the British Empire were agitating for self-determination and complete independence from their colonial masters. Some formed political parties and presented their demands to the colonial rulers through their political leaders. Others sent petitions to the monarchy in Britain demanding self-rule, while still others took up arms and waged guerrilla warfare to liberate themselves from their colonial masters.

In the Sudanese context, the Northern intellectuals chose a peaceful approach to political and economic independence, rather than the use of force. Thus, Northern political parties like the National Unionist Party (NUP) and the Umma Party spearheaded the demand for independence from British colonial rule. The members of both parties were well educated and well organized, and they worked consistently together to achieve their goals. But these Northern political elites also undermined the Southern viewpoint concerning Sudan’s independence.

Meanwhile, a few Southerners in Northern Sudan had begun exercising their political rights. A group of educated Southerners in Khartoum and Omdurman had already formed a political party known as the “Black Block.” Its aims were “to promote the interests of the dark-skinned and largely non-Arab peoples of the South and to help raise the area out of its state of backwardness and ignorance.” The party made alliances with groups whose objectives and living conditions were similar to theirs. Although they advocated independence for the South, the depth of that commitment was revealed when they allied with the Umma party of the North.

The Black Block was viewed unfavourably by the NUP because the latter feared it would emphasize the racial element in Sudan and consequently jeopardize the NUP’s objective of “unity of the Nile Valley” (union between Egypt and Sudan). Some Southerners also opposed the Black Block on similar grounds.

The period of 1949 through 1951 witnessed a further proliferation of Southern Political parties, and in 1951, Southern politicians Buth Diu Thung, Stanislaus Paysama, and Abdel-Rahman Sule founded the Liberal Party. Missionary-educated Southerners began to run for office either individually or loosely affiliated with the Liberal Party. The South elected and sent Thirteen members to the Legislative Assembly in Khartoum, which officially opened on December 16, 1948. The assembly provided its members with the opportunity to discuss political, economic, and social issues in a democratic atmosphere and “represented a major change in the Sudan government’s policy.

Reference: The First Sudanese Civil War

Scopas S. Poggo