|Sudan Table of Contents
From the beginning of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, the British sought to modernize Sudan by applying European technology to its underdeveloped economy and by replacing its authoritarian institutions with ones that adhered to liberal English traditions. However, southern Sudan's remote and undeveloped provinces--Equatoria, Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile--received little official attention until after World War I, except for efforts to suppress tribal warfare and the slave trade. The British justified this policy by claiming that the south was not ready for exposure to the modern world. To allow the south to develop along indigenous lines, the British, therefore, closed the region to outsiders. As a result, the south remained isolated and backward. A few Arab merchants controlled the region's limited commercial activities while Arab bureaucrats administered whatever laws existed. Christian missionaries, who operated schools and medical clinics, provided limited social services in southern Sudan.
The earliest Christian missionaries were the Verona Fathers, a Roman Catholic religious order that had established southern missions before the Mahdiyah. Other missionary groups active in the south included Presbyterians from the United States and the Anglican Church Missionary Society. There was no competition among these missions, largely because they maintained separate areas of influence. The government eventually subsidized the mission schools that educated southerners. Because mission graduates usually succeeded in gaining posts in the provincial civil service, many northerners regarded them as tools of British imperialism. The few southerners who received higher training attended schools in British East Africa (present-day Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania) rather than in Khartoum, thereby exacerbating the north-south division.
British authorities treated the three southern provinces as a separate region. The colonial administration, as it consolidated its southern position in the 1920s, detached the south from the rest of Sudan for all practical purposes. The period's "closed door" ordinances, which barred northern Sudanese from entering or working in the south, reinforced this separate development policy. Moreover, the British gradually replaced Arab administrators and expelled Arab merchants, thereby severing the south's last economic contacts with the north. The colonial administration also discouraged the spread of Islam, the practice of Arab customs, and the wearing of Arab dress. At the same time, the British made efforts to revitalize African customs and tribal life that the slave trade had disrupted. Finally, a 1930 directive stated that blacks in the southern provinces were to be considered a people distinct from northern Muslims and that the region should be prepared for eventual integration with British East Africa.
Although potentially a rich agricultural zone, the south's economic development suffered because of the region's isolation. Moreover, a continual struggle went on between British officials in the north and south, as those in the former resisted recommendations that northern resources be diverted to spur southern economic development. Personality clashes between officials in the two branches in the Sudan Political Service also impeded the south's growth. Those individuals who served in the southern provinces tended to be military officers with previous Africa experience on secondment to the colonial service. They usually were distrustful of Arab influence and were committed to keeping the south under British control. By contrast, officials in the northern provinces tended to be Arabists often drawn from the diplomatic and consular service. Whereas northern provincial governors conferred regularly as a group with the governor general in Khartoum, their three southern colleagues met to coordinate activities with the governors of the British East African colonies.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress