The Wars of Sudan: From the Egyptian Conquest to the Present

The Wars of Sudan: From the Egyptian Conquest to the Present

Sudan is the largest nation in Africa in terms of total geographic size. After gaining independence from Egypt and Britain in the 1950s, Sudan has been rocked by one civil conflict after another. In 2011, the southern part of Sudan became independent, officially called the Republic of South Sudan. Tensions between the mostly Muslim and Arab (northern) Sudan, and the mostly Christian and Black South Sudan remain high, as both nations argue over ownership of valuable oil resources. In December of 2013, major combat erupted between South Sudanese government forces and rebellious army units and militias.

The list of Sudan wars below also includes South Sudanese conflicts and wars.

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Egyptian Conquest of the Sudan (1820-1839)– Led by Ali’s son Hussein, Egyptian forces conquered the Sudan, extending Egyptian control along the Red Sea coast, and as far south along the Nile as modern Uganda, then known as Gondokoro.


Egyptian-Ethiopian War(1875-1877)–Ethiopia retaliated against Egyptian forces attempting to colonize the Red Sea coast. Egypt gave up its attempt to colonize that area. Sudan is involved due to Egyptian control over Sudan


Sudanese War (1881-1885)–The Sudanese “Mahdi”, a religious leader, began a rebellion against Egyptian control of the Sudan. At this time, Egypt was effectively a protectorate of the British, who sent forces to aid the Egyptians. By 1885, after suffering several bloody defeats, the Anglo-Egyptian forces withdrew from the Sudan.

Sudanese War (1896-1899)–Following their defeat in the previous Sudan War, Anglo-Egyptian forces returned to the Sudan and defeated the forces of the Mahdi’s successor, known as the Khalifa.

The Second World War (1940-1943)While Egyptian and British controlled Sudan did not actually engage in combat in this war, the British launched the campaign to liberate neighboring Ethiopia from Sudanese territory.

First Sudanese Civil War(1955-1972)–War between the Arab and Muslim dominated North, and the Black and non-Muslim South. The Northern government kept the South from breaking away.

Sudanese Military Coup(1958)–

Sudanese Military Coup(1969)–

Second Sudan Civil War(1983-2005)--Continued fighting between the Arab and Muslim dominated North, and the Black and non-Muslim South. This second civil war ended with a truce in 2005, (not always observed by both sides), but that truce did result in a historic referendum in which the South voted to break away from the North and become an independent state. That vote took place in January, 2011.

Sudanese Military Coup(1985)–

Darfur War ( 2003-2010)–Bloody war in western Sudan between Darfuri rebels and the government and the government-backed Janjaweed militia. This war also involved border clashes with neighboring Chad.

Post Referendum Clashes in South Sudan (2011-2012)After the January, 2011 independence referendum, one major fear was that the North and the Sudan military would not cooperate as South Sudan proclaimed independence. In early February, 2011, clashes broke out between the Sudan military and Southerners.

Air Strike on Yarmouk Arms Factory in Khartoum (October 25, 2012)-An unknown force blew up an arms factory in Khartoum. The munitions plant was believed to be ties to Iran and to Iran’s efforts to supply Hamas and other groups in Gaza with weapons. The most likely attackers were Israeli.

South Sudan Civil Conflict (December, 2013)-An army rebellion killed hundreds as fighting broke out between rebels and government forces in Juba, and other cities in South Sudan. Both the United States and Uganda sent troops to South Sudan to extract their citizens as the fighting deepened. Four American troops were wounded as their Osprey aircraft took fire from rebel units during an aborted extraction. [xyz-ihs snippet=”336x280from2009″]



1. Kohn, George C. Dictionary of Wars. New York: Facts On File Publications. 1999.

2. Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupey. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the PresentNew York, New York: Harper & Row. 1993.

Clashes in Sudan as southerners in army refuse to withdraw to north–Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2011

West slumbers while Sudan prepares for civil war’s renewal-Post and Courier, Dec. 11, 2010

Voting Is Peaceful in South Sudan Despite Border Clashes–NY Times, Jan. 10, 2011

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