Sudan and Egypt: The swing of the Pendulum (1989-2001)

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Since Sudan gained independence in 1956 and even before, relations with its powerful neighbour Egypt oscillated between the extremes of enmity and affinity. Most conspicuously, it was during the rule of President Ja'far Muhammad al-Numayri (1969-85) that relations between Sudan and Egypt reached an unprecedented high, culminating in the 25-year Joint Defence Agreement of 1976, which stipulated that an armed attack on either country would be considered an attack on both. This strong alliance was disrupted by the 1985 coup launched by Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Hasan Siwar al-Dahab. It terminated not only the Numayri regime but also the cordial relationship with Egypt. During the democractically elected rule of al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (1986-89), which followed Dahab's one-year transition period. Sudan took steps to mend fences with Cairo, but bilateral relations did not revert to their previous closeness. The ascent to power of Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir through a military coup in the summer of 1989 marked a watershed in Sudanese internal and foreign affairs, dragging relations with Egypt into a new abyss. Starting from that dramatic juncture, this article examines the factors shaping the Sudanese-Egyptian relationship throughout the Bashir era (1989-2001). It reflects a mainly Sudanese perspective, relying extensively on Sudanese, Egyptian and other Arab media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-98
Number of pages18
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2003


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