In 1898 as a result of his victory at Umm Durman Kitchener was granted the title Lord Kitchener.

The third Mustafa Fahmi Cabinet (1) could be considered as the longest Cabinet in the history of Egypt.  It was rich in years, thirteen years, and rich in events such as the re-conquest of the Sudan, the tragedy of Densheway, the resignation of Lord Cromer and the birth of a very strong National Movement and National Press.

Until 1896, the British Government has been against any military campaign to defeat Mahdism and to restitute the Sudan to Egyptian Sovereignty.  That attitude could be explained by the British claim that their stay in Egypt was to protect the country and the Suez Canal against the Mahdist threat.

A few months after the formation of the Third Fahmi Cabinet, Intelligence sources warned the British Government that France was planning a Military Expedition, which would cross the Sahara Desert, conquer Southern Sudan (the ex Egyptian Province of Equatoria) and establish a military and political link with the Ethiopian Empire. 

Wasting no time, orders were issued to General Herbert Kitchener Pasha (2), the (then) Sirdar of the Egyptian Army, to plan and carry on the military re-conquest of the Sudan.

The ascent of the Nile from Egypt was a long and slow business that took Kitchener about two years to achieve.  There was to be no haste and no mistakes.  Two Egyptian Brigades and one British, a total of eighteen thousands men participated in the campaign. 

To make his army ‘s advance easy, the methodical Kitchener ordered the construction of a railway to link Aswan to Atbara, thus avoiding the great loop of the Nile.  In April 1898 a Mahdist Army, led by the Emir Mahmoud, one of its finest and most aggressive Generals, attacked Kitchener‘s army but he stood no chance against the modern artillery. The Egyptian and British troops stormed the pulverized Sudanese barricades and no quarter was given to the enemy. Emir Mahmoud was captured and a victory parade took place in the neighboring town of Berber.

In the parade, Kitchener rode a white horse to take the salute.  At the head of the parade came the defeated General Mahmoud, a proud and handsome young man in his early thirties.  Chains were riveted round his ankles, a halter was passed around his neck and his hands were bound behind his back.  In these bonds he was made sometime to walk, sometimes to run and when he stumbled his guards drove him on.  Nobody respects a looser and the people of Berber jeered at the prisoner and pelted him with rubbish!!

By September 11, Kitchener and his army were in front of Omdurman where the main Sudanese Army lead by the Khalifa was defeated and Khartoum was occupied.  Having heard from some prisoners that French troops had occupied the town of Fashoda, not far from the junction of the Sobat and White Nile Rivers, Kitchener wasted no time and, at the head of a strong Egyptian contingent, sped south and reached Fashoda on September 18.  There he discovered that the French Force, led by Captain Jean-Baptiste Marchand, was well entrenched.  He raised the Egyptian Flag beside the French Flag and both he and Marchand waited patiently for the British and French Government to settle the matter.  It was eventually settled with the French withdrawal.

It is important to note that, prior to the military campaign, the Fahmi Cabinet allocated the amount of half a million pounds to finance it which arose the ire of the “Shoury Majlis” (Parliament) because the decision was adopted without the “Majlis” authorization.  The Cabinet excuse was that the amount was deducted from that part of the Budget that was supposed to repay the National Debt and which does not fall under the jurisdiction of the “Majlis”.
After the defeat of Mahdism, Boutros Ghali Pasha, the Foreign Minister, negotiated with the British Government the new status of the “liberated” Sudan and, on behalf of the Fahmi Cabinet and with his agreement, signed with the Brits what was known as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium over the Sudan.  According to that Agreement, the Governor General of the Sudan should be British appointed by the Egyptian Government; both countries would garrison troops over there and the Country Official name would be the Anglo Egyptian SudanGhali Pasha, on behalf of the Egyptian Government, and Lord Cromer, on behalf of the British Government, signed the Agreement.   The agreement shocked the Egyptians and was met with great displeasure.

 The tense relationship between Khedive Abbas Helmi and Lord Cromer intensified and the Khedive secretly encouraged the formation of Nationalist Groups and particularly the National Party (Al Hezb  Al Watani) established and led by Mustafa Kamel Pasha.  Along with Mohammad Farid (Bey) and Ahmad Lutfi El Sayed (Pasha), the National Party co-founders, he founded a daily newspaper, “Al Liwaa”, which ran a daily campaign against the British occupation of Egypt.  But the national feelings intensified after the tragedy of Densheway and its aftermath.

On June 13, 1906, a group of British Officers went on a pigeons hunting trip in and around the village of Densheway in the Menoufya Province.  Unlike the pigeons of Trafalgar Square, those of that village were privately owned and, like poultry, served as aliments of choice to its owners.  An argument arose between the officers and the villagers, shots were fired putting a house on fire and wounding a woman villager.  The enraged villagers attacked the hunters with sticks.  The hunters becoming hunted run away as fast as they could and, one of them died of sunstroke.  The British authorities arrested the whole adult male population of Densheway and charged them with premeditated murder.  A Special Military Court was formed to judge the accused; many of them were found guilty of murder.  Four of them were condemned to death and hanged and over fifty others were condemned to public flogging in the presence of their families.  Mustafa Kamel and most of his countrymen were appalled by the injustice committed and a wave of angry protests and demonstrations took place all over the Country and even in some European Countries.  To calm down the situation, the British Government “hastened” the retirement of Lord Cromer in 1907 and appointed Sir John Eldon Gorst (3) to replace him as British Agent and Consul General in Egypt.

The Fahmi Cabinet intensified the appointments of foreigners in the different Ministries and Administrations; because of that and because of its close collaboration with Lord Cromer the population at large did not view it with sympathy.  And yet the Fahmi Administration should be credited for achieving many useful reforms: 

-It promulgated a law prohibiting the expropriation of private properties for the use of public utilities without the approval of the owners; an adequate compensation should be paid to the owners.

-The Cabinet approved the reduction of the secondary schools studies from five years to three years.  That step was adopted to cut the numbers of students dropping out and to minimize their parents’ financial burden.

-To protect Egypt from the plague, that was spread in India and could be spread by Indian pilgrims, the Cabinet confined the pilgrimage to Mecca to those Egyptian pilgrims who could carry enough cash to keep them afloat out of the Country for at least forty days.  The cheapest quarantine ever imagined!!

-The dams of Aswan and Asyut were built and inaugurated.

-The port of Alexandria was modernized and new quays were built to accommodate more ships thus increasing the Egyptian Foreign Trade.

-To avoid the frequent cuts in electrical currents, the Cabinet urged the power companies to replace the above ground electrical cables by underground ones. 

-The Cabinet agreed to renew the contract of the telephone company for another twenty-one years on condition that the company would reduce the users fees to six pounds a year.

-More tramway lines were authorized and built in Cairo.

-The Cabinet accorded a concession for an oil company to start oil exploration on condition that it would spend the amount of one hundred and twenty thousands pounds in preliminary studies and diggings.  The aim of the Government was to achieve self-sufficiency in oil, which was (then) imported from the United States and Tsarist Russia.

-To reward good behavior in jails, the Cabinet decided to reduce the jail terms by twenty-five percent for the deserving prisoners.  It also decided to replace the jail terms for those who failed to pay their contraventions by inviting them to work six hours a day, unpaid, for the Government for each day of their sentence.

-In a Cabinet meeting presided by Khedive Abbas, it was decided to fire the Governor of the Behera Province for forcing the citizens to donate money to finance the festivities planned for the visit of the Khedive to that Province.

-The Cabinet increased the Budget of the Administration of Health.  It also decided to raise the starting salaries of its Doctors, from seventy-two pounds to ninety-six pounds a year

-All tolls imposed on crossing bridges were canceled to encourage the movement of people and merchandise across the country. That decision also applied to all boats crossing locks.

-An extra budget of five hundred pounds was voted for foundation of a veterinary faculty with a yearly budget one thousand one hundred and seventy three pounds.

-The National Post Service was allowed to open savings accounts to its customers with a yearly interest of two and a half percent on the deposits.

-The Cabinet allocated the amount of five thousands five hundred pounds for the Ministry of Public Works to cover the celebration of the Aswan Dam.  An extra yearly amount of nineteen thousands pounds was added to the budget of that same Ministry to face the maintenance expenses of the newly built barrages.

-On November 15, 1902, the Khedive and the Cabinet inaugurated the Egyptian Museum.  The highest Egyptian decoration was given by the Khedive to Mr. Maspero, the French Egyptologist and founding father of the museum.  An important street in Cairo was also named after him.

-On November 25, 1905, The Cabinet discussed the new 1906 Budget which revealed an income of thirteen millions pounds with expenditures not exceeding thirteen millions.  It decided to use the half a million surplus to reduce the customs duties on all the consumption goods from eight percent to four percent.  In that same Cabinet meeting it was decided to raise the monthly starting salaries of Doctors and Lawyers from eight pounds to twelve, hoping that the raise would encourage more and more graduates to join the Government service.

-This page of reforms cannot be closed without mentioning that, on October 28, 1906, the Cabinet was unanimous in appointing Saad Zaghloul Bey, who was then an Appeal Judge, to the Cabinet Post of Minister of Public Instruction.

On November 11, 1908, Prime Minister Mustafa Fahmi Pasha presented to the Khedive his resignation and that of his Cabinet, claiming a deterioration of his health.

(To be continued) 

Kamal K. Katba


(2) Horatio Kitchener was born near Ballylongford, County Kerry, Ireland, in 1850. Educated at the Royal Military Academy he entered the Royal Engineers in 1871. Kitchener served in Palestine (1874-78), Cyprus (1878-82) and the Sudan (1883-85). 

In 1898  as a result of his victory at Omdurman Kitchener was granted the title Lord Kitchener.

In the Boer War (1899-1902) Kitchener was chief of staff to Lord Frederick Roberts and was responsible for developing strategies to deal with the Boer guerrilla campaign. His decision to destroy Boer farms and to move civilians into concentration camps resulted him being highly criticised by politicians such as David Lloyd George and Charles Trevelyan. 

After the Boer War was brought to an end by the signing of the Treaty of Vereeninging, Kitchener became commander-in-chief in India (1902-09) and military governor of Egypt (1911-14). 

On the outbreak of the First World War, the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, appointed Kitchener as Secretary of War. Kitchener, he first member of the military to hold the post, was given the task of recruiting a large army to fight Germany. With the help of a war poster that featured Kitchener and the words: 'Join Your Country's Army', over 3,000,000 men volunteered in the first two years of the war. 

Kitchener told Asquith that he expected the war to last at least three years with millions of casualties. He argued that the British Army must concentrate its efforts on the Western Front. However, after coming under considerable pressure from Winston Churchill, he First Lord of the Admiralty, he did agree to support the Gallipoli campaign in February 1915. By the time Kitchener withdrew the troops from the the area in January, 1916, Allied casualties totaled over 250,000 men. 

The Gallipoli disaster damaged Kitchener's reputation as a military strategist. Kitchener also came under attack for a shortage of military supplies. Lord Kitchener offered to resign but Herbert Asquith decided to keep him as his Secretary of War. 

In the spring of 1916 Asquith decided to send Kitchener to Russia in an attempt to rally the country in its fight against Germany. On 5th June 1916, Horatio Kitchener was drowned when the HMS Hampshire on which he was traveling to Russia, was struck a mine off the Orkneys. 

(3) SIR J. ELDON GORST (b. 1861), was financial adviser to the Egyptian government from 1898 to 1904, when he became assistant under-secretary of state for foreign affairs. In 1907 he succeeded Lord Cromer as British agent and consul general in Egypt.


© Kamal Katba 2005


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