AFRICAN MISSIONS, EDUCATION AND THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE:
The SUM in Nigeria, The Cameroons, Chad, Sudan and Other African Territories
Part 1: Manuscript Papers from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World,
New College, University of Edinburgh, 1898-1960
Part 2: The Lightbearer, 1905-1991
Part 3: Newsletters, 1940-1989, Publications and Annual Reports, 1908-1979
The Archive of the Sudan United Mission (SUM), held at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, New College, University of Edinburgh, is an important resource for the study of missionary work, educational work, medical work, evangelism, the emergence of indigenous churches and the growth of nationalist sentiment in Africa in the twentieth century.
Initially founded as the Sudan Pioneer Mission, SUM took its name from the concept of Greater Sudan. At the beginning of the twentieth century many of the colonial boundaries were in a state of flux and Greater Sudan comprised a vast area of Africa stretching from the coasts of Nigeria and the Cameroons in the west, to Chad and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan further east. The main aim of the SUM was to halt the advance of Islam across this huge swathe of territory. Initial efforts focused on the Benue region in Nigeria.
The SUM archival material spans the period 1904-1991 and allows researchers to study:
- The correspondence of the founders of the mission, Karl and Lucy Kumm.
- The work of J Lowry Maxwell amongst the Hausa-speaking and Jukun tribes and his insights into African language, culture and customs.
- SUM activities in Northern Nigeria and the aspirations of the indigenes in the Middle Belt area.
- The crucial role of the hospitals and leprosy settlements in Nigeria, bringing medical advances to the region and providing worthwhile training and jobs for Africans in Nigeria.
- The importance of education, new schools and training colleges in both Nigeria and the Sudan.
- Reports from the range of different mission stations.
- The tremendous political and social changes in Africa which gathered momentum after 1920, culminating in independence movements and, externally, a vibrant Pan-Africanism.
- SUM’s commitment from 1904 to the establishment of indigenous African Churches and its changing role once this had been achieved.
- SUM’s activities in Nigeria, Chad, the Cameroons and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
In 1989 the SUM Fellowship in the UK changed its name to Action Partners. Bawtry Hall in Doncaster, South Yorkshire was purchased to be a headquarters and training centre for
Over the last century, language usage has changed considerably. Certain terms were used at the beginning of the twentieth century, which, in the twenty-first century, are quite unacceptable. Therefore, readers of the earlier part of the archives should be aware of the need to interpret this language in modern terms. For example, by the twenty-first century the general practice would be to use ‘indigenous’ or ‘indigene’ instead of ‘native’. Other alternatives are ‘leprosy patient’ rather than ‘leper’, ‘African Traditional Religion’ rather than ‘pagan’ or ‘animist’, and ‘ethnic group’ rather than ‘tribe’. The spelling of some of the names of ethnic groups has changed and in some cases a very different, often older, name is used for such groups eg ‘Mwaghavul’ is used in the twenty-first century instead of ‘Sura’, which is sometimes found in the archival material.
Early Developments of the Sudan United Mission
The Sudan United Mission was founded by Hermann Karl Wilhelm Kumm (1875-1930) from Osterode, Germany and his wife Lucy Evangeline Guinness (1865-1906). Kumm, as a young man, felt a calling to missionary work among the Muslims in Africa and during a visit to England he heard Mr Glenny of the North Africa Mission talk of his work. He decided to study Arabic in Egypt and work among the Muslims there. In a letter written in Alexandria, Egypt, in November 1898, Dr Kumm explains his call to work with people in Africa:
“…Even while I was still in England a voice seemed to say to me, ‘I have prepared the people of the desert for my Gospel, go and preach it to them’. Now at last I have had a look upon those dear people and upon the vast desert Sahara, which is for me the Promised Land. Yet it was only a short look and I had to come away again to abide the Lord’s time…”
Lucy Guinness, before meeting and marrying Karl in Cairo, had worked in an East End factory, edited a magazine for the Regions Beyond Missionary Union (which had been founded by the Guinness family) and visited mission stations in Africa.
Kumm and his wife decided that the evangelisation of the Sudan was imperative. It had a population of over fifty million, Islam was growing and none of the Free Churches of Great Britain were doing any work there. In 1900 they decided to form the German Sudan Pioneer Mission, although after a short time back in England they decided to sever their connection with the German mission, forming the Sudan Pioneer Mission. Its first meeting was held in Sheffield in 1902. Not satisfied with the scale of the mission, a meeting was held in Edinburgh 15 June 1904 to which interested men of all denominations were invited, and the name changed to Sudan United Mission.
The target area for the mission was enlarged to encompass Greater Sudan, a far more ambitious project. Kumm and his wife travelled all over the UK calling on volunteers to join the society. One of the first to step forward was John Lowry Maxwell from Belfast, followed by Dr Ambrose Bateman and John Burt.
The first four SUM missionaries, Karl Kumm, Maxwell, Burt and Bateman sailed on the “Akabo” for Nigeria on 23 July 1904. They travelled inland and were advised by the High Commissioner, Sir Frederick Lugard, that they should start work with the hill tribes around the town of Wase. They travelled up the River Benue to Ibi, and then headed north to Wase, eighty miles from the river. Bateman developed appendicitis and had to return to England. Later, Maxwell and Burt trekked 23 miles south of the River Benue to the town of Wukari, the centre of the Jukun people, and set up a mission station there. Kumm argued: “The whole raison d’être of the…Mission is to counteract the Moslem advance among the Pagan tribes in the Benue region. This cannot be done by going to the Mohammedans and therefore our work will lie among the Pagan tribes.”
SUM appealed to the public for at least 150 missionaries to be placed at 50 stations along a perceived border line where Islam and African Traditional Religions met. It was hoped that for each ethnic group “at least three white missionaries, a medical man, an ordained educationalist and a horticulturalist” could be secured. Kumm returned to Britain in May 1905 to continue the recruitment of additional missionaries and to appeal for extra funding. He travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, South Africa, Denmark, Canada and the United States in an effort to rouse further interest in this broad, non-denominational missionary movement. The missionaries who came from different countries worked together until, gradually, they took over specific regions, and ultimately, this led to the growth of different church groups. For that reason, these archives of the SUM British Branch increasingly concentrate on the work of that branch and the church, namely the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), which developed in the areas where the British Branch had worked.
The UK branch of SUM focused on the Benue River region in Nigeria and established bases at Rock Station in September 1904, at Wukari and at Ibi by 1906. John Lowry Maxwell,
John Mackenzie Young, W C Hoover and Rev C W Guinter plus Dr J S Derr worked at Wukari. There were four missionaries at Rock Station – J G Burt, Frank Aust, W Ghey and Arthur Emlyn. Rev Joseph Baker and Rev Wilfred Lawson Broadbent worked at Ibi.
The Canadian branch established three bases in Nigeria; A E Ball and Rev F Komlosy opened a mission station at Bida in May 1903; Miss Marian Wuthrick, Miss Schofield, Fred Merryweather and Mr Lang were active at Patagi from January 1902 and E F Rice and F E Hein set up a mission at Wushishi in December 1906.
The early missionary work progressed well and in 1907 expanded to Langtang among the Tarok (formerly called Yergum) people. At Rumasha, the first convert, Tom Aliyana, was baptised in 1908. A year later the first female workers arrived. Further expansion in later years led to work among other tribes such as the Berom people round the town of Foron (Forum) and the Mwaghavul (Sura) and ‘Ngas (Angas) etehnic groups. SUM recruits from Australia and New Zealand began work in the Sudan in 1913. In 1917 the first church was established at Donga in Nigeria.
In later years the various branches of SUM set up additional mission stations in Northern Nigeria at Donga, Lupwe, Kona, Gandoile, Numan, Shillem, Pella, Lamurde, Bambur, Lantang, Tutung, Badung, Forum, Du, Vom, Randa, Lezin Lafiya and Keana.
In Sudan, the codified ‘Missionary Regulations’ of 1905 initially forbade missionary activity north of the 10th parallel. All missionary societies therefore focused their efforts in the South. Each missionary organization was allocated a ‘sphere’ of influence for their work. SUM concentrated their activities in the eastern Nuba Mountains in the Kordofan region. This work was all carried out by the Australian branch of SUM and from 1920 onwards they had established 6 mission stations at Abri, Heiban, Kauda, Moro, Talodi and Tabanya.
Rev D N MacDiarmid and his wife worked at Heiban and he relates details of their missionary activities before and after 1920, with reference to the mission’s own printing press, school and medical work, local tribes and their languages, in ‘Life and Work in the Nuba Mountains’ and in ‘Tales of the Sudan’.
By the mid 1930s SUM had 28 mission stations in Nigeria, plus some additional out-stations, 3 stations in the Northern French Cameroons, 2 missions in French Equatorial Africa, and 6 stations in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, reaching over 40 different ethnic groups. In addition, 2 stations in Nigeria, with several missionaries, had been handed over to the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa in 1916. Total European field staff of SUM had reached 130 and the concept of a chain of mission stations across ‘Greater Sudan’ was becoming an accomplished fact.
J Lowry Maxwell spent 30 years in Africa until ill health forced his return to Britain in 1934. He showed a great appreciation of African culture and was an accomplished linguist. He spent much of his time studying the Hausa language, writing a handbook for students of the language and translating hymns into Hausa. He became the mission’s Hausa teacher and taught both missionaries and government officials. He could also speak the Jukun language and translated parts of the scripture into that language. He wrote a history of the SUM called “Half a Century of Grace”.
The Benue River in West Africa, the longest tributary of the Niger, dominated the area first explored by SUM missionaries. They focussed on evangelism, using education and medicine as handmaids of the gospel.
At the beginning of the twentieth century slavery still existed in Nigeria and the colonial government was determined to stop it. The government suggested that the SUM should establish a home for the freed and when this was done, it was named in honour of Kumm’s wife, Lucy, who had died in 1906. The Freed Slaves Home in Rumasha was set up in 1909 and women missionaries arrived to help run the home – Mary McNaught and Clara Haigh from Britain and the Stewart sisters from South Africa. David Forbes and others began educating blind boys and girls.
In 1909 Hans Vischer, an ex-Anglican missionary, was asked to organise the education system in Northern Nigeria. Schools were set up and grants given to missions in the Middle Belt. In 1914 there were 1,100 primary school pupils in the north, compared with 35,700 in the south; the north had no secondary schools, compared with eleven in the south. This was a significant imbalance, which the SUM later helped to redress as part of their work in building up the church.
The ability to read was absolutely necessary for the process of evangelisation and CRIs (Centres of Religious Instruction) were set up from the outset by each mission station. It was also thought imperative that Nigerians themselves should be trained for evangelistic work and a school was set up for this purpose in Gindiri in 1934. Classes for farmer evangelists were started and a small group of indigenous teachers were trained. The first Nigerian pastors began their training in 1937. They were Toma Tok Bot of Forum, Bali of Langtang and David Lot of Panyam. In 1953 the first Nigerian missionary was sent by Panyam Church to the Gwoza Hills area. Meanwhile, a Middle School for boys was opened which developed into a Boys’ Secondary School. A Girls’ Senior Primary Boarding School was run for many years until there was sufficient provision for girls in the schools in the area of each ethnic group. A Girls’ High School for secondary education for girls was established in 1958.
Medical work was seen as a tool in the spread of the gospel. Simple clinics were set up at mission centres and led to the establishment by Dr Barnden of Vom Hospital in the village of Vwang in 1923. This hospital developed extensively with medical, surgical and maternity wards, followed by a Child Welfare Centre in 1945. Meanwhile a leprosy centre had been set up in Vom, and also in Molai near Maiduguri in the North East. The Vom centre was later transferred to Mangu, also on the Plateau. A joint government/mission hospital was built and run jointly at Nguru and in 1958, a hospital was founded in the North East in Gwoza. The training of midwives and nurses became an important part of Vom Christian Hospital’s contribution to the development of Nigeria. Barely seventy years after Kumm’s arrival in Nigeria, nearly every hospital in Nigeria had nurses and paramedics trained in Vom by Kumm’s successors. Local dispensaries were staffed by paramedics trained at Vom and Alushi, the latter centre staffed at first by workers from South Africa.
Thus the Mission played an important role in medical training and education, giving an opportunity for Nigerians to go on to full training as doctors, teachers at all levels, and university lecturers.
From the very beginning in 1904, the SUM was committed to the creation of indigenous African Churches which would be self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. Ultimately, the growth of several different church groups as a result of the diverse groups from overseas did not mean that the churches lost contact with one another. The churches emerging from the SUM branches and another mission, the CBM, united as the Fellowship of Churches of Christ in Nigeria, a central fellowship which shared common aims. The activities of the Middle Belt Movement (representing the multi-ethnic and multi-religious region of Central Nigeria which often played a crucial role in Nigerian politics) interacted with this new Fellowship of Churches. Education, nationalism and missionary activity were inextricably linked in Nigeria.
The different tribes, or ethnic groups, of Northern Nigeria
The best known of the northern peoples, often spoken of as coterminous with the north, are the Hausa. The term refers also to a language spoken indigenously by savanna peoples spread across the far north from Nigeria's western boundary eastward to Borno State and into much of the territory of southern Niger. It also refers to a common set of cultural practices and a people once governed through a series of Islamic emirates and their surrounding subject towns and villages. These pre-colonial emirates were still major features of local government as late as 1990. Each had a central citadel town that housed its ruling group of nobles and royalty served as the administrative, judicial, and military organization of these states. Traditionally, the major towns were also trading centres; some such as Kano, Zaria, or Katsina were urban conglomerations with populations of 25,000 to 100,000 in the nineteenth century. They had central markets, special wards for foreign traders, complex organizations of craft specialists, and religious leaders and organizations. They administered a hinterland of subject settlements through a hierarchy of officials, and they interacted with other states and ethnic groups in the region through a history of warfare, raiding, trade, tribute and alliances.
Throughout the north, but especially in the Hausa areas, over the past several centuries Fulani cattle-raising nomads migrated westward, sometimes settling into semi-sedentary villages. Fulani leaders took power over the Hausa states, intermarried with the ruling families and settled into the ruling households of Hausaland and many adjacent societies. By the twentieth century, the ruling elements of Hausaland were often referred to as Hausa-Fulani. The nomadic Fulani continued to wander, so Hausa cultural borders were constantly expanding.
The other major ethnic grouping of the north is that of the Kanuri of Borno. They entered Nigeria from the central Sahara as Muslim conquerors in the 15th century, set up a capital, and subdued and assimilated the local Chadic speakers. Attacked in the nineteenth century by the Fulani, they resisted successfully, although the conflict resulted in a new capital closer to Lake Chad, a new ruling dynasty, and a balance of power between the Hausa-Fulani of the more westerly areas and the Kanuri speakers of the central sub-Saharan rim. Even though Kanuri language, culture, and history are distinctive, other elements are similar to the Hausa. They include the commitment to Islamic law and politics, extended households, and rural-urban distinctions. There was, however, a distinctive Kanuri tradition of a U-shaped town plan open to the west, housing the political leader or founder at the head of the plaza formed by the arms of the U. Kanuri cultural identity was also seen in the hairstyles of women, their complex cuisine, and the identification with ancient ruling dynasties whose names and exploits were still fresh. Maiduguri, the central city of Kanuri influence in the twentieth century, was chosen as the capital of an enlarged North-East State during the civil war.
The Middle Belt runs East-West across Nigeria and is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious area, populated largely by minority ethnic groups. It includes the territories known as Adamawa, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Plateau, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Benue, Kwara and the Federal Capital Territory. Throughout the modern period it has been a crucial to the politics of the region, as it swings between an uneasy attachment to the far north and sometimes an open or cautious solidarity and alliance with southern-based parties. The area runs from the Cameroon Highlands in the east to the Niger River valley in the west and contains 50 to 100 separate language and ethnic groups. These groups varied from the Nupe and Tiv, comprising more than half a million each, to a few hundred speakers of a distinct language in small highland valleys in the Jos Plateau. In the east, languages were of the Chadic group, out of which Hausa differentiated, and the Niger-Congo family, indicating links to eastern and central African languages. In the west, the language groupings indicated historical relations to Mende-speaking peoples farther west. Cultural and historical evidence supports the conclusion that these western groups were marginal remnants of an earlier substratum of cultures that occupied the entire north before the emergence of large centralized Islamic emirates.
The most common groupings in the Middle Belt were small villages with their outlying hamlets and households; they were autonomous in pre-colonial times but were absorbed into wider administrative units under British rule. Most often they were patrilineal, with in-marrying wives, sons, unmarried daughters, and possibly parents or parents' siblings living together. Crops separated this residence grouping from similar ones spread out over a small area. They cultivated local fields and, although most groups seemed to believe in a Supreme Being, they prayed to local spirits and the ghosts of departed lineage elders. Descendants of founders were often village heads or priests of the village shrine, whereas leading members of the other lineages formed an eldership that governed the place and a few outlying areas, consisting of those who were moving toward open lands as the population increased. Other areas, particularly those of the Nupe, organised themselves as Islamic emirates.
Missionaries and party politics influenced, but did not obliterate, these older units. Missionaries arrived in the 1910s and 1920s and were allowed into non-Muslim areas. They set up schools using United States or British staff to teach and helped to create a sense of separateness and educational disparity between the Christianized groups and Muslim ones. From the 1920s to current times both religions competed for adherents.
Hausa language, dress, residential arrangements, and other cultural features became more widespread towards the end of the twentieth century. Over the years, the name ‘Hausa’ came to have a religious connotation.
Nationalism in Nigeria
The nationalism that emerged in Nigeria during the interwar period was prompted by individual tribal aspirations and broad Pan-African sentiments rather than from any sense of a common Nigerian nationality. Its goal initially was not self-determination, but rather increased participation in the governmental process on a regional level.
Political opposition to colonial rule often assumed religious dimensions. Many Europeans were surprised and shocked that Nigerians wanted to develop new denominations independent of European control. However the SUM actively encouraged the formation of an indigenous African Church from the outset. The pulpits of the independent congregations provided one of the few available avenues for the free expression of attitudes critical of colonial rule.
In the south, the voice of the indigenous church was complemented by those of other organisations that arose in the 1920s, such as the Nigerian Union of Teachers, the Nigerian Law Association, the Nigerian Produce Traders' Association (led by Obafemi Awolowo) ethnic and kinship organizations (eg the Igbo Federal Union and the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, a Yoruba cultural movement) and youth or student groups. Most were ostensibly non-political, but nonetheless allowed for the expression of nationalist sentiment and criticisms of government policy.
The opportunity afforded by the 1922 constitution to elect a handful of representatives to the Legislative Council gave politically conscious Nigerians something concrete to work on. The principal figure in the political activity that ensued was Herbert Macauley, often referred to as the father of Nigerian nationalism. His political platform called for economic and educational development, Africanization of the civil service, and self-government for Lagos. He aroused political awareness through his newspaper, the Lagos Daily News, while leading the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) founded in 1922. It dominated elections in Lagos from this time until the ascendancy of the National Youth Movement (NYM) in 1938, with its call for dominion status for Nigeria and economic self-determination. Many participants in the movement were graduates of mission schools. However, the nationalists were often critical of the missions because of their links with colonial agencies, so the missionaries had to distance themselves from imperial policy or face rejection.
In the post-war period, party lines were sharply drawn on the basis of ethnicity and regionalism. The nationalist movement splintered into the Muslim Hausa- and Fulani- backed Northern People's Congress (NPC), the Yoruba-supported Action Group, and the Igbo-dominated National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC, later the National Council of Nigerian Citizens). The latter was the result of a fusion between the NNDP and NYM, with Macauley as president and Azikiwe as secretary general. It was the first political party to have nationwide appeal.
Rapid moves towards decolonisation started in 1948 with many Nigerians tired of being excluded from the higher posts in society. They believed that even more emphasis should be put on education and over the next years much more money was spent in this area. The trade unions were improved, together with water supplies, sanitation, housing, electricity, roads and other aspects of the infrastructure. Nationalism now had a much wider audience and was promoted across Africa by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and the Pan-African Congress.
A new federal constitution for an independent Nigeria was prepared at the Lancaster House Conferences in London in 1957 and 1958 presided over by the British Colonial Secretary. Nigerian delegates were selected to represent each region and to reflect various shades of opinion. The delegation was led by Balewa of the NPC and included party leaders Awolowo of the Action Group, Azikiwe of the NCNC, and Bello of the NPC; they were also the premiers of the Western, Eastern, and Northern regions, respectively. Nigeria became an independent country within the Commonwealth on 1 October 1960. Azikiwe was installed as Governor General of the Federation of Nigeria and Balewa continued to serve as head of a democratically elected parliamentary, but now completely sovereign, government.
Post-Independence Politics and Civil War in Nigeria
During the first three years after independence, the Federal Government was an NPC-NCNC coalition. However, the conflicting natures of the two partners remained a major problem. The former was regionalist, Muslim, and aristocratic; the latter was nationalist, Christian, and populist. In May 1962 bloody rioting in the Western Region brought effective government to an end as rival legislators, following the example in the streets, introduced violence to the floor of the Regional Legislature.
Civil War in 1966-1967 presented many challenges for the local churches and SUM workers in Nigeria, as documented in SUM newsletters and publications. The Federal Military Government sought to revise the constitution so as to enable an early return to civilian rule. Alas, the tempo of violence increased. In September attacks on Igbo in the north were renewed with unprecedented ferocity, stirred up by Muslim traditionalists with the connivance of northern political leaders. The army was sharply divided along regional lines. Reports circulated that troops from the Northern Region had participated in the mayhem. The estimated number of deaths ranged as high as 30,000, although the figure was probably closer to 8,000 to 10,000.
The first elections under the 1979 constitution were held on schedule in July and August 1979, and the Federal Military Government handed over power to a new civilian government under President Shehu Shagari on 1 October 1979. Nigeria's Second Republic was born amid great expectations. Oil prices were high and revenues were increasing. Unfortunately, the euphoria was short-lived, and on 31 December 1983 the military seized power once again.
A new constitution was promulgated in 1989 and preparations were made for a transition back to civilian rule in January 1993. By 1994 events had turned full circle as Action Partners welcomed Nigerian missionaries to serve in UK inner cities, alongside British staff.
From the beginning of the Anglo-Egyptian joint-rule in 1899, 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 British 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 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.
Following Kumm’s recruitment meetings in Australia, the Australian branch of SUM began sending missionaries to work in Sudan. Wilfrid Mills, the Trudingers and D N McDiarmid arrived in 1914. From 1920 they concentrated on the Eastern Nuba Mountains, which became the SUM field. By 1936 there were thirty three Australian SUM missionaries working there. Other missionary groups active in the south included the Verona fathers, 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.
In addition to this, nationalists and religious leaders were divided on the issue of whether Sudan should apply for independence or for union with Egypt. Missionary activity in the region has to be evaluated in the context of rival nationalist coalitions. The Mahdi's son,
Abd ar Rahman al Mahdi, emerged as a spokesman for independence in opposition to Ali al Mirghani, the Khatmiyyah leader, who favoured union with Egypt. Later, radical nationalists and the Khatmiyyah created the Ashigga, which became the National Unionist Party (NUP), advancing the cause of Sudanese-Egyptian unification. The moderates favoured Sudanese independence in co-operation with Britain.
In 1942 the Graduates' General Conference, a quasi-nationalist movement formed by educated Sudanese, presented the government with a memorandum that demanded a pledge of
self-determination after the war to be preceded by abolition of the ‘closed door’ ordinances in the south, an end to the separate curriculum in southern schools, and an increase in the number of Sudanese in the civil service. The Governor General refused to accept the memorandum, but agreed to implement a modernised system of local government.
The road to independence for Sudan continued to be protracted and difficult. The
pro-Egyptian NUP boycotted the 1948 Legislative Assembly elections, which provided proper representation for both north and south. As a result, pro-independence groups dominated the Legislative Assembly and in 1952 its leaders negotiated the Self-Determination Agreement with Britain. Egypt repudiated this agreement and declared that its monarch, Faruk, was also king of Sudan. When Colonel Muhammad Naguib seized power in Egypt, overthrowing Faruk, he ended the deadlock. Naguib accepted the right of Sudanese self-determination and independence eventually followed on 1 January 1956.
A brief period of civilian government was followed by a military coup led by Ibrahim Abbud in 1958. The Abbud regime suppressed expressions of religious and cultural differences and bolstered attempts to Arabize Sudanese society. By December 1962 all the SUM workers from Australia and New Zealand had left the Sudan and mission work was left to indigenous Christian churches in Sudan, without external support. Abbud then closed Parliament to cut off outlets for southern complaints. Southern leaders renewed the armed struggle and the rebellion was spearheaded from 1963 by guerrilla forces known as the Anya Nya.
After various unsuccessful coups, Colonel Jaafar an Nimeiri seized power in May 1969, but the civil war with the southern insurgents persisted. In 1971 Joseph Lagu, who had become the leader of southern forces opposed to Khartoum, proclaimed the creation of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM), which continued the struggle. In this increasingly desperate and turbulent situation, amounting to 22 years of civil conflict, there was great need for outside economic and humanitarian aid.
SUM newsletters dating from 1940 to 1989 allow researchers an interesting window on these difficult times and include details of the activities of the Association of Christian Resource Organisations Serving Sudan (ACROSS), which SUM helped to found. There is also pertinent information in the SUM Australian Branch Reports for this period.
Other branches and related papers
The Sudan United Mission not only consisted of missionaries from Britain, but also developed other branches with missionaries from South Africa, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and France.
The South African Branch of the mission was set up after Kumm visited South Africa in 1907. Rev J G Botha and V H Hosking were initially assigned to Mbula, an area 200 miles from Ibi, and later moved to Salatu to work among the Tiv tribe. Many of the later South African missionaries came from the Dutch Reformed Church and they concentrated on the development of Bible Schools and Sunday Schools.
A branch of the mission was founded in the United States and missionaries recruited included Rev C W Guinter, who was to become one of the outstanding missionary leaders of the SUM. At first the Sudan United Mission worked together with the American Sudan Interior Mission, which had missions in Nigeria, but after a short time they decided to continue separately. There are two American branches: the EUB – The Evangelical United Brethren (later called United Methodists) and the CRC – The Christian Reformed Church.
The Canadian Branch worked in French Equatorial Africa, concentrating on the youth movement and work amongst women.
The archives of the North American/ Canadian branch of the SUM are held at Calvin College in Michigan.
Kumm’s visit to Australia was successful in recruiting a significant number of missionaries for work in Sudan. As mentioned above, their work started in 1913, three mission stations were opened and by 1936 there were thirty three Australian missionaries working in the Sudan. Work continued to progress well until the expulsion of the missionaries in 1962.
The Danish (Lutheran) Branch began work in Numan among the tribe of the Bachama. A Boarding School for Girls was opened and in 1946 thirteen new missionaries were sent out. Its activities are well documented in the Danish archives.
The Norwegian Branch, founded in 1939, worked among leprosy sufferers in the Tikar and
Rei-Bouba tribes in the French Cameroons.
The Swiss Branch worked in Chad and the branch founded in France in 1960 also worked in Chad and the Cameroons.
The papers of J Lowry Maxwell, one of the most significant pioneer SUM missionaries, are held at the Rhodes House Library in Oxford.
Nature and Scope of the Microfilm Project
The microfilm publication of the SUM Archive has been divided into the following parts:
Part 1: Manuscript Papers, 1898-1960 from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, New College, University of Edinburgh
Part 2: The Lightbearer, 1905-1991
Part 3: Newsletters, 1940-1989, Publications and Annual Reports, 1908-1979
Part 4: Lantern Slides, Slides and Photographs
Part 5: Publications in Hausa
Part 1: Manuscript Papers 1898-1960
These Papers comprise:
- General Correspondence of the Sudan United Mission, 1898-1959.
- Correspondence of the General Secretary in the UK, including letters from the SUM Field Secretary, Nigeria, 1940-1969.
- Correspondence with SUM Branches. These letters cover the Australia and
New Zealand Branch, 1950-1960; the Canadian Branch, 1950-1960; the CRC Branch, 1930-1960; the Danish Branch, 1950-1960; the South Africa Branch, 1950-1960; the Swiss Branch, 1940-1960; and the United Methodist Branch (EUB), 1940-1960.
- Minutes of the Executive Committee and agenda notes.
- Reports on the work and behaviour of the missionaries.
Other significant material includes:
Copies of correspondence between the Bishop of Lagos and His Excellency the Governor of Nigeria concerning restrictions on missionary work in the Hausa states; a report to the directors of SUM on a visit to Northern Nigeria by John M Faleonin giving details on mission stations, schools, conferences, the Freed Slaves Home and other subjects; early papers regarding the Sudan Pioneer Mission, including letters from Karl and Lucy Kumm; reports on the work of the Gindiri Training School in Nigeria; and papers on medical work at Vom and Gwoza, with reports and correspondence relating to hospitals, clinics, leprosy settlements and the child welfare centre.
Part 2: The Lightbearer, 1905-1991
This part consists of a complete run of the SUM periodical, The Lightbearer, invaluable to researchers looking at all aspects of the mission from its beginnings at the start of the twentieth century up to 1991. It is particularly important for the early years of SUM activity as much manuscript material for this period did not survive the bombings of the
Second World War. Four volumes of the periodical are not held at CSCNWW in Edinburgh and to complete the run these have been sourced from the British Library, London.
Early issues contain a supplement at the back entitled The S A Lightbearer which consists of news on South African missionaries working in the Sudan. Later issues incorporate a four page Newsletter of the SUM which gives additional SUM news from the mission stations.
Topics covered in this periodical are very varied and include:
- Extracts from monthly reports from the different mission stations.
- Descriptions of missionary work amongst the local people.
- News on new missionaries – lists given of names and dates of sailing to Africa.
- Reports on conferences.
- Articles on the History of SUM missionary work amongst different tribes, for instance among the Dzompere people in Kwambai, Northern Nigeria.
- Contributions received by the SUM.
- Reports of local disasters such as hurricanes and crop failures.
- Notes on Annual Meetings.
Some issues contain maps of the mission areas and interesting photographs of the missionaries and the local tribes.
Part 3: Newsletters, 1940-1989, Publications and Annual Reports, 1908-1979
This part consists of three distinct sections:
Newsletters, 1940-1989, providing SUM home news and information on missions in Northern Nigeria and Sudan, covering a wide range of different topics, from education to medical work (the two central themes of SUM work) to the problems of civil war, the destruction of property and guerrilla activity, or the establishment of new training centres, the progress of welfare initiatives and the creation of indigenous churches. These newsletters give researchers the opportunity to discover more about the workings of the SUM both at home and abroad.
Publications, comprising books, pamphlets and a set of papers in the archive entitled “History”. These include various volumes documenting the history and work of the SUM and its missionaries: for example The Bridge Builder (a biography of W M Bristow), Dawn over Gwoza (a description of the medical work in Gwoza), Go Ye and Cleanse (a record of work carried out among lepers), Go Ye and Teach (the story of Gindiri Training School in Nigeria), A Growing Church (the growth of the SUM), Instead of the Thorn (the story of the Faith and Farm project), Magic or Medicine (a history of Vom Hospital). There are descriptions of the life and customs of local tribes in Northern Nigeria and Sudan, for instance The Birom, Aflame for God. There are short stories for children about SUM missionaries, their work and various indigenous tribes, for example Glimpses of the Sudan, A Hunter at Heart, and Joel.
The set of papers collated as “History” includes details on the civil war in Nigeria, the diaries and notebooks of H G Farrant, notes on the Freed Slaves Home, maps, SUM Golden Jubilee papers and short missionary memoirs. An item of great interest is J Lowry Maxwell’s diary for the early years of the SUM (the remainder of his diaries can be found at Rhodes House Library in Oxford). The extracts below give an idea of the fascinating content to be found in Maxwell’s diary, written in a very easy informal style and describing some of his first experiences in Nigeria:
“Tuesday, 20 November 1906
Last night I woke up with a touch of a chill & fever in consequence. I seem to have got over it though. An insolent hyena came up quite close to where we were lying, and emitted a couple of yells…. Found that white ants had got inside my big box…. We just shifted the tent along…. After we got settled a few yards back in the ground where the grass had been burn,. I had breakfast….
Monday, 28 January 1907
This morning Hoover Guinter & I put up the stove… Eh! But it was jolly hot working on that there stove I tell you, I took 10 grams of quinine when I came in…
A Munshi chief came to see me today. He was well dressed, wearing a large robe and a regular Hausa turban. He had with him an interpreter who could speak Hausa. He explained to me that he was one of the Donga dependencies and that his town was at the Zunzurfa river…”
Annual Reports which are sub-divided into four different categories of material:
- Annual Bound Reports and Reviews, 1908-1916. These cover numerous topics
such as the activities of individual missionaries, details of different local tribes,
reports on other SUM branches, descriptions of festivals, education problems in
Nigeria and Sudan, tours of mission stations, news on the Freed Slaves Home, notes
on itinerating tours by missionaries, an article on the advance of Islam by Dr Kumm,
reports on conferences, maps, illustrations and photographs of missionaries and
indigenes, financial statistics, news about SUM medical work.
- SUM Annual Branch Reports, 1940-1979, from Britain, Australia and
New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Norway, South Africa and Switzerland. The following extract, describing nationalist sentiment in Nigeria, is taken from the
Annual Report for the British Branch, 1949: “… Gindiri and Numan education departments are growing tremendously… For the
person in charge of Gindiri a small car will be needed (or a good pair of legs) to
enable him to make the rounds of all the School’s departments. Many European
teachers have been added… Nigeria is full of nationalism and a clamouring for
independence. This is not wrong but is natural, if only the changes can come about
with a peaceful revolution and not with a lot of unchristian harsh feelings against
- Annual and Monthly Station Reports and Early Histories
Included are reports on schools and hospitals as well as the mission stations. The
following is taken from the report for the mission station at Vom, May 1961: “There has been an outbreak of petty thieving in the Compound…. The Chief was
most helpful in taking up the matter… An effort is evidently being made to meet our wishes with regard to the Pig Farm, sited by the Townspeople right in front of the Nursing Home, and we are hopeful for a reconciliation here. The people and the Chief have proved themselves willing to see the point…”
- Gwoza Log Books, 1956-1972
These describe SUM activities in the Gwoza region of Nigeria where SUM founded a hospital.
Part 4: Lantern Slides, Slides and Photographs
The visual part of the SUM archive is a fascinating record of SUM activities in Northern Nigeria, Chad, the Cameroons and Sudan and forms a very important part of the archive. Lantern Slides, used by the missionaries at home and abroad in the early days of the mission contain stunning views in colour of the African countryside, people and their daily life. Lantern slides, often used on recruitment drives, were discontinued in later years and regular slides were then used to record important events, mission life and other activities. They provide researchers with useful evidence on different mission stations, local tribes and customs, SUM initiatives amongst the indigenous population and the growth of Indigenous African Churches. The many photographs in the archive are organised by location. Some are black and white and some are in colour. They depict life and missionary work in Northern Nigeria and Sudan.
Part 5: Publications in Hausa
This part contains all the publications printed by the SUM in Hausa for use in the mission stations and churches in Northern Nigeria. They consist of books, pamphlets and beginners books all written in the Hausa language, notes on the Hausa language and literature and descriptions of the Hausa tribes. There are booklets in some other Nigerian languages.