22nd February 2015
50th Anniversary of the State Visit of Queen Elizabeth to Sudan
– Guest blog by Hala Elhaj, Media Officer at the British Embassy in Khartoum –
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the state visit of Queen Elizabeth to Sudan.
On the 8th February 1965 Queen Elizabeth landed in Khartoum. She arrived at a time of great political tensions yet despite this Sudan gave Her Majesty a very hospitable welcome.
The streets were lined with crowds gathered to welcome Her Majesty to Sudan. Everywhere she went, the Queen was met with greetings and performances accompanied by the familiar Sudanese chant ‘Abshir’.
Queen Elizabeth spent her first day at the Khartoum race course before flying out to Damazin to see the construction of the Roseires dam and to visit parts of the Gezira project in Medani, a project that had been set up by the British government.
The relations between the United Kingdom and Sudan have come a long way since. Over the last 50 years, Sudan underwent substantial political and social changes that have had a tremendous influence on its relations with the international community. Nevertheless, UK continued to play a supporting role to Sudan and its people.
Today the UK’s work in Sudan spans many different fields, from culture and education to the humanitarian.
Last month, UK minister of international development Baroness Northover visited the country. She announced a further £7 million contribution to the Common Humanitarian Fund. This brings the total contribution of the UK to humanitarian and development work in Sudan this year to £46 million. During her visit, Baroness Northover had the opportunity to meet with the Saleema campaigners and saw how through their determination and hard work they are changing social norms. She also visited IDP camps in El Geneina supported by UK and saw how violence and conflict continue to intensify the humanitarian crisis in several parts of Sudan.
The UK’s ties to Sudan are strong. There is a long and shared history between the two countries and the UK strives to be part of the transformation that will create a Sudan better able to meet the needs of its people. A Sudan that is secure, peaceful, economically stable and prosperous.
This year, the British Embassy has more than doubled the number of Chevening scholarships offered to Sudanese graduates to further their studies in the UK. It continues to support the entrepreneurship competition Mashrouy, now in its second season on Blue Nile TV, to promote youth entrepreneurship in Sudan. And as part of the efforts to strengthen Sudanese media and improve transparency and accountability among journalists and editors, the British embassy oversaw the training of over a hundred media professionals and awarded three journalists the chance to travel to the UK for further training and exposure to UK media practices.
It was great to see Omdurman Theatre overflowing with people last month eager to watch a British performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. If anything this was a reflection of how the exchange of arts and culture can create a common peaceful ground, helping to bridge gaps between societies. In 2013, the Tate Modern in London hosted an exhibition by the renowned Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi that was received by much enthusiasm by art lovers all over the country.
During her visit in 1965, the Queen was invited to a tea party organized by Khartoum local councils in a park in Omdurman. There she gave a speech to thank the Sudanese people for their warm welcome:
“…it is often the case, and it is certainly so where Sudan and Britain are concerned, that where two peoples have come to respect each other’s courage in time of war…their friendship in times of peace is so much stronger. The visit has shown me how real is the sympathy and understanding between our two countries” – Queen Elizabeth, 11th February 1965
And the goal remains a Sudan that is secure, peaceful, economically stable and prosperous.