Ali ‘Abd al-Latif Chol

Ali 'Abd al-Latif Chol

Ali ‘Abd al-Latif Chol (c. 1892-1948) was a unique figure in the annals of modern Sudanese history. Born in Wadi Halfa (near the Egyptian border) to ex-slave parents of Nuba and Dinka background, he fashioned a successful career in the Egyptian Army and organized a clandestine society known as the White Flag League. This group attracted a popular base of support made up of artisans, merchants, soldiers, and petty bureaucrats alike. In 1924, the White Flag League led a series of demonstrations and mutinies that challenged the British colonial presence and affirmed Sudanese connections with Egypt. Notwithstanding his central role in these activities of incipient nationalism, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif fell to the margins in the chronicles of Sudanese history, even before his death in a Cairo prison-cum-mental-hospital, where he had been consigned years before on dubious grounds. The long-term significance of ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif, lay not in his role as an anti-colonial agitator but in his promotion of a form of nationalism, or proto-nationalism, which transcended ethnic and class distinctions. In this ideological sense, and against the context of the highly status-conscious society of the riverain Northern Sudan, the man and his movement were ‘revolutionary’. In many ways, therefore, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif and the White Flag League stand as a history lesson for today’s war-torn Sudan. ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif himself symbolizes the possibility of a cultural hybrid between North and South, while his movement symbolizes the possibility for the political realization of ethnic diversity and equality within a unitary nation.” – Heather J. Sharkey

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