This unit is about the Suez canal crisis and significance on African nationalism.



The construction of the Suez canal was completed in 1879 and it was a short cut to India and Asia as being a connection between Red sea and Mediterranean sea. The canal had been contributed by Britain and France so they had a shore in the canal, in 1922, Egypt got independence from Britain but she continued to have her troops in the Suez Canal. In 1936, Farouk signed a treaty with Britain in which Britain was to withdraw all her troops from Egypt and the Suez canal.

By 1956, Britain had not shown any sign of living the Suez canal. Britain withdrew some of the troops from the canal zone living it in the hands of the Suez canal company in which Britain and France were major share holders.

In 1956 Nasser seized Suez canal from the company and nationalized it bringing him into conflict with Britain and France which supported Israel to invade Egypt in October 1956.

On October 29th 1956, Israel troops , Moshe Dayan invaded Egypt and on 5th November , Britain and France entered the war on the side of Israel to punish Egypt . This Egypt , this was a war of liberation so the Egyptians mounted great resistance against the invading forces causing a lot of instability in the Suez canal zone , and resulted into international condemnation which forced Britain and France and Israel to withdraw troops from Egypt later in 1957.


Signing of the military pacts by Nasser with the communist block in 1955, Nasser’s government signed agreements which led to buying of vast quantities of arms from china, Czechoslovakia and Russia as a sign of annoyance against the West, Israel interpreted this as an attempt by Egypt to plan a war against the Israel , so Israel joined Britain to stop a possible war between Egypt and the rest of Africa.

In 1955 , Nasser announced Egypt recognition of the communist regime in Peking , China led by Mao Tsetung against the Western backed nationalist regime led by Ching Kai- Sheki based in Taiwan. This convinced the western European powers that Nasser intended to introduce communism which would be spread though the rest of Africa and the middle East. Since this would be a threat to their interests they had to weaken Egypt to stop this.

In 1956 , in July , USA and Britain withdrew their promises of loans to Egypt for so in order to show that (Egypt) was non aligned and not dancing to other tunes e.g the construction of Aswan High Dam and Nasser reacted by nationalizing the Suez canal in 1956 to raise funds for the dam. The Suez canal by then was owned and managed the Suez Canal Company which was dominated by Britain and the France business interest.

Nasser, in nationalizing the canal declared he would rebuild the dam with the canal revenues and “Make the imperialists choke on their own rage” This annoyed Britain and France who joined with Israel in the Invasion of Egypt.

Egypt from time to time backed terrorist activities mounted by the Fedayee Guerillas government against Israel. Between 1954 – 1955, Egypt conducted raids against on Israel economic and political installation around Tel – Avis .Egypt also protected the Gaza strup of Southern Palestine which was the home for the Fadeyee Commander. As a result, Israel decided to attack, Egypt as a way of retaliation in order to stop to attack raids.

Egypt had blocked Israel free access gulf of Aquaba on the Red sea and get the Gulf was strategic importance because it provided an outlet and communication link between, Israel and the out side through port Eilat Israel determination to control port Eilat and the Gulf of Aquaba led to the war.

Britain regarded to Suez canal as the shortest route to the oil producing states of the Persian gulf in which she had interests and France by 1956 was heavily dependant on the Persian Gulf oil through the Suez canal for their own interests.

France was aggressive by Nasser’s pan Arab nationalistic activities as he was providing moral and financial and as well a similarity aid to the FLN freedom fighters who were fighting against the French in Algeria. He also supported Morocco and Tunisia’s bid for independence. (Punish for undermine them).

Britain on her port helped in the invasion because Radio Cairo which Nasser had established was supporting anti-colonial rebels by broadcasting encouraging messages to the Mau Mau fighters in Kenya to the E.O.K.A rebels in Cyprus and this annoyed Britain because it threatened her interests.

Nasser’s involvement in the non- aligned movement contributed to the outbreak of the crisis. In 1955, Nasser was one of the leading participants of the Banding conference that resulted in the formation of non –aligned movement. This movement was intended to have a group of countries which weren’t capitalist oriented or communist but would pursue their own independence. Foreign policy of Britain and France as capitalist countries saw this as Nasser’s attempt to detach many countries from their influence so they wanted to destroy Egyptian treaty where Britain didn’t honor her side of the bargain by relinquishing their control of the Suez canal.

Nasser also convinced the other Arab leaders to throw off the foreign influence of western Europe. Nasser greatly objected to the Baghdad pact of 1955 which had been signed by Britain which some Arab states (Turkey) Japan Pakistan ) to prevent them from being dependent on the west as this would led to their loss of sovereignty and the sacrificing of unity among Arabs.

Nasser also convinced king Hussein of Jordan to sack his chief of staff who was a British and this angered Britain. Which decided to fight and weaken Egypt. On October 1956, Israel force entered the canal and it was only the intervention non of the American president Esenhewer and the secretary of state Drillers which brought the crisis to an end by proposing a cease fire because they felt Egypt would ask for soviet military assistance and that would attract Soviet Union interference in Africa.




It marked the military defeat of Egypt and great loss of lives Arabs and Egyptians soldiers manning anti – aircraft artilleries were killed in the Snai area and many   Egyptian civilians were killed in the resisting of the British invasion of port said, number of civilians lost their lives.

The Britain and French property was seized by Nasser’s’ government after the crisis. British arms and equipment in the canal zone, Their business houses , industries and their properties where taken over by the Egyptian government and many of their arms given to FLN fighters in Algeria who were fighting against the French.

Egypt gained full control of the canal and its profits were used to construct the Aswan high dam which was completed in 1970 .The as wan high dam helped in the provision of H.E.P for the industrialists of Egypt and also provided water for irrigation purposes.

The crisis intensified cold war between the super powers because the Soviet Union increased its support for Egypt while America tried to detach Egypt from the Soviet Union.

The crisis boosted Nasser’s stand in Egypt and as the undisputed leaders of the pan Arab nationalist movement, he was regarded as the hero of a the Arab world and Cairo became the centre of Afro- Arab politics after 1956.

The crisis resulted into the opening of gulf of Aquaba and the Israel use of port Eliat because Egypt lost to Israel and the military port at Sharim –al – Shaik , in Sinai Peninsular – and the straits of Tiean guarding the gulf from the Red sea.

The crisis resulted into the world Oil Crisis. Arab countries refused to supply oil to Western Europe resulting into a cute shortage of fuel to reduce the supply of commodities which created world wide under inflation and other economic hardships.

The crisis increased of the Egypt’s earnings from the Suez canal. After the British departure, a young Egyptian Engineer was appointed by Nasser to be in charge of the canal and as a result of his good management, the reserves from the canal stadily increased from £31.8m in 1955 to £77m in 1964. The reserve was used to construct social a menities e.g Hospitals, schools and other economic infrastructure e.g Roads, communication network, etc.

The crisis increased Nasser’s determination and support for anti – colonial struggle. He gave a lot of military and moral support to the nationalists engaged in the decolonization of their states e.g it increased her support for the FLN guerilla fighters in Algeria.

The crisis acted as an impetus to the creation of the united Arab Republic , union between Egypt and Syria which was established in 1958 (Although it later collapsed 1961).

The crisis led to the change in government of France and Britain Since public opinion had been opposed to the invasion of Egypt in both countries. After the crisis the governments in power lost their positions .Antony Eden was replaced by Herod Mac Millan as the prime minister in 1954 and Charles De Gualle came to power in France in 1958.

The crisis bought Egypt closer to the Russians the Eastern block because after the crisis, Russia provided funds to Egypt for the construction of the Aswan high Dam , increased the Economic potential in Egypt.

The crisis sploit relations between Britain. And Americans where Britain had expected support from America condemned Britain and France for the crisis and refused to come to their rescue and this led to the weakening of North. Atlantic Treaty organization (N.AT.O) which had been formed to exchange closer compensation between the Northern European states and American.

The significance of the Crisis on African Nationalism.

Encouraged other African leaders to nationalize foreign property.

Caused increase Russian and socialist support to African states struggling for decolonization from colonialists.

Strengthened Egyptian morale in helping African states in their bid for decolonization.

Inspired Africans to fight colonialists to defend economic interests.

Arms seized were handled on into the FLN fighters in Algeria.

Led to changes in Government in Britain, Harod Macmillan in 1954 and De Gaulle in Fr 198. They were more liberal and fasterd decolonization.

Led to Britain loss of hold in her African colonies. Weakened main base in Egypt after 1957 Ghana.

Weakened American blind support for Britain and countries Colonialists.

Made Cairo the centre for African nationalism which under mined Britain presence and spies.

Benefits from nationalization of Canal led to increased Revenues for Egypt used to benefit African Nationalists and liberation struggles.

Intensified cold war where Britain, Russia as member countries of the UNO tried to support as many African countries as possible to rule them to socialism and colonialism.

Weakened Britain, France economies and sources of Revenue and enable increased pressure by Africans.


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