Sudan, officially Republic of Sudan, republic (2005 est. pop. 40,187,000), 967,494 sq mi (2,505,813 sq km), NE Africa. The largest country in Africa, it borders on Egypt in the north, on the Red Sea in the northeast, on Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, on Kenya, Uganda, and Congo (Kinshasa) in the south, on the Central African Republic and Chad in the west, and on Libya in the northwest. Khartoum is the capital and Omdurman is the largest city.


The main geographical feature of Sudan is the Nile River, which with its tributaries (including the Atbara, Blue Nile, and White Nile rivers) traverses the country from south to north. The Nile system provides irrigation for strips of agricultural settlement for much of its course in Sudan and also for the Al Gezira plain, situated between the White Nile and the Blue Nile, just south of their confluence at Khartoum. In the extreme north, the Nile broadens into Lake Nasser, formed by the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.

Much of the rest of the country is made up of an undulating plateau (1,000-2,000 ft/305-610 m high), which rises to higher levels in the mountains located in the northeast near the Red Sea, as well as in the central, western, and extreme southern portions of the country. The highest point in Sudan is Kinyeti (10,456 ft/3,187 m), in the southeast. Rainfall diminishes from south to north in Sudan; thus, the south is characterized by swampland (the Sudd region) and woodland, the center by savanna and grassland, and the north by desert and semidesert.


The inhabitants of Sudan are divided into three main groups. The northerners, who inhabit the country roughly north of 12°N lat. and mainly near the Nile, consist of Arab and Nubian groups; they are Muslim (mostly of the Sunni branch), speak Arabic (the country's official language), and follow Arab cultural patterns (although only relatively few are descended from the Arabs who emigrated into the region during the 13th-19th cent.). The westerners, so called because they immigrated (primarily in the 20th cent.) from W Africa, are also Muslim, live mostly in the central part of Sudan, and work as farmers or agricultural laborers. The southerners, consisting of Nilotic and Sudanic peoples, largely follow traditional religious beliefs, although some are Christian; they practice shifting cultivation or are pastoralists, and most speak Nilotic languages. The leading ethnic groups in the south are the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Bari, and the non-Nilotic Azande.

The great majority of the country's population live in villages or small towns; the only sizable cities are Port Sudan, Wad Madani, Al Ubayyid, and the conurbation of Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North. The desert and semidesert of the north are largely uninhabited. Since the late 1970s, there have been waves of refugees from neighboring countries, a result of political, environmental, and economic problems in the region. Many have settled in the area around Khartoum. However, in the 1980s and 1990s there was outmigration due to the civil war in the south and, since 2003, the conflict in the Darfur region of W Sudan.


Sudan is an overwhelmingly agricultural country. Much of the farming is of a subsistence kind; agriculture occupies some 80% of the workforce but contributes only 35% of the GDP. Agricultural production varies from year to year because of intermittent droughts that cause widespread famine. The government plays a major role in planning the economy. The leading export crops are cotton, sesame, peanuts, and sugar. Other agricultural products include sorghum, millet, wheat, cassava, tropical fruits, and sweet potatoes. Sheep, cattle, goats, and camels are raised. A variety of forest products are produced, by far the most important being gum arabic, with Sudan accounting for much of the total world production. In the south, fish caught in the Nile system are an important dietary staple. The leading products of the country's small mining industry are iron ore, copper, and chromium ore. Petroleum deposits were developed in the 1970s, but the work was discontinued in the mid-1980s as military conflict in the south intensified. In the late 1990s, the government sought foreign partners to help redevelop the oil sector, and a pipeline was built from S Sudan to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. Sudan began exporting crude oil in 1999.

Industry is largely confined to agricultural processing and light manufacturing; the chief products include ginned cotton, textiles, processed food, beverages, soap, footwear, pharmaceuticals, and armaments. There is also some automobile and light-truck assembly. Petroleum is refined and hydroelectric power is produced. The country has a very limited transportation network. Foreign trade is largely conducted via Port Sudan. Chief among the annual imports are food, manufactured goods, refinery and transportation equipment, medicines, chemicals, textiles, and wheat; the principal exports are oil and petroleum products, cotton, sesame, livestock, peanuts, gum arabic, and sugar. The leading trade partners are China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.


Sudan is governed under the interim national constitution of 2005, which established a power-sharing national goverment. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is both head of state and head of government. The bicameral National Legislature consists of the and the 50-seat Council of States, whose members are elected by state legislatures to six-year terms and the 450-seat National Assembly, who members, though now appointed, will be elected to six-year terms. Administratively, Sudan is divided into 25 states.


Early History

Northeast Sudan, called Nubia in ancient times, was colonized (c.2000 B.C.) by Egypt as far as the fourth cataract of the Nile (near modern Karima). From the 8th cent. B.C. to the 4th cent. A.D. this region was ruled by the Cush kingdom, centered first at Napata (near the fourth cataract) and after c.600 B.C. at Meroë (between the fifth and sixth cataracts). From c.750 to c.650 B.C., Cush ruled Egypt as a result of a dynastic replacement. Meroë was a center of trade and ironworking, and from there iron technology may have spread to other parts of Africa.

Most of the inhabitants of Nubia were converted to Coptic Christianity in the 6th cent. A.D., and by the 8th cent. three states flourished in the area. These states long resisted invasions from Egypt, which had come under Muslim rule in the 7th cent. However, from the 13th to the 15th cent. the region was increasingly infiltrated by peoples from the north; the states collapsed, and Nubia gradually became Muslim. The southern part of the modern Sudan continued to adhere to traditional African beliefs. Much of the north was ruled by the Muslim state of Funj from the 16th cent. until 1821, when it was conquered by armies sent by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.

The Era of Foreign Control

The Egyptians founded (1823) Khartoum as their headquarters and developed Sudan's trade in ivory and slaves. Ismail Pasha (in office 1863-79) tried to extend Egyptian influence further south in Sudan, ostensibly to end the slave trade. This campaign, which was headed first by Sir Samuel Baker and then by Charles Gordon, provoked a complex revolt (1881) by the Mahdi (Muhammad Ahmad), who sought to end Egyptian influence and to purify Islam in Sudan. The Mahdists defeated Anglo-Egyptian punitive expeditions, and Britain and Egypt decided to abandon Sudan. Gordon, sent to evacuate the British and Egyptian troops, was killed by the Mahdists at Khartoum in early 1885. The Mahdi died in the same year, but his successor, the Khalifa Abdallahi, continued to build up the theocratic Mahdist state.

In the 1890s the British decided to gain control of Sudan, and, in a series of campaigns between 1896 and 1898, an Anglo-Egyptian force under Herbert (later Lord) Kitchener destroyed the power of the Mahdists. Agreements in 1899 (reaffirmed by the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936) established the condominium government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Under the condominium, Sudan was administered by a governor-general, appointed by Egypt with the consent of Great Britain; in practice, however, the British controlled the government of Sudan. The Sudanese continued to oppose colonial rule, and the Egyptians resented their subordinate role to the British.

In 1924 the British instituted a policy of isolating the southern Sudan by administering it separately from the north. An advisory council for the northern Sudan was established in 1943, and in 1948 a predominantly elective legislative assembly for the whole territory was set up. In the 1948 elections, the Independence Front, which favored the creation of an independent republic, gained a majority over the National Front, which sought union with Egypt. After the 1952 revolution in Egypt, Britain and Egypt agreed to prepare Sudan for independence in 1956. In 1955 southerners, fearing that the new nation would be dominated by the Muslim north, began a revolt that lasted 17 years.

Struggles of an Independent Nation

In spite of the continuing revolt in the south, Sudan achieved independence as a parliamentary republic in 1956, as planned. In 1958, Gen. Ibrahim Abboud led a military coup that ended the parliamentary system. Unable to improve the country's weak economy or to end the southern revolt, Abboud in 1964 agreed to the reestablishment of civilian government. The new regime also had little success in coping with the country's problems.

In 1969, Col. Muhammed Jaafar al-Nimeiri staged a successful coup. He banned all political parties and subsequently nationalized banks and numerous industries. The bloody civil war was ended by an agreement between the government and the Southern Sudan Liberation Front (whose military arm was known as Anya Nya) signed (Feb., 1972) at Addis Ababa. Under the agreement S Sudan was granted considerable autonomy. Also in 1972, the Sudanese Socialist Union, the country's only political organization, elected a "people's assembly" to draw up a new constitution for the country, which was adopted in 1973. Nimeiri's regime became the target of criticism at home because of worsening economic conditions and for its support of Egypt's part in the Camp David accords with Israel; in the late 1970s, Nimeiri dismissed his cabinet and closed universities in an attempt to quell opposition.

During the 1980s, political instability in S Sudan increased, with renewed fighting by the largely Christian and animist Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Motivated at least partly by a desire to shore up his popularity in the largely Muslim north, Nimeiri in 1983 instituted strict Islamic law, further inflaming opposition in the south. Having survived numerous earlier coup attempts, he was overthrown in 1985, and Gen. Abdul Rahman Swaredahab was installed as leader of a transitional military government. Elections were held in 1986 and a civilian government led by Sadiq al-Mahdi ruled until it was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1989.

The new military regime under Lt. Gen. Omar Hassam Ahmed al-Bashir strengthened ties with Libya, Iran, and Iraq; reinforced Islamic law; banned opposition parties; and continued to pursue the war with the south, diverting relief aid (primarily food) from the famine-stricken south to the Muslim north. In 1990 the United States halted relief efforts to Sudan; ties between the two nations were further strained when Sudan supported Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. Bashir officially became president in 1993, but significant political power was held by the National Islamic Front, a fundamentalist political organization formed from the Muslim Brotherhood and led by Hassan al-Turabi, who became speaker of parliament. In 1996, Bashir won a presidential election that was boycotted by most opposition groups; a multiparty system was restored in 1999.

In Aug., 1998, U.S. missiles destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum that was suspected of manufacturing chemical-weapons compounds to be used in terrorist activities; however, international investigators were unable to find evidence to support the charges. Civil war continued through the 1990s, by which time it had reportedly resulted in nearly 2 million deaths (mostly from war-related starvation and disease) and had left the economy crippled. Sudan was cited by the UN Human Rights Commission for human-rights violations (including alleged widespread slavery and forced labor), condemned for supporting terrorism abroad, and accused by human-rights groups of "ethnic cleansing" in its offensive against the south. A cease-fire was declared in July, 1998, in order to allow food shipments to be delivered, but there were violations. In July, 1999, peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya, broke down as the warring sides failed to renew the cease-fire.

During 1999 the parliament increased Turabi's powers and moved to limit those of the president. In response, Bashir declared a state of emergency in December and dissolved parliament; the next month he appointed a new cabinet. Bashir also improved his position in the ruling National Congress party. In May, 2000, Turabi's position as secretary-general of the party was frozen, and Turabi subsequently formed his own party, the Popular National Congress party.

Meanwhile, Bashir's government worked to improve its foreign relations, and, in December, Bashir was reelected president. The opposition boycotted the vote, and the concurrent parliamentary elections were swept by the National Congress party. In Feb., 2001, Turabi was placed under house arrest after signing a memorandum of understanding with the southern rebels in which they called for joint peaceful resistance to Bashir's government, and subsequently other members of Turabi's political party were arrested; Turabi was not released until Oct., 2003. In Jan., 2002, a cease-fire was declared in the ongoing civil war in the Nuba Mts. to allow relief aid to be distributed in the drought-stricken south-central region, but fighting continued elsewhere. The same month two rebels groups, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan People's Defense Force, established a formal alliance.

The government and the SPLA agreed to a framework for peace in July, 2002; however, three regions of central Sudan claimed by the rebels were not covered by the agreement. A broad truce was agreed to in Oct., 2002. Despite some violations of the cease-fire, talks continued in 2003. In Sept., 2003, an accord between the two sides called for the withdrawal of government troops from the south, rebel forces from the north, and the establishment of a joint government-rebel force in the south and in two central regions, and talks continued. Additional protocols were signed in May, 2004.

In 2003 a separate rebellion broke out in the Darfur region of W Sudan; it involved a group linked to an opposition party. A cease-fire was signed in Sept., 2003, but fighting continued. The Darfur rebels subsequently agreed to form alliance with the Beja rebels in NE Sudan (around Kasala and the Eritrean border) if they were not included in any settlement with the government. The Beja group had been expected to be part of the negotiations with the southern rebels, but talks with the Beja rebels were not fruitful until 2006, when a cease-fire and a peace agreement were signed.

Militias allied with the government in Darfur (and the government itself) were accused of ethnic cleansing, and many Sudanese were displaced by the fighting, some of them fleeing to Chad. A new cease-fire was signed in Apr., 2004, but it too did not hold. Also in April, Turabi and members of his party were again arrested by the government, which accused them of plotting against it. In September the government asserted that a new coup plot involving the jailed Turabi had been uncovered, but Turabi was ultimately released (June, 2005).

There was increasing pressure in mid-2004 from the United Nations, United States, and European Union on Sudan to end the attacks in Darfur, and in July, 2004, Bashir's government promised the United Nations that it would disarm the militias. A lack of significant progress in ending the fighting and disarming the militias led to UN Security Council resolutions against Sudan in July and September. The latter resolution called for an investigation into whether the attacks were genocide, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had charged; investigating commission ultimately termed various attacks war crimes and crimes against humanity but not genocide. In August, the African Union began sending peacekeepers into Sudan, and subsequently expanded the force. An African Union-sponsored peace accord in Nov., 2004, failed to hold when a new offensive was sparked by a rebel attack later the same month, and fighting continued into 2005, at times spilling over into Chad. By early 2005 it was estimated that 2 million had been displaced by the conflict in Darfur. Lawlessness worsened there in 2005, and the area also became a base for Chadian rebel attacks against Chad, souring relations between Sudan and its neighbor. Meanwhile, there were attacks against Sudanese in the south by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group, leading both southern Sudanese rebels and government-allied militias to mount a drive against the LRA. LRA attacks in S Sudan continued sporadically in subsequent years, and in late 2008 Southern Sudanese forces joined Ugandan and Congolese troops in a coordinated attack against LRA bases in NE Congo.

Additional protocols relating to peace with the SPLA were signed in early in Jan., 2005, and shortly thereafter a final peace agreement was sealed. The deal called for Islamic law to be restricted to the north, for the south to be autonomous and hold a vote on independence in 2011, and for central government power and southern oil revenues to be shared. Later in January the government signed a preliminary peace agreement with the National Democratic Alliance, an umbrella organization that embraces more than a dozen opposition groups, including the SPLA.

In July, 2005, SPLA leader John Garang became Sudan's vice president, and the state of emergency in force since 1999 was lifted (except in Darfur and two provinces in E Sudan). Northern opposition parties, however, criticized the interim power-sharing constitution because of the limits it placed on their and southern opposition groups' participation in the government. Garang was killed in a helicopter crash in late July, sparking several days of riots in Khartoum. Salva Kiir was chosen to succeed Garang as head of SPLA and as vice president, and subsequently thousands of refugees from the south began returning there. Sudan's power-sharing government was finalized in September, and a government for autonomous S Sudan was established in Juba in Oct., 2005. Since then, however, there has been fighting in S Sudan between the SPLA and other rebels who have refused to be integrated into the SPLA, and between other Sudanese forces and the SPLA.

Attempts to invigorate the much violated AU-monitored peace accord in Darfur progressed slowly in 2006. The African Union failed to win an agreement on a new cease-fire for Darfur, and Sudan objected to replacing the AU monitors with UN peacekeepers. A failed drive by Chadian rebels that reached Ndjamena, Chad's capital, in Apr., 2006, led to a break in diplomatic relations with Chad, which accused Sudan of supporting the rebels. A peace agreement was reached with one faction of Darfur rebels in May, but subsequently there was fighting among ethnically based rebel factions as well as with government forces.

An Aug., 2006, UN Security Council resolution establishing a UN peacekeeping force for Darfur was rejected by Sudan, and the AU agreed in September to extend its forces' mandate until the end of 2006. In Oct., 2006, Chad again accused Sudan of backing a Chadian rebel incursion, and said Sudan's air force had bombed several E Chadian towns. In early 2007 there was fighting between Chadian and Sudanese forces after Chad's military pursued rebels into Sudanese territory.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the United Nations and Sudan appeared to be making some progress in late 2006 on establishing a mixed AU-UN peacekeeping force for Darfur, but there was no final agreement. In Jan., 2007, both sides in Darfur were reported to have agreed to a 60-day cease-fire and a peace summit, but it was breached, apparently by both sides, later the same month. In March, the International Criminal Court accused Ahmed Haroun, a member of the Sudanese government who was responsible for Darfur in 2003-4, of war crimes; the ICC said it had evidence that the Sudanese government had orchestrated militia attacks. The following month, after pressure from China, Sudan agreed to allow some 3,000 UN peacekeepers to join the AU force, and in June it agreed to a larger joint UN-AU peacekeeping force that would be put in place later. In Dec., 2007, the joint UN-AU operation officially began, but Sudan moved slowly in approving the components of the peacekeeping force.

In the second half of 2007 the conflict in Darfur degenerated as a peace conference scheduled to begin in October approached. Some of the Arab militias battled among themselves, a rebel force attacked AU peacekeepers, and government and militia forces attacked the rebel faction that had signed a peace agreement in 2006. A cease-fire was declared by the government at the beginning of the peace conference, but several major factions boycotted the conference, and two rebel groups that did not attend reported that they had been attacked. The conference did resolve the conflict, and fighting continued continued in Darfur through 2008.

Also in Oct., 2007, the southern Sudanese withdrew from the national government, accusing it of not honoring the peace accord; after negotiations, the south rejoined the government in December, and by Jan., 2008, all government forces finally were withdrawn from the south. However, in Dec., 2007, fighting broke out in the disputed, oil-rich Abyei region between SPLA forces and nomadic Arabs aligned with the government; the conflict, which originally erupted over passage for grazing, continued sporadically into 2008. In May the significant fighting again broke out in Abyei; in June, 2008, after negotiations, a joint north-south force was deployed in the region.

Darfurian rebels mounted an attack against Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, in May, 2008. The rebels were unable to hold Omdurman, but the attack surprised the Sudanese government, which for six months broke off ties with Chad, accusing it of helping the rebels involved in the operation. (The attack was reminiscent of an assault on the Chadian capital by Chadian rebels in Feb., 2008.) Subsequent accords failed to ease Sudanese-Chadian tensions, and in May, 2009, after rebels attacks against Chad, Chadian forces launched attacks against rebel bases in Sudan.

In July, 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor accused President Bashir of war crimes in connection with the conflict in Darfur; the ICC issued a warrant for Bashir's arrest for war crimes and other charges in Mar., 2009. (The ICC has investigated leaders on both sides in the conflict with respect to possible war crimes.) Sudan ordered international aid agencies to leave Darfur and other parts of the country in retaliation. Some 300,000 are estimated to have died (directly or indirectly) as a result of the Darfur conflict; some 2.7 million have been displaced.

The census that began in Apr., 2009, was denounced by Kiir after it showed southern Sudanese to make up just over a fifth of the population; the S Sudan government believed the true proportion to be at least a third, and accused Khartoum of deliberately miscounting. In July a Sudanese opposition party and a Darfur rebel group jointly denounced the current power-sharing government as illegitimate and called for a new transitional government to be formed because the accord that created the current government called for new elections by mid-2009. Also in July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague established the boundaries of the disputed Abyei region; although the region was reduced in size and lost some significant oilfields to N Sudan, the resulting population changes tied Abyei more closely ethnicially to S Sudan. An agreement resolving most remaining disputes concerning the S Sudan peace agreement was signed by both sides in August, but the two thorniest issues, the census and the law governing S Sudan's referendum on independence, were not included. In September fighting broke out in N Darfur as government forces moved to oust the rebels there, and it continued intermittently into 2010. Increased ethnic fighting in the south, along with the unresolved issues, raised north-south tensions as 2009 ended.


See P. M. Holt, A Modern History of the Sudan (3d ed. 1979); R. O. Collins, Shadows in the Grass: Britain in the Southern Sudan, 1918-1956 (1983); N. O'Neill and J. O'Brien, Economy and Class in the Sudan (1988); J. O. Voll, ed., Sudan (1991); P. Woodward, Sudan, 1898-1989 (1991); J. M. Burr, Africa's Thirty Years' War: Chad, Libya, and the Sudan, 1963-1993 (1999); D. Petterson, Inside Sudan (1999).

Sudan (officially the Republic of Sudan) ( السودان al-Sūdān) is a country in northeastern Africa. It is the largest in the African continent and the Arab World, and tenth largest in the world by area. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, Kenya and Uganda to the southeast, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. The country's name derives from the Arabic Bilad-al-Sudan, literally "land of the blacks." Sudan has recently emerged as the world's most unstable country according to the 2007 Failed States Index, mainly due to its military dictatorship and the ongoing war in Darfur. The country has long been plagued by civil war stemming from political and economic inequality: most people in Sudan's northern region, which includes the capital city of Khartoum, are Arab Muslims; while most southerners are non-Arab Black Africans who mainly practice traditional African religions or Christianity. Despite its internal conflicts, Sudan has managed to achieve economic growth.

History of Sudan

Early history of Sudan

Archaeological evidence has confirmed that the area in the North of Sudan was inhabited at least 60,000 years ago. A settled culture appeared in the area around 8,000 BC, living in fortified villages, where they subsisted on hunting and fishing, as well as grain gathering and cattle herding while also being shepherds.

The area was known to the Egyptians as Kush and had strong cultural and religious ties to Egypt. In the 8th century BC, however, Kush came under the rule of an aggressive line of monarchs, ruling from the capital city, Napata, who gradually extended their influence into Egypt. About 750 BC, a Kushite king called Kashta conquered Upper Egypt and became ruler of Thebes until approximately 740 BC. His successor, Piankhy, subdued the delta, reunited Egypt under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and founded a line of kings who ruled Kush and Thebes for about a hundred years. The dynasty's intervention in the area of modern Syria caused a confrontation between Egypt and Assyria. When the Assyrians in retaliation invaded Egypt, Taharqa (688-663 BC), the last Kushite pharaoh, withdrew and returned the dynasty to Napata, where it continued to rule Kush and extended its dominions to the south and east.

In 590 BC, an Egyptian army sacked Napata, compelling the Kushite court to move to Meroe near the 6th cataract. The Meroitic kingdom subsequently developed independently of Egypt, and during the height of its power in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC, Meroe extended over a region from the 3rd cataract in the north to Sawba, near present-day Khartoum (the modern day capital of Sudan).

The pharaonic tradition persisted among Meroe's rulers, who raised stelae to record the achievements of their reigns and erected pyramids to contain their tombs. These objects and the ruins of palaces, temples and baths at Meroe attest to a centralized political system that employed artisans' skills and commanded the labour of a large work force. A well-managed irrigation system allowed the area to support a higher population density than was possible during later periods. By the 1st century BC, the use of hieroglyphs gave way to a Meroitic script that adapted the Egyptian writing system to an indigenous, Nubian-related language spoken later by the region's people.

In the 6th century AD, the people known as the Nobatae occupied the Nile's west bank in northern Kush. Eventually they intermarried and established themselves among the Meroitic people as a military aristocracy. Until nearly the 5th century, Rome subsidized the Nobatae and used Meroe as a buffer between Egypt and the Blemmyes. About CE 350, an Axumite army from Abyssinia captured and destroyed Meroe city, ending the kingdom's independent existence.

Christian kingdoms

By the 6th century, Ahmed Hassan took over Sudan, and three states had emerged as the political and cultural heirs of the Meroitic Kingdom. Nobatia in the North, also known as Ballanah, had its capital at Faras, in what is now Egypt; the central kingdom, Muqurra (Makuria), was centred at Dunqulah, about 150 kilometers south of modern Dunqulah; and Alawa (Alodia), in the heartland of old Meroe, which had its capital at Sawba (now a suburb of modern-day Khartoum). In all three kingdoms, warrior aristocracies ruled Meroitic populations from royal courts where functionaries bore Greek titles in emulation of the Byzantine court.

A missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora arrived in Nobatia and started preaching Christianity about 540 AD. The Nubian kings became Monophysite Christians. However, Makuria was of the Melkite Christian faith, unlike Nobatia and Alodia.

The spread of Islam

After many attempts at military conquest failed, the Arab commander in Egypt concluded the first in a series of regularly renewed treaties known as Albaqut (pactum) with the Nubians that governed relations between the two peoples for more than 678 years.

Islam progressed in the area over a long period of time through intermarriage and contacts with Arab merchants and settlers. In 1093, a Muslim prince of Nubian royal blood ascended the throne of Dunqulah as king.

The two most important Arabic-speaking groups to emerge in Nubia were the Jaali and the Juhayna. Both showed physical continuity with the indigenous pre-Islamic population. Today's northern Sudanese culture combines Nubian and Arabic elements.

Kingdom of Sinnar

During the 1500s, a people called the Funj, under a leader named Amara Dunqus, appeared in southern Nubia and supplanted the remnants of the old Christian kingdom of Alwa, establishing As-Saltana az-Zarqa (the Blue Sultanate) at Sinnar. The Blue Sultanate eventually became the keystone of the Funj Empire. By the mid-16th century, Sinnar controlled Al Jazirah and commanded the allegiance of vassal states and tribal districts north to the 3rd cataract and south to the rain forests. The government was substantially weakened by a series of succession arguments and coups within the royal family. In 1820 Muhammad Ali of Egypt sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan. The pasha's forces accepted Sinnar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi VII.

Union with Egypt 1821-1885

In 1820, the Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha invaded and conquered northern Sudan. Though technically the Wāli of Egypt under the Ottoman Sultan, Muhammad Ali styled himself as Khedive of a virtually independent Egypt. Seeking to add Sudan to his domains, he sent his son Ibrahim Pasha to conquer the country, and subsequently incorporate it into Egypt. This policy was expanded and intensified by Ibrahim's son, Ismail I, under whose reign most of the remainder of modern-day Sudan was conquered. The Egyptian authorities made significant improvements to the Sudanese infrastructure (mainly in the north), especially with regard to irrigation and cotton production.

Mahdist Revolt

In 1879, the Great Powers forced the removal of Ismail and established his son Tewfik I in his place. Tewfik's corruption and mismanagement resulted in the Orabi Revolt, which threatened the Khedive's survival. Tewfik appealed for help to the British, who subsequently occupied Egypt and Sudan in 1882, ostensibly to guarantee the authority of the Khedive. In reality, however, the British largely took control of Egyptian and Sudanese affairs, fanning ever greater nationalist resentment.

Eventually, revolt broke out in Sudan, led by the Sudanese religious leader Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, the self-proclaimed Mahdi (Guided One), who sought to purify Islam and end foreign domination in Sudan. His revolt culminated in the fall of Khartoum and the death of the British General Charles George Gordon (Gordon of Khartoum) in 1885. The Egyptian and British forces withdrew from Sudan leaving the Mahdi to form a short-lived theocratic state.

Mahdist Rule: The Mahdiya

The Mahdiyah (Mahdist regime) did not impose traditional Islamic laws. The new ruler's aim was more political than anything else. This was evident in the animosity he showed towards existing muslims and locals who did not show loyalty to his system and rule. He authorised the burning of lists of pedigrees and books of law and theology.

The Mahdi maintained that his movement was not a religious order that could be accepted or rejected at will, but that it was a universal regime, which challenged man to join or to be destroyed.

Originally, the Mahdiyah was a jihad state, run like a military camp. Sharia courts enforced Islamic law and the Mahdi's precepts, which had the force of law. Six months after the fall of Khartoum, the Mahdi died of typhus, and after a power struggle amongst his deputies, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, with the help primarily of the Baqqara Arabs of western Sudan, overcame the opposition of the others and emerged as unchallenged leader of the Mahdiyah. After consolidating his power, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad assumed the title of Khalifa (successor) of the Mahdi, instituted an administration, and appointed Ansar (who were usually Baqqara) as emirs over each of the several provinces.

Regional relations remained tense throughout much of the Mahdiyah period, largely because of the Khalifa's brutal methods to extend his rule throughout the country. In 1887, a 60,000-man Ansar army invaded Ethiopia, penetrating as far as Gondar. In March 1889, king Yohannes IV of Ethiopia, marched on Metemma; however, after Yohannes fell in battle, the Ethiopian forces withdrew. Abd ar Rahman an Nujumi, the Khalifa's general, attempted to Egypt in 1889, but British-led Egyptian troops defeated the Ansar at Tushkah. The failure of the Egyptian invasion broke the spell of the Ansar's invincibility. The Belgians prevented the Mahdi's men from conquering Equatoria, and in 1893, the Italians repulsed an Ansar attack at Akordat (in Eritrea) and forced the Ansar to withdraw from Ethiopia.

Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1899-1956

In the 1890s, the British sought to re-establish their control over Sudan, once more officially in the name of the Egyptian Khedive, but in actuality treating the country as British imperial territory. By the early 1890s, British, French, and Belgian claims had converged at the Nile headwaters. Britain feared that the other imperial powers would take advantage of Sudan's instability to acquire territory previously annexed to Egypt. Apart from these political considerations, Britain wanted to establish control over the Nile to safeguard a planned irrigation dam at Aswan.

Lord Kitchener led military campaigns from 1896 to 1898. Kitchener's campaigns culminated in the Battle of Omdurman. Following defeat of the Mahdists at Omdurman, an agreement was reached in 1899 establishing Anglo-Egyptian rule, under which Sudan was run by a governor-general appointed by Egypt with British consent. In reality, much to the revulsion of Egyptian and Sudanese nationalists, Sudan was effectively administered as a British colony. The British were keen to reverse the process, started under Muhammad Ali Pasha, of uniting the Nile Valley under Egyptian leadership, and sought to frustrate all efforts aimed at further uniting the two countries.

During World War II, Sudan was directly involved militarily in the East African Campaign. Formed in 1925, the Sudan Defence Force (SDF) played an active part in responding to the early incursions into the Sudan from Italian East Africa during 1940. In 1942, the SDF also played a part in the invasion of the Italian colony by British and Commonwealth forces.

From 1924 until independence in 1956, the British had a policy of running Sudan as two essentially separate territories, the north (Muslim) and south (Christian). The last British Governor-General was Sir Robert Howe. Howe was Governor-General from 1947 to 1955.

Independence January 1, 1956

The continued British occupation of Sudan fueled an increasingly strident nationalist backlash in Egypt, with Egyptian nationalist leaders determined to force Britain to recognise a single independent union of Egypt and Sudan. With the formal end of Ottoman rule in 1914, Husayn Kamil was declared Sultan of Egypt and Sudan, as was his brother Fuad I who succeeded him. The insistence of a single Egyptian-Sudanese state persisted when the Sultanate was re-titled the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan, but the British continued to frustrate these efforts.

The first real independence attempt was made in 1924 by a group of Sudanese military officers known as the White Flag League. The group was led by first lieutenant Ali Abdullatif and first lieutenant Abdul Fadil Almaz. The latter led an insurrection of the military training academy, which ended in their defeat and the death of Almaz after the British army blew up the military hospital where he was garrisoned. This defeat was (allegedly) partially the result of the Egyptian garrison in Khartoum North not supporting the insurrection with artillery as was previously promised.

Even when the British ended their occupation of Egypt in 1936 (with the exception of the Suez Canal Zone), Sudan remained under British occupation. The Egyptian Revolution of 1952 finally heralded the beginning of the march towards Sudanese independence. Having abolished the monarchy in 1953, Egypt's new leaders, Muhammad Naguib, whose mother was Sudanese, and Gamal Abdel-Nasser, believed the only way to end British domination in Sudan was for Egypt to officially abandon its sovereignty over Sudan. Since Britain's own claim to sovereignty in Sudan theoretically depended upon Egyptian sovereignty, the revolutionaries calculated that this tactic would leave Britain with no option but to withdraw. Their calculation proved to be correct, and in 1954 the governments of Egypt and Britain signed a treaty guaranteeing Sudanese independence on January 1 1956.

Afterwards, the newly elected Sudanese government led by the first prime minister Ismail Al-Azhari, went ahead with the process of Sudanisation of the state's government, with the help and supervision of an international committee. Independence was duly granted and on January 1 1956, in a special ceremony held at the People's Palace where the Egyptian and British flags were lowered and the new Sudanese flag, composed of green, blue and yellow stripes, was raised in their place.

First Sudanese Civil War 1955 - 1972

In 1955, the year before independence, a civil war began between northern and southern Sudan. The southerners, anticipating independence, feared the new nation would be dominated by the north.

Historically, the north of Sudan had closer ties with Egypt and was predominantly Arab and Muslim while the south was predominantly a mixture of Christianity and Animism. These divisions had been further emphasized by the British policy of ruling the north and south under separate administrations. From 1924, it was illegal for people living above the 10th parallel to go further south and for people below the 8th parallel to go further north. The law was ostensibly enacted to prevent the spread of malaria and other tropical diseases that had ravaged British troops, as well as to facilitate spreading Christianity among the predominantly Animist population while stopping the Arabic and Islamic influence from advancing south. The result was increased isolation between the already distinct north and south and arguably laid the seeds of conflict in the years to come.

The resulting conflict, known as the First Sudanese Civil War, lasted from 1955 to 1972. The 1955 war began when Southern army officers mutinied and then formed the Anya-Nya guerilla movement. A few years later the first Sudanese military regime took power under Major-General Abboud. Military regimes continued into 1969 when General Ja'afar al Nimiery led a successful coup. In 1972, a cessation of the north-south conflict was agreed upon under the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement, following talks which were sponsored by the World Council of Churches. This led to a ten-year hiatus in the national conflict.

Second Sudanese Civil War from 1983 - 2005

In 1983, the civil war was reignited following President Gaafar Nimeiry's decision to circumvent the Addis Ababa Agreement. President Gaafar Nimeiry attempted to create a federated Sudan including states in southern Sudan, which violated the Addis Ababa Agreement that had granted the south considerable autonomy. He appointed a committee to undertake “a substantial review of the Addis Ababa Agreement, especially in the areas of security arrangements, border trade, language, culture and religion”. Mansour Khalid a former foreign minister wrote, “Nimeiri had never been genuinely committed to the principles of the Addis Ababa Agreement". In September 1983, the civil war was reignited when President Gaafar Nimeiry's culminated the 1977 revisions by imposing new Islamic laws on all of Sudan, including the non-Muslim south. When asked about revisions he stated “The Addis Ababa agreement is myself and Joseph Lagu and we want it that way… I am 300 percent the constitution. I do not know of any plebiscite because I am mandated by the people as the President”. Southern troops rebelled against the northern political offensive, and launched attacks in June of 1983. In 1995, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiated the longest ceasefire in the history of the war to allow humanitarian aid to enter Southern Sudan which had been inaccessible due to violence. This ceasefire, which lasted almost six months, has since been called the “Guinea Worm Ceasefire.”

Southern Sudan

The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), based in southern Sudan, was formed in May 1983. Finally, in June 1983, the Sudanese government under President Gaafar Nimeiry abrogated the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement (A.A.A.) The situation was exacerbated after President Gaafar Nimeiry went on to implement Sharia Law in September of the same year

The war continued even after Nimeiry was ousted and a democratic government was elected with Al Sadig Al Mahdi's Umma Party having the majority in the parliament. The leader of the SPLA John Garang refused to recognize the government and to negotiate with it as representative of Sudan but agreed to negotiate with government officials as representative of their political parties.

In 1989, a bloodless coup brought control of Khartoum into the hands of Omar al-Bashir and the National Islamic Front headed by Dr. Hassan al-Turabi. The new government was of Islamic orientation and later it formed the Popular Defence Forces (al Difaa al Shaabi) and began to use religious propaganda to recruit people, as the regular army was demoralised and under pressure from the SPLA rebels. This worsened the situation in the tribal south, as the fighting became more intense, causing casualties among the Christian and animist minority.

The SPLA started as a Marxist movement, with support from the Soviet Union and the Ethiopian Marxist President Mengistu Haile Meriem. In time, however, it sought support in the West by using the northern Sudanese government's religious propaganda to portray the war as a campaign by the Arab Islamic government to impose Islam and the Arabic language on the Christian south. In 1991 the SPLA was split when Riek Machar withdrew and formed his own faction.

The war went on for more than 20 years, including the use of Russian-made combat helicopters and military cargo planes which were used as bombers to devastating effect on villages and tribal rebels alike. "Sudan's independent history has been dominated by chronic, exceptionally cruel warfare that has starkly divided the country on racial, religious, and regional grounds; displaced an estimated four million people (of a total estimated population of thirty-two million); and killed an estimated two million people. It damaged Sudan's economy and led to food shortages, resulting in starvation and malnutrition. The lack of investment during this time, particularly in the south, meant a generation lost access to basic health services, education, and jobs.

Peace talks between the southern rebels and the government made substantial progress in 2003 and early 2004. The peace was consolidated with the official signing by both sides of the Nairobi Comprehensive Peace Agreement 9 January 2005, granting southern Sudan autonomy for six years, to be followed by a referendum about independence. It created a co-vice president position and allowed the north and south to split oil deposits equally, but also left both the north's and south's armies in place. John Garang, the south's peace agreement appointed co-vice president died in a helicopter crash on August 1, 2005, three weeks after being sworn in. This resulted in riots, but the peace was eventually able to continue.

The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) was established under UN Security Council Resolution 1590 of March 24, 2005. Its mandate is to support implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and to perform functions relating to humanitarian assistance, and protection and promotion of human rights.

In October 2007 the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) withdrew from government in protest over slow implementation of a landmark 2005 peace deal which ended the civil war. Observers say the biggest obstacle to reconciliation is the unresolved status of the oil-rich region of Abyei, which is on the north-south border. A few weeks afterwards, leading Islamist opposition party leader Hassan al-Turabi affirmed that South Sudan could unilaterally split from the north because of a dispute over the region of Abyei.

Darfur conflict and war crimes charges

Just as the long north-south civil war was reaching a resolution, some tribal clashes occurred in the western region of Darfur in the early 1970s between the pastoral tribes and the agricultural tribes after Africa's greatest famine. The rebels accused the central government of neglecting the Darfur region economically, although there is uncertainty regarding the objectives of the rebels and whether they merely seek an improved position for Darfur within Sudan or outright "secession." Both the government and the rebels have been accused of atrocities in this war, although most of the blame has fallen on Arab militias known as the Janjaweed, who are armed men appointed by the Al Saddiq Al Mahdi administration to stop the long-standing chaotic disputes between Darfur tribes. According to declarations by the United States Government, these militias have been engaging in genocide; the fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of them seeking refuge in neighbouring Chad. The government claimed victory over the rebels after capturing a town on the border with Chad in early 1994. However, the fighting resumed in 2003.

On September 9 2004, the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell termed the Darfur conflict a "genocide", claiming it as the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. There have been reports that the Janjaweed have been launching raids, bombings, and attacks on villages, killing civilians based on ethnicity, raping women, stealing land, goods, and herds of livestock. So far, over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced and the death toll is variously estimated at 200,000 to 400,000 killed.

On May 5 2006, the Sudanese government and Darfur's largest rebel group the SLM (Sudan Liberation Movement) signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, which aimed at ending the three-year long conflict. The agreement specified the disarmament of the Janjaweed and the disbandment of the rebel forces, and aimed at establishing a temporal government in which the rebels could take part. The agreement, which was brokered by the African Union, however, was not signed by all of the rebel groups. Only one rebel group, the SLA led by Minni Arko Minnawi signed the DPA.

Since the agreement was signed, however, there have been reports of wide-spread violence throughout the region. A new rebel group has emerged called the "National Redemption Front" (which is made up of the 4 main rebel groups who refused to sign the May peace agreement). Recently, both the Sudanese government and government-sponsored Muslim militias have launched large offensives against the rebel groups, resulting in more deaths and more displacements. Clashes among the rebel groups have also contributed to the violence. Recent fighting along the Chad border has left hundreds of soldiers and rebel forces dead and nearly a quarter of a million refugees cut from aid. In addition, villages have been bombed and more civilians have been killed. UNICEF recently reported that around 80 infants die each day in Darfur as a result of malnutrition.

The people in Darfur are predominantly black Africans of Muslim beliefs. While the Janjaweed militia is made up of Black Arabs, the majority of Arab groups in Darfur remain uninvolved in the conflict. Darfurians - Arab and non-Arab alike - profoundly distrust a government in Khartoum that has brought them nothing but trouble.

The International Criminal Court has indicted State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun and alleged Muslim Janjaweed militia leader Ali Mohammed Ali, aka Ali Kosheib, in relation to the atrocities in the region.

Ahmed Haroun belongs to the Bargou tribe, one of the non Arab tribes of Darfur, and is alleged to have incited attacks on specific (non Arab) ethnic groups.

Ali Kosheib is an ex soldier and a leader of the popular defence forces and is alleged to be one of the key leaders responsible for attacks on villages in west Darfur.

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor on Darfur, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced on July 14, 2008, ten criminal charges against President Bashir, accusing him of sponsoring war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC's prosecutors have claimed that al-Bashir "masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part" three tribal groups in Darfur because of their ethnicity. The ICC's prosecutor for Darfur, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is expected within months to ask a panel of ICC judges to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir.

The Arab League, AU, and even France support Sudan’s efforts to suspend the ICC investigation. They are willing to consider Article 16 of the Rome Statue, which states ICC investigations, can be suspended for one year if the investigation endangers the peace process.

Chad-Sudan conflict

The Chad-Sudan conflict officially started on December 23, 2005, when the government of Chad declared a state of war with Sudan and called for the citizens of Chad to mobilize themselves against the "common enemy", which the Chadian government sees as the Rally for Democracy and Liberty (RDL) militants, Chadian rebels backed by the Sudanese government, and Sudanese militiamen. The militants attacked villages and towns in eastern Chad, stealing cattle, murdering citizens, and burning houses. Over 200,000 refugees from the Darfur region of northwestern Sudan currently claim asylum in eastern Chad. Chadian president Idriss Déby accuses Sudanese President Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir of trying to "destabilize our country, to drive our people into misery, to create disorder and export the war from Darfur to Chad."

The incident prompting the declaration of war was an attack on the Chadian town of Adré near the Sudanese border that led to the deaths of either one hundred rebels (as most news sources reported) or three hundred rebels. The Sudanese government was blamed for the attack, which was the second in the region in three days, but Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Jamal Mohammed Ibrahim denied any Sudanese involvement, "We are not for any escalation with Chad. We technically deny involvement in Chadian internal affairs." The Battle of Adré led to the declaration of war by Chad and the alleged deployment of the Chadian air force into Sudanese airspace, which the Chadian government denies.

The leaders of Sudan and Chad signed an agreement in Saudi Arabia on May 3 2007 to stop fighting from the Darfur conflict along their countries' border.

Eastern Front

The Eastern Front is a coalition of rebel groups operating in eastern Sudan along the border with Eritrea, particularly the states of Red Sea and Kassala. The Eastern Front's Chairman is Musa Mohamed Ahmed. While the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was the primary member of the Eastern Front, the SPLA was obliged to leave by the January 2005 agreement that ended the Second Sudanese Civil War. Their place was taken in February 2004 after the merger of the larger Beja Congress with the smaller Rashaida Free Lions, two tribal based groups of the Beja and Rashaida people, respectively. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a rebel group from Darfur in the west, then joined.

Both the Free Lions and the Beja Congress stated that government inequity in the distribution of oil profits was the cause of their rebellion. They demanded to have a greater say in the composition of the national government, which has been seen as a destabilizing influence on the agreement ending the conflict in Southern Sudan.

The Eastern Front had threatened to block the flow of crude oil, which travels from the oil fields of the south-central regions to outside markets through Port Sudan. A government plan to build a second oil refinery near Port Sudan was also threatened. The government was reported to have three times as many soldiers in the east to suppress the rebellion and protect vital infrastructure as in the more widely reported Darfur region.

The Eritrean government in mid-2006 dramatically changed their position on the conflict. From being the main supporter of the Eastern Front they decided that bringing the Sudanese government around the negotiating table for a possible agreement with the rebels would be in their best interests. They were successful in their attempts and on the 19 June 2006, the two sides signed an agreement on declaration of principles. This was the start of four months of Eritrean-mediated negotiations for a comprehensive peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Eastern Front, which culminated in signing of a peace agreement on 14 October 2006, in Asmara. The agreement covers security issues, power sharing at a federal and regional level, and wealth sharing in regards to the three Eastern states Kassala, Red Sea and Al Qadarif.

Humanitarian needs and 2007 floods

The humanitarian branch of the United Nations, consisting of several UN agencies coordinated by OCHA, works to bring life-saving relief to those in need. It is estimated by OCHA, that over 3.5 million people in Darfur (including 2.2 million IDPs) are heavily reliant on humanitarian aid for their survival. By contrast, in 2007 OCHA, under the leadership of Eliane Duthoit, started to gradually phase out in Southern Sudan, where humanitarian needs are gradually diminishing, and are slowly but markedly leaving the place to recovery and development activities.

In July 2007, many parts of the country were devastated by flooding, prompting an immediate humanitarian response by the United Nations and partners, under the leadership of acting United Nations Resident Coordinators David Gressly and Oluseyi Bajulaiye. Over 400,000 people were directly affected, with over 3.5 million at risk of epidemics. The United Nations have allocated US$ 13.5 million for the response from its pooled funds, but will launch an appeal to the international community to cover the gap. The humanitarian crisis is in danger of worsening. Following attacks in Darfur, the U.N. World Food Program announced it could stop food aid to some parts of Darfur.


Sudan has an authoritarian government in which all effective political power is in the hands of President Omar al-Bashir. Bashir and his party have controlled the government since he led the military coup on 30 June 1989.

From 1983 to 1997, the country was divided into five regions in the north and three in the south, each headed by a military governor. After the military coup on April 6, 1985, regional assemblies were suspended. The RCC was abolished in 1993, and the ruling National Islamic Front changed its name to the National Congress Party. The new party included some non Muslim members; mainly Southern Sudanese Politicians, some of whom were appointed as ministers or state governors. After 1997, the structure of regional administration was replaced by the creation of twenty-six states. The executives, cabinets, and senior-level state officials are appointed by the president, and their limited budgets are determined by and dispensed from Khartoum. The states, as a result, remain economically dependent upon the central government. Khartoum state, comprising the capital and outlying districts, is administered by a governor.

In December 1999, a power struggle climaxed between President al-Bashir and then-speaker of parliament Hassan al-Turabi, who was the NIF founder and an Islamic ideologue. Al-Turabi was stripped of his posts in the ruling party and the government, parliament was disbanded, the constitution was suspended, and a state of national emergency was declared by presidential decree. Parliament resumed in February 2001 after the December 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections, but the national emergency laws remained in effect. Al-Turabi was arrested in February 2001, and charged with being a threat to national security and the constitutional order for signing a memorandum of understanding with the SPLA. Since then his outspoken style has had him in prison or under house-arrest, his most recent stint beginning in March 2004 and ending in June 2005. During that time he was under house-arrest for his role in a failed coup attempt in September 2003, an allegation he has denied. According to some reports, the president had no choice but to release him, given that a coalition of National Democratic Union (NDA) members headquartered in both Cairo and Eritrea, composed of the political parties known as the SPLM/A, Umma Party, Mirghani Party, and Turabi's own National People's Congress, were calling for his release at a time when an interim government was preparing to take over in accordance with the Naivasha agreement and the Machokos Accord.In the proposed 2009 elections, Vice President Slava Kiir declared he is likely to challenge Bashir for the Presidential seat.

Foreign relations

Sudan has had a troubled relationship with many of its neighbors and much of the international community due to what is viewed as its aggressively Islamic stance. For much of the 1990s, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia formed an ad-hoc alliance called the "Front Line States" with support from the United States to check the influence of the National Islamic Front government. The Sudanese Government supported anti-Uganda rebel groups such as the Lord's Resistance Army. Beginning from the mid-1990s Sudan gradually began to moderate its positions as a result of increased US pressure following the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and the new development of oil fields previously in rebel hands. Sudan also has a territorial dispute with Egypt over the Hala'ib Triangle. Since 2003, the foreign relations of Sudan have centered on the support for ending the Second Sudanese Civil War and condemnation of government support for militias in the Darfur conflict.

The United States has listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993. U.S. firms have been barred from doing business in Sudan since 1997. In 1998, the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum was destroyed by a US cruise missile strike because of its alleged production of chemical weapons and links to al-Qaeda.

Sudan has extensive economic relations with China. China gets 1/10 of its oil from Sudan, and according to a former Sudanese government minister, China is Sudan’s largest supplier of arms.

On December 23 2005, Chad, Sudan's neighbour to the west, declared war on Sudan and accused the country of being the "common enemy of the nation [Chad]." This happened after the December 18 attack on Adre, which left about 100 people dead. A statement issued by Chadian government on December 23, accused Sudanese militias of making daily incursions into Chad, stealing cattle, killing people and burning villages on the Chadian border. The statement went on to call for Chadians to form a patriotic front against Sudan. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have called on Sudan and Chad to exercise self-restraint to defuse growing tensions between the two countries. On May 11, 2008 Sudan announced it was cutting diplomatic relations with Chad, claiming that it was helping rebels in Darfur to attack the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

On December 27 2005, Sudan became one of the few states to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

On June 20 2006 President Omar al-Bashir told reporters that he would not allow any UN peacekeeping force into Sudan. President al-Bashir denounced any such mission as "colonial forces.

On November 17 2006, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that "Sudan has agreed in principle to allow the establishment of a joint African Union and UN peacekeeping force in an effort to solve the crisis in Darfur" - but had stopped short of setting the number of troops involved. Annan speculated that this force could number 17,000. Despite this claim, no additional troops have been deployed as of late December 2006. On July 31, 2007 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1769, authorizing the deployment of UN forces. Violence continues in the region and on December 15, 2006, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) stated they would be proceeding with cases of human rights violations against members of the Sudan government. A Sudanese legislator was quoted as saying that Khartoum may permit UN peace keepers to patrol Darfur in exchange for immunity from prosecution for officials charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Legal system

The legal system in Sudan is based on English common law and Islamic law; as of 20 January 1991, the now defunct Revolutionary Command Council imposed Islamic law in the northern states; Islamic law applies to all residents of the northern states regardless of their religion; however, the CPA establishes some protections for non-Muslims in Khartoum; some separate religious courts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; the southern legal system is still developing under the CPA following the civil war; Islamic law will not apply to the southern states.

The judicial branch of the government consist of: Constitutional Court of nine justices; National Supreme Court; National Courts of Appeal; other national courts; National Judicial Service Commission will undertake overall management of the National Judiciary.

Human rights

A letter dated August 14 2006, from the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch found that the Sudanese government is both incapable and unwilling to protect its own citizens in Darfur and that its militias are guilty of crimes against humanity. The letter added that these human rights abuses have existed since 2004.

Some reports attribute part of the violations to the rebels as well as the government and the Janjaweed. The US State Department's human rights report issued in March 2007 claims that "All parties to the conflagration committed serious abuses, including widespread killing of civilians, rape as a tool of war, systematic torture, robbery and recruitment of child soldiers.

Both government forces and militias allied with the government are known not only to attack civilians in Darfur, but also humanitarian workers. Sympathizers of rebel groups are arbitrarily detained, as are foreign journalists, human rights defenders, student activists, and displaced people in and around Khartoum, some of whom face torture. The rebel groups have also been accused in a report issued by the American government of attacking humanitarian workers and of killing innocent civilians.

Due to the Sudanese government's abhorrent treatment of refugees and asylum seekers within its borders, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants named Sudan as one of the Ten Worst Places for Refugees in its World Refugee Survey 2008. Sudan has forcibly confined, or warehoused, Eritrean refugees in camps for nearly 40 years and Ethiopians for nearly 30. The twelve refugee camps in Sudan lack basic food, water, and hygiene supplies. There are also reports that Sudanese officials have attempted to repopulate destroyed villages in Darfur with Chadian refugees living in Niger.

States and districts

Sudan is divided into twenty-five states (wilayat, sing. wilayah) which in turn are subdivided into 133 districts. The states are:

Autonomy, separation, conflicts

  • Southern Sudan is an autonomous region intermediate between the states and the national government. Southern Sudan is scheduled to have a referendum on independence in 2011. As agreed in the peace agreement a new currency, the Sudan Pound was launched throughout the country on January 10, 2007, and will replace the Sudanese Dinar. The Southern Sudanese government tried to launch a new currency, but stopped after the central Sudanese government declared that such a move constituted a breach of the peace agreement.
  • Darfur, a region of three western states, is plagued by a violent conflict between the Sudanese government and a group of rebelling peoples of the region. (see Darfur conflict, Transitional Darfur Regional Authority).
  • There was also an insurgency in the east led by the Eastern Front. On October 14, 2006, both the Sudanese government and the Eastern Front signed a power-sharing agreement ending the insurgency.


Sudan is situated in northern Africa, bordering the Red Sea and it has a coastline of 853 km along the Red Sea. With an area of 2,505,810 square kilometres (967,499 sq mi), it is the largest country in the continent and the tenth largest in the world. It borders the countries of Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya and Uganda. It is dominated by the River Nile and its tributaries.

The terrain is generally flat plains, broken by several mountain ranges; in the west the Jebel Marra is the highest range; in the south is the highest mountain Mount Kinyeti Imatong, near the border with Uganda; in the east are the Red Sea Hills.

The Blue and White Niles meet in Khartoum to form the River Nile, which flows northwards through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. Blue Nile's course through Sudan is nearly 800 km long and is joined by the rivers Dinder and Rahad between Sennar and Khartoum. The White Nile within Sudan has no significant tributaries.

The amount of rainfall increases towards the south. In the north there is the very dry Nubian Desert; in the south there are swamps and rain forest. Sudan’s rainy season lasts for about three months (July to September) in the north, and up to six months (June to November) in the south. The dry regions are plagued by sand storms, known as haboob, which can completely block out the sun. In the northern and western semi-desert areas, people rely on the scant rainfall for basic agriculture and many are nomadic, traveling with their herds of sheep and camels. Nearer the River Nile, there are well-irrigated farms growing cash crops.

There are several dams on the Blue and White Niles. Among them are the Sennar and Roseires on the Blue Nile, and Jebel Aulia dam on the White Nile. There is also Lake Nubia on the Sudan-Egyptian border.

Rich mineral resources are available in Sudan including: petroleum, natural gas, gold, silver, chromite, asbestos, manganese, gypsum, mica, zinc, iron, lead, uranium, copper, kaolin, cobalt, granite, nickel and tin.

Desertification is a serious problem in Sudan. There is also concern over soil erosion. Agricultural expansion, both public and private, has proceeded without conservation measures. The consequences have manifested themselves in the form of deforestation, soil desiccation, and the lowering of soil fertility and the water table.

The nation's wildlife is threatened by hunting. As of 2001, twenty-one mammal species and nine bird species are endangered, as well as two types of plants. Endangered species include: the waldrapp, northern white rhinoceros, tora hartebeest, slender-horned gazelle, and hawksbill turtle. The Sahara oryx has become extinct in the wild.

In May 2007, it was announced that hundreds of wild elephants have been located on a previously unknown, treeless island in the Sudd swampland region of southern Sudan. The exact location being kept secret to protect the animals from poachers.


Despite being the sixth fastest growing economy in the world, new economic policies, and infrastructure investments, Sudan still faces formidable economic problems as it must rise from a very low level of per capita output. Since 1997, Sudan has been implementing the macroeconomic reforms recommended by the IMF. In 1999, Sudan began exporting crude oil and in the last quarter of 1999 recorded its first trade surplus. Increased oil production (the current production is about ) revived light industry, and expanded export processing zones helped sustain GDP growth at 6.1% in 2003. These gains, along with improvements to monetary policy, have stabilized the exchange rate. Currently oil is Sudan's main export, and the production is increasing dramatically. With rising oil revenues the Sudanese economy is booming at a growth rate of about 9% in 2007. Sustained growth is expected next year, not only because of increasing oil production, but also due to the boost of hydroelectricity (annual electricity yield of 5.5 TWh) by Merowe Dam, which will produce energy later this year.

Rich mineral resources are available in Sudan including: petroleum, natural gas, gold, silver, chrome, asbestos, manganese, gypsum, mica, zinc, iron, lead, uranium, copper, kaolin, cobalt, granite, nickel and tin.

Agriculture production remains Sudan's most important sector, employing 80% of the work force and contributing 39% of GDP, but most farms remain rain-fed and susceptible to drought. Chronic instability — including the long-standing civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian/animist south, adverse weather, and weak world agricultural prices — ensure that much of the population will remain at or below the poverty line for years.

The Merowe Dam, also known as Merowe Multi-Purpose Hydro Project or Hamdab Dam, is a large construction project in northern Sudan, about 350 km north of the capital Khartoum. It is situated on the river Nile, close to the 4th Cataract where the river divides into multiple smaller branches with large islands in between. Merowe is a city about 40 km downstream from the construction site at Hamdab. The main purpose of the dam will be the generation of electricity. Its dimensions make it the largest contemporary hydro power project in Africa. The construction of the dam will be finished by mid 2008, supplying more than 90% of the population with electricity. Other gas powered electricity stations are under construction in Khartoum state, these are also due to be completed by 2008.

Despite the American sanctions, the Sudanese economy is the one of the fastest growing in the world according to a New York Times report of October 2006.


In Sudan's 1993 census, the population was recorded to be 25 million. No comprehensive census has been carried out since then due to the continuation of the civil war. A 2006 United Nations estimate put the population at about 37 million. The population of metropolitan Khartoum (including Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North) is growing rapidly and is estimated at about 5 to 7 million, including around 2 million displaced persons from the southern war zone as well as western and eastern drought-affected areas.

Despite being a refugee-generating country, Sudan also hosts a refugee population. According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, 310,500 refugees and asylum seekers lived in Sudan in 2007. The majority of this population came from Eritrea (240,400 persons), Chad (45,000), Ethiopia (19,300) and the Central African Republic (2,500). The Sudanese government was reportedly uncooperative with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2007, and the government forcibly deported at least 1,500 refugees and asylum seekers during the year. Sudan is a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Sudan has 597 tribes that speak over 400 different languages dialects, but there are two distinct major cultures Arabs with Nubian roots, and non-Arab Black Africans consisting of hundreds of ethnic and tribal divisions and language groups. The northern states cover most of Sudan and include most of the urban centers. Most of the 22 million Sudanese who live in this region are Arabic-speaking Muslims, though the majority also use a traditional non-Arabic mother tongue (e.g. Nubian, Beja, Fur, Nuban, Ingessana, etc) as education is in Arabic language. Among these are several distinct tribal groups: the camel-raising Kababish of northern Kordofan; the Dongolawiyin (الدنقلاويين); the Ga’aliyin (الجعلين); the Rubatab (الرباطاب); the Manasir (المناصير); the Shaiqiyah (الشايقيّة); the Bideiria ; the semi-nomadic Baggara of Kurdufan and Darfur; the Beja in the Red Sea area and who extend into Eritrea; and the Nubians of the northern Nile areas, some of whom have been resettled on the Atbara River. Shokrya in the Butana land, Bataheen bordering the Ga’alin and Shokrya in the south west of Butana. Rufaa, Halaween, Fulani (فولاني) and many other tribes have settled in the Gazeera region and on the banks of the Blue Nile, Damazine and the Dindir region. The Nuba of southern Kurdufan and Fur in the western reaches of the country.

As with most Egyptians, Palestinians, and many other Arab peoples, most Sudanese Arabs are primarily Arab by culture rather than race, being descended primarily from the ancient Nubians. The Nubians are a Semitic race, similar in appearance to Ethiopians and Eritreans, sharing a common history with the latter up to a point (see ancient Kush, and Axum). In common with much of the rest of the Arab World, the gradual process of Arabisation in northern Sudan led to the predominance of the Arabic language and aspects of Arab culture, leading a majority of northern Sudanese today to identify as Arab. This process was furthered both by the spread of Islam and the emigration to Sudan of racial Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula and their intermarriage with the indigenous peoples of the country. The development of the Arab identity was repeated throughout what is now the Arab World, e.g., in Libya, where the indigenous Berbers and conquering Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula intermarried to form the modern Libyan Arabs, though it did not take place among the Persians of Iran, who accepted Islam, but rejected the Arabic language and Arab identity.

The Southern region has a population of around six million and a predominantly rural, subsistence economy. This region has been affected by war for all but 10 years since the country's independence in 1956, resulting in serious neglect, lack of infrastructure development, and major destruction and displacement. More than two million people have died, and more than four million are internally displaced or have become refugees as a result of the civil war and war-related impacts. Here a majority of the population practices traditional indigenous beliefs, although some practice Christianity, a result of Christian missionary efforts. The south also contains many tribal groups and many more languages are used than in the north. The Dinka, whose population is estimated at more than one million, are the largest of the many Black African ethnic groups of Sudan. Along with the Shilluk also the Nuer and the Bari which consist of other five tribes,Pojulu,Mundari,Kuku,kakaw and Ngangware they are Nilotic tribes.The Azande, Bor, and Jo Luo are “Sudanic” tribes in the west, and the Acholi and Lotuhu live in the extreme south, extending into Uganda. Unlike northern Sudan, Arabisation and Islamisation have been limited in the south as the region's permanent merger with the north is relatively recent, dating back to the union with Egypt in the 19th Century. As a result, Arab self-identification amongst people in the south is almost exclusively limited to those of northern Sudanese origin, with the vast majority of southern Sudanese rejecting Arab identity.

The lingua franca in Southern Sudan is a variant of Arabic called "Juba Arabic"; the English language is used by the educated elite.

Some western African tribes like the Fallata, also known as Fulani and Hausa, have migrated to Sudan long times ago and have settled in various regions of Sudan, mainly in the north, with most speaking Arabic in addition to their native languages.

Peoples of Sudan

People Location
Acholi east
Pari east
Anuak south central
The Bari Juba
Didinga east
Fula (Fulani) Blue Nile, East and Tulus
Kakwa southwest
Lotuko east

Official languages

According to the 2005 constitution, Sudan's official languages are Arabic and English:

Culture and religion

According to estimates, Sudan is predominantly Muslim. 70% of the population adheres to Islam. The remainder of the population follows either animist and indigenous beliefs (25%), and 5% of the total population adheres to Christianity. Sudan's largest Christian denominations are the following: the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Presbyterian Church in the Sudan, and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Sudanese writers, artists and singers


Institutions of higher education in Sudan include:

See also


  • "Sudan: Race, Religion and Violence" by Jok Madut Jok Oneworld Publications ISBN 1851683666
  • "Sudan: The City Trail Guide" by Blake Evans-Pritchard and Violetta Polese ISBN 0955927409
  • "Sudan: The Bradt Travel Guide" by Paul Clammer ISBN 1841621145

External links

Notes and references

  • Short History Of Sudan, iUniverse (April 30, 2004), ISBN-13: 978-0595314256.
  • The Problem of Dar Fur iUniverse, Inc. (July 21, 2005), ISBN-13: 978-0595365029
  • UN Intervention in Dar Fur, iUniverse, Inc. (February 9, 2007), ISBN-13: 978-0595429790
  • Quo Vadis bilad as-Sudan? The Contemporary Framework for a National Interim Constitution, in: Law in Africa Vol. 8, (Cologne 2005), pp.63-82. ISSN 1435-0963
  • The River War, Winston Churchill. An account of the Anglo-Egyptian reconquest of the Sudan in which he participated.
  • Karari:The Sudanese Account of the Battle of Omdurman, 'Ismat Hasan Zulfo, translated by Peter Clark, Frederick Warne, London 1980
  • The Medieval Kingdoms of Nubia, D. A. Welsby, The British Muuseum Press, 2002
  • Kingdoms of the Sudan, R. S. O'Fahey and J. L. Spauling, Methuen, London 1974. Covers Sinnar and Dar.
  • Darfur; The Ambiguous Genocide, Gérard Prunier, Cornell University Press, New York 2007.
  • Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan: The State Against Blacks in The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nova Science Publishers, Inc., Huntington, New York, 2001.

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