Sudan is the largest country in Africa and almost the size of the continental U. S. east of the Mississippi River. Sudan’s population is one of the most diverse on the African continent. It is home to two major cultures, Arab and black African. There are also hundreds of ethnic and tribal subdivisions and language groups, which make effective alliance among them a major political challenge. The northern states cover most of the Sudan and of the 30 million Sudanese who live in this region, most are Arabic-speaking Muslims.
The southern region of Sudan has a population of around 8 million and a predominantly rural economy. The south has endured major destruction and displacement since independence. Although the official religion of Sudan is Islam, the southern Sudanese practice mainly indigenous traditional beliefs, and some have converted to Christianity. Arabic is the official language, English is the next widely spoken language. Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, sits where the White Nile and the Blue Nile join together as the Nile flows north to Egypt and into the Mediterranean.
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The median age in Sudan is 18 years old, and life expectancy is 58 years old. Sudan has a literacy rate of about 60 percent. Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Sudan’s annual per capita income in 2001 was $340. (The annual per capita income in 2001 in the United States was $21,587. ) The Second Sudanese Civil War which lasted for twenty years from 1985-2005, was largely a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War which took place between 1955-1972. The Second War took place in southern Sudan, and is considered one of the longest lasting and deadliest wars of the later 20th century.
Nearly 2 million people were killed in southern Sudan, and more than 4 million of those living in southern Sudan have been forced out of their homes at one point or another since the war began. The civilian death toll is regarded as one of the highest of any war since World War II. The war was a struggle between the southern, non-Arab populations and the northern, Arab-dominated government. Kingdoms and great powers along the Nile River have fought against the people of inland Sudan for centuries. Since before the 17th century, central governments have tried to regulate nd exploit the cattle herders of southern and inland Sudan. The British had originally run Sudan as a colony and they administered the northern and southern provinces separately. The south was held to be more similar to other east African colonies such as Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda. The Northern Province was similar to Arab-speaking Egypt. Northerners were not allowed to hold positions of power in the south, and trade between the provinces was not encouraged. Even as Sudan achieved independence from Britain in 1956, civil war was already brewing between the north and the south.
In 1945, the British in the south gave in to northern pressure to integrate the provinces. Arabic was made the language of administration in the south, and northerners began to hold positions of power there which were forbidden before. The elite in the South who were trained in English had resented the change as they were kept out of their own government. After the provinces were integrated, most power was given to the northern elites based in Khartoum, causing uneasiness in the south. In 1955, southern resentment of northern Muslim Arab domination culminated in a mutiny among southern troops in Equatorial Province.
These troops were upset that the Khartoum government had failed to keep their promises to Britain that it would create a federal system. During the next 17 years, the southern province experienced civil fighting, and a mixture of leaders wanted secession. In 1972, the first civil war ended after the signing of the Addis Ababa Accords was granted. It gave southern Sudan wide regional independence on internal matters. The Addis Ababa Accords was a peace deal between the government of Sudan and Anayanya movement which gave limited self-government to southern Sudan. (Anayanya is a southern Sudanese separatist rebel army. Problems once again began in 1983, when President Nimeiri announced his decision to incorporate traditional Islamic punishments drawn from Shari’a (Islamic Law) into the penal code. Within Shari’a law, there are a group of “Haram” offenses which carry severe punishments. These include pre-marital sexual, sex by divorced persons, post-marital sex, and adultery, false accusation of unlawful intercourse, drinking alcohol, theft, and highway robbery. Southerners and other non-Muslims living in the north were also subject to these punishments. Shari’a law is intended to be only applicable to Muslims.
Christians and other non-Muslims are supposed to be exempt from the provisions of the law. President Nimeiri intended to transform Sudan into a Muslim Arab state, and divided the south into three regions. Although the peace accord drastically felt short of the basic ideas of the people of southern Sudan, the southerners nevertheless abided by its terms until it was revoked by Numeiri in 1983, on the urgings of certain northern politicians who held the view that the Addis Ababa Accord had given too much to the South and might encourage development and support the southerners to succeed.
These politicians see the south not as an equal part of the same country, but as a merely as a source of cheap labor for the North. On April 26, 1983, President Nimieri declared a state of emergency in order to ensure that the Shari’a was applied more broadly. Most constitutionally guaranteed human rights were suspended. In the north, emergency courts, later to be known as “decisive justice courts”, were established, and had summary jurisdiction over criminal cases. Amputations for theft and publish lashing for alcohol possession were common during the state of emergency.
This was controversial even among Muslim groups. Southerners and other non-Muslims who resided in the north were also subject to these punishments. Most southerners were uneasy about the way Nimeiri interpreted the Addis Ababa Accord to redraw the boundaries of the South to include the Bentiu region, where oil had been discovered into the North. Southern politicians were divided amongst themselves. In 1985, the new government repealed President Nimeiri’s 1983 decree and made other significant movements toward merging north and south but the
September Laws of the Nimeiri regime were not completely removed which instituted Shari’a Law. September Laws were laws implemented in Sudan from 1983 to 1985 to show his political legitimacy, and to justify authoritarian rule. In May of 1986, the Sadiq al-Mahdi government began peace negotiations with the SPLA, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, led by Dr. John Garang de Mabior. The SPLA, unlike other movements in the south, were not fighting for an independent South.
Its declared aim was a combined secular and democratic Sudan. In 1986, the SPLA and a number of Sudanese political parties got together in Ethiopia and agreed to the “Koka Dam” declaration, this called for abolishing Islamic Law and holding a constitutional conference. During the early years of the movement, Ethiopian government support was crucial to the SPLA, and since Ethiopian had problems of its own secessionists, it would have been willing to aid in accomplishment likely to lead to a re-drawing of international affairs.
In 1988, the SPLA and the DUP agreed on a peace plan for calling the abolition of military pacts with Egypt and Libya, freezing of Islamic law, and an end to the state of emergency, and a cease-fire. In 1989, compromise between the ruling government and southern opposition groups seemed approaching, but Omar al-Bashir, a politically and religiously extreme military leader, led a successful coup and became chief of state, prime minister and chief of the armed forces. Al-Bashir has been elected only once, in 1996.
Al-Bashir continued to lead a government run by an alliance between the military junta and the National Congress Party, which pushed an Islamist agenda. Following an ultimatum from the armed forces in February 1989, the Sadiq al-Mahdi government approved the peace plan and had quite a few meetings with the SPLA. The Sadiq al-Mahdi government agreed with the UN and donor nations such as the U. S. , had developed a plan called OLS, Operation Lifeline Sudan, under which 100,000 tons of food was moved into both overnment and SPLA-held areas of the Sudan, and this helped lessen the widespread starvation. However, due to Sudan’s human rights abuses and its pro-Iraqi stance during the Gulf War, many donors cut off much of their aid. They planned to hold a constitutional conference in September 1989. This meeting, however, never took place. On June 30, a military coup staged by the NIF (National Islamic Front), aborted the peace process while the ‘jihad’ unleashed a reign of terror in the North as well as the south.
The new regime escalated the war in the south to new levels of brutality with the backing of radical Islamic and Arab countries. Iran had become a source of enormous military and economic support. During this period, the civil war intensified and the economy continued to deteriorate. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 Southern Sudanese and Nuba children and women had been taken into slavery, mainly to North Sudan, during the raids that took place in Southern Sudanese towns and villages.
In 1991, because of Colonel Garang’s leadership of the SPLA, many opposing groups formed the Nasir faction of the rebel army. The attempt to overthrow Garang was led by Riek Machar and Lam Akol. Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organization moved to Sudan in 1991. Osama brought some wealth to Sudan while he directed some of his first terrorist attacks out of Sudan. During 1990 and 1991, the Sudanese government supported Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. This changed American attitudes toward the country.
Bill Clinton’s presidential administration prohibited American investment in the country of Sudan and supplied money to neighboring countries to repel Sudanese incursions. In 1994, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) aimed to identify the essential elements necessary to a just and comprehensive peace settlement. For example, the relationship between religion and the state, power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and the right of self-determination for the south. The Sudanese Government did not sign the DOP (Declaration of Principles) until 1997 after major battlefield losses to the SPLA.
Osama Bin Laden was outraged when the government allowed U. S. troops to be stationed in Saudi Arabia, which is the birthplace of Islam. In 1991, he was expelled from Saudi Arabia for anti-government activities. The Sudanese government harbored Osama Bin Laden in the 1990’s until the Clinton administration successfully pressured the government to expel him from Sudan, and after this he moved his organization to Afghanistan. Sudan faced a two year drought in 2000-2001 and the international community again responded to help mass starvation in Sudan.
International donors continued to provide large amounts of humanitarian aid to all parts of Sudan. The U. S. Government’s Sudan Peace Act of October 21, 2002 accused Sudan of genocide for killing more than 2 million civilians in the south during the civil war since 1983. It authorized the U. S. Government to spend $100 million in the years 2003, 2004, and 2005 to assist the population in areas of Sudan outside Sudanese government control. Peace talks between the southern rebels and the government made substantial progress in 2003 and early 2004.
A comprehensive peace agreement was signed on January 9, 2005 in Nairobi. The peace treaty included terms such as: The south will have self-government for six years, followed by a referendum on secession, both sides of conflict will merge their armed forces into a 39,000 strong force after six years, income from oil fields will be split 50/50 between the government and the rebels, jobs are to be split according to ratios, and Islamic law is to remain in the north, while continued use of the shari’a in the south is to be decided by the elected congregation.
The comprehensive peace agreement was ratified soon after its signature, by the GOSS National Assembly and the SPLM Liberation Council. The Agreement was formalized and given the force of law and authority. The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) had been formed as is the Southern Legislative Assemblies in the ten States of Southern Sudan. A temporary Constitution of Southern Sudan had been adopted, along with a number of constitutions for the States of Southern Sudan. Some States of Southern Sudan have yet to synchronize their States constitutions and bring them to agreement with the