Sudan - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion

Read about Sudan: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...



Sudan, republic in northeastern Africa, the largest country of the African continent. The country’s north and south stand in stark contrast to one another: The dry, desert north is populated largely by Arab Muslims, while the wet, swampy south is populated by black African Christians and animists. The site of several powerful ancient states, Sudan was controlled by Egypt and Britain until the 20th century. An estimated 1.5 million Sudanese people died in a long and brutal civil war between the north and south, lasting from 1983 to 2004. Another conflict that erupted in the western region of Darfur in 2003 has claimed more than 300,000 lives and left more than 2 million people displaced from their homes.

Sudan is bounded on the north by Egypt; on the east by the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia; on the south by Kenya, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire); and on the west by the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya. Sudan has a total area of 2,492,360 sq km (962,306 sq mi). Khartoum is the capital and largest city.


Sudan has a maximum length from north to south of more than 2,250 km (1,400 mi); the extreme width of the country is about 1,730 km (about 1,075 mi). It is divided into three separate natural regions, ranging from desert in the north, covering about 30 percent of all Sudan, through a vast semiarid region of steppes and low mountains in central Sudan, to a region of vast swamps (the As Sudd region) and rain forest in the south.

Major topographical features of Sudan are the Nile River, its headstreams the White Nile and Blue Nile, and the tributaries of these rivers. The White Nile traverses the country from the Uganda border to a point near Khartoum, where it joins the Blue Nile to form the Nile proper. The Blue Nile rises in the Ethiopian Plateau and flows across east central Sudan. Of the Nile tributaries the most important is the ‘Aţbarah, which also rises in the Ethiopian Plateau. The Libyan Desert, a barren waste broken by rugged uplands, covers most of Sudan west of the Nile proper. The Nubian Desert lies in the region east of the Nile proper and the ‘Aţbarah. The Red Sea Hills are located along the coast. The highest point in Sudan, Kinyeti (3,187 m/10,456 ft), is in the southeast.

Climate in Sudan

Sudan has a tropical climate. Seasonal variations are most sharply defined in the desert zones, where winter temperatures as low as 4°C (40°F) are common, particularly after sunset. Summer temperatures often exceed 40°C (110°F) in the desert zones, and rainfall is negligible. Dust storms, called haboobs, frequently occur. High temperatures also prevail to the south throughout the central plains region, but the humidity is generally low. In the vicinity of Khartoum the average annual temperature is about 27°C (about 80°F); and annual rainfall, most of which occurs between mid-June and September, is about 250 mm (about 10 in). Equatorial climatic conditions prevail in southern Sudan. In this region the average annual temperature is about 29°C (about 85°F), annual rainfall is more than 1,000 mm (40 in), and the humidity is excessive.

Natural Resources of Sudan

The primary natural resources of Sudan are water, supplied by the Nile River system, and fertile soil. Large areas of cultivable land are situated in the region between the Blue Nile and the ‘Aţbarah and between the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Other cultivable land is in the narrow Nile Valley and in the valleys of the plains region. Irrigation is extensively employed in these areas. Sudan has significant reserves of petroleum, chromite, gold, and iron ore.

Plants and Animals in Sudan

Vegetation is sparse in the desert zones of Sudan. Various species of acacia occur in the regions contiguous to the Nile Valley. Large forested areas are found in central Sudan, especially in the river valleys. Among the most common trees are the hashab, talh, heglig, and several species of acacia, notably sunt, laot, and kittr. Trees such as ebony, silag, and baobab are common in the Blue Nile Valley. Ebony, mahogany, and other varieties of timber trees are found in the White Nile Basin. Other species of indigenous vegetation include cotton, papyrus, castor bean plants, and rubber plants.

Animal life is abundant in the plains and equatorial regions of Sudan. Elephants are numerous in the southern forests, and crocodiles and hippopotamuses abound in the rivers. Other large animals include giraffes, leopards, and lions. Monkeys, various species of tropical birds, and poisonous reptiles are also found, and insects—especially mosquitoes, seroot flies, and tsetse flies—infest the equatorial belt.

Environmental Issues in Sudan

Scarce resources, drought, and warfare led to widespread famine and environmental destruction in Sudan during its civil war. Expanding human settlements threaten the country’s forests. Traditional fuels such as wood provide 75 percent (1997) of Sudan’s energy supply, and the demand for charcoal has led to the clearing of many Sudanese forests. Deforestation, overgrazing, and poor land management practices all speed the process of desertification, as the Sahara encroaches onto previously arable and forested land.

Sudan has designated 4.7 percent (2007) of its land as protected areas, but poaching threatens animal populations in these areas and throughout the country. Comprehensive conservation efforts are hampered by ongoing civil conflicts.


The population of Sudan is composed principally of Arabs in the north and black Africans in the south; many Arabs are of mixed ancestry. Other ethnic groups in northern Sudan include the Beja, Jamala, and Nubian peoples. The northern two-thirds of Sudan is an area of Islamic culture. The major black ethnic groups in southern Sudan are the Azande, Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk. European culture and religion have influenced the southern peoples, but traditional customs remain strong.

Population Characteristics of Sudan

The 2009 estimated population was 41,087,825, giving the country an overall population density of 17 persons per sq km (45 per sq mi). The most densely settled area is at the juncture of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Sudan’s population is growing at a rate of 2.14 percent (2009) annually.

Principal Cities and Political Divisions of Sudan

The principal city is Khartoum, the capital; other major cities include Omdurman and Khartoum North, major industrial centers, and Port Sudan, a seaport on the Red Sea. Sudan is divided into 26 states.

Religion and Languages spoken in Sudan

About 70 percent of the people of Sudan are Muslims, some 15 percent are Christians, and most of the remainder follow traditional religions. The people of northern Sudan are predominantly Sunni Muslims (Sunni Islam). Most of the people in the south are either animists, who adhere to indigenous religious beliefs, or are Christians. The official language of Sudan is Arabic; English is widely spoken, and African languages are used in the south.

Education in Sudan

Education is free and compulsory in Sudan between the ages of 6 and 13. About 60 percent (2002–2003) of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school; 35 percent of secondary school-aged children attend school. About 63 percent (2005) of Sudanese people are literate, and significantly more men are literate than women. Institutions of higher education include the University of Khartoum (1956), Omdurman Islamic University (1912), the University of Juba (1975), and Al-Neelain University (1955), located in Khartoum.


The University of Khartoum Library is noted for its African and Sudanese collection. Other libraries in Sudan include the Flinders Petrie Library (named after British Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie), the Geological Research Authority of the Sudan Library, and the Sudan Medical Research Laboratories Library, all of which are in Khartoum. A major collection of historical documents is housed in the National Records Office, in Khartoum.


The Sudan National Museum, in Khartoum, has collections of ancient artifacts. The Khalifa’s House, in Omdurman, contains a collection of relics of the Mahdists (for more information, see the History section of this article). Also of interest are the Sudan Natural History Museum and the Ethnographical Museum, both in Khartoum.


Agriculture continues to dominate the economy of Sudan. Some 70 percent of economically active people are engaged in agricultural or pastoral activities. Economic growth was virtually nonexistent between the mid-1960s and 1992, when drought and civil war caused the annual gross domestic product (GDP) to fall to a mere $6 billion, or $234 per capita. The GDP began to increase in the mid-1990s; by 2007 it was $46.2 billion, or $1,199 per capita.

Agriculture of Sudan

The majority of Sudan’s population derives its living from crop farming or grazing, but only 7 percent of the country’s land area is cultivated. Agriculture accounts for about 28 percent (2007) of Sudan’s GDP. Chronic droughts lead to decreased agricultural production and have plagued Sudan for decades. Sudanese farmers raise grains (particularly sorghum, millet, and wheat), vegetables, and livestock (particularly sheep, goats, and cattle) for subsistence. Major export crops include cotton, sugar, sesame seeds, wheat, sorghum, and groundnuts. Livestock, in particular, sheep, also represents an important export commodity.

Forestry and Fishing in Sudan

The major forest product of Sudan is gum arabic, which is an ingredient in candy, perfumes, processed food, and pharmaceuticals. It is also used in printing. Most of the world’s supply of gum arabic comes from Sudan. Other forestry products include beeswax, tannin, senna, and timber, especially mahogany. Most of the trees cut in Sudan are used for fuel. Fishing is carried on along the rivers and on the coast.

Mining in Sudan

Petroleum was discovered in western Sudan in the 1970s, but Sudan did not actively pursue oil production until the 1990s. The country began exporting oil in 1999. Other exploited minerals include chromite, gold, and iron ore.

Manufacturing in Sudan

Sudanese manufacturing is largely centered on the processing of raw materials such as petroleum, cotton, and sugar. Sudanese factories also produce paper, textiles, cement, cigarettes, and beverages.

Energy in Sudan

In 2006 Sudan produced 4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from 334 million kilowatt-hours in 1968. Electricity is generated by large hydroelectric installations at Khashm al-Qirbah and Sennar and by thermal power plants burning refined petroleum. In 2006 about 34 percent of Sudan’s electricity was generated by hydroelectric facilities and about 66 percent by thermal plants.

Currency in Sudan

The official unit of currency is the Sudanese pound, divided into 100 piastres. In January 2007 the pound was introduced to replace the dinar, which had replaced a currency also called the pound in 1992. The currency conversion in 2007 was a requirement of the peace agreement that ended the civil war between north and south in 2004. The dinar had not been accepted or commonly used in the predominantly Christian and animist south, where it was considered a symbol of the government’s “Arabization” policies. Islamic law had been applied to banking practices in 1991.

Foreign Trade in Sudan

In 2007 imports totaled $8.42 billion and exports, $8.15 billion. Oil dominates Sudan’s exports. Other important exports are sheep, gold, sesame seeds, cotton, and gum arabic. The principal imports are machinery, transportation equipment, iron and steel, cereals, and textiles. The main purchasers of Sudan’s exports are China, Japan, South Korea, France, and Saudi Arabia; chief sources of imports are China, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France.

Transportation and Communications in Sudan

The Sudanese railroad system, comprising 5,478 km (3,404 mi) of track, links most of the major cities and towns. Supplementing the railroad system is traffic on 5,300 km (3,300 mi) of navigable waterways and 11,900 km (7,394 mi) of roads. Only about 36 percent (1999) of Sudan’s roads are paved. A government-owned airline, Sudan Airways, maintains regular services throughout the country and operates scheduled international flights. Several other domestic and foreign airlines also serve Sudan.

The privatized Sudan Telecommunications Company provides mainline and mobile telephone services and Internet service. The government’s Sudan National Broadcasting Corporation provides radio service in Arabic, English, French, and Swahili. Sudan Television broadcasts about 60 hours of programming per week. A number of daily newspapers circulate in Sudan; all are subject to government censorship.


A 1989 military coup brought the Revolutionary Command Council, under the leadership of General Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to power in Sudan. A southern Sudanese rebel group, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), fought government forces until the two sides signed a peace accord in 2004. The peace accord led to a new interim Sudanese constitution, promulgated in 2005, which established a national unity government to oversee a six-year transitional period. The constitution granted significant autonomy to southern Sudan, and allocated 34 percent of the offices in the national unity government to southerners. In 2011, near the end of the six-year transitional period, the people of southern Sudan were to decide by public referendum whether to remain part of Sudan or declare their independence.

Executive of Sudan

Under the 2004 peace accord, Bashir remained president. In 2005 a member of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the political wing of the SPLA, was named first vice president.

Legislature of Sudan

Under the interim constitution, legislative power is vested in a 450-member National Assembly. The constitution calls on the president, in consultation with the first vice president, to appoint 52 percent of the seats to the National Congress Party, 28 percent to the SPLM, 14 percent to northern opposition parties, and the remaining 6 percent to southern opposition parties.

Judiciary in Sudan

Sudan’s judicial system is divided into two major branches, a civil branch handling most cases and an Islamic branch handling only personal and family matters. The civil branch includes a supreme court, courts of appeal, major courts, and magistrates courts.

Local Government of Sudan

Sudan is divided into 26 states. Each state is administered by an appointed governor. The 2005 interim constitution allowed for the election of a president of the government of southern Sudan and the establishment of a transitional Southern Sudan Assembly.

Defense of Sudan

In 2006 the armed forces of Sudan numbered about 104,800 active personnel. The army had 100,000 members; the navy, 1,800; and the air force, 3,000.


From remote antiquity until relatively recent times the northern portion of the territory comprising modern Sudan formed part of the region known as Nubia. The history of Nilotic, or southern, Sudan before the 19th century is obscure. Egyptian penetration of Nubia began during the period of ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom (about 2575-2134 BC). By 1550 BC, when the 18th Dynasty was founded, Nubia had been reduced to the status of an Egyptian province. The region between the Nubian Desert and the Nile River contains numerous monuments, ruins, and other relics of the period of Egyptian dominance, which was ended by a Nubian revolt in the 8th century BC. A succession of independent kingdoms was subsequently established in Nubia. The most powerful of these, Makuria, a Christian state centered at Old Dunqulah and founded in the 6th century AD, endured until the early-14th-century invasion of the Egyptian Mamluks. Another, Alwa, its capital at Soba in the vicinity of present-day Khartoum, was overwhelmed in about 1500 by the Funj, black Muslims of uncertain origin, who established a sultanate at Sennar.

During the 16th century, the Funj emerged as a powerful Islamic state, and Sennar became one of the great cultural centers of Islam. Dissension among the leading Funj tribes vastly weakened the kingdom during the final years of the 18th century. In 1820 it was invaded by an Egyptian army. The ensuing war ended in 1822 with a complete victory for Egypt (at that time a province of the Ottoman Empire). The greater part of Nubia thereupon became an Egyptian province, known as the Egyptian Sudan. Turkish-Egyptian rule, which was marked by southward expansion of the province, endured for 60 years. Internal unrest, resulting from the slave trade and general administrative incompetence, mounted steadily during this period. Between 1877 and 1880, when British general and administrator Charles George Gordon served as governor of Egyptian Sudan, efforts were made to suppress the slave trade and other abuses.

Mahdist Revolt

The anarchic state of affairs that developed after Gordon’s resignation culminated in 1882 in a revolution led by Muhammad Ahmad, who in 1881 had proclaimed himself the Mahdi, the person who, according to an Islamic tradition, would rid the world of evil. The rebels won successive victories, including the annihilation of an Egyptian army in November 1883 and the capture of Khartoum in January 1885. With the latter victory, in which Gordon was killed, the Mahdists won complete control over the province.

Conditions in Egyptian Sudan deteriorated under the rule of the Mahdi and of the caliph Abdullah al-Taashi, who succeeded the Mahdi in 1885. The caliph waged incessant war against the Nilotes, adding large sections of territory to Egyptian Sudan, and undertook various other military adventures, notably an abortive attempt to conquer Egypt in 1889. Economic and social chaos engulfed Sudan during the closing years of the caliph’s reign. Meanwhile, Egypt had become a virtual possession of Britain. In 1896 the British and Egyptian governments, alarmed at the spread of French influence in Nilotic Sudan, dispatched a joint military expedition against the caliph. This expedition, led by General Horatio Herbert Kitchener, routed the caliph’s forces at Omdurman on September 2, 1898. The Anglo-Egyptian victory brought about the complete collapse of the Mahdist movement. On January 19, 1899, the British and Egyptian governments concluded the agreement that provided for joint sovereignty in Sudan.

British-Egyptian Sovereignty

Despite growing discontent among Egyptian nationalists, who demanded termination of British authority in Sudan, the Egyptian government concluded a treaty with Britain in 1936 that confirmed, among other things, the convention of 1899. Egyptian antagonism over the arrangement became especially acute following World War II (1939-1945). In 1946 the two nations began negotiations to revise the treaty of 1936. The Egyptian government demanded British withdrawal from Sudan, and the British proposed certain modifications of the existing regime. The negotiations between the two countries ended in deadlock.

On June 19, 1948, after consultations with certain Sudanese officials, the British governor-general in Sudan promulgated reforms purportedly calculated to give the Sudanese experience in self-government as a prerequisite to decisions concerning the ultimate political status of Sudan. The newly authorized legislative assembly was elected in November. Supporters of political groups advocating union with Egypt boycotted the election. In December 1950 the legislative assembly, dominated by groups favoring Sudanese independence, adopted a resolution asking Egypt and the United Kingdom to grant full self-government to Sudan in 1951.

During 1950 and 1951 the Egyptian government continued to demand British withdrawal from Sudan. The legislature denounced the joint sovereignty agreement and the 1936 treaty in October 1951, and it proclaimed Faruk I king of Egypt and Sudan. Anglo-Egyptian negotiations on the status of Sudan were resumed following the forced abdication of King Faruk in July 1952. On February 12, 1953, the two governments signed an agreement providing self-determination for Sudan within a three-year transitional period.

Sudanization and Independence

In compliance with the provisions of the agreement, the first Sudanese parliamentary elections were held late in 1953. The pro-Egyptian National Unionist Party won a decisive victory. The first all-Sudanese government assumed office on January 9, 1954. Designated “Appointed Day,” the date marked the official beginning of the transitional period of “Sudanization,” a process of replacing all foreigners in responsible governmental and military posts by Sudanese.

The Sudanization program, which was completed in August 1955, accentuated the geographic and social differences between northern and southern Sudan. A mutiny of southern units of the Sudanese army broke out on August 19, and it was put down by government forces. On August 30 the parliament approved a measure stipulating that Sudan should determine its future status by means of a plebiscite. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and Egypt agreed to withdraw their troops by November 12, 1955. On December 19 the Sudanese parliament, bypassing the projected plebiscite, declared Sudan an independent state.

The Republic of Sudan was formally established on January 1, 1956. Egypt and the United Kingdom immediately recognized the new nation. Sudan became a member of the Arab League on January 19 and of the United Nations on November 12.

Abboud’s Rule

The first general parliamentary elections after Sudan attained independence were held on February 27, 1958. The Umma Party won a majority and formed a new government on March 20. It was overthrown on November 17 by Lieutenant General Ibrahim Abboud, the commander in chief of the armed forces. Abboud, reputedly an advocate of closer relations with Egypt, dismissed parliament, suspended the constitution, declared martial law, and established a cabinet with himself as prime minister.

In November 1964, President Abboud resigned. He was replaced by a supreme council of state. A revolt in southern Sudan that had begun under Abboud against domination by the Arab north continued as a civil war until March 1972, when the south was granted some autonomy. A shift toward a pro-Arab foreign policy was evident after the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (see Six-Day War).

Nimeiry’s Regime

In 1969 a group of radical army officers, led by Colonel (later Field Marshal) Gaafar Muhammad al-Nimeiry, seized power and set up a government under a revolutionary council. Political tension continued, however, and several coups were attempted. During this period Nimeiry, who became the first elected president of Sudan in 1972, consolidated his power. In early 1973 a new constitution was promulgated. Initially, Nimeiry turned to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Libya for support, but after coup attempts (1976) allegedly backed by Libya and local Communists, he turned to Egypt, conservative Arab states, and the West for political and economic aid. Relations with the United States, disrupted by the murder of two American diplomats by Arab terrorists in Khartoum in 1973, were also repaired. Nimeiry was the only Arab leader to back Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat in his peace negotiations with Israel. Sadat’s assassination in 1981 left Sudan considerably more vulnerable to the enmity of Libya. The country’s stability was also threatened by a large influx of refugees from Eritrea, Uganda, and Chad, which seriously strained its resources.

President Nimeiry won reelection to a third term in April 1983. In September he issued a blanket pardon for some 13,000 prisoners and announced a revision of the penal code to accord with Islamic law (Sharia). Martial law, imposed in April 1984 in the wake of rising tensions with Libya, protests over food price increases, and opposition in the predominantly non-Muslim south to Islamization, remained in force until late September. Renewed unrest led in April 1985 to Nimeiry’s ouster in a bloodless military coup.

Civil War

After a year of military rule, Sadiq al-Mahdi, the great grandson of Muhammad Ahmad, was elected prime minister in the first free election in 18 years. Voting was postponed in 37 southern constituencies, however, due to a guerrilla war led by southern rebels known as the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) against the Muslim Arab government. The newly elected assembly was to draft and approve a new constitution and to hold elections every four years. However, severe food shortages, guerrilla unrest, a mounting debt crisis, and other problems weakened the government’s power.

In June 1989 a military coup headed by Brigadier Omar Hassan al-Bashir toppled the Mahdi government. A state of emergency was imposed, and Sudan was ruled through a 15-member Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation. Conditions deteriorated in the early 1990s, as the Bashir regime suppressed political opposition and stepped up the war against non-Muslim rebels in the south. In 1993 Bashir took tentative steps toward multiparty democracy, including the dissolution of the military government, but the decision to retain most of his former ministers prompted many to perceive these changes as largely cosmetic.

In January 1994 about 100,000 refugees fled to Uganda when Sudanese troops led an offensive against the SPLA. In March safety zones were established for the transportation of provisions and relief workers to the war-torn south. Throughout 1994 mediators from the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), consisting of representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, attempted to negotiate a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the SPLA. In September the negotiations resulted in the creation of the Supreme Council for Peace, an 89-member body with 38 representatives from the rebel-dominated south. In March 1995 former United States president Jimmy Carter moderated a two-month cease-fire in an effort to allow relief workers to treat cases of river blindness and guinea worm disease in the south. The SPLA resumed its attack in July.

In March 1996 Bashir and his supporters swept presidential and legislative elections. Hassan al-Turabi, the head of a powerful Islamic fundamentalist movement called the National Islamic Front and a national spiritual leader, was elected to the National Assembly and made speaker. In April Sudan faced international condemnation after evidence surfaced linking Bashir’s government with a June 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia. In May 1996 the United Nations (UN) levied sanctions against Sudan for refusing to extradite to Ethiopia three suspects in the assassination attempt.

By the mid-1990s the SPLA, led by John Garang, a former officer in the Sudanese army, controlled most of southern Sudan and a number of important towns. In mid-1998 peace talks, the SPLA and the government tentatively agreed to accept an internationally supervised vote on self-determination in the south. However, no date was set for the vote, and the talks failed to produce a cease-fire. Peace talks continued through the 1990s, but they repeatedly stalled over major issues such as the government’s unwillingness to separate state and religion and disagreement over where the boundary between north and south would lie. Several temporary cease-fires were called during this time in support of the peace effort and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, including the delivery of food and vaccines, to the war-torn south.

In December 1999 a power struggle between Bashir and Turabi came to a head. Turabi attempted to pass constitutional amendments designed to reduce Bashir’s presidential powers by calling for the creation of the office of a prime minister, accountable to the National Assembly, and the removal of presidential control over the selection of state governors. In response to this threat to his authority, Bashir dismissed Turabi and declared a state of emergency, dissolving the National Assembly and suspending parts of the constitution.

Sudan’s main opposition parties boycotted December 2000 presidential and legislative elections, criticizing the ongoing state of emergency and the fact that voting would not be held in most southern constituencies. Bashir was reelected with 86.5 percent of the vote and his party, the National Congress Party, won 355 of the 360 seats in the National Assembly.

Violence in Darfur

As the south grew more peaceful in the first years of the 21st century, violence flared in the western region of Darfur. In 2003 rebel groups in Darfur attacked government garrisons in the region. The Darfurian rebels demanded greater autonomy for Darfur and the settlement of many local grievances, especially over land rights. The government responded to the garrison attacks with a ferocious counterinsurgency campaign involving an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed as well as government troops. In the process, entire villages were destroyed and many civilians were brutally tortured, raped, and killed.

The government and Darfurian rebel groups signed a cease-fire in April 2004, but the violence soon resumed. In July 2004 the United Nations (UN) Security Council passed a resolution demanding that the Sudanese government disarm the Janjaweed militia or face the threat of punitive measures. However, the government denied sponsoring the militia, which continued to mount attacks in Darfur. In August the African Union (AU) began sending peacekeeping forces to Darfur. However, the AU mission, which eventually included 7,000 troops, proved unable to control the violence. The government of Sudan resisted international pressure to allow United Nations peacekeeping forces in Darfur.

The AU convened peace talks in 2006 that resulted in a detailed peace agreement in May. However, not all of the rebel groups signed the agreement, and a new round of fighting broke out in Darfur. Efforts to obtain a lasting peace agreement continued in 2007. In June 2007 AU and UN officials met with Sudanese government officials in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The talks resulted in an agreement to allow a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force of about 20,000 provided that a majority of the troops were African. In July 2007 the UN Security Council authorized a force of about 26,000 peacekeepers to be deployed in Darfur, including the 7,000 AU forces already there.

Earlier, in 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into war crimes committed in Darfur. The UN estimated that as a result of the conflict in Darfur more than 200,000 people, mostly civilians, died from violence, starvation, or disease. In addition, more than 2 million people crowded refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring border areas in Chad, creating a dire humanitarian crisis. International relief workers faced extreme difficulties reaching those in need due to the continuing violence and strict restrictions placed on their movements by the Sudanese government.

In June 2007 the Sudanese government agreed to a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. Sudan reportedly insisted that a majority of the peacekeeping forces be made up of African soldiers. In July the UN Security Council authorized the creation of a 26,000-member peacekeeping force to be deployed in Darfur. The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) launched at the beginning of 2008. By March 2009 about 65 percent of the UNAMID force had been deployed in the region.

Also in March 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir, charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not genocide. It was the first time the ICC had issued an indictment of a sitting head of state. The court, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, charged Bashir with five counts of crimes against humanity, comprising extermination, forcible transfer, murder, rape, and torture. Two counts of war crimes stemmed from attacks against a civilian population and for pillaging.

Bashir’s government denounced the arrest warrant, and demonstrations assailing the ICC were held in Khartoum, the capital. Sudan began expelling humanitarian aid agencies from the country, including the food relief program Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders, but it was unclear if the government would interfere with the continued deployment of UNAMID. Under the rules of the UN charter and UN Security Council, the Sudanese government was required to arrest Bashir, but Sudan’s ambassador to the UN said Sudan was not bound by the court and would not arrest Bashir. The ambassador charged that the UN was attempting to impose regime change on Sudan. The Sudanese government had earlier defied the ICC in April 2007 when it refused to hand over two Sudanese men indicted by the ICC for war crimes for their actions in Darfur. UNAMID’s authority does not extend to arresting war crimes suspects.

Political observers differed on what impact the ICC indictment might have on Bashir’s political future. Some maintained that it would put pressure on him and possibly isolate him from political allies. Others argued that it could have the effect of rallying Sudanese around him.

Peace in the South

In January 2005 the Sudanese government and the SPLA signed a comprehensive peace agreement to end Sudan’s 21-year-long civil war. It was the longest-running conflict in Africa and claimed an estimated 1.5 million lives. The agreement outlined a six-year transitional period, during which southern Sudan would establish a separate administration and enjoy relative autonomy. The agreement established an interim national unity government with a power-sharing arrangement in which the National Congress Party would have a 52 percent share of power and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the political wing of the SPLA, would have a 28 percent share. Opposition parties in the north would have a 14 percent share, and opposition parties in the south would make up the remaining 6 percent. Oil revenues would be divided evenly between the north and south, although most of Sudan’s oil is located in the south. According to the agreement, at the end of the six-year period the people of the south were to vote on whether or not to secede from Sudan.

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