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Recent History of Sudan

Differences in language, religion, ethnicity, and political power erupted in an unending civil war between government forces, strongly influenced by the National Islamic Front (NIF) and the southern rebels, whose most influential faction is the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).


Human rights violations, religious persecution, and allegations that Sudan had been a safe haven for terrorists isolated the country from most of the international community. In 1995, the UN imposed sanctions against it.

Ever since Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir's military coup in 1989, the de facto ruler of Sudan had been Hassan el-Turabi, a cleric and political leader who is a major figure in the pan-Arabic Islamic fundamentalist resurgence. On Aug. 20, 1998, the United States launched cruise missiles that destroyed a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Khartoum which allegedly manufactured chemical weapons.

Since 1999 international attention has been focused on evidence that slavery is widespread throughout Sudan. Arab raiders from the north of the country have enslaved thousands of southerners, who are black. The Dinka people have been the hardest-hit. Some sources point out that the raids intensified in the 1980s along with the civil war between north and south.

In 1999, however, Bashir ousted Turabi and placed him under house arrest. (He was freed in Oct. 2003.) Since then Bashir has made overtures to the West, and in Sept. 2001, the UN lifted its six-year-old sanctions. The U.S., however, still officially considers Sudan a terrorist state.

In July 2002 a ceasefire was signed between warring parties, which lead to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in early 2005, proposing a referendum on independence for the south in 2008 and a power-sharing government in Khartoum between Bashir and the SPLM. The ink was barely dry when John Garang was killed in a freak helicopter crash in the south. His successor, Salva Kiir, became vice-president of Sudan and president of South Sudan; but he has proved a less effective operator in holding Khartoum's implementation of the peace deal to account.
End to the Civil War!

In July 2002, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A reached a historic agreement on the role of state and religion and the right of southern Sudan to self-determination. This agreement, known as the Machakos Protocol and named after the town in Kenya where the peace talks were held, concluded the first round of talks sponsored by the IGAD. Peace talks resumed and continued during 2003, with discussions regarding wealth sharing and three contested areas.

On November 19, 2004, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A signed a declaration committing themselves to conclude a final comprehensive peace agreement by December 31, 2004, in the context of an extraordinary session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in Nairobi, Kenya.

In parallel to events in the south, an uprising in Darfur caused the army to move in in early 2004 and prompted a flood of refugees into Chad. The UN reported soon afterwards that government-sponsored local Arab militias or janjaweed were systematically murdering African villagers, with air support from the Sudanese army.In May 2004, a deal between the government and the SPLA was signed, ending 20 years of brutal civil war that resulted in the deaths of 2 million people. But it was overshadowed by developments in Darfur, : by September, the conflict was described as a genocide by the USA. African Union peacekeepers sent to Darfur have barely been able to monitor events, let alone enforce any peace. The crisis, with over a million refugees and tens of thousands dead, continues to limp pathetically on, with little hope of immediate resolution.

In an extraordinary session, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 1574, which welcomed the commitment of the government and the SPLM/A to achieve agreement by the end of 2004, and underscored the international community’s intention to assist the Sudanese people and support implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement.

It also demanded that the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) halt all violence in Darfur.

In keeping with their commitment to the UNSC, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A initialed the final elements of the comprehensive agreement on December 31, 2004.

The two parties formally signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2005. The U.S. and the international community have welcomed this decisive step forward for peace in Sudan.

A Tenuous Peace

The historic agreement provides for a ceasefire, withdrawal of troops from southern Sudan, and the repatriation and resettlement of refugees. It also stipulates that by the end of the six-year interim period, during which the various provisions of the CPA are implemented, there will be elections at all levels, including for president, state governors, and national and state legislatures.

With the establishment of the National Population Census Council, plans are anticipated for a population census to be conducted in 2007 in preparation for national elections. The CPA mandates that the government hold a referendum at the end of a six-year interim period in 2011, allowing southerners to secede if they so wish. While much has been accomplished during the last two years, progress of the agreement has faltered in areas related to north-south border demarcation, security provisions, and north-south sharing of oil revenues.On January 9, 2007, commemoration of the second anniversary of the CPA was held in Juba. During the ceremony, President Bashir and First Vice President Kiir exchanged forceful accusations concerning the delays in the implementation of the agreement. In his remarks, Salva Kiir described the achievement of the CPA as the most important achievement in modern Sudanese history and confirmed that there would be no retreat from the path of peace.

Darfur Crisis

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.

In 2003, while the historic north-south conflict was on its way to resolution, increasing reports of attacks on civilians, especially aimed at non-Arab tribes, began to surface.

A rebellion broke out in Darfur, in the extremely marginalized western Sudan, led by two rebel groups--the SLM/A and the JEM. These groups represented agrarian farmers who are mostly non-Arabized black African Muslims.

In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local tribal and other militias, which have come to be known as the "Janjaweed."

Their members were composed mostly of Arabized black African Muslims who herded cattle, camels, and other livestock.

Attacks on the civilian population by the Janjaweed, often with the direct support of Government of Sudan forces, have led to the death of tens of thousands of persons in Darfur, with an estimated 2.0 million internally displaced persons and another 234,000 refugees in neighboring Chad.

While the war in the south was fought against black Christians and animists, the Darfur conflict is being fought against black Muslims. Although the international community has reacted with alarm to the humanitarian disaster—unmistakably the world's worst—it has been ineffective in persuading the Sudanese government to rein in the Janjaweed.

Despite the EU and the U.S. describing the killing as genocide, and despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Sudan stop the Arab militias, the killing continued.

On September 9, 2004, Secretary of USA Colin L. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility--and that genocide may still be occurring." President Bush echoed this in July 2005, when he stated that the situation in Darfur was "clearly genocide."

A cease-fire between the parties was signed in N’Djamena, Chad, on April 8, 2004. However, despite the deployment of an African Union Military Mission to monitor implementation of the cease-fire and investigate violations, violence has continued.

The SLM/A and JEM negotiated with the Government of Sudan under African Union auspices, resulting in additional protocols addressing the humanitarian and security aspects of the conflict on November 9, 2004.

Like previous agreements, however, these were violated by both sides. Talks resumed in Abuja on June 10, 2005, resulting in a July 6 signing of a Declaration of Principles. Further talks were held in the fall and early winter of 2005 and covered power sharing, wealth sharing, and security arrangements. These negotiations were complicated by a split in SLM/A leadership.

The African Union, with the support of the UNSC, the U.S., and the rest of the international community, began deploying a larger monitoring and observer force in October 2004.

The UNSC had passed three resolutions (1556, 1564, and 1574), all intended to move the Government of Sudan to rein in the Janjaweed, protect the civilian population and humanitarian participants, seek avenues toward a political settlement to the humanitarian and political crisis, and recognize the need for the rapid deployment of an expanded African Union mission in Darfur. The U.S. has been a leader in pressing for strong international action by the United Nations and its agencies.

On May 5, 2006, under strong pressure from the AU and the international community, the government and an SLM/A faction led by Minni Minawi signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in Abuja. Unfortunately, the conflict in Darfur intensified shortly thereafter, led by rebel groups who refused to sign. In late August government forces began a major offensive on rebel areas in Northern Darfur.

On August 30, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 1706, authorizing the transition of AMIS to a larger more robust UN peacekeeping operation. To further facilitate an end to the conflict in Darfur, President Bush announced the appointment of Andrew S. Natsios as the Special Envoy for Sudan on September 19, 2006.

In an effort to resolve Sudan’s opposition to a UN force, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and African Union Commission Chair Alpha Oumar Konare convened a meeting of key international officials and representatives of several African and Arab states in Addis Ababa on November 16, 2006.

The agreement reached with the Government of Sudan provided for UN support to AMIS in three phases--light, heavy, and a joint AU/UN hybrid support operation. On November 30, the African Union Peace and Security Council also endorsed the Addis Ababa conclusions.

As of early January 2007, implementation of the light support package was underway and discussions involving phase two and three were moving forward incrementally.

In Feb. 2007, the International Criminal Court at the Hague named Ahmad Harun, Sudan's deputy minister for humanitarian affairs, and Ali Abd-al-Rahman, a militia leader, as suspects in the murder, rape, and displacement of thousands of civilians in the Darfur region.

In May, the Court issued arrest warrants for Haroun and Ali Kosheib, a Janjaweed leader, charging them with mass murder, rape, and other crimes. The Sudanese government refused to hand over them over to the Court.

The Bush administration expanded sanctions on Sudan in May, banning 31 Sudanese companies and four individuals from doing business in the U.S.

In October 2007, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) quit the national unity government, leaving the peace agreement signed in 2005 on the brink of collapse. The SPLA claimed that the governing party, the National Congress Party, had ignored its concerns over boundary between the north and south and how to divide the country's oil wealth.

Sudan faced international criticism once again in January 2008, when Musa Hilal, a Janjaweed leader, was appointed to a top government position as an adviser to the minister of federal affairs. Human Rights Watch called Hilal "the poster child for Janjaweed atrocities in Darfur."

Government forces and the janjaweed resumed their attacks in the Darfur region in February 2008, forcing as many as 45,000 people to flee their homes. The government claimed it was targeting the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group that has become increasingly powerful and is believed to be linked to the government of Chad. Civilians in the region, however, say the attacks have continued after the rebels escape.

Timeline: Darfur 2008

January: UN takes over Darfur peace force.
Within days Sudan apologises after its troops fired on a convoy of Unamid, the African Union-UN hybrid mission.
Government planes bomb rebel positions in West Darfur, turning some areas into no-go zones for aid workers.

February: Commander of the UN-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, Balla Keita, says more troops needed urgently in west Darfur.

March: Russia says it's prepared to provide some of the helicopters urgently needed by UN-African Union peacekeepers.
Tensions rise over clashes between an Arab militia and SPLM in Abyei area on north-south divide.
Presidents of Sudan and Chad sign accord aimed at halting five years of hostilities between their countries.

April: Counting begins in national census which is seen as a vital step towards holding democratic elections after the landmark 2005 north-south peace deal.

Last Updated on Monday 4th August 2008