Since Sudan gained independence from British
colonial power in 1956, the country was governed mainly
by a Muslim, Arab central government in the north.
Tensions between the regime and black Christian groups
in the south led to civil war in two stages: 1955–1972
and 1983–2005. The war caused great suffering to the
civilian population - up to 2.5 million dead and over
four million in flight - before dividing the country
into Sudan and South Sudan in 2011.
At the time of independence, a civil war was raging
in the south and the country's economy was in crisis due
to falling cotton prices. Weak governments succeeded
each other and in 1958 a military junta took power. The
military's corruption and unwillingness to end the war
led to a popular revolt in 1964, and a communist-led
major strike drove the junta away. The following five
years were marked by the fragmentation of the civil
parties. All attempts to make peace with the guerrilla
Anya Nya (Snake poison) in southern Sudan failed, and
the economy eroded.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Sudan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
In 1969, militants, led by Colonel Gaafar al-Numeiri,
seized power in a communist-backed coup. Al-Numeiri used
the support of the left to fight Islamists and large
landowners. Thousands of Mahdists (see Ancient History)
were killed in a massacre in 1970 and their leader Sadiq
al-Mahdi was exiled.
In the ruling revolutionary council, however, there
was a divide between al-Numeiri's Arab-nationalist group
and a leftist party. Numeiri began to persecute and
imprison leading Communists. In 1971, al-Numeiri was
deposed in a Communist-controlled military coup but
managed to regain power after a few days. Later that
year he was elected president. The Revolutionary Council
was dissolved and al-Numeiri's party the Sudanese
Socialist Union became the only one allowed.
Politically strengthened, al-Numeiri ended the war in
the south, which demanded approximately 400,000 lives.
In 1972, a peace agreement was signed with the
guerrillas, and the South was promised self-government
in a number of areas.
Communists are replaced by Islamists
Exiled leaders returned to government posts and high
government services as al-Numeiri's policies began to
turn right. However, the economy deteriorated
drastically, partly because Sudan received a million
refugees from the civil wars in Ethiopia, Uganda and
Chad. Price increases triggered riots in 1979, giving
al-Numeiri a pretext to finally crush the Communists.
After the recent election to Parliament, Islamists were
taken into the government.
The government's relationship with the south
deteriorated again. One reason was the strong resistance
in the south to the Jonglei Canal (see Agriculture and
Fisheries), which al-Numeiri began to build through the
Suds in collaboration with Egypt. When al-Numeiri
introduced Islamic sharia laws in 1983, South Sudanese
took up arms again. They did not trust the regime's
promises that Sharia would only apply to Muslims. A
Christian Dinka, John Garang, formed the Sudanese
People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) with the military
branch SPLA. Civil war broke out again after eleven
Even in the north, dissatisfaction with the regime
grew due to deteriorating living conditions and Sharia.
Claims broke out when al-Numeiri in 1985 abolished
subsidies on basic commodities and gasoline. In a coup,
a group of militants deposed al-Numeiri and dissolved
his party. The Military Council toned down the
application of Sharia and offered the South some
self-government. However, the SPLM / SPLA demanded
immediate transition to civilian rule and that the
Sharia should be completely abolished. After a brief
truce, the war continued.
During Numeiri's time in power, the national debt had
become unmanageable. In 1986, the IMF stopped all new
loans to Sudan. Following parliamentary elections that
same year, three years of unstable coalition
governments, led by the Umma Party with Sadiq al-Mahdi
as prime minister, followed.
Al-Bashir military coup to power
In June 1989, a group of militants seized power under
the leadership of Colonel Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir.
The coup took place just a day before the government
voted to repeal Sharia law and hold a peace meeting with
The military government dissolved Parliament, parties
and unions, and the Provisional Constitution of 1985 was
repealed. The National Islamic Front, later renamed the
National Congress Party (NCP), became the only allowed
party. Al-Bashir became head of state and government.
The courts were ordered to re-apply sharia except for
southern Sudan. In 1993, the ruling junta was replaced
by a civil-military government and al-Bashir formally
assumed the title of president.
Many opposition politicians were exiled during the
1990s. In 1996, presidential and parliamentary elections
were held, boycotted by the opposition. Al-Bashir was
elected president for a five-year term, but his role
became almost symbolic. Hassan al-Turabi, NCP
Secretary-General and Sudan's real ruler at this time,
became President of Parliament. He was about to further
strengthen his position when al-Bashir, as a
countermeasure, introduced a state of emergency and
dissolved Parliament in December 1999.
In January 2000, al-Bashir assumed the post of
chairman of the NCP. Al-Turabi was excluded and formed a
new party, the National People's Congress (PNC or PCP).
Al-Bashir's victory in the power struggle with al-Turabi
led to an ideological course change. The emphasis was
shifted from Muslim fundamentalism to Arab nationalism.
Al-Bashir won the presidential election in 2000, but the
election was boycotted by the opposition and was widely
considered manipulated. In the parliamentary elections
that year, Bashir faithful members won 355 of the 360
seats. All Turabi supporters were elected and al-Turabi
imprisoned but released in 2003. South Sudan did not
participate in the elections and again boycotted the
entire opposition boycott.
Rebellion in Darfur, peace agreement in the south
In 2003, most of the fighting between the government
in the capital Khartoum and the SPLM / SPLA guerrillas
in the south ended. Large oil discoveries had then given
both sides financial reasons to try to end the conflict.
Northern Sudan wanted to put a stop to the sabotage of
the newly built oil industry, southern Sudan wanted to
share in oil revenues. The neighboring countries were
also keen to see an end to the conflict, which caused
large streams of refugees across borders.
While the situation stabilized in the south, a new
uprising broke out in Darfur in western Sudan (read on
in Conflicts in Sudan).
In 2004, there were also at least two alleged coup
attempts. An unknown number of opposition politicians
and military commanders were arrested, among them Hassan
al-Turabi, who was now accused of supporting the JEM
rebel movement in Darfur. Al-Turabi was released again
in the summer of 2005.
In January 2005, after many trips, al-Bashir's
government and SPLM / SPLA signed a peace agreement
between northern and southern Sudan. As a result,
Africa's most protracted war was over.
Since the war began in 1983, according to some
sources, over two million people had died as a result of
the fighting or hardship that the war led to. Over four
million had fled. Both sides had recruited child
soldiers, assaulted civilians, deployed land mines and
used starvation as a weapon by stopping foreign aid
Under the peace agreement, Sudan would be a
federation between the northern and southern parts
during a six-year transition period. Towards the end of
this period, South Sudanese residents would decide in a
referendum whether they would remain in the federation
or form an independent state after the transition
Peace process with obstacles
In August 2005, Sudan's new federal parliament met.
The federal unification government became clear in
September. Politicians from the north took care of the
most important items, with the exception of the Foreign
Minister post which went to the SPLM. In the fall, the
South Sudanese in Juba formed their own, state
government and adopted their own constitution.
In July 2005, SPLM's founder, John Garang, died in an
air crash. Garang had just been appointed first vice
president in Sudan just before. He had advocated
self-government for the south, within a federation with
northern Sudan, and his death gave greater leeway to
those who wanted southern Sudan to become fully
independent. Salva Kiir Mayardit succeeded Garang as
leader of the SPLM, President of Southern Sudan and
First Vice President of Sudan.
Soon there were difficulties in implementing the
agreement. Two years after signing, no federal military
force had been formed. Khartoum accused the south side
of withdrawing from the joint work. A conflict over the
Abyei border district remained unsolved. It was also
disputed how the crisis in Darfur would be handled.
The south side accused Khartoum of delaying the
census that would precede the planned general elections
and of not dragging its soldiers out of the south. For a
short time, the SPLM boycotted the federal unification
In 2008, with great difficulty, the census was
carried out throughout the country, which would form the
basis for a future distribution of resources between
north and south. When the figures were reported, the
leaders of the southern regime accused them of wanting
to make the South Sudanese appear fewer than they were
(compare Population and Language). A series of outbreaks
of violence in southern Sudan sparked unrest. The
general elections that were to be carried out before the
southern referendum on independence were postponed
Contested and complicated choices
In April 2010, the United Nations described the
events as one of the most complicated events ever, and
the preparations were not the best. The press was
censored, the parties did not run any public campaigns,
and the media did not inform the public about the
elections. The US-based human rights organization Human
Rights Watch described harassment, demonstration bans
and other human rights violations that authorities have
committed in both northern and southern Sudan.
In large areas of Darfur, no elections would be
conducted, and hundreds of thousands of refugees in
Darfur had not even been registered as voters.
After problems with delays, hassles with voting
lengths and reports of cheating and harassment, the
elections ranged from three to five days. After nearly
two weeks of voting, it was announced that President
al-Bashir had been re-elected with just over 68 percent
of the vote. SPLM's candidate Yasir Arman, a secular
Muslim who led the party's northern branch, got about 22
percent despite withdrawing his candidacy after
suspicions of planned cheating.
At the same time, elections were held by a president
in southern Sudan, where Salva Kiir received 93 percent
of the vote. Former Foreign Minister Lam Akol, who broke
with the SPLM and formed a new party, gained 7 percent.
Parallel to the presidential elections, elections
were also held for the federal parliament and southern
Sudan's regional parliament as well as governor
elections throughout the country. In the north, NCP's
dominance was total and in the south almost all places
went to SPLM. In the new federal government, NCP
received 24 ministerial posts and SPLM 8. Three smaller
parties were appointed each minister.
The border crossing through the district of Abyei,
one of the issues of the possible division of the
country, had been referred to the Permanent Arbitration
Court in The Hague, and both sides had said they would
respect the ruling. The court's opinion came in July
2009 and provided, among other things, the most
important oil field in the area to northern Sudan.
Disagreement continued, and in July 2010 al-Bashir said
that the entire border demarcation must be resolved
before the referendum in the south.
The land is divided
While the preparations for the referendum continued
at a slow pace, the number of armed paratroopers in the
border area increased and the military exchanged mutual
accusations of attacks.
Despite a number of problems, the referendum in the
south could be carried out for a week in January 2011.
Mostly everything went smoothly, but in Abyei, unrest
was reported to have required at least 30 lives. The
planned separate referendum on Abyei's future status had
already forced the parties to postpone early.
More than 80 percent of voters participated in the
election and almost 99 percent voted in favor of
independence. President al-Bashir declared that he
accepted the election results, but in Northern Sudan,
the disappointment was great that the country would be
divided. There was also dissatisfaction with high living
costs and limited political freedoms. Inspired by the
rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt, residents of Khartoum
and other big cities tried to demonstrate with demands
for the regime's departure, but protests were turned
down by riot police. Several universities were closed
and several people were arrested.
After a period of unrest in the south, in May 2011,
the north side army entered Abyei and expelled the south
side, and a few weeks later fierce fighting broke out in
the neighboring state of South Kurdufan as well. New
streams of refugees arose, and unrest was great for a
new large-scale conflict when only weeks remained for
the intended partition of Sudan. In early July, just
days before South Sudan's Declaration of Independence,
the two governments agreed to put Abyei and other
unresolved issues of conflict on ice for the time being
and continue negotiations after the new state's
President al-Bashir participated in the celebration
when in July 2011 South Sudan declared itself
independent in the new capital Juba. Despite previous
threats, Sudan was one of the first states to recognize
South Sudan diplomatically.
Economic downturn and social unrest
A few days after South Sudan's independence, the
Khartoum Parliament passed a law that deprived South
Sudanese residents of the north of their Sudanese
citizenship. Earlier, South Sudanese public sector
employees in the north had been laid off. The South
Sudanese, which numbered between half a million and one
million people, were given a nine-month deadline to
obtain a residence permit or leave the country.
The government also implemented a comprehensive
economic crisis package to try to compensate for the
large loss of income caused by the split when many oil
sources went to South Sudan. The Finance Minister
estimated that the state's revenue would shrink by 36
percent. Government spending would thus be reduced and
tax collection improved. A new currency, the new
Sudanese pound, was introduced in an attempt to curb
In 2012, al-Bashir was shaken by regime-critical
demonstrations, but at the end of the year protests
erupted after a series of opposition leaders were
arrested. However, dissatisfaction with the regime
increased as the country's economy deteriorated. When
new protests against increased fuel prices in the fall
of 2013 led to dozens of deaths (the task varies in
different sources) in confrontations with the police, it
triggered a crisis within the NCP. Party members
critical of the actions of the police - and the
government - chose to break away and form a new party,
called the Movement for Reform Now. The outbreak was
labeled as the most serious domestic political crisis
for al-Bashir and his immediate circle in a long time.
Despite NCP's internal teardown, al-Bashir won 94
percent of the vote in the April 2015 presidential
election and NCP took home as many as 323 of the 426
parliamentary seats. The regime could thus continue to
rule Sudan for another five years.
Subsequently, Sudan's policy was increasingly
characterized by financial problems for the state: too
low oil revenues, a weak currency and a lack of foreign
capital. Rapidly rising food and fuel prices led to new
popular demonstrations. In September 2018, al-Bashir
slammed his government from 31 to 21 ministers to cut