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Sudan: Overview of the Civil Wars and Current Challenges

Prepared by James Petermeier, World Without Genocide Intern

This article provides background information about the pre-colonial and colonial periods in Sudan; the struggle for independence; the two civil wars; and the ongoing conflicts between Sudan and the new country of South Sudan over oil, water, identity, and control.

Introduction: The Birth of Modern Sudan to Independence

Before the “modern era” of Sudan (prior to 1821), at least four developed states had already existed: the Fur and Funj sultanates and the Azande and Shilluk Kingdoms(1). The Fur sultunate inhabited Sudan in what is modern day Darfur and the western regions of Northern Kordofan State(2). The people spoke Arabic and Fur (an African Language) and embraced Sufist Islam (3). Throughout the history of the Fur sultunates, various dynasties were successful merchants and agriculturists (4).

The Funj Sultunate was actually a federation of sultunates centered around the Blue Nile regions (5). The Funj people spoke various African languages and also embraced Sufist Islam (6).

The Azande Kingdom, centered in Equatoria, undertook the practice of growing by conquering and assimilating smaller tribes (7). This tribe practiced traditional religions and was based on agriculture and farming (8).

In 1821, Egypt, with the Turkish Ottoman empire, conquered Sudan (9). Following the invasion, the leader of the Turco-Egyptian forces absorbed several armies from within Sudan (10). After the occurrence of several revolts and the murder of his son, the Ottoman Turkish Viceroy swept his army across Sudan (11). While stability was brought to the region under this rule, it was brought at a high price (the economy was based on high taxation, as well as the slave and ivory trades) (12).

Moreover, Egyptians brought with them a specific form of Islam, different from what had been practiced in Sudan, and it remains the dominant form of Islam among elites in the Nile Valley (13). The relationship of this form of Egyptian Islam with the Sufi orders(i) has been the basis for historic tensions between the teachings and scholarly traditions of Islam in Sudan (14).

In the 1860s, the Ottoman viceroy brought modern technology to Sudan and unsuccessfully attempted, under pressure from the British, to abolish the slave trade in the state (15). After efforts to expand the Egyptian Empire, and almost bankrupting his government, the viceroy was removed from power in 1879 (16). These events brought the Turco-Egyptian imperial presence to a close in Sudan (17). By 1882, the Egyptian Empire recruited British officers to lead troops against a movement that would eventually conquer the country: the Mahdiya (18).

Muhammad Ahmad bin Abdallah proclaimed that, in 1882, he had experienced a series of visions in which the Prophet Muhammad advised him that he was the “guided one” (the Mahdi) (19). As the guided one, the Mahdi would “lead an army of believers to usher in a new age of Islamic justice and devotion” (20). This led to the Mahdi political movement in Sudan known as the Mahdiya and the formation of an army known as the Ansar Army, “the Defenders of Islam, which reacted violently to the foreign presence of the Turks, Egyptians, and British (21). The Ansar Army attracted recruits whose lives had all been impacted by the presence of foreign forces: the rural poor, slave traders, and cattle herding tribes, particularly the Baqqara cattle herders (22). Despite the weapons inferiority of the Ansar Army, it worked its way across Sudan and overcame the existing army (23).

The last foreign stronghold fell to the Ansar Army in 1885; Mahdi forces overwhelmed the British at the city of Khartoum (24). Soon after this defeat, Abdallah, the Mahdi, contracted typhus and died (25). The Mahdi state was succeeded by a Darfuri Baqqara. During this period the state experienced struggle over leadership and tribal rivalries (26). Moreover, the style of military recruitment led to significant strain on the people of Sudan. As the rural poor were recruited, often forcefully, into the Ansar Army, fewer adults were left to grow food (27). Famine and epidemics ensued (28).

The British, concerned with control of the Suez Canal and wanting to avenge British officers killed in the fighting, fought the Mahdist State in 1898 (29). Even though the British were vastly outnumbered by the Ansar Army, the British forces had superior modern weaponry and ultimately defeated the Mahdist state (30).

A period of British/Egyptian governance known as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium of Sudan began in 1898. The administration and development of the country formed a de facto split according to the North and the South. The administration of the North was initially maintained through military oppression of any armed opposition (31). Civilian British officials quickly replaced this military government and police took over responsibility of security issues (32). The North was administered with British officials serving at the top of local administration, the Egyptians serving as middle-ranking officers, and the emerging class of educated Sudanese, mostly from the Nile River Valley, serving lower level administrative positions (33). For these positions, the “Anglo-Egyptian government had been keen to re-instate those families who had held authority under Turco-Egyptian rule. In the 1920s, the practice was regularized, and such chiefs were given specific judicial and administrative powers” (34). This particular pattern of appointment was used to prevent a threat of resurgent Mahdism by reappointing those people who were originally replaced by Mahdist agents (35). The British developed the North’s system of politics, infrastructure, and education in ways that still reflect the disparity between the North and the South today.

Administration of the South was handled much differently. The Mahdist government had very little presence in the South so there was no concern of a resurgence and no need to “win” loyalty among southerners (36). The South was isolated from the North and “as a whole, the South remained on the periphery of central government thinking throughout the Condominium period” (37). Administration of the South took a simple form of prestige and authority exhibited through coercive policies such as systems of tribute to demonstrate authority over southern civilians (38). This simple form of administration inhibited the development of a more comprehensive system in the South up until the 1920s (39).

As a whole, in both the North and the South a system known as “Native Administration” was enacted that entailed the local administration of colonial peoples conducted by indigenous structures of authority, employing indigenous customs and laws, so long as this administration was consistent with British ideas of “good government and justice” (40). This system took much longer to initiate in the South than in the North due to the fact that the British government could not find the executive structures in the South that were present in the North (41). As such, the British felt that they had to be innovative in establishing these executive structures in the South. Following the 1920s, with these innovations, native administration was established in the South (42).

Another administrative difference between the North and the South was handling of religion. In the North, Islamic authority was left in place as a means to strengthen Egyptian Islamic presence and weaken Mahdist elites (43). In the South, there were no religious orthoxodies, but some administrators attempted to define these orthodoxies along the lines of the innovative customs and structures that were established in the late 1920s (44). While Islam was not suppressed or expelled from the South during the Condominium period, it was kept confined to certain areas (45). One of the primary reasons Islam was not established in the South was a desire to purge what was labeled “foreign contamination” and to maintain indigenous diversity in the South under the system of native administration (46). Despite this desire, during the Condominium period, Christian missionaries became common throughout Southern Sudan. While this went against the notion of foreign contamination, the primary justification for allowing these missionaries was the education infrastructure they brought with them (47). The missionaries established schools, and conversion to Christianity was not required to attend the schools (48). In short, the benefits of education that accompanied these missionaries outweighed the concern of foreign contamination.

During the Condominium period, in part due to British governance, Sudan experienced relative stability both politically and developmentally. While the British did make permanent/positive contributions in Sudan through this development of infrastructure, building institutions, education, and commerce, this was primarily focused on the Nile River Valley (49) and the South, as well as Darfur (to the west) and Kordofan (a border region between the North and South), remained relatively undeveloped (50). With this lack of development, there was little chance of economic growth, establishing an infrastructure, or developing education (51).

During the events of World War Two, many young African and Arab Nationalists became attracted to the idea of independence (53). and between 1947 and 1956, this spread throughout Sudan (ii).

Sudan is located in the northeast corner of the continent of Africa. The Nile River, a very significant resource in the history of the country, runs from the northern border of Egypt to the southern border with Uganda. Before the South’s secession in 2011, Sudan was the tenth-largest country in the world, at 1 million square miles (53). The northern portion of the country is comprised of the Sahara Desert and the south the fertile Nile River Watershed (54). This geographic layout of northern desert and fertile south has had a critical impact on the country in political and economic relations between the North and the South.

When Did the Sudanese Civil Wars Occur?

The initial events of the First Sudanese Civil War occurred in 1955. However, Johnson argues that as exiled political figures and students collected and formed the SANU (discussed below), the true start of the First Sudanese Civil War occurred in the years between 1960 and 1962 (55). With the signing of the Addis Ababa agreement in 1972, the First Sudanese Civil War was ended.

The Second Sudanese Civil War began in 1983. With the negotiation and signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Second Sudanese Civil War ended in 2005. Following a referendum vote enumerated in the CPA, South Sudan attained independence on July 9, 2011.


The Second Sudanese Civil War was fought between the current Republic of Sudan (the Government of Sudan [GOS], the “North”) and the current Republic of South Sudan (the Government of South Sudan [GOSS], the “South”).

The Government of Sudan

In an effort to gain political support, President Numayri of Sudan implemented policies that converted the government from a secular state into an Islamic state. He appointed an Islamic scholar, Hassan al-Turabi, as attorney general. Turabi’s goal was to rebuild a fundamentalist Islamic group with its basis in the Muslim Brotherhood,(iii) known as the National Islamic Front (NIF) (56).

The NIF became the primary political apparatus and main support base for the al-Bashir government (57). Under the Bashir government, aside from rebuilding the NIF, Turabi had several additional goals. First, he wanted to tie together every radical Islamic group in the world and give these organizations safe haven in Sudan (58). In addition, Turabi, with the support of Bashir, wanted to use Sudan as the stage for a worldwide Islamic revolution (59).

In the late 1990s, Bashir and Turabi took different practical and political paths. In 1996, Turabi was elected as speaker of the government’s National Assembly (60). From this position, Turabi took several steps to limit the power that was given to the Presidency (61). President Bashir saw these actions as an attempted power grab by Turabi (62). In response, Bashir declared a state of emergency, dissolved the National Assembly and took steps to purge Turabi from power (63).

While Turabi’s desire for an Islamic revolution had failed, one legacy remained: the Bashir government has maintained an Islamic apparatus of state authority (64). In 1998, Bashir founded the National Congress Party (NCP), an outgrowth of the NIF (65). The party had two objectives: survival, and collecting revenues from oil that was being extracted in Sudan (66). Moreover, while the NCP and the rebel groups of the South met to reach an agreement to end the Second Sudanese Civil War, one of the main themes of the government was “making unity attractive” (67). In the end, while the NCP signed an agreement with southern rebels to end the war, it did not have much respect for the agreement (68) and the NCP took steps to delay implementation of many of the provisions of the agreement.

The Actors of South Sudan

Following a mutiny that started the Second Sudanese Civil War, rebels and defecting troops from the North fled from Sudan and gathered at a guerilla base in Ethiopia (69). This rebel movement formed two wings. The first, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), was the militant wing of the movement. The second wing, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), was the civilian/political wing of the movement. Collectively, these wings represented the South during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

From the beginning of the second civil war, the SPLA/M was commanded by John Garang. Garang had an interesting life prior to the second civil war. He had attended primary school at a missionary-run primary school (70). With the start of the First Sudanese Civil War, Garang became a refugee in Tanzania and attended high school there (71). He then attended college at Grinnell College in Iowa (72). After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Economics, Garang returned to Sudan and joined the army in the First Sudanese Civil War as the rank of Major (73).

With the end of the first civil war, southern rebel troops were integrated into the Sudanese army (74). Garang was promoted to Lieutenant Major and sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, to attend military school. He then went on to receive his Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Iowa State College (75).

Garang returned to Sudan and worked for the Sudanese army and taught at the University of Khartoum (76). During this time, he secretly organized with southern officers who were growing angry about the violations of the peace agreement (77). With this combination of the network of southern officers, his education, and his political and social ideals from his experience in the United States, Garang became the commander of the SPLA/M during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Garang held several notions about Sudan based on his observations. First, Garang realized that the center of the country, composed mainly of Nile River Arabs, was pulling resources away from those living in the outer regions of the country (78). These practices caused dissatisfaction among those living in the outer regions, and Garang used this dissatisfaction to form “an alliance for reform” (79).

Second, Garang argued that Sudan must be a multiethnic, secular state (80) that remained unified, rather than the South becoming independent (81). However, this notion of a unified Sudan would be ultimately lead to factions within the SPLA and a split within the organization in the early 1990s.

Despite these factions, Garang remained the leader of the SPLA and took part in the negotiations that resulted in the agreement that ended the Second Sudanese Civil War. In July 2005, six months after this agreement was reached, Garang was killed in a helicopter crash that, after investigation, was determined to be an accident (82).

A History of The Sudanese Civil War: What?

The initial events of the First Sudanese Civil War occurred in July of 1955, several months before Sudan attained independence from British and Egyptian colonial governance , known as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. As senior Sudanese political figures and students fled the southern region into Uganda and the Congo, these individuals joined together and formed what would be the southern rebel army known as the Sudan African Nationalist Union [SANU]; colloquially known as the “Anyanya” of the First Civil War (83).

For competing reasons, both the British and Egypt rallied behind Sudan’s independence and, on January 1st, 1956, the Sudanese state was born (84). With this independence, Sudan gained a temporary constitution, drafted by British constitutional experts. However, this constitution fell short on two keys issues: whether Sudan would have a federal (iv) or unitary (v) government, and whether the constitution would be a secular or Islamic constitution (85). Moreover, during the push for Sudan’s independence by the British, many issues of Sudan’s self-governance remained unanswered. Of these issues, one of the most contentious was whether the North and South would remain unified as one Sudan, or whether the South would become an autonomous state. Accompanying these issues was whether Sudan, as a country, would remain unified with Egypt, or whether Sudan would be truly independent.

These questions concerning the future of Sudan were examined at the first and second Juba Conferences. At the first Juba Conference, held in 1947, it was determined that Sudan would remain unified and the South would participate in a National Assembly to be be created (86). Shortly thereafter, the government of Egypt made a secret deal with the political parties of northern Sudan guaranteeing self-determination within three years, but no discussion of the South was made (87). As a result of this self-determination, following independence, there would be no union with Egypt.

At the second Juba Conference, held in 1954, it was decided that, following independence, there would again be no union with Egypt. However, this was conditioned on the South being granted autonomy (88). Failing this, the South reserved its right of self-determination, which would have included the option of complete independence from the North (89).

Complicating these issues was the result of a self-government statute (vi) passed in 1952 by the Legislative Assembly (established in the North as a step toward a national parliament [participation of the South in this assembly was granted at the First Juba Conference]). The first election for this national parliament was held in late 1953, and resulted in a significant number of seats going to the National Union Party (90). The end result of this election was that Northerners were appointed to all senior positions in the South (91).

Considering all of these facts, the theme of Southern autonomy is significant. During the process of independence from British and Egyptian colonialism, as British soldiers and officials left southern posts, northerners filled a significant majority of these vacancies. In all, northerners filled 800 vacated posts, while southerners filled only eight (92). There was also fear among troops in the Equatorial Corps that they would be disarmed and moved to the North as northern officers replaced these troops (93). As a result of these events, dissatisfaction grew in the South and riots broke out. In August 1955, a mutiny occurred in the city of Torit (Eastern Equatoria) where southern troops rushed a weapons depot, stole weapons, and killed northern troops, merchants and their families (94). This mutiny, along with accompanying riots, was the catalytic events that led to the start of the Sudanese Civil War (95).

In 1958, Sudan experienced its first democratic election, from which a parliamentary assembly, a prime minister and cabinet took office. Shortly thereafter, a bloodless coup occurred, removing the democratically elected government. The coup and succeeding government was led by Major General Ibrahim Abbud, and was composed mainly of officers from the three primary Islamic, Arab tribes that surround and govern Sudan’s capital of Khartoum (96). In 1962, Abbud’s solution to unify the country of Sudan was through a policy that forced Arab culture and Islam onto any non-Arab individuals in Sudan (97). Because of various educational and social policies initiated during the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, the south was composed of many Christians and followers of indigenous religions, with Islamic followers in the minority. Abbud’s policy took actions to limit Christian missionaries in the south, and eventually expelled them altogether (98). This policy also changed the Sabbath from Sunday to Friday, established Quranic institutes that taught Islam to new coverts, changed the language of instruction from English to Arabic, and broadcast Islamic instruction (99).

For several reasons (vii), Christianity was attractive to southerners. Following Abbud’s policy and imposition of Arabization and Islamization, conversion to Christianity accelerated rapidly in the south (100). Southerners, especially the southern elites, many of whom had been educated in Christian schools, did not view these policies favorably (viii).

Southern autonomy and religion are significant when discussing the cause of the First Sudanese Civil War. However, there is another important issue. Prior to the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, Sudan was governed under patterns of exploitive practices, including the slave trade, at the expense of the peripheral regions (101). In the early 1820s, northern Arab merchants would travel to the south with the intent to raid and kidnap southern natives for sale on the international slave market (102). This trade was one of the primary sources of wealth for the northern region of Sudan and involved northerners traveling to the South, capturing non-Muslim Africans primarily from southern Sudan, and entering these individuals into the trade system (103). The trade took in an average annual human harvest of 30,000 captives (104). Men were placed into the slave army of the Ottoman Turkish Viceroy, while women and children were sold as laborers and servants (105). In the 1860s, under the rule of the Turko-Egytian Empire, the British unsuccessfully attempted to abolish the slave trade in Sudan (106). This effort, and its impact on the North’s economy, was one of the causes of the Mahdist uprising (107).

Another cause of the Mahdi uprising was the desire to remove unwanted foreigners from Sudan: the Egyptians, Turks, and the British (108). In an effort to save its colonial presence in Sudan, the British, with advanced military technology, challenged and eventually removed the Mahdi from rule (109). After removing the Mahdi from power in 1898, the British established its “condominium rule.” Britain, whose Parliament had prohibited the slave trade, made continued efforts to abolish the slave trade in Sudan. However, in some forms, slavery continued in Sudan (110). For example, during the first two decades of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, the South figured into governmental plans mainly as a means to replenish, through conscription, the Sudanese battalions of the Egyptian army (111). These conscripted southerners were drawn from the old slave-raiding zones of the Nuba Mountains and southern Sudan (112). These patterns reflected a continued exploitative policy against the peripheral inhabitants of southern Sudan (113). It was not until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 (discussed later) that the practice of raiding the South for slaves was finally stopped (114).

As it was the British who had prohibited the slave trade, when the British departed following Sudan’s independence, the South feared a renewal of the slave trade. As explained in his account of British departure and fear of a potential reestablishment of the slave trade, Joseph Lagu, commander of the southern rebel army during the first civil war, stated, “It was not a true independence for the South, but the start of another colonialism by the north” (115). Demonstrated by the relevant provisions of the CPA, and the fears expressed by Lagu, the prevention of a renewed slave trade in Sudan was a factor contributing to the Sudanese Civil War.

From the start of the first civil war, the Southern rebel army experienced a significant challenge to find a leader with the authority and military capacity to lead its forces. Moreover, there was also disagreement between rebel commanders and politicians regarding a hierarchical structure and an ultimate end goal of the war (116). In the end, these divisions resulted in a weakening of southern forces (117) While this dissension occurred, the northern army continued to attack southern civilians (118). In 1967, Joseph Lagu, with the assistance of the Israeli government (from which Lagu received training, weapons and funding), took command of the southern rebel army (119).

Because of economic and social mismanagement, General Abbud gave up control of the country (120). In May 1969, the military once again stepped in and Colonel Numayri assumed control of the government (121). Unlike Abbud, Numayri embraced a secular and socialist government style (122). More importantly, Numayri expressed two goals: first, to end the civil war through political negotiations, and second, a new political system of decentralized self-government in the South (123). After waning support from the communist parties in Sudan in the early 1970s, and decreased likelihood of a military solution to the civil war, Numayri pushed these goals in order to gain support (124). After talks and negotiations, on March 27, 1972, the Addis Ababa Agreement was signed between southern rebels and the Government of Sudan (125). The agreement brought temporary peace (126).

The purpose of the Addis Ababa Agreement was to create solutions to several questions central to the civil war. First, the agreement created a federal government divided into Northern and Southern regions, with various powers and limitations granted upon the two regions. However, the South was denied several important powers under this regional structure (ix). Also significant to the new government was that southerners, appointed by President Numayri, based on the advice and consent of the High Executive Council of the Sudanese Government, would administer the southern government (127).

Second was the issue of the how and whether the South would be able to maintain an army (128). The South made it clear that, for its protection and the protection of its troops, southern troops should stay in the South (129). In order to ease the concerns of the North, it was agreed that a number of northern troops would also remain in the south, thus keeping the Sudanese army united (130). There would also be a southern command council composed of equal numbers of Northern and Southern troops (131).

An additional, simple yet significant provision was that English would be the official language of the South, (132) including in educational institutions (133).

Numayri rallied support for the Agreement throughout the country (134). The remaining cause of the First Sudanese Civil War, whether Sudan would be a secular state, was addressed in 1973. President Numayri responded by drafting a secular constitution to replace the temporary British-drafted constitution implemented prior to independence. This new constitution declared Sudan to be both an African and Arab state that would not impose Islamic law on non-believers (135).

While the Addis Ababa Agreement and the 1973 constitution were significant accomplishments for Numayri, they resulted in one important, while unintended side effect. By establishing a secular government, Numayri isolated the conservative Islamic political parties in Sudan (136). Facing growing opposition within the country, Numayri had few options to preserve power. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Numayri took actions toward implementing a new Islamic political agenda for Sudan (137). In essence, Numyari took steps that went against almost everything the Addis Ababa Agreement and the 1973 constitution stood for.

Numayri’s efforts also allowed the return of an individual who would be significant in the future of Sudan: Hassan al-Turabi (138). Turabi was given the position of attorney general and used this position to reestablish the National Islamic Front (x) and to implement Sharia (or Islamic) law (139).

Much like the First Sudanese Civil War, the start of the Second Sudanese Civil War cannot be attributed to one single event. Religion, politics, and security contributed significantly to a series of events that marked the beginning of the war.

With Numayri’s “new Islamic political agenda” and the return of Turabi, these events went against the themes that the Addis Ababa Agreement and the 1973 secular constitution stood for. Moreover, in September 1983, the government of Sudan imposed what became known as the September laws, (140) implementing Sharia law on all of Sudan, including non-believers (141).

In the mid-1970s and into the early 1980s, the oil industry in Sudan turned from exploration to exploitation. In the early years of oil exploration and extraction, there was a disagreement between the Government of Sudan and the Southern region as to where a newly-proposed refinery should be built (142). Because oil was being extracted in the South and its border regions, the South felt that the refinery should be placed in the South and connected to proposed pipeline to ship into the international market (143). Without the consultation of the South, Numayri and the government approved the construction of the refinery in the North (144).

Moreover, there was a debate revolving around the border between the Northern and Southern regions, and which lands would go to the South. Certain lands would automatically be transferred to the South (those lands which had traditionally been part of the South before independence) (145). Certain lands however, which were considered “culturally similar” to the South (along the border regions) would be decided by a referendum whether they would be part of the North or South (146). In determining access to these lands, oil, as well as cattle-grazing rights to certain land, played an important role in the confrontation between the Southern Regional Government and the Government of Sudan. Much of the oil fields are located on or near the border set by the Addis Ababa Agreement. Whichever government controlled that land would be at a significant advantage. In the late 1980, the National Assembly considered a bill (promoted by Turabi) to redraw the southern borders, placing these oil fields within the Northern providences (147). Unanimous Southern objection to this bill ensued (148). Ultimately, in an effort to reaffirm the Central Government’s commitment to the Addis Ababa Agreement, Numyria (xi) sided with the Southern Region (149).

In addition to the border demarcation in relation the oil fields, there was also a border issue concerning grazing rights for certain cattle tribes who lived in Kordofan in the North (150). As a result of a drought in the 1970s, these tribes required access to Southern pastures (151). If these lands were transferred to the Southern region, there was concern that these tribes would not have access to these pastures (152).

Aside from the impact that resources played on the politics of border demarcation, Numayri took actions that influenced the political layout of the South leading up to the war. Numayri dissolved the National and Regional Assemblies, dismissing the Alier government and calling for new elections (153). Numayri then took steps to establish an interim military-led government in Juba, which was instructed to hold a referendum to decide whether the Southern Region would remain one region, or be divided into three smaller regions (154). This would make these three Southern regions much weaker legislative bodies (155). Numayri also eliminated Southern army units and their representation in the Sudanese Armed Forces of the South (156). These actions, and others, eliminated the remaining provisions of the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1983 (157).

An additional spark of the Second Sudanese Civil War was the country’s reaction to a water redirection project known as the Jonglie Canal project. Besides oil, water is a major resource of the South, as it annually receives more rainfall than the North and has numerous river connections from surrounding countries (158). As such, the northern region of Sudan, as well as Egypt, has been dependent on efforts to extract water from the Nile River and thus the South – the meeting place of the Nile with other river systems (159). Because of this demand, there has been motivation for various water diversion “schemes” by the North throughout the 20th century (160). The Jonglie Canal project was one such scheme. However, because of the manner in which water would be redirected, Sudanese living in the Jonglie area perceived the project with discontent (161). By redirecting water to the North, the project would drain the marshes surrounding the Jonglie project (162). The project may have affected as many as 450,000 individuals within the region who required these marshes for their lifestyle (163). Construction of the project ended in 1983 when the earth-moving machinery became targets for southern rebel forces (164).

The Second Sudanese Civil War began with the Bor Mutiny (165). The triggering event of the Mutiny involved Numayri’s order to redeploy Southern troops to the North (xii) in 1983 (166). While several battalions bitterly obeyed the order, the Bor garrison disobeyed this order and was subsequently attacked by the Sudanese army (167). John Garang, working for the Sudanese Military, went to Bor to mediate (xiii) (168). Garang was in Bor when the Sudanese army attacked and was repelled (169). When the garrison at Bor fled following the attack, Garang also left, but by different route (170). Despite these different courses, Garang and the Bor garrison both met with guerrilla fighters in Ethiopia (xiv) (171). These events sparked other mutinies and desertions of garrisons across the South (172). By July 1983, the number of soldiers who had defected to Ethiopia had reached 2,500 (173). By the end of July 1983, John Garang would become the commander of this newly-formed rebel group, the SPLA and SPLM (174).

There are two additional considerations that seem to have influenced the time span over which the war was fought. The first was an agricultural practice that began in the mid-1970s (175). Sudan’s economy had historically revolved around subsistence farming (176). In the mid-1970s, the government attempted to strengthen the economy by “implementing modern farming techniques and shifting toward large-scale farming concerns” (177). To do this, the government nationalized much of the country’s land and licensed it to the country’s elites (178). These practices started in the North and spread south, resulting in large-scale land degradation and many small-scale subsistence farmers being pushed off their land. They had no option but to migrate into near-by cities (179). This migration led to increased crime, as these individuals had no means by which to make a living (180). As mentioned above, the September Laws imposed Sharia Law on all individuals living in Sudan. The increase in crimes committed by these displaced farmers meant more punishment under Sharia Law (181). This increased punishment, as well as these mechanized farming practices and land degradation, led these displaced farmers to resentment of the Government of Sudan and increased their support for the Southern Sudan rebel movements of the Second Civil War (182).

The second consideration is the Sahel drought that began in the late 1960s and had several negative consequences (183). First, government policies like those discussed above involving farming and food product practices have had the opposite desired effect: decreasing food production (184). Second, as a result of this drought, the country has become almost completely dependent on foreign aid to prevent famine, disease, and starvation. Finally, it would be easy to see that the crime described above would be directly influenced by the presence of this drought. As food production and availability plummet, crime goes up among those desperate to sustain themselves and their families. As crime goes up, punishment under Sharia law goes up, and rebel support would have gone up.

While Numayri was viewed as a peacemaker as he ended the First Sudanese Civil War through political means, his power became more corrupt the longer he stayed in office (186). He jailed activists for advocating liberal ideas (186). In the later years of his tenure, Numayri began to make political decisions without the aid of his cabinet, relying almost exclusively on his few corrupt allies (187). Moreover, by 1985 the economy of Sudan took a drastic decline (188). Despite widespread famine, Numayri resisted foreign aid (189). Demonstrations occurred and on April 6, 1985, a coup (xv) removed Numayri from power (190).

Elections were held a year later, and two northern parties took a majority of the vote (xvi) (191). Following this election, the SPLA and the newly-0elected government, as well as representatives of other parties from the North, South, and various secular and pan-Arab parties, entered into negotiations as to what the new government in Sudan would look like (192). What resulted was the Koka Dam Declaration, which proposed a national reform process and a Sudan free from discrimination (193). The Declaration also called for a constitutional convention, at which the “basic problems of Sudan” would be discussed (194). In the meantime, the September Laws and other restrictive laws would be repealed, and the 1956 constitution, amended to include the regional governments, would serve as an interim constitution (195). Most important, the central government and the SPLA would enact a ceasefire (196). In July 1986, al-Mahdi met with Garang to clarify the SPLM’s positions on the Declaration (197). However, talks broke down when al-Mahdi refused a repeal of the September Laws (198).

As prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi developed a specific plan for winning the war with the South (xvii). However, al-Mahdi’s plan failed and its implementation led to increasing support of and recruitment for the SPLA (199).

In 1989, after Khartoum’s military high command threatened to remove him from office, al-Mahdi attempted to negotiate peace with Garang (200). As al-Mahdi left for negotiations, a group of officers, led by Brigadier Omar al-Bashir, launched a coup against the government (201). Following the coup, over one hundred military and political figures were arrested, including al-Mahdi and Turabi (xviii) (202). Within the first six months, Bashir’s government began to enact restrictive policies that were designed at “reconstructing Sudanese society” (203). These policies included the restriction of women’s rights and secret jails for individuals who spoke against the government. (204) In December 1989, Bashir released Turabi from jail and, along with new government ministers, swore allegiance to Turabi (xix) (205). With these actions, Sudan was now under the control of an oppressive Islamic government.

Under the control of Bashir and Turabi, aspirations were global (206). While past governments had presented an idea of Islamization and Arabization that were limited to land within the borders of Sudan, Turabi “sought to purge the Arab world of corrupt secular governments (207). He sought an Arab world that was based in Sharia law with the Quran the only source of the truth (208). Turabi also wanted a network of the world’s radical Islamic groups and Sudan as a place where allies of Islam would be offered refuge (209). Of these allies, one of the most significant was Osama bin Laden (210). In short, Turabi, supported by Bashir, wanted to use Sudan for a worldwide Islamic revolution (211).

While Turabi was advancing this revolution in Sudan, world events were occurring that impacted the civil war. During the early years of the Second Civil War, the South received much support from Ethiopia. Ethiopia was a client of the Soviet Union, from which the South indirectly received weapons and training (212). In the early 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet Union, arms shipments from the Soviet Union to its client states dramatically dropped, including to Ethiopia (213). Moreover, in April 1991, a rebel group had ousted the Ethiopian government (214). The new Ethiopian government had received assistance from Khartoum while taking power (215). As a result, the new government cut off all support to Garang and the SPLA (216). The South experienced more trouble in late 1991 when internal factions split (xx) the SPLA along policy lines (217). This split had the end effect of weakening the Southern position in the war and strengthened the Northern position in the war (218). The North used this split to their advantage, and it was part of al-Mahdi’s strategy to win the war, by supporting these split factions to fight against each other, thus pitting the South against itself (219).

The North was also experiencing some challenges during the mid-1990s. Because of its position on radical Islam, its involvement in assassination attempts, and its support of Osama bin Laden, the Government had begun to experience troubles in foreign relations (220). To resolve these challenges, Bashir made efforts to distance the government from bin Laden and radical Islamic groups (221).

As a leader, Bashir governed by allowing his administration to handle the administrative details (222). However, by the late 1990s, Bashir was in trouble of losing power to Turabi (who had gained much support) and his supporters (223). To prevent this, Bashir took it upon himself to become more involved with the mechanics of his government (224).

When Turabi ran for speaker of the National Assembly and won, he reorganized his party, the National Islamic Front (NIF), and sought legislative actions that would limit Bashir of his presidential power (225). In response to Turabi’s actions, in December 1999, Bashir called a state of emergency and demanded new elections (xxi) (226). After winning reelection, Bashir purged Turabi and his supporters from the government (227). Bashir’s subsequent relationship with Turabi has been one of paranoia, involving repeated arrests (228). In the end, Turabi’s hope of an Islamic revolution failed to produce fruit (229).

Following the purge of Turabi and company, the Government of Sudan stayed afloat with growing oil revenues (230). However, without the backing of Turabi’s supporters, the Bashir government would need a new base of support. Bashir hoped that this new base would be from the South (231).

What is more, in the early 1990s, as a result of monetary reforms and increased oil revenues, the central government was climbing out of the economic slump (232). The country experienced growth in jobs and used these revenues to purchase modern weapons (233). However, because little money went to army recruitment, the Bashir government had to implement a military draft that struck at the middle class of Khartoum (234). While oil had initially bolstered the economy of Sudan, it indirectly lowered the public perception of the war. While religion and representation may have been the catalysts for the civil war, it seems that oil, as well as the considerations discussed earlier, drove its continuation. Because the war inhibited further oil exploration, oil ironically became yet another catalyst for peace in Sudan (235).

The Aftermath of the Second Sudanese Civil War

Despite his secular nature, Numayri (who, remember, ended the First Civil War through political rather than military means) adopted an Islamic political agenda for Sudan as a means of gaining a broader political base. In short, to stay in power, Numayri implemented legislative actions that prohibited the South from freely expressing and representing itself.

During his time as prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi adopted policies that not only made sure to keep the war in the South; al-Mahdi also pitted the South against itself. In fact, “most of the deaths in the Second Civil War were actually caused by one group of Khartoum-backed southerners attacking southerners aligned with Garang and the SPLA (236). More importantly, al-Mahdi burned villages in the South, stole livestock, raped women, and abducted children into slavery in order to make southerners more susceptible to Arabization and Islamization (237). The Murahalin militia, an Arab group created by al-Mahdi that attacked on horseback, (238) used these tactics with the result of great displacement of southerners, a contributing factor that contributed to a humanitarian crisis during the late 1980s (239). In short, al-Mahdi’s (and later Bashir’s) government “used displacement, disease, and starvation as a weapon of war to kill off the southern population and their villages because they were the support base for Garang’s army” (240).

The Bashir government committed similar atrocities during the war. A specific reason that the Government of Sudan under Bashir committed these actions (xxii) was further exploration of oil in a scorched-earth policy (241). The government burned villages, stole cattle, raped and kidnapped women, and killed young men who might otherwise join the SLPA. Similarly, “oil field development was being implemented through an ethnic cleansing campaign of murder, rape, and pillage by government militias loyal to Khartoum that were recruited from among southern tribes (242). By following through with these campaigns, the Bashir government was implementing some of the policies that the government of Sadiq al-Mahdi had seen as necessary to win the civil war. Finally, the Bashir government had committed several deliberate actions to deny foreign aid from entering the country and assisting displaced persons in the South, the Nuba Mountains, and in Darfur.

Taking all of these actions and policies into consideration, the Second Sudanese Civil War resulted in an estimated 2.5 million deaths and as many as 4 million displaced persons (243).


Based on the events of the war and within the Government of Sudan, Khartoum began to seriously consider peace negotiations with Garang in late 2002 (244). However, the root of these peace talks go back much further. In 1991, as with the split of the SLPA, there was a debate over whether Sudan would remain united, or whether South Sudan would become self-determinant. In 1993, the two factions considered these options over meetings in Abuja, Nigeria (245). While these talks brought self-determination to the public realm, they also brought to light the Government of Sudan’s firm rejection of self-determination or secession by means other than force (246).

A second meeting in Abuja, which ended with continued disagreement between the SPLA and the Government of Sudan, “opened the way for a joint initiative proposed by Sudan’s partners in the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development – IGAD – (a coalition of the countries surrounding Sudan and which were affected by the war) (247). These talks ended with the development of the “Declaration of Principles (xxiii)” (248). These principles were proposed in 1994 and the Government refused to discuss either of the proposed resolutions (249). Talks ended and no further meetings were held with the Government of Sudan until 1997, when, because of the Government’s uncertain military position, it agreed to accept the Declaration of Principles as one of many negotiation topics (250).

At a meeting between the SPLA and the NDA (xxiv) in Asmara, Eritrea, the NDA was reluctant to concede self-determination to the South (251). However, the NDA agreed to a referendum in which the southerners would decide whether or not they would remain united with Sudan (252).

Between 1995 and 2000, a series of other negotiations gave way to talks, but also division about the goals of the North, the South, the NDA, and the SPLA (253). In the early 2000s, following the terrorist attacks on the United States, the US began to focus on peace in the region as a means to hunt for Osama bin-Laden (254). In June 2002, the IGAD reopened negotiations with the active involvement of the US and Norway (255). In late June, the North and the South announced the Machakos Protocol, which was a framework for peace that discussed equality in Sudan and self-determination for the South (xxv). However, the interpretation of this document led to disagreement between groups within and outside of Sudan.

While there was contention regarding several issues, a series of agreements were reached, and on January 9, 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi (256). The provisions of the CPA included the establishment of an autonomous government in South Sudan, and an interim “Government of National Unity” in Khartoum, both of which would have posts for each side’s ruling parties; national multi-party elections held by 2009; and a Southern referendum on secession by January 2011 (257). There were also provisions regarding security: the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) would be withdrawn from the South, and southern troops would be withdrawn from the North (258). The agreement also provided that the SAF and the SPLA would create a unit of combined troops to provide security in certain border regions (259). Finally, the CPA provided specific provisions regarding wealth-sharing, specifically oil revenues), and resolution of disputed areas along the North-South border (260).

Despite the fact that these provisions were spelled out in the CPA, their implementation was not entirely smooth. Several of the provisions have met much resistance by the North (261). The concern with the failure to meet these provisions was that they might result in military action. In the end, the CPA succeeded where other agreements had failed: it ended the Second Sudanese Civil War, allowed southerners to return to their homes, removed northern troops from the South, and answered the security question for the South (262). Most importantly, it allowed for the January 2011 referendum for independence, which took effect on June 9, 2011, establishing South Sudan as an independent state (263).

Was it Genocide?

According to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide is defined as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily harm or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and/or forcibly transferring children of the group to another” (264).

Based on this definition of genocide, the 107th United States Congress passed the Sudan Peace Act, which was signed into law on October 21, 2002. As the act explains, it was passed to “facilitate famine relief efforts and a comprehensive solution to the war in Sudan” (265).

In the act, Congress found that the Government of Sudan had, throughout the progression of the war, “intensified its prosecution of the war against areas outside of its control” (266). In this, Congress was referring to the actions that the Government of Sudan had been taking against the people of the South. The actions that the act made specific note of were the use of tribal rivalries as a tactic for the South to fight itself; the use of government-sponsored militias for raiding, capturing and enslaving parties outside of government control; and the use of these tactics in an effort to disrupt the South’s ability to sustain itself (267). Congress also charged the Government of Sudan with the banning and interference with the distribution of relief aid during Operation Lifeline Sudan (268). In short, the Government of Sudan used this as but another weapon to starve individuals in areas outside of the Government’s control.

Taking all of these actions into consideration, the 107th Congress charged the Government of Sudan of committing genocide, according to the understanding enumerated by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, against the people of an area outside of its control – Southern Sudan.

Did Human Trafficking/Child Soldiering Occur?

Across the roster of leaders during the Second Sudanese Civil War, one tactic was commonly used throughout the fighting: militias supported by the North raided villages, often burning them to the ground, raping women, and abducting children into slavery. It was not until 2005, with the signing of the CPA, that these raiding practices were finally stopped. To get a rough number, “thousands of Dinka women and children, and a lesser number of children from the Nuba tribe, were abducted and subsequently enslaved by members of the Missiriya and Rizeigats during the concluded North-South Civil War” (269). On the other side, as children would flee these destroyed villages, many made their way to UN-supported refugee and internally-displaced-person (IDP) camps, which were formed in the late 1980s (270). These camps were attractive to the SPLA because many were composed predominantly of male refugees. The SPLA would use these camps for recruitment and training purposes (271). Both the government and the SPLA were guilty of this crime of child recruitment.

While South Sudan has signed and/or committed (xxvi) itself to releasing and reintegrating child soldiers from its military, as of April 2012, UNICEF estimates that as many as 2,000 children, ages 12 to 18, serve as child soldiers in the SLPA (272). Even though the government of South Sudan has made a commitment to release children from its military, the Government of South Sudan faces a challenge in fulfilling this commitment. In a country with a weak infrastructure and inadequate education system, the military may be the only promising economic commitment for young men (273). While the government has programs in place to assist children who are released from the military, according to the chief of UNICEF’s child protection unit in South Sudan, these assistance programs need to be “meaningful” (274). Moreover, like military opportunity, these programs need to offer promising economic opportunities to keep children from re-entering the military,

Although the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has denied that children were recruited into its forces, there is evidence that child soldiers are, indeed, present. In 2006, children were seen in the newly-integrated SAF units after unification (275). As of August 2006, the SAF estimated that, of the soldiers present in its force, a good number of them were under the age of 18 (276). While the CPA required the release and reintegration of child soldiers by July 2005, this was prevented within the SAF as a result of the conflict in Darfur and the lack of infrastructure within communities (277).

Since these events have occurred, UNICEF and other organizations have been able to monitor certain SAF barracks and camps, with the permission of the Government of National Unity, to make sure child soldiering is not occurring (278). The Government has also agreed to pass national legislation to criminalize the recruitment of children (279).

From these facts and the raiding practices that occurred during the Second Sudanese Civil War, it is clear that human trafficking and child soldiering existed in several forms and in some locations may still exist today. Moreover, while the Government of Sudan has taken steps to release and reintegrate child soldiers, combating human trafficking through law enforcement, protective, and prevention measures was not a priority during the reporting period of the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report (280). Moreover, while the Government of South Sudan’s efforts to monitor human trafficking and its ability to provide accurate statistics on the matter was weak, the government did show some willingness to address these issues during the reporting period of the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report (281).

A critical issue regarding the release from child soldiering and reintegration of children into their communities is a lack of structure for return. Based on this information, it seems that the best option for the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan would be to invest in these areas and create meaningful opportunities for children.


(i) A form of “mystic Islam with a panoply of Sufi saints, contemplative prayer, miracles, and mystical practices emphasizing the present experience of Allah for the individual believer. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everybody Needs to Know 18 (2012).

(ii) One issue to consider when discussing Sudan’s independence is whether Sudan would become completely independent, or whether it would form a union with Egypt. This was a question of contention between Britain and Egypt. Britain pushed for a Sudan free of union with Egypt in order to protect its interests with the Suez Canal. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 35 (2012). Regardless of rhetoric, Egypt’s concern with its relationship to Sudan revolved around Egypt’s dependence on access to the Nile River (and thus Sudan). Id. at 37.

(iii) This is the world’s oldest, largest, and most influential transnational movement, founded in the 1940s in Egypt; Hassan al-Turabi was one of the founders of the Sudanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s, which eventually evolved into the Islamic Charter Front in the 1960s and then later into the National Islamic Front (NIF). Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know xv (2012).

(iv) A national government that exercises some degree of control over smaller political units have surrendered some degree of power in exchange for the right to participate in national political matters. Black’s Law Dictionary 764 (9th Ed. 2009)

(v) A state that in not made up of territorial divisions that are states themselves. Black’s Law Dictionary 1538 (9th Ed. 2009)

(vi) Which laid the provision of the first election of a self-governing legislature in Sudan and the conditions that would have to be met for self-determination. Douglas H. Johnson, The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil War: Peace or Truce 26 (2011).

(vii) Christianity has been viewed as attractive to southerners for several reasons: traditional religious beliefs of the southern tribes were monotheistic; during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, western missionaries in the South had comported themselves well and brought education and medical care, whereas earlier contact had mostly been with Arabs, who had often been violent and predatory; because the south had historically suffered, at the hands of the North, from the slave trade and wars of conquest, the narrative of a martyred prophet, sentenced by a hated imperial power and executed by crucifixion, to rise triumphantly from the dead, appealed to southerners; and southerners associated Islam with Arabs and Arabs, based on historical experiences, with the violence of the slave trade. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 43 – 44 (2012).

(viii) General Abbud’s rule came to an end in October 1964 following an event known as the October Revolution. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 44-45 (2012). This was a series of demonstrations by Sudan’s professionals, trade union, and the Communist and Umma Parties. Abbud stepped down without bloodshed and turned power over to a civilian coalition government. Id. at 45.

(ix) While the agreement also gave the South the right to raise revenue through taxation and promised additional revenue from the central government, the Southern Region was denied any right to legislate or exercise any power over economic planning. Id. at 40.

(x) A party that would be influential in the future of Sudanese politics.

(xi) Who, under the Addis Ababa Agreement, had the authority to resolve appeals of the National Assembly.

(xii) One of the reasons for this order was to prevent to escalation of events into a full out civil war. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 61 (2012).

(xiii) Despite this front, Garang and southern officers had been planning an effort toward the Second Sudanese Civil War for some time. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 65 (2012).

(xiv) The fact that these defecting soldiers went to Ethiopia is important. The Ethiopian government was the “principal client-ally” with the Soviet Union in Africa. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 66 (2012). Further, Ethiopia was training, arming, and funding these defecting rebels. Id. The later fall of communism in the late 1980s would have a significant impact on this support.

(xv) Major General Siwar al-Dhahab spoke on national radio that Numayri had been ousted and the military had taken control of the government. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 71 (2012). The coup also promised elections would be held in one year. Id.

(xvi) Electing Sadiq al-Mahdi (great-grandson of the Mahdi who governed Sudan prior to the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium) as the prime minister and the Umma Party as one of the primary political parties of the country. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 72 (2012).

(xvii) First, the war must be kept in the south; second, the central government would organize, arm, and fund the Arab tribes to along the North-South border to form militias as a supplementary force to the national army; third, these forces (along with the northern military) would raid and burn southern villages, which would incite massive population displacement, undermining southern culture and society (it was planned that these displaced individuals would later be placed into government run concentration camps and be indoctrinated with the teachings of Islam and the Quran); fourth, the central government should use its resources to turn one southern tribe against another. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know, 72-73 (2012).

(xviii) There is evidence that the arrest of Turabi was a front to cover up the true nature of the new government. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know, 80-81 (2012).

(xix) Who, at this time, was viewed as the “preeminent Islamic scholar and theologian.” Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know, 83 (2012).

(xx) Over Garang’s governing style of the SPLA and whether the North and South should remain unified. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 98 (2012).

(xxi) Which were held in 2000. Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everybody Needs to Know 105 (2012).

(xxii) As the al-Mahdi government committed its atrocities in part for the Arabization and Islamization of the South.

(xxiii) Which proposed, among other issues, either self-determination for the South through a referendum or a united Sudan with a secular government. Douglas H. Johnson, The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars: Peace or Truce 102 (2011).

(xxiv) The National Democratic Alliance (NDA): the largest political alliance in the history of the Sudan for organizing and leading the popular struggle against the new dictatorship in Sudan and the fundamentalist regime of the National Islamic Front (NIF). National Democratic Alliance, Military (August 16, 2012, 7:33 am),

(xxv) However, many issues such as human rights and the option of a cease-fire were left for later talks. Douglas H. Johnson, The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars: Peace or Truce xv – xvi (2011).

(xxvi) One such commitment was an action plan signed on March 16, 2012, and another was a commitment made following the signing of the CPA, in which the SPLA committed itself to removing all child soldiers from its military (which it never followed through with). Returning Sudanese Child Soldiers Their Childhood, Inter Press Service News Agency (July 2, 2012),

(1) Andrew S. Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know 14 (2012).



31 أغسطس

Darfur Genocide

The “Darfur Genocide” refers to the current mass slaughter and rape of Darfuri men, women and children in Western Sudan. The killings began in 2003 and continue still today, as the first genocide in the 21st century.

The genocide is being carried out by a group of government-armed and funded Arab militias known as the Janjaweed (which loosely translates to ‘devils on horseback’). The Janjaweed systematically destroy Darfurians by burning villages, looting economic resources, polluting water sources, and murdering, raping, and torturing civilians. These militias are historic rivals of the main rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM), and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). As of today, over 480,000 people have been killed, and over 2.8 million people are displaced.

Sudan is the largest country in Africa. Located in Northeastern Africa, it borders the Red Sea and falls between Egypt, Chad, Uganda, as well as six other countries. The capitol, Khartoum, is in the Northeastern part of the country. Darfur is a region in Western Sudan that encompasses an area roughly the size of Spain. The population of Darfur is estimated at 6,000,000 people. The conflict in Darfur has also increased tensions in neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic as hundreds of thousands of refugees stream over the two countries’ borders to escape violence.

Following independence from Britain in 1956, Sudan became embroiled in two prolonged civil wars for most of the remainder of the 20th century. These conflicts were rooted in northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese. Competition for scarce resources played a large role. As nomads began to compete for grazing land, traditional reconciliation measures were no longer able to settle disputes, causing the region to become increasingly militarized. The complexities of desertification, famines, and the civil war raging between North and South Sudan contributed to a rise in regional tensions during the 1980s. Similarly, as oil was discovered in Western Sudan, the Sudanese government and international contributors became increasingly interested in the land in Darfur.

Internally Displaced Persons

The first civil war ended in 1972 but broke out again in 1983. The second war and famine-related effects resulted in more than 4 million people being displaced and, according to rebel estimates, more than 2 million deaths over a period of two decades. As the civil war between the North and the South reached its peak in the 1990’s, the government ignored reports of rising violence in Darfur.

While the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended the North-South War in 2005, granting additional political power to South Sudan, it failed to take into account the effects of the war on Darfur. Additionally, Darfur remained underdeveloped and marginalized at the federal level, lacking infrastructure and development assistance. This neglect, combined with allegations that the government was arming Arab tribesmen (Janjaweed) to raid non-Arab villages, was cited as the justification for a February 2003 rebel attack on a Sudanese Air Force Base at El Fasher, North Darfur. This attack sparked a series of government reprisals on residents of Darfur, contributing to the large-scale human rights atrocities facing Darfurian civilians today.

Armed Janjaweed Militia

Failed peace talks have allowed for the continuation of the conflict. The most successful talks thus far took place in Abuja in 2005-2006, leading to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). Present at these negotiations were the Sudanese government and three main rebel groups: the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Abdel Wahid Mohamed al-Nur’s faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), and Minni Minawi’s faction of the SLM. However, multiple negotiations have thus far been largely unsuccessful.

Early in 2008, the UN issued a hybrid United Nations-African Union mission (UNAMID) to maintain peace in Darfur. UNAMID, with a projected strength of 26,000 troops, was authorized to use force to protect civilians. Despite this mandate, however, only 9,000 were sent, and they lacked the necessary equipment to carry out their mission.

On March 4, 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Bashir for crimes against humanity and, in July 2010, a warrant for arrest on charges of genocide. The government of Sudan, however, has yet to turn him over, and since the issuance of the warrants, the country has seen major protests and increased violence. The government has also forcefully expelled aid agencies from the country that has further jeopardized the conditions for thousands of displaced and marginalized civilians.


It is expected that al-Bashir will not face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague until he is apprehended in a nation which accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction, as Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statute which it signed but didn’t ratify. By all accounts, al-Bashir should be a prisoner in his own country. However, the Arab League has announced its solidarity with al-Bashir. Since the warrant, he has visited Qatar and Egypt. Both countries have refused to arrest him and the African Union also condemned the arrest warrant and asked the United Nations Security Council to delay its enforcement.

The Sudanese government and JEM signed a ceasefire agreement in February 2010, with a tentative agreement to pursue further peace. However, talks have been disrupted by accusations that the Sudanese army continues to launch raids and air strikes against Darfur villages.

The Janjaweed have also been accused of incursions and attacks in neighboring Chad. Hundreds of aid workers in Chad have already been evacuated due to increased tension between rebel groups and military forces. Meanwhile, the Janjaweed have ventured deep into Chad to conduct assaults, resulting in the fleeing of nearly 100,000 Chadians.

Burning Village

Attacks on Darfuri villages commonly begin with Sudanese Air Force bombings. Air campaigns are often followed by Janjaweed militia raids. All remaining village men, women, and children are either murdered or forced to flee. Looting, burning food stocks, enslaving and raping women and children, and stealing livestock are common. Dead bodies are tossed in wells to contaminate water supplies and entire villages are burned to the ground.

The on-going conflict in Darfur, Sudan was declared “genocide” by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell on September 9, 2004 in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On February 18, 2006, President George W. Bush called for the number of international troops in Darfur to be doubled.

On September 17, 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote an open letter to the members of the European Union calling for a unified response to the crisis. In supporting the United Nations Security Council Resolution in 2007 to authorize the deployment of up to 26,000 peacekeepers to try to stop the violence in Darfur, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Darfur crisis was “the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today.” The British government also endorsed the International Criminal Court’s ruling regarding Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and has urged the Sudanese government to co-operate.

Victims of Genocide

Both China and Russia have worked to block many United Nations resolutions in attempts to appease the Sudanese government. From its seat on the United Nations Security Council, China has been Sudan’s chief diplomatic ally. China invests heavily in Sudanese oil. The country is China’s largest oversees oil provider. Sudan’s military is supplied by Chinese-made helicopters, tanks, fighter planes, bombers, rocket launch propelled grenades, and machine guns.

For decades, Russia and China have maintained a strong economic and politically strategic partnership. The countries opposed UN peace keeping troops in the Sudan. Russia strongly supports Sudan’s territorial integrity and opposes the creation of an independent Darfuri state. Also, Russia is Sudan’s strongest investment partner and political ally in Europe. Russia considers Sudan as an important global ally in the African continent.