History of Sudan

South Sudan: A  troubled history and uncertain future

By: Taylor Anderson

Sudan’s history is very much similar to its neighbors, and its split in July 2011 will hopefully end centuries of unrest among differing ethnic tribes throughout the country. Colonization throughout Africa in the late 1800s split tribes and families and established borders of varying language and culture. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom grabbed pieces of land throughout Africa for colonization, which led to disputes among tribes that shared a country border.

Sudan’s various ethnic groups were ruled mainly by the United Kingdom, which colonized the most land in Africa along with France. As a result, Christianity and the English language are still around today. The North was under a Turco-Egyptian administration before 1881, when a revolt against the leadership foreshadowed disputes that exist today.

England’s rule started in 1899 and lasted until 1955, and was shared with Egypt. The two generally considered the north and south separate and autonomous regions despite internal disputes among the tribes. The north, generally controlled by Egypt, was strongly inhibited by Muslims, whereas the south people of the south were mostly Christians and indigenous believers.

Two years after independence, the interim civilian government was overthrown by Gen. Abboud put the country in military control. Just four years later the country, led by the Anyanya movement in the south, entered what’s known as the First Sudanese Civil War, in 1962.

In 1964, an Islamist-led movement overthrew Gen. Abboud’s government, leaving Sudan under an Islamic ruling government until today.

South Sudan first gained recognition as a semi-autonomous nation in 1972 after a peace agreement between Addis Ababa and the Anyanya, and the first civil war in Sudan came to an end.


Oil was discovered in South Sudan in 1978. The reserves were later proven to be the 20th largest in the world, leaving the south with means of generating great amounts of wealth without any means to do so. The government in the north created oil pipelines leading from the south to the capital, in Khartoum.

The government declared in 1983 that Sudan was under Sharia Law, a move that was widely unpopular throughout the country, especially in the Dinka-controlled, Christian and indigenous south. The move effectively marked the beginning of the Second Sudanese Civil War.

In 1984, after the establishment of the Southern People’s Liberation Movement and Army, Colonel Garang becomes the leader. Contrary to the widespread belief and desire of the country, Garang fought for a unified Sudan, as opposed to a liberated South Sudan nation.

Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s current president, assumed power of Sudan in 1989, marking the beginning of a 22-year regime that exists today.

The SPLA split in 1991 after several contradictory and dictatorial moves by Col Garang. Emerging leaders were Riek Machar and Lam Akol under a new faction of the SPLA.

In 1998, 96 percent of voters were for a new constitution in Sudan.


The country in 1999 began its export of its vast oil reserves. Bashir was re-elected the following year in a highly disputed election that appointed him president of Sudan for another five years.

The country signed several peace agreements with the government in Khartoum during the early 2000’s, along with several cease fires that ineffectively ended the 19-year civil war.

Conflicts in Darfur began in 2003 when rebels there rose up against the government in Khartoum for ignoring the region’s plight. The government retaliated to the attacks in January 2004, effectively displacing millions of Darfur residents who fled to neighboring Chad. The following genocide would become one of the most widely recognized offenses of genocide in history.

The government began agreements with the south in May of 2004 to end the conflicts between the two and move toward peace. Meanwhile, in September 2004 the UN declared the conflict in Darfur an international crisis.

The second civil war ended in a permanent cease fire in January 2005. Garang, then the first president of South Sudan, died shortly after in a helicopter crash and Salva Kiir Mayardit was named his successor. A Sudan-recognized South Sudan Government was officially created in 2005, when an administration that filled with former rebels was quickly created.

Despite the ceasefire and supposed end of conflict in Darfur, two rebel groups rejected a peacekeeping deal, and fighting continued in the region. The Sudan Government tried to portray peace in the region, but reports show that fighting remains at large today throughout Darfur and along the north-south border. Most of the fighting occurs between rebel groups attempting to grab power.

Sudan in 2007 allowed UN troops to enter the region, contrary to its previous rejections of a UN presence because of a “compromise of national sovereignty.” The troop count eventually increased to 27,000.

In 2008 UN and Sudan Government workers attempted to do census counting that remains controversial today. Population numbers and estimates of the devastation in Darfur are still disputed today. The census estimated that 300,000 people died during the Darfur conflict.

Unfortunately for the people and NGOs working in South Sudan, the CIA World Factbook dates most of its information before the country will split in July 2011, so most of the information includes both the north and south and doesn’t give an accurate portrayal of the state of the south.

As for the entire country, Sudan ranks high rates overall for birth, death, population growth, infant mortality, fertility, and people living with HIV/AIDS. The country maintains generally low rates for life expectancy, migration and GDP per capita.

There are currently 11,900 km of roadways in Sudan, less than half of which are paved. Studies show that most of these roads exist in the north, leaving the south without a means of ample transportation. There are an estimated 100 km of roads in South Sudan.

Sudan is Africa’s largest country, a title that will last only until the nation splits in two, with 10 southern states uniting to form South Sudan.

Population in the south is already booming since the CPA in 2005. Stats show that in the three years after the agreement, the population of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, jumped from roughly 180,000 to 250,000. This is probably due to the relatively settled nature of the capital and the amenities that are provided there. Most of the country’s estimated 45,000,000 people live in the north.

Some of the biggest factors in the future of South Sudan remain troubling today.

Some of the highest education rates in South Sudan are located in Central and Western Equatoria, and in the Upper Nile state, where attendance rates are 15-to-30 percent, many regions throughout the soon-to-be country have rates that are near zero percent.

Also troubling is the lack of roads and pipelines for oil exportation. It is estimated that 98 percent of the Government of South Sudan’s budget comes from exportation of oil, all of which exists in the south. Production accounts for roughly 50 percent of the Sudan Government’s budget. Inevitable problems exist when the countries go their separate ways while the reserves exist in the south but the pipelines lead to the north and the south has no way to pay for pipelines.

Fighting in 2008 in the oil-rich region of Abyei, South Sudan between northern and southern forces foreshadows what’s likely to be one of the largest determiners in the future of South Sudan. Much of the government’s wealth will come from oil, and national sovereignty will hinge upon the northern and southern governments’ ability to work together to share the resource.

It’s proven that the countries with the highest human development indexes tend to have free press. South Sudan is known to censor its reporters from covering corruption in government, tribal conflicts and the conflict in Darfur. Without improving the freedom of the press, the country can expect corruption to go unnoticed and development to be slow.

The International Criminal Court accused al-Bashir of genocide and issued a warrant for his war crimes in Darfur. It’s the first ever warrant against the head of a state in ICC history. Bashir remains today the president of Sudan despite the sanctions against him.


Contemporary South Sudan reached a tipping point in 2009, when the government agreed upon a 2011 referendum vote for the south to officially decide its fate. The vote resulted in a 99 percent vote in favor of cession from the north, and a July 11, 2011 date has been set for separation.

The ICC in 2010 issued a second arrest warrant for Bashir before he won the first contested election since 1986, according to the BBC.

Relations between the governments of the north and south have been chilled since March, when the Government of South Sudan accused Khartoum of plotting to disrupt the sovereignty of South Sudan when it splits in July of this year.


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