Sudan - History
The Sudanese national flag
Photo: Toby Adamson/Oxfam
For centuries, the region that is now known as Sudan consisted
of a number of independent nations. In the early nineteenth century,
Egypt invaded and gained control of the northern part. Later, Mohammed
Ahmed, the Mahdi (head of a religious group), started a rebellion
in the south to gain control of the whole region. In January 1885,
the Mahdists captured Khartoum, killing General Gordon (the British
governor) in the process, and thus unified Sudan. In 1899, British
and Egyption forces, working together, regained control of the country.
On 1 January 1956, Sudan became fully independent, although a civil
war was already in the offing because of unrest in the south about
the growing political and economic dominance of north Sudan. An
agreement giving southerners more power eventually led to eleven
years of peace, but in 1983, the government imposed sharia law (the
Islamic legal code) throughout the country, including the mainly
Christian south, and split the southern region into three administrative
provinces. Civil war broke out again, with the Sudan Peoples
Liberation Army playing a major role.
In June 1989, Brigadier-General Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir seized
power, and in the early 1990s the Bashir regime began suppressing
political opposition and stepped up the war against the rebels in
The civil war has taken up most of the government's resources,
leaving little money for basic services such as health care and
education in the rest of the country.
Under the terms of an agreement reached at peace talks in Kenya
in July 2002, southern Sudan would be granted a six-year period
of administrative autonomy and not be subject to Islamic Law which
is applied in the Arab north. At the end of the
six years the south would decide in a referendum if they wish to
remain part of Sudan or become independent.
A key peace deal between the government and rebel groups designed
to bring a permanent end to fighting between groups in the north
and south was signed on 26 May 2004. However a final settlement
has still to be agreed.
Unfortunately other groups fighting in Dafur, in the west of Sudan
were not included in these peace talks and fighting in this region
has got much worse. Many people have had to flee from their homes
because of the war yand are now living in refugee camps.
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