Since Sudan's independence from Egypt and Great Britain in 1956, the country has been engaged in a civil war with periodic ceasefires. Violence first erupted when the Khartoum government broke its promise to southerners to create a federal system, leading to a civil war which lasted 17 years (1955-72). After the announcement of Islamic Shari'ah law into Sudan's penal code, violence again surfaced, lasting until present day. This civil war stems from multiple issues including race, religion, and resources.
Fighting has existed primarily between Arab Muslims in the North, who have
held control the national government and most of the country's resources
since independence, and the Christian and Animist Africans in the
South. The southern based Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA),
has fought against the Khartoum government demanding the establishment
of a secular, democratic Sudan. Complicating matters further divisions within the SPLA and other
southern rebel groups existed, some seeking full independence for
The exporting of oil from Sudan in 1999 added a new element to the tensions
between the Khartuom government and southerners. The Sudanese government
displaced large numbers of the civilian population that surround the
mostly international and foreign-owned oil fields. This was justified
as a security measure. The government viewed much of the southern
population as being sympathetic to southern rebels who were contesting
the government for control of the south's natural resources.
On May 26th, 2004 the Sudanese government and the SPLA signed several
major peace protocols. The goal was to end the twenty year civil war;
however, the resurgence of violence in the Darfur region in 2003 has
delayed peace efforts.
Conflict in Darfur
In 2003 violence erupted between in the Darfur region of Sudan with is
located in northwestern part of the country. This conflict pits the
Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) against the government of Sudan and their proxy militias, known as the "janjaweed."
Much of this conflict, which has increasingly gained serious racial and
ethnic overtones, originated from land and agricultural disputes and the inattentiveness of Khartoum to regional needs .
Two occupational groups, agriculturalists and pastoralists, comprise
Darfur and historically have been in conflict. The agriculturalists,
who are mostly of African decent, farm in the central zone of Darfur,
while the pastoralists, who are mainly of Arab decent, live and keep
their herds in the more arid zone of northern Darfur. During the dry
season (November through April), pastoralists move into the South
searching for water and grazing sources for their herds. Disputes
with the agriculturalists arose when camels and cattle from the herds
destroyed the local farmers' crops, leading to a series of retaliatory
attacks between pastoralists and agriculturalists.
Political issues have also created cause for conflict in Darfur. Arab tribes,
feeling underrepresented in local administration, formed the "Arab
alliance" which sought to gain political control over Darfur.
During the late 1980s the Sudanese government also began arming militias
known as "muraheleen," which had previously been used as a counterinsurgency
force against the SPLA in southern Sudan. The muraheleeen carried
out campaigns of raiding, looting, displacement, and enslavement against
civilians in SLA/M areas.
In the recent 2003 outbreak of fighting, the government sponsored
janjaweed have focused their attacks primarily on three ethnic
groups in Darfur-the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa. Reports
of the attacks have indicated Janjaweed involvement in the destruction
of villages, the killing and maiming of civilians, the blocking
of international relief projects, and systematic rape campaigns.
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