The 20th century saw the growth of Sudanese nationalism, and in 1953 Egypt and Britain granted the Sudan self-government. Independence was proclaimed on Jan. 1, 1956. Since independence, the Sudan has been ruled by a series of unstable parliamentary governments and military regimes. Under Maj. Gen. Gaafar Mohamed Nimeiri, the Sudan instituted fundamentalist Islamic law in 1983. This exacerbated the rift between the Arab North, the seat of the government, and the black African animists and Christians in the South. Differences in language, religion, ethnicity, and political power erupted in an unending civil war between government forces, strongly influenced by the National Islamic Front (NIF), and the southern rebels, whose most influential faction is the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. Neither side has gained the upper hand, and more than an estimated 1 million people have died in battle or from famines and disease resulting from war. Human rights violations, religious persecution, and allegations that the Sudan has been a safe haven for terrorists have isolated the country from most of the international community. On Aug. 20, 1998, the United States launched cruise missiles that destroyed a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Khartoum that allegedly manufactured chemical weapons. Sudan has close ties with Iraq, which has thwarted the U.N. inspections of its weapons stockpiles that are thought to include biological weapons. The U.S. contended that the Sudanese factory was financed by the wealthy Islamic militant, Osama bin Laden.
In 1999 international attention has been focused on evidence that slavery is widespread throughout Sudan. Arab raiders from the north of the country have enslaved thousands of southerners, who are black. The Dinka people have been the hardest hit. Some sources point out that the raids intensified in the 1980s along with the civil war between north and south. Since the early 1990s, several international human rights organizations have engaged in the controversial practice of buying back slaves from the traders. Some contend this may inadvertently encourage slavery since slave redemption has become profitable. The anti-slavery organizations counter that in the absence of a political solution, buying back slaves is the only hope for thousands of Sudanese.
In 1969, Col. Muhammad Gaafur al-Nimeiry staged a successful coup. He banned all political parties; numerous industries and banks were subsequently nationalized. In July, 1971, a Communist-led coup attempt was defeated by Nimeiry. The bloody civil war, which had resulted in the death in battle and by starvation and disease of about 1.5 million southerners, was ended by an agreement between the government and the Southern-Sudan Liberation Front (whose military arm was known as Anya Nya) signed (Feb., 1972) at Addis Ababa; under the agreement the southern Sudan received considerable autonomy. Al-Bashir officially became president in 1993. Under his leadership, Sudan continued to support fundamentalism at home and abroad, banned opposition parties, and jailed dissidents. Meanwhile, the civil war continued unabated into the 1990s, devastating the country, killing over a million and a half (mostly of war-related starvation), and becoming the longest war in 20th century Africa.
The enslavement of the Dinkas in southern Sudan may be the most horrific and well-known example of contemporary slavery. According to 1993 U.S. State Department estimates, up to 90,000 blacks are owned by North African Arabs, and often sold as property in a thriving slave trade for as little as $15 per human being.
of the past 43 years.
Since 1983 an estimated 1.9 million people have died from war related causes. More than four million people, mostly civilians, have fled their homes and are living as displaced people within Sudan or as refugees in neighboring countries. In 1998 alone, tens of thousands of people died of war-related famine and millions continue to face life-threatening food shortages. Human rights abuses continue to ravage the people living in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains of Kordofan. These include, among others, aerial bombings of civilian targets, looting of cattle and grain, wholesale destruction of villages, extrajudicial executions, and the abduction of women and children.
Since 1993 Sudan’s neighbors Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, and Uganda, working through the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have attempted to mediate a peaceful settlement of the civil war. Faith-based groups have actively worked for peace, and the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC) has recently had significant success in seeking reconciliation among conflicted southern non-combatants. The war continues, neither side able to win militarily, yet both remaining committed to military engagement. .