What is going on in Sudan?
Sudan has now almost continually been the scene of civil wars between the Islamic North and Christian South for close to half a century. The most important causes of these protracted conflicts were discrimination of the South Sudanese population and control over oil and water wells, which are for the most part located in the South. This conflict came to an end in 2005 when the most important parties, the North Sudanese government and the South Sudanese Liberation Army (SPLM/A), concluded a peace agreement. It is estimated that as many as two million people lost their lives in the wars. Four million people became homeless.
Darfur was affected by yet another humanitarian crisis. From 2003, this northern province was stricken by a guerrilla war between Arab militias (Janjaweed) backed by the Sudanese government and African rebel groups, such as the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the “Justice and Equality Movement” (JEM). Approximately 2.5 million inhabitants of the region fled, and 200,000-400,000 people were killed in this conflict. A peace agreement was reached in 2006, but some rebel groups refused to sign. A few years later the International Criminal Court decided to prosecute the main architects of the genocide in Darfur, including President Omar-al-Bashir.
Sudan has undergone major political developments over the past few years. The South first became semi-autonomous. Then, on 9 July 2011, it became the independent state of South Sudan. North Sudan has since been officially called “Sudan”. Things have still not calmed down. For instance, there are still conflicts about the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Both countries dispute the oil fields that are located there.
Despite the politically unstable situation, North Sudan realizes a 9% economic growth per year, largely attributable to oil revenues. However, only a small percentage of the population benefit from these revenues. Approximately 70% of the population live in dire poverty, particularly the women in rural areas and the refugees in camps. Because of a lack of rain, primitive methods of agriculture and soil erosion, the region’s agricultural production is negligible.
The separation of Sudan and South Sudan has resulted in new conflicts. Ethnic population groups which sympathized with the southern rebels during the civil war live in the border regions of South Kordofan, Abyei and Blue Nile. However, now that South Sudan is independent, these areas belong to hostile Sudan. Unfortunately, fighting broke out again in South Kordofan in June 2011. Approximately 53,000 people have fled to escape fighting between rebels and the Sudanese army. The situation therefore continues to be extremely delicate.