June 8, 2012, 1:51 pm
Source: CIA World Factbook
Content Cover Image

Satellite view of Khartoum at the confluence of the White and Blue Nile rivers. Source: NASA

Sudan is a nation is northern-Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Egypt to the north and Eritrea and Ethiopia to the southeast.

The Nile River flows through Sudan. Its main tributaries, the Blue Nile (originating in Ethiopia) and the White Nile (originating in Lake Victoria and its feeding rivers) converge at Khartoum, its capitol. Dominated by the Sahara Desert in the north, Sudan is a generally flat, featureless plain with mountains in far south, northeast and west.

Sudan's major environmental issues include: inadequate supplies of potable water; wildlife populations threatened by excessive hunting; soil erosion; and, desertification. It is susceptible to dust storms and periodic persistent droughts.

Military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated national politics since independence from the UK in 1956. Sudan was embroiled in two prolonged civil wars during most of the remainder of the 20th century. These conflicts were rooted in northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese. The first civil war ended in 1972 but broke out again in 1983. The second war and famine-related effects resulted in more than four million people displaced and, according to rebel estimates, more than two million deaths over a period of two decades. Peace talks gained momentum in 2002-04 with the signing of several accords. The final North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005, granted the southern rebels autonomy for six years followed by a referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. The referendum was held in January 2011 and indicated overwhelming support for independence. South Sudan became an independent tate on July 9, 2011.

A separate conflict, which broke out in the western region of Darfur in 2003, has displaced nearly two million people and caused an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. The UN took command of the Darfur peacekeeping operation from the African Union in December 2007. Peacekeeping troops have struggled to stabilize the situation, which has become increasingly regional in scope and has brought instability to eastern Chad. Sudan also has faced large refugee influxes from neighboring countries primarily Ethiopia and Chad. Armed conflict, poor transport infrastructure, and lack of government support have chronically obstructed the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected populations.


Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Egypt and Eritrea

Geographic Coordinates: 15 00 N, 30 00 E

Area: 1,861,484 km

Land Boundaries: 6,751 km. Border countries: Central African Republic 165 km, Chad 1,360 km, Egypt 1,275 km, Eritrea 605 km, Ethiopia 769 km, Libya 383 km, 

Coastline: 853 km

Maritime Claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 18 nm
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation

Natural Hazards: dust storms and periodic persistent droughts

Terrain: Generally flat, featureless plain; mountains in far south, northeast and west; desert dominates the north. Its lowest point is the  Red Sea (0 metres) and its highest point is Kinyeti (3,187 metres)

Climate: Tropical in south; arid desert in north; rainy season varies by region (April to November)



Ecology and Biodiversity

1.  Sahara desert

2.  South Saharan steppe and woodlands

3.  Red Sea Coastal Desert

4.  Sahelian Acacia savanna

5.  Ethiopian montane forests

6.   Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands

7.  Somali Acacia-Commiphora bushlands and thickets

8.  East Sudanian savanna

9.  Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands

10.  East Saharan montane xeric woodlands

Map source: World Wildlife Fund


People and Society

Population: 25,948,220. note: excludes the population of South Sudan (8,260,490); other demographic data includes South Sudan (July 2012 est.)

Sudan’s population is one of the most diverse on the African continent. Within two distinct major cultures--Arab and sub-Saharan African--there are hundreds of ethnic and tribal subdivisions and language groups, which make effective collaboration among them a major political challenge.

The Sudanese are predominantly Arabic-speaking Muslims, though many also use a non-Arabic mother tongue--e.g., Nubian, Beja, Fur, Nuban, Ingessana, etc. Among these are several distinct tribal groups:

  • the Kababish of northern Kordofan, a camel-raising people;
  • the Ja’alin and Shaigiyya groups of settled tribes along the rivers;
  • the semi-nomadic Baggara of Kordofan and Darfur;
  • the Hamitic Beja in the Red Sea area and Nubians of the northern Nile areas, some of whom have been resettled on the Atbara River; and,
  • the Nuba of southern Kordofan and Fur in the western reaches of the country.

Following the secession of South Sudan, there remain some small factions of Dinka (particularly the Dinka Ngok in Abyei), Shilluk, and the Nuer from the Nilotic tribes.

According to post-secession figures based on census results released in early 2009, Sudan’s population combined with South Sudan's has reached an estimated 33.4 million.

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 42.1% (male 9,696,726/female 9,286,894)
15-64 years: 55.2% (male 12,282,082/female 12,571,424)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 613,817/female 596,559) (2011 est., including population of South Sudan)

Population Growth Rate: 1.884% (2012 est.)

Birth Rate: 31.7 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 8.33 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: -4.52 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 62.57 years 

male: 60.58 years
female: 64.67 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 4.17 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: Arabic (official), Nubian, Ta Bedawie, Fur, English; note: program of "Arabization" in process

Literacy (2003 est.): 61.1% (male: 71.8% - female: 50.5%)

Urbanization: 40% of total population (2010) growing at a 3.7% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)


Pyramids of the Kushite rulers at Meroe.

Sudan was a collection of small, independent kingdoms and principalities from the beginning of the Christian era until 1820-21, when Egypt conquered and unified the northern portion of the country. However, neither the Egyptian nor the Mahdist state (1883-1898) had any effective control of the southern region outside of a few garrisons.

In 1881, a religious leader named Muhammad ibn Abdalla proclaimed himself the Mahdi, or the "expected one," and began a religious crusade to unify the tribes in western and central Sudan. His followers took on the name "Ansars" (the followers) which they continue to use today and are associated with the single largest political grouping, the Umma Party, led by a descendant of the Mahdi, Sadiq al Mahdi.

Taking advantage of dissatisfaction resulting from Ottoman-Egyptian exploitation and maladministration, the Mahdi led a nationalist revolt culminating in the fall of Khartoum in 1885. The Mahdi died shortly thereafter, but his state survived until overwhelmed by an invading Anglo-Egyptian force under Lord Kitchener in 1898. While nominally administered jointly by Egypt and Britain, Britain exercised control, formulated policies, and supplied most of the top administrators.

In February 1953, the United Kingdom and Egypt concluded an agreement providing for Sudanese self-government and self-determination. The transitional period toward independence began with the inauguration of the first parliament in 1954. With the consent of the British and Egyptian Governments, Sudan achieved independence on January 1, 1956, under a provisional constitution. This constitution was silent on two crucial issues for southern leaders--the secular or Islamic character of the state and its federal or unitary structure. However, the Arab-led Khartoum government reneged on promises to southerners to create a federal system, which led to a mutiny by southern army officers that launched 17 years of civil war (1955-72).

Sudan has been at war with itself for more than three-quarters of its existence. Since independence, protracted conflict rooted in deep cultural and religious differences have slowed Sudan’s economic and political development and forced massive internal displacement of its people. Northerners, who have traditionally controlled the country, have sought to unify it along the lines of Arabism and Islam despite the opposition of non-Muslims, southerners, and marginalized peoples in the west and east. The resultant civil strife affected Sudan’s neighbors, as they alternately sheltered fleeing refugees or served as operating bases for rebel movements.

In 1958, General Ibrahim Abboud seized power and pursued a policy of Arabization and Islamicization for both North and South Sudan that strengthened Southern opposition. General Abboud was overthrown in 1964 and a civilian caretaker government assumed control. Southern leaders eventually divided into two factions, those who advocated a federal solution and those who argued for self-determination, a euphemism for secession since it was assumed the south would vote for independence if given the choice.

Until 1969, there was a succession of governments that proved unable either to agree on a permanent constitution or to cope with problems of factionalism, economic stagnation, and ethnic dissidence. These regimes were dominated by "Arab" Muslims who asserted their Arab-Islamic agenda and refused any kind of self-determination for southern Sudan.

In May 1969, a group of communist and socialist officers led by Colonel Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiri, seized power. A month after coming to power, Nimeiri proclaimed socialism (instead of Islamism) for the country and outlined a policy of granting autonomy to the South. Nimeiri in turn was the target of a coup attempt by communist members of the government. It failed and Nimeiri ordered a massive purge of communists. This alienated the Soviet Union, which withdrew its support.

Already lacking support from the Muslim parties he had chased from power, Nimeiri could no longer count on the communist faction. Having alienated the right and the left, Nimeiri turned to the south as a way of expanding his limited powerbase. He pursued peace initiatives with Sudan’s hostile neighbors, Ethiopia and Uganda, signing agreements that committed each signatory to withdraw support for the other’s rebel movements. He then initiated negotiations with the southern rebels and signed an agreement in Addis Ababa in 1972 that granted a measure of autonomy to the South. Southern support helped him put down two coup attempts, one initiated by officers from the western regions of Darfur and Kordofan who wanted for their region the same privileges granted to the south.

However, the Addis Ababa Agreement had no support from either the secularist or Islamic Northern parties. Nimeiri concluded that their lack of support was more threatening to his regime than lack of support from the south so he announced a policy of national reconciliation with all the religious opposition forces. These parties did not feel bound to observe an agreement they perceived as an obstacle to furthering an Islamist state. The scales against the peace agreement were tipped in 1979 when Chevron discovered oil in the south. Northern pressure built to abrogate those provisions of the peace treaty granting financial autonomy to the south. In 1983, Nimeiri abolished the Southern region, declared Arabic the official language of the South (instead of English) and transferred control of Southern armed forces to the central government. This was effectively a unilateral abrogation of the 1972 peace treaty. The second Sudan civil war began in January 1983 when southern soldiers mutinied rather than follow orders transferring them to the North.

In September 1983, as part of an Islamicization campaign, President Nimeiri announced that traditional Islamic punishments drawn from Shari’a (Islamic law) would be incorporated into the penal code. This was controversial even among Muslim groups. Amputations for theft and public lashings for alcohol possession became common. Southerners and other non-Muslims living in the north were also subjected to these punishments.

In April 1985, while out of the country, Nimeiri was overthrown by a popular uprising in Khartoum provoked by a collapsing economy, the war in the south, and political repression. General Suwar al-Dahab headed the transitional government. One of its first acts was to suspend the 1983 constitution and disband Nimeiri’s Sudan Socialist Union.

Elections were held in April 1986, and a civilian government took power. There were tentative moves towards negotiating peace with the south. However, any proposal to exempt the south from Islamic law was unacceptable to those who supported Arabic supremacy. In 1989, an Islamic army faction led by General Umar al-Bashir mounted a coup and installed the National Islamic Front. The new government’s commitment to an Islamic state intensified the North-South conflict.

The Bashir government combined internal political repression with international Islamist activism. It supported radical Islamist groups in Algeria and supported Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Khartoum was established as a base for militant Islamist groups: radical movements and terrorist organizations like Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaida were provided a safe haven and logistical aid in return for financial support. In 1996, the UN imposed sanctions on Sudan for alleged connections to the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Meanwhile, the 1990s saw a growing sense of alienation in the western and eastern regions of Sudan from the Arab center. The rulers in Khartoum were seen as less and less responsive to the concerns and grievances of both Muslim and non-Muslim populations across the country. Alienation from the "Arab" center caused various groups to grow sympathetic to the southern rebels led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), and in some cases, prompted them to flight alongside it.

The policy of the ruling regime toward the South was to pursue the war against the rebels while manipulating tribal divisions. Ultimately, this policy resulted in the rebels’ uniting under the leadership of John Garang. During this period, the SPLM/A rebels also enjoyed support from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda. The Bashir government's "Pan-Islamic" foreign policy, which provided support for neighboring radical Islamist groups, was partly responsible for this support for the rebels.

The 1990s saw a succession of regional efforts to broker an end to the Sudanese civil war. Beginning in 1993, the leaders of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya pursued a peace initiative for Sudan under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), but results were mixed. Despite that record, the IGAD initiative promulgated the 1994 Declaration of Principles (DOP) that aimed to identify the essential elements necessary to a just and comprehensive peace settlement; i.e., the relationship between religion and the state, power sharing, wealth sharing, and the right of self-determination for the south. The Sudanese Government did not sign the DOP until 1997 after major battlefield losses to the SPLA. That year, the Khartoum government signed a series of agreements with rebel factions under the banner of "Peace from Within." These included the Khartoum, Nuba Mountains, and Fashoda Agreements that ended military conflict between the government and significant rebel factions. Many of those leaders then moved to Khartoum where they assumed marginal roles in the central government or collaborated with the government in military engagements against the SPLA. These three agreements paralleled the terms and conditions of the IGAD agreement, calling for a degree of autonomy for the south and the right of self-determination.

End to the Civil War
In July 2002, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A reached a historic agreement on the role of state and religion and the right of southern Sudan to self-determination. This agreement, known as the Machakos Protocol, named after the Kenyan town where the peace talks were held, concluded the first round of talks sponsored by IGAD. The effort was mediated by retired Kenyan General Lazaro Sumbeiywo. Peace talks resumed and continued during 2003, with discussions focusing on wealth sharing and three contested areas.

On November 19, 2004, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A signed a declaration committing themselves to conclude a final comprehensive peace agreement by December 31, 2004. The declaration came in the context of an extraordinary session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in Nairobi, Kenya--only the fifth time the Council had met outside of New York since its founding. At this session, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 1574, which welcomed the commitment of the government and the SPLM/A to achieve agreement by the end of 2004, and underscored the international community’s intention to assist the Sudanese people and support implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement. In keeping with their commitment to the UNSC, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A initialed the final elements of the comprehensive agreement on December 31, 2004. The two parties formally signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2005. The U.S. and the international community welcomed this decisive step forward for peace in Sudan.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement
The 2005 CPA established a new Government of National Unity and the interim Government of Southern Sudan and called for wealth-sharing, power-sharing, and security arrangements between the two parties. The historic agreement provided for a ceasefire, withdrawal of troops from southern Sudan, and the repatriation and resettlement of refugees. It also stipulated that by the end of the fourth year of an interim period there would be elections at all levels, including for national and southern Sudan president, state governors, and national, southern Sudan, and state legislatures.

On July 9, 2005, the Presidency was inaugurated with al-Bashir sworn in as President and John Garang, SPLM/A leader, installed as First Vice President of Sudan. Ratification of the Interim National Constitution followed. The Constitution declares Sudan to be a “democratic, decentralized, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual State.”

On July 30, 2005, Garang died in a helicopter crash. The SPLM/A named Salva Kiir, Garang’s deputy, as First Vice President of the Government of National Unity and President of the Government of Southern Sudan.

Implemented provisions of the CPA include: formation of the National Legislature; appointment of Cabinet members; establishment of the Government of Southern Sudan; signing of the interim Southern Sudan Constitution; appointment of state governors; and adoption of state constitutions. The electoral law paving the way for national elections was passed in July 2008, and elections were held at six levels in April 2010. Laws governing the Southern Sudan and Abyei referenda and the popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile were passed in December 2009, and the parties agreed in February 2010 to begin demarcation of the north-south border.

New CPA-mandated commissions also were created. Those formed included the National Electoral Commission, Assessment and Evaluation Commission, National Petroleum Commission, Fiscal and Financial Allocation and Monitoring Commission, and the North-South Border Commission. The Ceasefire Political Commission, Joint Defense Board, and Ceasefire Joint Military Committee were also established as part of the security arrangements of the CPA.

With the establishment of the National Population Census Council, a population census was conducted in April/May 2008 in preparation for national elections that took place from April 11-15, 2010. The results from the census were released in early 2009. The CPA mandated that a referendum be held no later than January 2011, giving southerners the opportunity to vote either for unity within Sudan or separation, and that a parallel referendum be held for the people of Abyei to determine whether they wish to remain in the North or join the South.

On January 15, 2011 the week-long Southern Sudan referendum concluded, and official results were announced on February 7, 2011. More than 3.85 million people, or 97.58% of registered voters, participated with 98.83% voting for secession according to the final results. During the February 7, 2011 announcement ceremony, the Government of Sudan thanked the international community and issued the following statement: "In accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the Constitution of 2005, we accept the referendum result, and we renew our commitment to building constructive relations with the new state in the South." On the same day, President Barack Obama congratulated the people of Southern Sudan, and announced the United States' intent to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011. In a separate statement on February 7, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated all of Sudan, and signaled the United States would initiate the process of withdrawing Sudan’s state sponsor of terrorism designation.

While significant progress has been made since 2005, and completion of the referendum and secession are major achievements, several post-referendum issues--including citizenship, security, debt, oil management, wealth sharing, and currency--remained unresolved as of October 2011. The parties continue to work through these issues, and the United States remains actively engaged through its support of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and its chairman, former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The status of Abyei also remained unresolved as of October 2011. Although the boundaries of Abyei were defined through arbitration in The Hague in July 2009, and both sides have accepted the arbitration decision, issues persist on residency rights, and a referendum on the final status of Abyei has not yet been held. In August 2009, in conjunction with discussions facilitated by the United States, the two CPA parties signed an agreement charting a path forward on 10 points critical to implementation of the CPA. In May 2011 conflict broke out in Abyei between the Sudanese Armed Forces and forces loyal to the SPLM. The parties continue to work through issues related to CPA implementation.

Popular consultations in Blue Nile are currently stalled. Previously, citizen hearings had been completed and technical hearings were scheduled to begin in April 2011. The process in Southern Kordofan remained on hold until state-level elections scheduled for May were concluded; voter registration for the May elections was completed in February 2011.

In 2003, while the historic north-south conflict was on its way to resolution, increasing reports began to surface of attacks on civilians, especially aimed at non-Arab tribes in the extremely marginalized Darfur region of Sudan. A rebellion broke out in Darfur, led by two rebel groups--the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). These groups represented agrarian farmers who are mostly non-Arabized black African Muslims. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local, rival tribes and militias, which have come to be known as the "Janjaweed." Their members were composed mostly of Arabized black African Muslims who herded cattle, camels, and other livestock. Attacks on the civilian population by the Janjaweed, often with the direct support of Government of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), have led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur, with an estimated 2 million internally displaced people and another 250,000 refugees in neighboring Chad.

On September 9, 2004, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility--and that genocide may still be occurring." President George W. Bush echoed this in July 2005, when he stated that the situation in Darfur was "clearly genocide."

Intense international efforts to solve the crisis got underway, and a cease-fire between the parties was signed in N’Djamena, Chad, on April 8, 2004. However, despite the deployment of an African Union (AU) military mission to monitor implementation of the cease-fire and investigate violations, violence continued. The SLM/A and JEM negotiated with the Government of Sudan under African Union auspices. The result was an agreement signed on November 9, 2004 that contained additional protocols addressing the humanitarian and security aspects of the conflict. Like previous agreements, however, these were violated by both sides. Talks resumed in Abuja on June 10, 2005, resulting in a July 6 signing of a Declaration of Principles. Further talks were held in the fall and early winter of 2005 and covered power sharing, wealth sharing, and security arrangements. These negotiations were complicated by a split that occurred in SLM/A leadership. The SLM/A now had a faction loyal to Minni Minawi and a faction loyal to Abdel Wahid.

The African Union, with the support of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the U.S., and the rest of the international community, began deploying a larger monitoring and observer force in October 2004. The UNSC had passed three resolutions (1556, 1564, and 1574), all intended to compel the Government of Sudan to rein in the Janjaweed, protect the civilian population and humanitarian participants, seek avenues toward a political settlement to the humanitarian and political crisis, and recognize the need for the rapid deployment of an expanded African Union mission in Darfur. The U.S. has been a leader in pressing for strong international action by the United Nations and its agencies.

A series of UNSC resolutions in late March 2005 underscored the concerns of the international community regarding Sudan's continuing conflicts. Resolution 1590 established the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for an initial period of 6 months and decided that UNMIS would consist of up to 10,000 military personnel and up to 715 civilian police personnel. It requested UNMIS to coordinate with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to foster peace in Darfur, support implementation of the CPA, facilitate the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), provide humanitarian demining assistance, and protect human rights. The resolution also called on the Government of Sudan and rebel groups to resume the Abuja talks and support a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Darfur, including ensuring safe access for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

Resolution 1591 criticized the Government of Sudan and rebels in Darfur for having failed to comply with several previous UNSC resolutions, for ceasefire violations, and for human rights abuses. The resolution also called on all parties to resume the Abuja talks and to support a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Darfur; it also forms a monitoring committee charged with enforcing a travel ban and asset freeze of those determined to impede the peace process or violate human rights. Additionally, the resolution demanded that the Government of Sudan cease conducting offensive military flights in and over the Darfur region. Finally, Resolution 1593 referred the situation in Darfur to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and called on the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict in Darfur to cooperate with the ICC.

Following the UNSC resolutions and intense international pressure, the Darfur rebel groups and the Government of Sudan resumed negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria in early 2006. On May 5, 2006, the government and an SLM/A faction led by Minni Minawi signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). Unfortunately, the conflict in Darfur intensified shortly thereafter, led by rebel groups who refused to sign. In late August government forces began a major offensive on rebel areas in Northern Darfur. On August 30, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 1706, authorizing the transition of AMIS to a larger more robust UN peacekeeping operation. To further facilitate an end to the conflict in Darfur, President Bush announced the appointment of Andrew S. Natsios as the Special Envoy for Sudan on September 19, 2006.

In an effort to resolve Sudan’s opposition to a UN force, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and African Union Commission Chair Alpha Oumar Konare convened a meeting of key international officials and representatives of several African and Arab states in Addis Ababa on November 16, 2006. The agreement reached with the Government of Sudan provided for graduated UN support to AMIS culminating in the establishment of a joint “hybrid” AU-UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur.

International efforts in 2007 focused on rallying support for DPA signatory and non-signatory rebel movements to attend renewed peace talks, and on finalizing plans for the joint AU/UN hybrid operation. UN Security Council Resolution 1769 was adopted on July 31, 2007, providing the mandate for a joint AU/UN hybrid force to deploy to Darfur with troop contributions from African countries. The Joint AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was to assume authority from AMIS in the field no later than December 31, 2007.

Following the passage of UNSCR 1769, a conference was held August 3-5 in Arusha, Tanzania between key UN and AU officials and delegates from Darfur rebel groups. Many movements’ political and military leaderships were brought into the discussion in preparation for earnest peace talks. Peace talks between the Government of Sudan and rebel factions took place in Sirte, Libya on October 27, 2007. However, limited rebel participation and continuing disagreement about objectives and processes limited the effectiveness of these talks. Following the Sirte talks, the SPLM hosted workshops in Juba, Southern Sudan, to unite the rebel groups and allow them to come together to present a common front during negotiations. The Juba talks led to a consolidation of rebel factions down to five groups from an estimated 27. On December 21, 2007 President Bush announced the appointment of Richard S. Williamson as Special Envoy for Sudan, following the resignation of Andrew S. Natsios.

On July 14, 2008 the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that he was seeking an arrest warrant for President Bashir for allegedly masterminding genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur. In order to move quickly to find a solution to the violence in Darfur under the pressure of a possible ICC indictment, Sudan opened the Sudan People’s Initiative in October 2008. The conference brought together many Darfur rebel groups with the government for a conference to explore solutions and how to better implement the existing framework of the DPA. It culminated in the announcement of a unilateral Darfur ceasefire, which was reportedly violated within days of the declaration.

On March 4, 2009 the ICC announced that it was issuing an arrest warrant for President Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The three-judge panel that issued the warrant did not feel there was enough evidence to include the crime of genocide on the warrant. In response to the ICC indictment, the Government of Sudan expelled 13 international non-government organizations (NGOs) and closed down three Sudanese NGOs, which severely hindered international humanitarian aid efforts in Darfur. Despite the warrant for his arrest, Bashir has traveled freely to a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East since his indictment.

In early 2009, the Joint African Union-United Nations Chief Mediator Djibril Bassole convened talks in Doha, Qatar, between the Government of Sudan and several Darfuri rebel groups, most notably JEM. Although JEM and the government signed a goodwill agreement in February 2009, talks collapsed in May over prisoner swaps and humanitarian access. Throughout the summer of 2009, the AU-UN mediation team worked individually with the parties and civil society to prepare for a new round of negotiations, while President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan, J. Scott Gration, supported these efforts by working to unify a number of splintered rebel factions in preparation for negotiations, and pressing the government to commit to a new round of talks. In November 2009, the mediation team organized a series of meetings in Doha between the parties and Darfuri civil society in an effort to better represent the voices of the Darfuri people in the peace process.

On January 15, 2010, Sudan and Chad signed an accord in N’Djamena, Chad, to secure their joint border and remove the threat posed to one another by cross-border rebel proxies operating on Sudanese and Chadian territory. The U.S. supported the signing of this agreement, which, if fully implemented, could help to improve the security situation on the ground in Darfur. On April 13, 2010, the parties announced that elements of the joint border force had been deployed and the border had been officially opened for commerce and transit.

On February 3, 2010, the ICC Appeals Court decided that the original three-judge panel used too high an evidentiary standard to omit genocide from the March 4, 2009, indictment of Bashir, and instructed the panel to revisit its decision. On July 12, 2010 the ICC issued a second arrest warrant for Bashir, adding genocide to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On February 23, 2010, the Government of Sudan and JEM signed a 12-point framework agreement in Doha, in which the parties agreed to a ceasefire, a prisoner release, and the opening of a new round of formal negotiations. In the wake of this initial progress with JEM, several other armed movements, including SLA factions unified by the efforts of the U.S. and Libya, joined together in Doha under the umbrella of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM). On March 18, 2010, the Government of Sudan and the LJM signed a framework agreement and a ceasefire. Although negotiations in Doha were suspended during the April 11-15 national elections, talks between the Government of Sudan and the LJM resumed in June 2010. On May 3, JEM announced that it was “freezing” its participation in the Doha talks due to the Government of Sudan’s offensive against JEM positions in Jebel Moon, West Darfur. Since that time, the talks between the Government of Sudan and the LJM have continued. The African Union/United Nations Joint Chief Mediator announced at the beginning of September, along with the host Government of Qatar, a timeline that would produce a final outcome document from these negotiations. Doha mediation teams continued to work on a final document, with JEM sending a small delegation on December 16, 2010 and Abdul Wahid’s faction of the SLA considering sending representation following a press by the international community for negotiations without preconditions. The Government of Sudan urged the conclusion of the Doha talks in favor of a Darfur Political Process (DPP). The DPP would include consultations with a broad spectrum of Darfur civil society members, in addition to rebel groups, and culminate in the All-Darfur Conference (ADC), an inclusive forum intended to establish a corporate representation of Darfuris to finalize the elements of a political settlement for Darfur. On July 14, 2011, the Government of Sudan signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur with the Liberation and Justice Movement, which will serve as a basis for a ceasefire and comprehensive peace agreement to end the conflict. The United States continues to support the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and encourages participation in the agreement by other Darfur rebel groups. While the majority of holdout rebel groups and Darfuris agree that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur is a good peace agreement, they do not believe the Government of Sudan will implement the agreement.

Humanitarian Situation
Sudan continues to cope with the countrywide effects of conflict, displacement, and insecurity. During more than 20 years of conflict between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), violence, famine, and disease killed more than 2 million people, forced an estimated 600,000 people to seek refuge in neighboring countries, and displaced approximately 4 million others within Sudan, creating the world's largest population of internally displaced people. Since the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which officially ended the North-South conflict, the UN estimates that nearly 2 million displaced people have returned to Southern Sudan and the Three Areas of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Abyei.

In March 2009, following the ICC’s issuance of the arrest warrant for Bashir, the Government of Sudan expelled 13 international humanitarian aid organizations from Sudan and shut down three national aid organizations in a decision it publicly claimed was “long overdue.” These organizations served as U.S. Government and UN implementing partners for the provision of, among other services, water and sanitation, health care, and protection, and their forced departure, according to the UN, affected 50% of aid delivery in Sudan. In the absence of expelled non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN agencies and remaining NGOs stepped in to fill some of the critical gaps and address immediate humanitarian needs. The UN, the United States, and other members of the international community have since urged the Government of Sudan to reverse its decision on the expulsions, to identify and respond to gaps in life-saving operations, and to facilitate an orderly transition to working through the remaining NGOs. On March 18, 2009 President Obama announced the appointment of J. Scott Gration as the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan. Special Envoy Gration negotiated with the Government of Sudan to allow the entry of four new NGOs to help address the humanitarian gaps. The Government of Sudan has been somewhat cooperative regarding the loosening of some administrative and bureaucratic impediments that have hindered the fast and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance in the past.

The conflict in the western region of Darfur entered its eighth year in 2011, despite a 2006 peace agreement--the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)--between the Government of National Unity and one faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, that of Minni Minawi, and the more recent signing of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur in 2011, between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement. While in previous years the UN estimated that there were approximately 2.7 million IDPs in Darfur, more recent International Organization for Migration data indicated the number of IDPs in Darfur to be 1.9 million. In the first half of 2011, the UN reported that the continued fighting between the government and armed rebels caused the displacement of 45,843 in North Darfur, 11,433 in South Darfur, and 110 in West Darfur. Regarding returns, in West Darfur, humanitarian partners are currently providing assistance to over 20,000 who have returned home. Between January and June, there were a total of 40,000 verified IDP returns in Darfur.

In mid-2011, conflict broke out in South Kordofan and Blue Nile between the Sudanese Armed Forces and forces loyal to the SPLM. The government of Sudan carried out aerial bombardments and arrests of SPLM-N members. In Abyei and South Kordofan, violence displaced nearly 200,000 people. According to some sources, approximately 80% of the initially 130,000 displaced people in Blue Nile have returned home. Still others have fled to South Sudan or Ethiopia. Since the outbreaks of violence, the government blocked access to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile for international aid organizations.

The U.S. Government is the leading international donor to Sudan and has contributed more than $8 billion in humanitarian, development, peacekeeping, and reconstruction assistance for the people in Sudan and eastern Chad since 2005, including more than $2 billion in FY 2009 alone. The U.S. Mission in Sudan has declared disasters due to the complex emergency on an annual basis since 1987. On October 1, 2009, President Obama renewed the Sudan complex emergency disaster declaration for FY 2010. The U.S. Government continues to lead the international effort to support implementation of the CPA, while providing for the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations throughout the country. U.S. Government humanitarian assistance to Sudan includes food aid, provision of health care, water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as programs for nutrition, agriculture, protection, and economic recovery.


Government Type: Federal republic ruled by the National Congress Party the (NCP), which came to power by military coup in 1989; the CPA-mandated Government of National Unity, which since 2005 provided a percentage of leadership posts to the south Sudan-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), was disbanded following the secession of South Sudan.

Capital: Khartoum - 5.021 million (2009)

Administrative Divisions:15 states (wilayat, singular - wilayah);

1. Ash Shimaliyya (Northern)
2. Shimal Darfur (Northern Darfur)
3. Al Khartoum (Khartoum)
4. Nahr an Nil (River Nile)
5. Kassala
6. Al Qadarif (Gedaref)
7. Al Jazira (Gezira)
8. An Nil al Abyad (White Nile)
9. Shimal Kurdufan (Northern Kordofan)
10. Janub Kurdufan (Southern Kordofan)
11. Janub Darfur (Southern Darfur)
12. Gharb Darfur (Western Darfur)
13. An Nil al Azraq (Blue Nile)
14. Sinnar
15. Al Bahr al Ahmar (Red Sea)

note: the Sudanese Government has announced the creation of two new states, Central Darfur and East Darfur, but they are not yet operational

Source: Wikimedia Commons


Independence Date: 1 January 1956 (from Egypt and UK)

Legal System: based on English common law and Islamic law; as of 20 January 1991, the now defunct Revolutionary Command Council imposed Islamic law in the northern states; Islamic law applies to all residents of the northern states regardless of their religion; however, the CPA establishes some protections for non-Muslims in Khartoum; some separate religious courts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; the southern legal system is still developing under the CPA following the civil war; Islamic law will not apply to the southern states

Suffrage: 17 years of age; universal

International Environmental Agreements

Sudan is party to international agreements on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, and Wetlands.


Total Renewable Water Resources: 154 cu km (1997)

Freshwater Withdrawal:  Total: 37.32 cu km/yr (3% domestic, 1% industrial, 97% agricultural).

Per capita Freshwater Withdrawal:: 1,030 cu m/yr (2000)

Access to improved water sources: 57% of population

Access to improved sanitation facilities: total: 34% of population

At the top left, the capital city of Sudan, Khartoum, is located at the convergence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Although the Blue Nile is much shorter than the White Nile, it contributes about 80% of the flow of the river. The Dahlak Archipelago is seen off the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. Because of their isolation, the numerous coral reefs of the Dahlak Archipelago are some of the most pristine in the world. North of the Rift Valley, in central Ethiopia, are the Simien Mountains and Lake Tana. Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile. Photo courtesy of NASA.


Agricultural Products: cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), sorghum, millet, wheat, gum arabic, sugarcane, cassava (tapioca), mangos, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes, sesame; sheep and other livestock

Irrigated Land: 18,630 sq km (2008)


Natural Resources: petroleum; small reserves of iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, gold, hydropower


Energy in Sudan
  Production Consumption Exports Imports Reserves
Electricity 4.323 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
3.787 billion kWh
(2008 est.
0 kWh
(2009 est.)
0 kWh
(2009 est.)
Oil 514,300 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
98,000 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
383,900 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
11,820 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
5 billion bbl
(1 January 2011 est.)
Natural Gas 0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
84.95 billion cu m
(1 January 2011 est.)
Source: CIA Factbook



In 2004, the cessation of major north-south hostilities in Sudan and expanding crude oil exports resulted in 6.4% GDP growth and a near doubling of GDP per capita since 2003. The aftereffects of the 21-year civil war and very limited infrastructure, however, presented obstacles to stronger growth and a broader distribution of income. The country continued taking some steps toward transitioning from a socialist to a market-based economy, although the government and governing party supporters remained heavily involved in the economy.

The July 2011 secession of South Sudan had an immediate and profound impact on Sudan's economy, and the reverberations from the split will continue to resound in the coming years. While the composition of what the “new” Sudanese economy will be is unclear, the country will not be able to rely on the oil production and export that had served as the principal driver of growth since 2000. With much of its oil production having come from what is now South Sudan, Sudan has suffered a dramatic decline in its oil revenues. The government has targeted agriculture, mining, and enhanced oil production as sectors for development. With conflicts continuing on its southern borders, a virtual cessation in cross-border trade with the new South Sudan, and unresolved issues with both oil revenue sharing and an arrangement for transporting South Sudan oil to Port Sudan, Sudan and its people are not able in the near future to reap the benefits from its natural resources, rebuild its infrastructure, increase oil production and exports, and be able to attain its export and development potential.

Sudan's oil production began in the late 1990s and grew rapidly starting in July 1999 with completion of an export pipeline that runs from South Sudan through the North to the Port of Sudan. Sudan produced an estimated 401,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2005, which brought in about $1.9 billion and provided 70% of the country’s total export earnings. As of 2007, oil production in Sudan was at 466,100 barrels per day. In 2010, oil accounted for over 90% of Sudan’s foreign exchange earnings. Prior to South Sudan's July 2011 secession, roughly 75% of Sudan's oil production, representing almost 36% of government revenues, came from fields located in the South. Remaining production in Sudan barely covers domestic use.

Agriculture, which was the economy’s mainstay prior to oil, accounted for about a third of GDP prior to secession. It represented 90% of Sudan’s 2009 non-oil exports, and the sector employed about 80% of the labor force. Sudan’s authorities are looking at increasing agricultural production in an effort to diversify growth; only an estimated 15%-20% of Sudan’s arable land is cultivated. The authorities have launched an Agricultural Revitalization Plan to invest some $5 billion in the sector through 2012, and hope to attract strategic foreign investors. Cotton and gum arabic remain its major agricultural exports. Grain sorghum (dura) is the principal food crop, and millet and wheat are grown for domestic consumption. Sesame seeds and peanuts are cultivated for domestic consumption and increasingly for export. Livestock production has vast potential, and many animals, particularly camels and sheep, are exported to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries. However, Sudan remains a net importer of food. Problems of irrigation and transportation remain the greatest constraints to a more dynamic agricultural economy.

Sudan’s non-oil private sector remains nascent. Sudan ranked 154 in the Doing Business survey in 2010. Firms identify the top three constraints holding back growth and investment as political instability, corruption, and economic uncertainty. Transparency International ranked Sudan as 172 out of 180 countries in its 2010 corruption perception index. Competitiveness remains low due to high transaction costs, poor market institutions, lack of infrastructure, and high administrative barriers.

Sudan’s growth has historically been unbalanced, with the majority of its manufacturing firms and irrigated land concentrated in the northern states of Khartoum and Gezira. The World Bank reports that there is a large disparity in development indicators between the best- and worst-performing states. Sudan’s capital city Khartoum consumes nearly a third of Sudan’s total electricity production, while less than 7% of households in the country have access to the national grid. Sudan’s limited industrial development consists of agricultural processing and various light industries located in Khartoum North. In recent years, the GIAD industrial complex introduced the assembly of small autos and trucks, and some heavy military equipment such as armored personnel carriers and the proposed "Bashir" main battle tank. Although Sudan is reputed to have great mineral resources, exploration has been quite limited, and the country’s real potential is relatively unknown. Small quantities of asbestos, chromium, and mica are also exploited commercially.

Since the global financial crisis of 2008 and the collapse of crude oil prices, Sudan has faced a severe foreign exchange reserves shortfall. While data is not made public on a regular basis, the International Monetary Fund reported that reserves at the Central Bank of Sudan fell below 2 weeks of import coverage at one point. As a result of the shortage of foreign currency, the Government of Sudan has significantly tightened conversion and transfer policies. Domestic businesses have no assurance of obtaining needed levels of foreign currency for international transactions. Foreign companies operating in Sudan must have the permission of the Central Bank of Sudan to repatriate profits and foreign currency. Changes to policies are introduced without warning and generally become effective immediately upon announcement.

Debt and Aid
Sudan has a severe external debt burden, with large and protracted arrears that limit both its relations with the international financial institutions (IFIs) and integration into the world economy. The country has not serviced the majority of its external debt since the early 1990s, although some creditors, including some offering more recent financing, are receiving repayments. The United States accounts for $2.2 billion, of which $2.0 billion is in arrears. Sudan is subject to a variety of legal sanctions and legislative mandates that would complicate U.S. Government participation in IFI normalization and debt relief. Reducing U.S. claims would also require significant appropriations. Sudan’s ruling NCP party views the provision of debt relief as critical for the North’s economic prospects in view of Southern secession and closely links debt relief to the division of the country’s oil revenues.

Historically, the U.S., the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have supplied most of Sudan’s economic assistance. Sudan’s role as an economic link between Arab and African countries is reflected by the presence in Khartoum of the Arab Bank for African Development. The World Bank had been the largest source of development loans but is currently unable to lend.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and key donors worked closely to promote reforms to counter the effect of inefficient economic policies and practices. By 1984, a combination of factors--including drought, inflation, and confused application of Islamic law--reduced donor disbursements, and capital flight led to a serious foreign-exchange crisis and increased shortages of imported inputs and commodities. More significantly, the 1989 revolution caused many donors in Europe, the U.S., and Canada to suspend official development assistance, although not humanitarian aid.

As Sudan became the world’s largest debtor to the World Bank and IMF by 1993, its relationship with the international financial institutions soured in the mid-1990s and has yet to be fully rehabilitated. The government fell out of compliance with an IMF standby program and accumulated substantial arrearages on repurchase obligations. A 4-year economic reform plan was announced in 1988 but was not pursued. An economic reform plan was announced in 1989 and implementation began on a 3-year economic restructuring program designed to reduce the public sector deficit, end subsidies, privatize state enterprises, and encourage new foreign and domestic investment. In 1993, the IMF suspended Sudan’s voting rights and the World Bank suspended Sudan’s right to make withdrawals under effective and fully disbursed loans and credits. Lome Funds and European Union agricultural credits, totaling more than 1 billion euros, also were suspended.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $97.21 billion (2011 est.)

GDP (Official Exchange Rate): $63.3 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $3,000 (2011 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 44.7%
industry: 45%
services: 10.3% (2011 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line: 40% (2004 est.)

Industries: oil, cotton ginning, textiles, cement, edible oils, sugar, soap distilling, shoes, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, armaments, automobile/light truck assembly

Exports: oil and petroleum products; cotton, sesame, livestock, groundnuts, gum arabic, sugar

Export Partners: China 60.3%, Japan 14%, Indonesia 8.6%, India 4.9% (2009)

Imports: foodstuffs, manufactured goods, refinery and transport equipment, medicines and chemicals, textiles, wheat

Import Partners: China 22.1%, Egypt 7.3%, Saudi Arabia 6.9%, India 5.8%, UAE 5% (2009)

Currency: Sudanese pounds (SDG)

Ports and Terminals: Port Sudan



Agency, C., Fund, W., & Department, U. (2012). Sudan. Retrieved from


To add a comment, please Log In.