A Brief History of Sudan and South Sudan

To understand South Sudan you must understand some of the modern history of Sudan as that history and the experience of the people are a prelude to South Sudan.

The modern Republic of Sudan was established in 1956 and inherited its boundaries from the Anglo-Egyptian Sud, which was formed in 1899. Since its independence in 1956, the history of Sudan has been plagued by internal conflict. As examples, the First Sudanese Civil War, the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005) culminating in the secession of South Sudan on 9 July 2011, the War in Darfur (2003- ) which has expanded to include War in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Throughout its history the Republic of Sudan has been ruled by an exclusive Arab elite who have discriminated against the rest of the population, particularly those on the geographic periphery and those who are not of Arab-culture or Islamic religion.

Most of the British focus was on developing the economy and infrastructure of the north. Southern political arrangements were left largely as they had been prior to the arrival of the British. Until the 1920s, the British had limited authority in the south. In 1943, the British began preparing the north for self-government, establishing a North Sudan Advisory Council to advise on the governance of the North Sudanese provinces. Then, in 1946, the British administration reversed its policy and decided to integrate north and south Sudan under one government.

Many southerners felt betrayed by the British, because they were largely excluded from the new government. The language of the new government was Arabic, but the bureaucrats and politicians from southern Sudan had, for the most part, been trained in English. Of the eight hundred new governmental positions vacated by the British in 1953, only four were given to Southerners.

The first parliament was established in 1954. Recognizing that they would not be represented when independence was established, on 18 August 1955 a revolt in the army in Torit, Southern Sudan broke out, which although quickly suppressed, led to a low level guerrilla insurgency by former Southern rebels, and marked the beginning of the First Sudanese Civil War (1955–1972).

In 1972, the Addis Ababa Agreement led to an end of the north-south civil war and a degree of southern self-rule. This led to ten years hiatus in the civil war. From the beginning the government was not stable, and there were multiple changes in power. A strong military began to arise with assistance from Egypt, the Soviet Union, the United States, and- later – China.

In 1983, the civil war in the south was reignited following the government’s Islamization policy which would have instituted Islamic law throughout the nation among other things. After several years of fighting, the government compromised with southern groups. In 1989, a bloodless coup brought the present military junta into power. The leader of the junta, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, consolidated his power over the next few years, declaring himself president.

As a result of the Bashir-led government’s strategy of divide and conquer, forced starvation, and genocide, the second civil war caused immeasurable hardship in the south. Over 2 million were killed with twice that number displaced. Because of selective destruction of crops, hospitals, schools and churches, the people suffered from decades of malnutrition, lack of health care and education. Such limited infrastructure which had been built was destroyed. The history of war and lack of investment in the south resulted in what many regard as “lost generations” who continue to lack education, access to basic health care, and little prospects for productive employment in the small and weak economy of South Sudan.

On July 9, 2005, a so-called Comprehensive Peace Agreement went into effect. Although major elements of the CPA were ignored by the Government of Sudan, a key one was implemented. After a six year interim period, the south was allowed to vote for independence and overwhelmingly selected that option. On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.

In Sudan, continuing war on the people of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile by the government of Omer el Bashir led to an order for his arrest by the International Criminal Court accusing him of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. These conflicts and the failure of the Government of Sudan to honor other major provisions of the CPA have resulted in sporadic conflict and poor relations between the two nations.

In South Sudan, poor governance has led to a current period of conflict which began on December 15, 2013. This conflict originated as a significant, unresolved disagreement between factions of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM party), but led to civil war with tribal overtones. Currently the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and others are seeking to end this conflict and establish peace within South Sudan. At this writing, it is estimated that about 900,000 people have been displaced and over 10,000 killed.

January 30, 2014