The Sudan Conflict - From Civil War to a New African State


Sudan is the largest country in Africa. It is divided into a northern and a southern region. Muslim Arabs live in the northern and central part of the country while southern Sudan is inhabited by black Africans. They are followers of Christianity and traditional religions.

Civil war has been going on in Sudan for almost half a century. In January, 2011 the people of southern Sudan voted for an independent state.



Northern Sudan is a part of the Sahara desert. It is hot and dry with little rainfall. Central and southern Sudan are made up of swamps and hilly land. The region has a tropical climate with a long rainy season. The Nile River flows through the country from south to north. The two branches of the Nile, the Blue and the White Nile come together at the country’s capital, Khartoum.



Most Sudanese people work as farmers. The most fertile region of the country lies south of Khartoum, where the White and Blue Nile meet. Farmers grow sorghum, cotton, peanuts and other crops. They raise sheep, cattle and goats.

Although southern Sudan has large oil reserves, the country remains very poor.

People and Ethnic groups

About two thirds of Sudan’s 40 million people live in the northern part, 5 million in the capital Khartoum alone. The country is divided into hundreds of ethnic tribes who not only have different religions but also different languages.

Almost half of the population is under 14. Life expectancy is far lower than in other places. Men live, on average, 55 years, women 58.



During ancient history the northern part of Sudan was called Nubia. It was often ruled by Egypt. Later on Sudan fell apart into many separate kingdoms. Christianity came in the 6 th century; Islamic influence took hold of Sudan a century later. During the later Middle Ages Arabs from Egypt moved to northern Sudan.

Egypt conquered Sudan in 1874 and together with the British they ruled the country up to 1956, when Sudan gained its independence.
The country, however, was not ready for independence. Great Britain had ruled the northern and southern part of Sudan separately. While the northern part had a Middle Eastern culture, the south had closer ties with black Africa. Soon after the British had left military regimes came to power. The first civil war started between the Arab north and the black African south and ended in 1972.

The leaders in Khartoum ignored the needs of the poorer south. Only the northern regions received money from the government. Health care and the school system are also much better in the north.

When Sudan was declared an Islamic state in 1983 a new conflict began which ended with an official agreement in 2005.

During the past decades dozens of armed groups have emerged on both sides. Rebels of southern Sudan have received support from neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Uganda.

The strongest and most important group is Sudan’s People Liberation Army. Since the 1980s it has been fighting for freedom and the independence of the south.

Over 2 million people have died in half a century of civil unrest. Millions more became refugees. The conflict mainly affects the poor population in the south.



On January 9th 2011 a referendum on the future of the south began. Almost 99% of the southern Sudanese population voted to split from the north and form a new state.

Since the peace treaty of 2005 the south has been an autonomous region and governed itself. According to officials, southern Sudan will officially proclaim independence in the summer of 2011 and name itself the Republic of Southern Sudan.

Many problems, however, face an independent southern Sudan. Water comes mostly from unprotected wells; more than 80% of the people have no toilet facilities. The south does not have enough roads, schools or hospitals for their population of about 10 million. The new country’s only asset is oil. Sudan may have about 200 billion barrels of oil. More than 70% lie in the south. The north, however, controls the pipelines.


Darfur conflict

The Darfur conflict began in 2003. Two sides are involved in the conflict: Arab farmers who have set up militias are supported by the government in Khartoum and black ethnic groups are supported by southern Sudan.

The Arab tribesmen wander from place to place in search of water for their camels and other animals. In the past years they have gone far to the south and taken away land originally belonging to the black Sudanese population.

Up to 300 000 people have been killed in the conflict and over 2 million have had to move away from their homes.

Pro-Government militias are accused of carrying out massacres on the civilian population, raping women and destroying whole villages.



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  • according to = as said by ...
  • accuse = blame; to say it is your fault
  • affect = involve
  • agreement = when two or more groups or people promise to do something
  • although = while
  • ancient = old
  • armed = with guns and other weapons
  • asset = here: something that the country has and can use or sell
  • autonomous = to rule or govern yourself
  • barrel = large curved container with a flat bottom and top
  • billion = a thousand million
  • branch = part, section
  • capital = important city where the main government of a country or state is
  • cattle = cows and bulls that are kept on a farm for their meat and milk
  • century = a hundred years
  • Christianity = religion based on the life and ideas of Jesus Christ
  • civil unrest = a situation in which people act violently and use guns or sticks to attack others
  • civil war = war between two groups of people in a country
  • civilian = person who is not a member of the army
  • close ties = good relationships with
  • conquer = to get control of a country by fighting
  • cotton = cloth or thread made from the white hair of the cotton plant
  • decade = ten years
  • declare = officially say
  • desert = large area of land where it is hot and dry
  • destroy = to damage completely
  • divide = separate
  • emerge = come up, appear
  • ethnic = connected with a tribe and their customs and traditions
  • facility = service
  • fertile = good land on which you can produce crops
  • flow = run
  • follower = someone who believes in the ideas of a religion
  • form = create
  • freedom = liberty, independence
  • gain = get
  • govern = rule
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health care = system that has the job of looking after the health of the people in a country
  • however = but
  • ignore = pay no attention to, overlook
  • independence = to be free, not controlled by anyone else
  • influence = control, power
  • inhabit = live in
  • involved = to be connected in some way
  • Islamic = about Islam
  • kingdom = group of countries or areas that are ruled by a king or a queen
  • later = here: towards the end of
  • liberation = freedom, liberty
  • life expectancy = how long a person will probably live
  • militia = part of the population who are trained as soldiers, but do not belong to a country’s army
  • Muslim = someone whose religion is Islam
  • needs = what people need and must have in order to survive
  • official = a person who has much power in an organisation or the government
  • officially = formally
  • on average = normally, usually
  • originally = at first
  • peace treaty = a document that is signed by two parties in which they say they will stop the war
  • peanut = nut with a thin shell that grows under the ground
  • population = the people who live in a country
  • proclaim =announce, declare
  • pro-government = in favour of or for the government
  • raise = to look after animals so that you can sell or use them as food.
  • rape = to make someone have sex with you
  • receive = get
  • referendum = when people vote about something
  • refugee = a person who must leave their home because of war or other disasters
  • regime = government that comes to power without an election
  • remain = stay
  • rule = govern
  • separate = divided
  • sorghum = grain that is grown in tropical regions
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  • support = help, to give money to
  • swamp = land that is always wet or covered with water
  • take hold = come to
  • traditional religion = religion of a group or tribe that is often based on nature
  • tribe = social group of people who have the same religion, language and traditions
  • tribesman = a person who is a member of a tribe
  • unprotected = here: not clear, dirty
  • village = a small town in the countryside
  • vote = to make a choice in an election
  • well = deep hole in the ground from which people take water