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 has affected Sudan’s neighbors, as they have alternately sheltered fleeing refugees or served as operating bases for rebel movements.
Sudan’s series of wars since independence have killed an estimated 2 million civilians in the South and hundreds of thousands in the western region of Darfur. An estimated 4.5-5.2 million people are internally displaced in Sudan, 1.9 million of which are in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands live in refugee camps beyond Sudan’s borders as well. Sudan is the largest humanitarian operation globally with the international community providing $1.3 billion in humanitarian assistance in 2009. In March 2009 the Khartoum regime expelled the 13 largest international humanitarian aid NGOs from the country and dissolved three national NGOs in retaliation for the International Criminal Court’s issuance of an arrest warrant for President Omar al Bashir – wanted on ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. After a successful and peaceful referendum on South Sudan independence on January 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan officially became its own sovereign nation on July 9, 2011. The Sudanese government has bombed targets across the border in the new independent nation, including refugee camps housing civilians fleeing violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Since May 2011, new conflicts have erupted in Sudan’s contentious border regions between the North and South. The Khartoum regime has attacked civilians in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, killing thousands and displacing at least 250,000. The UN estimates that 500,000 people in the border regions are critically affected by the conflict and in dire need of humanitarian aid. The Khartoum regime, however, has explicitly denied international aid organizations access to vulnerable populations in these regions, using starvation as a tool of war. New conflicts are also brewing in the East. The eastern Beja people, persecuted and marginalized for decades, have for the first time joined in alliance with rebel groups from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile; the new alliance, the Sudan Revolutionary Front, claims intent to achieve regime change in Sudan through political and military means.
Land boundaries: Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya and South Sudan
Climate: Desert and savanna in the north and central regions and tropical in the south
Population (2012 est.): 25,946,220; 40% urban
Ethnic groups: Arab/Muslim north and black African/Christian and animist south
Religions: Islam (official), indigenous beliefs (southern Sudan), Christianity
Languages: Arabic (official), English (official), tribal languages
Health: Infant mortality rate–55.6/1,000; Life expectancy–62.57 yrs
Work force: Agriculture–80%; industry and commerce–7%; government–13%