Sudan is in an exciting period where there is hope for a formal end to the war in the Darfur region. At the same time, there is great uncertainty after the election in April and before a referendum on South Sudan’s future in 2011. A new state formation in the south is one of the alternatives in this referendum.
- What conflicts do we find in Sudan?
- Why has not a new war broken out between North and South?
- What are the contradictions between the parties?
- Is it likely that South Sudan could become a new African state?
2: Historical background
Sudan’s recent history is marked by civil war , especially in the south . The first civil war officially started on August 18, 1955, but this was only a short-lived episode of violence . It was not until the early 1960s that the civil war flared up in earnest. Several armed groups were then formed which used the collective term Anya-Nya (meaning snake venom). Throughout the 1960s, the conflict gained international proportions, and warfare intensified.
A peace agreement in 1972 provided for a break of ten years in the fighting, but after a few years of positive development, the level of tension increased again throughout the 1970s. Water and oil resources came in as a new element in the conflict picture.
The second civil war broke out in May 1983. This lasted longer and was more intense than the first. It was fought over a large area, and both the rebel and government armies had greater military force. Several neighboring countries supported the South Sudan guerrilla movement Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), while the government army recruited militia groups from areas both north and south of Sudan, a country located in Africa according to localtimezone.org.
Setbacks and divisions within the rebel movement made it possible for the authorities to take control of potential oil fields in the border areas between north and south. Oil extraction and construction of a long pipeline began during the war. Towards the end of the 1990s, the SPLM became stronger again, partly due to increased support from neighboring countries, but also because more reconciliation processes in the south led to the rebels gathering to a greater extent under John Garang ‘s leadership.
After September 11, 2001, the United States and other Western countries came to the fore as facilitators of peace negotiations between the North and the South. The negotiations took several years, and several crises arose along the way. The January 2005 peace agreement between the Khartoum regime (capital) and the SPLM was historic .
- First and foremost, the agreement put an end to the very devastating civil war.
- It was also important because it gave great concessions to the SPLM. It gave South Sudanese important positions in the country’s coalition government and in the central state administration.
- Furthermore, the parties agreed to share oil revenues equally, but only revenues derived from oil extraction in South Sudan (oil revenues from the north go to the central government).
The most important admission, however, was that South Sudan should have the opportunity to hold a referendum on independence in 2011. The agreement is comprehensive, but still not a permanent peace agreement. It is only valid for six years, and then it must be renegotiated ; it is therefore more like an extended ceasefire agreement.
3: The conflict in Darfur
Ever since Sudan became independent in 1956, there have been major conflicts and minor clashes between local groups and police and government forces in various parts of North Sudan . The civil war in Darfur (from 2003) has been the most serious in recent years. Several have cited repeated droughts and ethnic differences as explanations for this civil war, but these are not the real explanations for the war.
The main reasons are related to Darfur’s political history and relationship with the central government in Khartoum . Darfur is one of the poorest areas in Sudan, and its people feel little connection to Sudan as a nation. The state has been seen as a negative element that only requires taxes and recruits to the army, as well as redistributes land and gives little co-determination. In many ways, the area has long been overlooked, exploited and mismanaged by the capital. At the same time, the central government has limited control over Darfur (about as big as France). In order to keep the area under control, those in power in Khartoum have been dependent on allying with local leaders and playing these off against each other.
The spiral of violence and insecurity has gradually increased in Darfur since the late 1980s. In the 1990s, President Bashir pursued a comprehensive divide-and-rule policy in Darfur. The administrative boundaries were drawn again, and in 1997 Darfur was divided into three states where the regime’s supporters were given a stronger role.
Arab-oriented nomads were given weapons and training, as well as participating in military operations against ethnic groups in the Masalit area west of Darfur. Local elites in Darfur who have historically been in power were deprived of influence , but they received outside support to form rebel groups. The civil war flared up in earnest after they carried out a large-scale attack on the airport in the regional capital of Al-Fashir in April 2003.