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Republic of the Sudan

Jumhuriyat as-Sudan

CAPITAL: Khartoum

FLAG: The national flag consists of a tricolor of red, white, and black horizontal stripes, with a green triangle at the hoist.

ANTHEM: Jundi al-Allah (Soldiers of God).

MONETARY UNIT: The Sudanese dinar (sd) is a paper currency of 100 piasters (qurush) or 1,000 milliemes. sd1 = $0.00405 (or $1 = sd247.17) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but a highly diverse system based on Egyptian and British standards is in local use.

HOLIDAYS: Independence Day, 1 January; Unity Day, 3 March; Uprising Day, 6 April; Decentralization Day, 1 July; Christmas, 25 December. Movable Muslim religious holidays include the 1st of Muharram (Muslim New Year), 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


Situated in northeast Africa, Sudan is the largest country on the continent, covering an area of 2,505,810 sq km (967,499 sq mi), with a length of 2,192 km (1,362 mi) ssennw and a width of 1,880 km (1,168 mi) enewsw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Sudan is slightly more than one-quarter the size of the United States. It is bounded on the n by Egypt, on the ne by the Red Sea, on the e by Eritrea and Ethiopia, on the s by Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC), on the w by the Central African Republic and Chad, and on the nw by Libya.

The Anglo-Egyptian Agreement of 19 January 1899 established the parallel of 22°n as the international boundary between Egypt and Sudan. In 1902, however, a special administrative boundary was delineated between the Nile and the Red Sea, in order to facilitate the administration of nomadic tribes and to maintain the continuity of certain tribal areas in the border region. In 2001, the countries agreed to discuss the creation of an "area of integration" for this overlapping territory and both governments agreed to withdraw military forces from the region. The Egypt-Sudan boundary west of the Nile runs 892 km (554 mi); east of the Nile, the international boundary is 383 km (238 mi), and the administrative boundary is 357 km (222 mi). Including this administrative line, Sudan's total boundary length is 8,550 km (5,313 mi).

Sudan's capital city, Khartoum, is located in the northeast central part of the country.


The greatest part of Sudan is a vast plain traversed by the northward-flowing Nile River and its tributaries. Widely separated mountain chains and many hilly areas often reach altitudes of more than 2,000 m (6,500 ft). The highest elevation is at Mount Kinyeti 3187 m (10,456 ft) along the southern border with Uganda. The northern area is mainly desert, including the Nubian Desert, with rock at or near the surface covered by thin soils of low fertility. The western undulating sandy wastes merge into the Red Sea Hills to the east. Regions of swampland lie in the south.

The dominating geographic feature is the Nile River, formed near Khartoum by the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile rivers. There are natural harbors at Port Sudan (Bur Sudan) and Suakin on the Red Sea.


In the northern plains and desert region, average temperatures range from 32°c (90°f) in winter (November to February) to 42°c (108°f) in summer (March to June); the hottest months are May and June. In the central and southern regions, average temperatures are 27° to 29°c (80° to 85°f). Rainfall decreases from south to north, the annual average varying from 120 cm (47 in) in the south to less than 10 cm (4 in) in the north; the rainy season is from July to September. Climatic hazardssandstorms in the northern deserts and flooding rains in the central beltoften interfere with railroad traffic. The most temperate climate occurs in the Red Sea Hills.


The acacia desert shrub and acacia short-grass shrub grow in the northern desert and the grasslands of the west. The broad-leafed tropical woodland and forest region is for the most part in the southwest, where areas of luxuriant growth and closed forests are found; grass covers much of the steppe area of the southeast. Date palms line the banks of the Nile. Wildlife includes most of the mammals, birds, and reptiles common to central Africa. Many varieties of fish are found in the rivers and in the coastal waters of the Red Sea. As of 2002, there were at least 267 species of mammals, 280 species of birds, and over 3,100 species of plants throughout the country.


A shortage of potable water inhibits agriculture, animal husbandry, and human settlement in much of Sudan. Sudan has 30 cu km of renewable water resources, of which 96% of the annual withdrawal is used for farming and 2% is used for domestic purposes. Serious health problems are caused by diseases carried in the water supply; Only about 64% of the nation's rural dwellers and 78% of its city dwellers have access to improved water sources. The water on the nation's coasts is also polluted by industrial by-products, oil, and sewage. Sudan's cities produce about 1.1 million tons of solid waste per year. The nation's agricultural land is threatened by the advance of the desert. Government agencies vested with environmental responsibilities include the National Committee for Environment (within the National Council for Research) and the ministries of agriculture, natural resources, irrigation, energy, and health.

Due to uncontrolled hunting, the nation's wildlife is threatened. In 2003, about 5.2% of the total land area was protected, including Dinder National Park, which is listed as a Ramsar wetland site. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 16 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 8 species of fish, 2 species of other invertebrates, and 17 species of plants. Threatened species included the waldrapp, northern white rhinoceros, Tora hartebeest, slender-horned gazelle, and hawksbill turtle. The Sahara oryx has become extinct in the wild.


The population of Sudan in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 40,187,000, which placed it at number 30 in population among the 193 nations of the world. The country has conducted four censuses of population since 1956; however, the most recent (1993) did not include the southern part of the country. As of 2006, plans for the fifth census were delayed due to the ongoing civil unrest. In 2005, approximately 2% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 44% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 101 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.7%; international organizations were attempting to support government efforts to reduce the fertility rate, which stood at 4.8 births per woman in 2005. The projected population for the year 2025 was 61,339,000. The population density was 16 per sq km (42 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 36% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.85%. The capital city, Khartoum, had a population of 4,286,000 in that year. Other major cities include Port Sudan (the only modern seaport), Wad Madanī, Al Ubayyid (the principal city of central Sudan), and 'Aţbarah.


Many Sudanese were working abroad in the mid-1990s, chiefly in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries but also in Libya. Although their remittances were significant for the Sudanese economy, the absence of these workers, many of them skilled, constituted a "brain drain" of serious proportions. Perhaps 200,000 were expelled from Persian Gulf countries in 1991 because Sudan supported Iraq in the Gulf war.

As a result of the Sudanese government fighting the Sudanese People's Liberation Army in the south, there were still 209,000 Sudanese refugees in Uganda, 110,000 in the DROC, 78,000 in Ethiopia, 28,000 in Kenya, and 27,000 in the Central African Republic in June 1997.

Since the 1970s, the Sudanese government has welcomed refugees as a result of war or famine. As a result of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriation programs, 25,000 Eritreans and 62,000 Ethiopians were sent home in 1994 and 1995. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 780,000, including 415,000 refugees. In 2004 Sudan experienced a political and humanitarian crisis; a severe drought coupled with genocide in Darfur as the government supported Arab militias against Black Sudanese. Over 50,000 people died and 1.6 million Black Sudanese were displaced. The UN labeled Sudan the "world's worst humanitarian crisis" in 2004. At the end of 2004, Sudan was hosting 141,588 refugees, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad, and Uganda. In that same year there were 4,271 asylum seekers and 290 returned refugees. However, there were also 662,302 internally displaced persons who were at a camp in West Darfur, and another 37,416 former Eritrean refugees in Sudan. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -8.78 migrants per 1,000 population. Worker remittances in 2003 amounted to $1.2 billion.


Indigenous Sudanese include Nilotic or Negroid peoples, of whom the Dinka form the largest portion, and constitute about 52% of the national population; Arabs account for an estimated 39% of the population and Beja for 6%. In all, there are nearly 600 ethnic groups. Foreigners constitute 2% of the total populace; other groups another 1%.


Arabic, the official language, is the mother tongue of about half the population. Besides standard Arabic, Nubian and Ta Bedawie are also commonly spoken. English is used widely, in many cases serving as a lingua franca among the southern tribes. In all, more than 400 diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, and Sudanic languages are spoken.


The state religion is Islam, whose adherents, primarily Sunni, account for about 65% of the population; most of them live in the north. As an important transit station for Mecca-bound African pilgrims, Sudan remains intimately linked with the Islamic world. Among the Muslims, religious brotherhoods (tarigat) play an important role in sectarian and communal life. The two most popular brotherhoods are the Ansar, which is closely associated with the Umma Party, and the Khatimia, which is associated with the Democratic Unionist Party.

About 25% of the population are practitioners of traditional indigenous religions. About 10% of the population are Christians, particularly in the south, where Christianity is reported to be growing rapidly. Most of the Christian community are professed Roman Catholics. Greek Orthodox, Coptic, and Anglican Christians are found in small numbers in towns. There is reported evidence, however, that many Christians continue to practice elements of traditional indigenous religions.

The 1973 constitution guaranteed unrestricted freedom of religion, but Islam was cited as the official religion. Christian mission schools in the south were nationalized in 1957 and foreign missionaries were expelled from the south in 196364. At present, religious organizations are subject to the 1994 Societies Registration Act, which replaced the controversial 1962 Missionary Societies Act. Theoretically, it allows churches to engage in a wider range of activities; however, churches are subject to the same restrictions placed on nonreligious corporations. Religious groups must be registered and approved in order to be recognized or gather legally.

The civil war that resumed in 1983 is largely religious. The government is dominated by northern Muslims while southern rebel groups are mostly Christians and traditionalists. The government, which claims Islam as the state religion, supports adherence to Shariah (Islamic) law and has declared a jihad, or holy war, against the rebel factions. The primarily Christian rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) supports a secular government, but seems willing to allow Shariah law in the northern states.

The government and Muslim majority continue to discriminate against and persecute non-Muslims. Many non-Muslims have been fired from jobs in civil service and non-Muslim business owners are often harassed and discriminated against in matters of government contracts and trade licenses. Students of Christian schools are often kept from completing their compulsory military service, which is required in order to move on to the university. Many Muslim employers do not allow Christian employees time off to attend Sunday worship services. Throughout the civil war, several non-Muslim women and children have been captured by Muslims, sold into slavery and forced to convert to Islam. Conversion from Islam to any other religion is punishable by death.


With the exception of a few interurban bus lines and taxi systems, all land, sea, river, and air transportation facilities are owned by the state. As of 2004, the country's 5,995 km (3,725 mi) of railroad track (all of it narrow gauge) linked most of the main towns of Sudan. The principal terminals are: Khartoum and Port Sudan in the east; Wadi Halfa' in the north (on the Egyptian border); Al Ubayyid in the center of the country; Nyala in the west; and Waw in the south. 'Aţbarah on the Nile River (north of Khartoum) is an important junction and seat of the central administration, repair shops, and equipment-manufacturing plants of the Sudan Railways Corp.

In 1966, a bridge linking Khartoum North and Omdurman, and the enlargement of the bridge on the White Nile between Khartoum and Omdurman were completed, facilitating the circulation of traffic around these three towns. A major road (1,197 km/744 mi) linking Port Sudan with Khartoum was completed in 1980. In 2002, the overall road system totaled 11,900 km (7,395 mi), of which 4,320 km (2,684 mi) were paved. As of 2003, there were 37,100 passenger cars and 47,465 commercial vehicles.

Sudan, as of 2004, had 4,068 km (2,530 mi) of navigable inland waterways, of which 1,723 km (1,072 mi) on the Blue and While Nile rivers are open year round. River transport services link many communities. The White Nile route between Kusti and Juba (1,436 km/892 mi) is of crucial importance. Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, is primarily a cargo port, handling all of Sudan's cotton exports as well as most food imports. Passenger traffic is insignificant except for Mecca-bound pilgrims. A small Sudanese merchant marine was founded with assistance from the former Yugoslavia. As of 2005, it had two vessels (a cargo ship and a livestock carrier) of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 20,466 GRT.

There were an estimated 75 airports in 2004. In 2005, a total of 14 had paved runways, and there was also one heliport. The international airport is at Khartoum. The state-owned Sudan Airways Corp., founded in 1947, links the main cities and provides extensive international service. Flights to the south were suspended in the mid-1980s because of the civil war. In 2003, about 421,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


The salient events in recorded Sudanese history occurred in the northern half of the country. The kingdom of Kush (or Cush), rich in gold and iron and sustained by irrigation from the Nile flood-waters, broke away from Egyptian rule about 1000 bc. It became a separate kingdom, with its capital at Napatan, and developed under the pervasive influence of Egyptian culture. It conquered Egypt for a time (736657 bc), moved its capital to Meroe (now Merowe) in 538 bc, and was destroyed about ad 350 by the Aksumite (or Axumite) Empire in Ethiopia.

Following the fall of Kush, two successor kingdoms arose: Maqurra, in northern Sudan, with its capital at Old Dongola; and Alwa, in central Sudan, with its capital at Soba. Maqurra fell in the 15th century to an alliance of Arabs and Mamlukes from Egypt. Around the beginning of the 17th century, Alwa was conquered by an alliance of Arabs and a loose confederation of tribes ruled by the "Black Sultans" of the Funj dynasty, with their capital at Sennar. The inhabitants of the south, until the 20th century, lived in primitive tribal isolation, interrupted only by explorers and perennial slave raiding.

In the 1820s, the autonomous Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad 'Ali, defeated the Funj sultan and brought Sudan under Turco-Egyptian rule, which lasted until 1885. By then, most of the Sudanese tribes had revolted against the harshness and corruption of the regime and rallied under the leadership of a northern shipwright, Muhammad Ahmad bin 'Abdallah. He proclaimed himself the Mahdi (Rightly Guided One), whose coming to achieve the complete victory of Islam had been prophesied in Muslim tradition. After decisively defeating a series of punitive expeditions, the Mahdi took possession of Khartoum in 1885, whereupon his troops captured and beheaded the governor, Gen. Charles Gordon, one of the British officers in the employ of Egypt. The Mahdi installed himself as head of a theocratic state, which survived until 1898, when an Anglo-Egyptian invasion force under Gen. Horatio Herbert Kitchener defeated the Mahdi's successor, the Khalifa ('Abdallah bin Muhammad), in the battle of Omdurman. British rule was set up under a nominal Anglo-Egyptian "condominium" following a French attempt to seize parts of Sudan, an effort thwarted by Kitchener at Fashoda (now Kodok) in an incident that almost provoked a war between France and Great Britain. British administration did much to restore law and order, repress slave trading, and bring modern government and economic stability to Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, as it was then called.

Sudanese nationalism erupted after World War I with Egyptian support and received its decisive impetus during World War II, when British-led Sudanese troops distinguished themselves in repelling a vastly superior Italian force. An Egyptian scheme to join Egypt and Sudan in a dual monarchy under King Faruk miscarried, as did other proposals for the "unity of the Nile Valley." Prolonged Anglo-Egyptian negotiations for agreement on a mutually acceptable form of Sudanese independence reached fruition in 1953, after Faruk was deposed.

The new Republic of the Sudan, under a parliamentary government, was proclaimed on 1 January 1956. On 17 November 1958, a military dictatorship was installed, headed by Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Abboud, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, after a bloodless coup that had the support of some party leaders. President Abboud's military regime was overthrown on 26 October 1964, and civilian politicians ruled for the next five years.

A revolutionary council led by Col. Gaafar Mohammed Nimeiri (Ja'far Muhammad Numayri) overthrew the government in a bloodless coup on 25 May 1969 and established the Democratic Republic of the Sudan. The new government suspended the constitution, the Supreme Council of State, the National Assembly, and all political parties; the ex-president and former ministers were arrested. Nimeiri became prime minister in October 1969. On 25 May 1971, he proclaimed that Sudan would become a one-party state, with the Sudanese Socialist Union the sole political organization. A provisional constitution was promulgated on 13 August 1971, and Nimeiri, running unopposed, was elected president in September, receiving 98.6% of the votes cast. One of Nimeiri's most significant acts was to bring an end to the sporadic civil war that had plagued Sudan since independence. A settlement with autonomist forces in the south was reached in February 1972, when negotiators for the Sudanese government and the South Sudan Liberation Front, the Anyanya rebels, agreed on a cease-fire and on autonomy for the southern provinces.

Nimeiri was reelected without opposition in 1977 and 1983, but his regime had to weather considerable turmoil both domestically and in relations with neighboring countries, especially Libya. An abortive left-wing coup attempt in July 1971 led to the execution of leading Sudanese Communists; the banning of the Trade Union Federation, the Public Servants Union, and the Teachers Union (all formerly Communist-dominated); and the expulsion of East German security advisers. Another alleged coup was foiled in January 1973, and an abortive, Libyan-inspired attempt on Nimeiri's life was disclosed by the Sudanese government in April 1974. Student riots and disclosure of yet another abortive coup came in October 1974, and during the following year the Nimeiri government faced and successfully suppressed at least two military rebellions.

In July 1976, an attempted coup by the Ansar brotherhood, allegedly with Libyan support, was crushed. In subsequent years, Nimeiri charged repeatedly that Libya was aiding Muslim dissidents in Sudan. On 16 March 1984, Omdurman was bombed by what Sudan, Egypt, and the United States claimed (but Libya denied) was a Libyan air force TU-22. Nimeiri declared a state of emergency in April 1984 to cope with protests over rising prices and a new government Islamization program (in July of that year, the National People's Assembly rejected his attempt to make Sudan an official Islamic state). The state of emergency ended in September 1984, but by then a new rebellion was under way in the south, which had become alienated by Nimeiri's efforts to restrict its autonomy and apply Shariah (Muslim law). Many Sudanese were shocked by the execution of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a popular Muslim political and religious leader, for heresy (in criticizing the application of Shariah) in January 1985.

Riots broke out in the spring of 1985, when, in order to gain new loans from international creditors, Nimeiri removed subsidies on basic commodities, causing prices to rise. On 7 April 1985, Nimeiri was replaced by a military council headed by Gen. Abdel-Rahman Swar ad-Dhahab. The country was renamed the Republic of Sudan, the ruling Sudanese Socialist Union was abolished, political and press freedom was restored, and food prices were lowered. Sudan reverted to a policy of nonalignment in foreign policy, backing away from its close ties with Egypt and the United States.

Unrest in the South

General elections held in April 1986 resulted in a moderate civilian coalition government headed by Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi. The government's chief problem was the continuing rebellion by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which controlled much of the south and prevented voting there. The SPLA halted air traffic (including food relief) to the south and opposed two major projects vital to the economyoil exploration and a canal that would provide water to the parched north. The coalition government was headed by the northern-based Ummah. It began searching for a formula to unite the country with the SPLA which, unlike the earlier Anyanya, was also committed to unity. Divisions with government over meeting key SPLA demands, most especially the repeal of Islamic law, prolonged the civil war. In March 1989, a new government composed of Ummah Party and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ministers agreed to accommodate the SPLA.

However, on 30 June 1989, a group of army officers led by Brig. Omar Hasan al-Bashir overthrew the civilian government. Mahdi was arrested and fighting in the south escalated. The coup makers created a National Salvation Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), a junta composed of 15 military officers assisted by a civilian cabinet, suspending the 1985 transitional constitution, abrogating press freedoms, and dissolving all parties and trade unions. In September 1989 the government sponsored a "National Dialogue Conference on the Political System" which produced a proposal for a new federal system of government. On 23 April 1990, Bashir declared a state of emergency and dissolved parliament. An alleged coup attempt prompted that move. The following day, 28 officers were court martialed and executed.

Despite these measures and the efforts by third parties, including former US president Jimmy Carter and Nigeria, to further the peace process, few positive results were obtained. With the fall of Ethiopia's Marxist government in 1991, the SPLA rebel faction lost its chief patron. A 1992 government offensive, coupled with a major political split in the SPLA, reduced rebel-held territory while increasing casualties and displaced persons with the latter numbering, at times, over two million.

Civilian rule returned nominally to Sudan in 1993, when the RCC was formally dissolved and Bashir was declared president. However, Bashir retained control of the military, and the government was dominated by the fundamentalist National Islamic Front (NIF), under the leadership of Hassan al-Turabi. Bashir was elected president with a reported 75% of the vote in the 1996 national elections, which were boycotted by major opposition groups; following the elections, al-Turabi was elected speaker of parliament.

In the 1990s, because of its militant Islamic policies, Sudan became increasingly isolated internationally. Sudan has given sanctuary to Muslim rebels from Tunisia and Algeria, to the Hezbollah (Party of God), to Palestinian rebels, and to the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Iran assists Sudan militarily. The regime purged the civil service, the armed forces, the judiciary and the educational system of non-Muslims. It also promulgated a Penal Code based on Islamic Law. The UN General Assembly condemned Sudan's human rights violations in 1993. The United States added Sudan to its list of countries spawning international terrorism that year, and tensions with Egypt grew as well. Under international pressure, Sudan adopted a new constitution in 1998 providing for a multiparty government; registration of new parties began in 1999.

In the same year, fighting in the oil-rich southern part of the country escalated into wholesale destruction. Human rights abuses multiplied as factional rivalries intensified between rebels loyal to SPLA leader John Garang and militants of the Nasir faction of the SPLA. The latter rejected all cooperation with the Islamic north. Famine relief efforts in the region had to be suspended owing to rebel attacks. In March 2000, a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) left the country after refusing to comply with restrictions imposed by rebel authorities.

In the meantime, a power struggle between President Bashir and Hassan Turabi, party leader, parliamentary speaker, and architect of the nation's Islamist policies, ended with Turabi's forced removal and the dismissal of the National Assembly in a military raid ordered by Bashir in December 1999. In widely boycotted and discredited elections held in December 2000, Bashir was reelected and the NCP gained 355 seats to five for nonpartisans in the National Assembly. The struggle between Bashir and Turabi continued; Bashir had Turabi imprisoned March 2004June 2005.

On 26 May 2004, the Khartoum government and the SPLA signed a power-sharing agreement in Naivasha, Kenya. On 19 November the two sides signed a pledge to commit themselves to end the 21-year civil war, a pledge which was signed in front of the 15 UN Security Council members meeting in Nairobi; this was only the fourth time the Security Council had met outside its New York headquarters. On 9 January 2005, a comprehensive peace agreement was signed, ending more than two years of intense negotiations. In July 2005, John Garang of the SPLA was sworn in as vice-president of Sudan (Bashir remained president) and three weeks later he was killed in a helicopter crash. Rioting broke out in Khartoum and other cities upon news of his death and within a week the death toll was more than 130.


Beginning in 2003 in Darfurthe western region of Sudan which is slightly larger than FranceArab nomads supported by the Khartoum military and government-backed Janjaweed militia groups began to attack the Fur people, subsistence farmers who make up the major ethnic group in the region. The Fur are supported by the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) faction of the SLM/A. The SLM/A in early 2003 began to attack government and military outposts, with the intent of gaining influence in the affairs of the region after having been systematically marginalized socioeconomically. The government armed the nomads and sent the Janjaweedtranslated "men with guns on the backs of beasts"to raid black villages on horseback, on camels, and in trucks, with guns and machetes. The Janjaweed rampages resulted in what has been called one of the world's worst humanitarian crises: countless rapes, the murders of more than 70,000 people, and the displacement of nearly two million people. The rebels claimed the depopulation of villages and consequent changes in land ownership were part of a government strategy to change the entire demography of Darfur. The government denied all humanitarian agencies access to the region; refugees were housed in camps on the border of Chad. In April 2004, the two sides agreed to a temporary ceasefire to allow for humanitarian agencies to reach those in need of help, but the Janjaweed continued their attacks. In May 2004, the United Nations condemned the attacks on civilians and called on the Khartoum government to prevent the Janjaweed from carrying out strikes against the black African population. In July 2004, the US Congress declared the mass killings of civilians in Darfur to be genocide. A Declaration of Principles for the Resolution of the Sudanese Conflict in Darfur was signed in July 2005. By that time, estimates of the number of deadmany from hunger and disease in addition to violenceranged from 70,000 to nearly 350,000.


Until 2005, the government was led solely by President Lt. Gen. Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, who assumed supreme executive power in 1989 and retained it through several transitional governments in the early and mid-90s before being popularly elected for the first time in March 1996. The president is both the chief of state and head of government, and he appointed the Council of Ministers. The president serves a five-year term.

An election was held 1323 December 2000, but it was widely dismissed as rigged and was boycotted by all opposition parties. The unicameral National Assembly consists of 360 seats270 popularly elected and 90 elected by a supra assembly of interest groups known as the National Congress. Members serve four-year terms. Elections were held from 1322 December 2000. The next presidential as well as legislative elections were scheduled to take place in 2009.

Historically, the government has experienced several coups and reconfigurations. A constitution took effect only on 8 May 1973Sudan's first permanent governing document since independence in 1956. It established a presidential system and a one-party state, with the Sudanese Socialist Union (SSU) as the only political party. Nominated by the SSU for a six-year renewable term, the president (after confirmation by national plebiscite) appointed vice presidents, a prime minister, and cabinet ministers, who were answerable to him. The president was also supreme commander of the armed forces. Legislative power was vested in the 151-seat National People's Assembly.

This constitution was suspended on 6 April 1985. A temporary constitution was established on 10 October 1985, pending a permanent one to be drawn up by the National Assembly elected in 1986. A six-member civilian Supreme Council, including a president, was established as the nation's executive body in 1986, replacing the military council that had seized power in 1985. A Council of Ministers, led by a prime minister and responsible to the National Assembly, was also established to carry out executive powers.

After the 1989 military coup, the 1985 transitional constitution was suspended. In January 1991, the RCC imposed Islamic law in the six northern provinces. Executive and legislative authority was vested in a 15-member Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). Its chairman, acting as prime minister, appointed a 300-member transitional National Assembly. In mid-October 1993, Bashir dissolved the RCC and officially declared himself president. On 30 October 1993, President Bashir announced a new, predominantly civilian cabinet that consisted of 20 federal ministers, most of whom retained their previous cabinet positions. On 9 February 1995 Bashir abolished three ministries and divided their portfolios to create several new ministries. These changes had the effect of increasing the National Islamic Front's presence at the ministerial level and consolidating its control over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bashir was elected to a five-year term in March 1996. In 1998, a new constitution was promulgated that nominally provided for a multiparty political system. Registration of new parties took place in 1999.

In 2005, President Bashir and Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang signed a comprehensive peace plan, including a permanent cease-fire, and protocols on sharing power and wealth. The government and the southern rebels agreed to set up a 39,000-strong army, composed of fighters from both sides. They agreed that the south should be autonomous for six years, after which a referendum would be held on the key issue of independence. Shariah law would remain in the north, but not in Khartoum proper. The two sides agreed to a 70 to 30 split of all jobs in the central administration, in favor of the government. In the oil-rich central regions of Abyei, Blue Nile State, and the Nuba mountains, administrative jobs would be divided 55 to 45, once again in favor of the government. Sudan's oil wealth itself is to be divided equally between the north and south. After Garang's death in July 2005, Salva Kiir was sworn in as first vice-president. Bashir remained president.


The political groupings that emerged in Sudan's struggle for independence focused on personalities or specific interest groups rather than ideology or party machinery. The most powerful force before 1958 was the Ansar sect and the Ansar-sponsored Ummah Party. Other parties were closely affiliated with the Khatmiyah sect, led by Sayyid 'Ali al-Mirghani; the leftist-dominated labor unions; the Graduates Congress, an organization of college graduates; and leaders of the black tribes of the south. For the first three years of the country's independence, these parties were strongly divided on such issues as union with Egypt (opposed by the Ummah Party); alignment with the West in economic and foreign affairs (opposed by the Khatmiyah, the labor unions, and the Graduates); Communism (courted by elements in most parties and labor unions); political secularization (sought by leaders not aligned with the religious sects); federalism (demanded by southern spokesmen); and fear of the royal aspirations of the Mahdi family. These divisions helped bring about the downfall of several coalition cabinets and finally weakened the parliamentary system to the point where the army could successfully carry out a coup without encountering resistance. Political activity was banned in 1958 and was not resumed until the overthrow of the Abboud government in October 1964.

In 1966, the Ummah Party split into two groups, one conservative, the other progressive. The following year, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was formed from the amalgamation of the National Unionist Party and the People's Democratic Party. In the May 1968 elections, the DUP won 101 of 218 parliamentary seats, while no other party captured more than 36.

After the 1969 military takeover, existing political parties were banned and a special attempt was made, beginning in 1971, to suppress the powerful Communist Party. The 1973 constitution provided for a one-party state, with the Sudanese Socialist Union (SSU), established by Nimeiri in 1971, as the sole legal political organization. In elections for the National People's Assembly, only candidates approved by the SSU were allowed to run.

In April 1986, in the first free elections held since 1968, the Ummah Party won 99 of 301 parliamentary seats, the DUP won 63, and the fundamentalist National Islamic Front (NIF) won 51. The remaining seats went mainly to regional parties, but 37 seats from the south were unfilled because of the civil war and the boycott of the elections by the Sudanese People's Liberation Front. The Ummah Party, the DUP, and four southern parties formed a coalition government, with the NIF in opposition. In August 1987, the coalition fell apart when the DUP broke away from the Ummah Party after an election in which it lost one of its two seats on the Supreme Council to an Ummah candidate, reportedly because the DUP candidate had been a close aide of Nimeiri. Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, aligned with the Ummah Party, retained his position until his overthrow in June, 1989.

In the elections for the National Assembly, held (except in the south) from 21 April to 8 May 1965, the Ummah again emerged as the most important party, gaining 76 of the 173 contested seats. The National Unionist Party, a right-wing party favoring close relations with Egypt, won 53 seats and formed a coalition government with the Ummah Party. During the mid-1960s, two regional partiesthe Southern Front, formed in 1964 by Southerners living in the north, and the Sudan African National Union (SANU), formed in 1966 by Sudanese exiles in Ugandaadvocated self-determination and independence for the south.

The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) banned all parties in 1989 except for the NIF, whose members and supporters held most key positions. After the dissolution of the RCC in October 1993, the NIF further tightened its grip on the state. The RCC's executive and legislative powers were transferred to the president and the Transitional National Assembly (TNA), Sudan's appointed legislative body, which was replaced by the National Assembly elected in March 1996.

The main opposition to the central government became the Sudan's People's Liberation Army (SPLA) which joined forces in 1997 with a new alliance of northern rebels known as the National Democratic Alliance. This opposition was sponsored by Ethiopia and Eritrea, and encouraged by the United States, which holds the government of Sudan responsible for sponsoring international terrorism and for committing atrocities against its Christian population in the south.

A new constitution adopted in 1998 and revised in 2000 recognized political parties other than the NIF for the first time since 1989. However, parties had to accept the constitution and refrain from advocating or using violence against the regime. Approved parties include the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) led by Ibrahim Ahmed Umar, Popular National Congress (PNC) led by Hassan al-Turabi, and over 20 minor pro-government parties. In the fall of 1998, the National Islamic Front (NIF) changed its name to the National Congress Party.

In presidential elections held in December 2000, al-Bashir was reelected president with 86.5% of the vote, followed by Ja'afar Muhammed Numayri with 9.6%. Three other candidates received less than a combined 4% of the vote. In the boycotted parliamentary elections of 1322 December 2000, the NCP took 355 of 400 seats. The next elections were scheduled to take place in 2009.


Local government experienced reorganizations in 1983, 1989, and 1994. The constitutional decree of 2 February 1994 created 26 states, each subdivided into 66 provinces and 218 districts. President Bashir stated his intention to devolve executive and legislative powers "never experienced in remote areas" to state governments. In theory, states are to be led by elected governors, deputy governors, and a cabinet of ministers.


The court system includes regular courts (both criminal and civil), special security courts, military courts, and tribal courts. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, as the senior judge, presides over the judiciary and according to the 1973 constitution, is directly responsible to the president through a council headed by the president. Civil justice is administered by the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, and lower courts, while criminal justice is administered by major courts, magistrates' courts, and local people's courts.

As of 20 January 1991, the now defunct Revolutionary Command Council imposed Islamic law in the northern states. For Muslims, justice in personal matters such as domestic relations and probate, is administered by Muslim law courts, which form the Shariah Division of the Sudan judiciary. The Shariah Division includes a court of appeal, high courts, and qadis' courts. The president of the Shariah judiciary is the grand qadi.

The judiciary remains largely subservient to the government. In 1989 the National Salvation Revolution Command Council (RCC) placed responsibility for supervision of the judiciary with the Ministry of Justice. The 1989 Special Courts Act created three-person security courts to handle offenses involving violations of constitutional decrees, emergency regulations and some sections of the penal code. A 1993 decree dissolving the RCC gave the NIF-dominated transitional National Assembly the power to issue constitutional decrees.


Sudanese armed forces totaled approximately 104,800 active personnel in 2005. The Army had an estimated strength of 100,000 personnel, whose equipment included 200 main battle tanks, 70 light tanks, 218 reconnaissance vehicles, 75 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 241 armored personnel carriers and over 1,105 artillery pieces. The Navy had an estimated 1,800 personnel. Major naval units included 18 patrol craft and 2 amphibious landing craft. The Air Force numbered 3,000 personnel and was equipped with 34 combat capable aircraft, that included 26 fighters and 8 fighter ground attack aircraft. The service also had 10 attack helicopters. Paramilitary forces numbered 17,500 active members and 85,000 reserves. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $483 million. The Sudanese armed forces, largely Muslim, face an estimated 25,000 rebels of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and another 3,000 in other opposition groups.


Sudan joined the United Nations on 12 November 1956; it participates in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNESCO, UNHCR, the World Bank, IAEA, and the WHO. The nation belongs to the African Development Bank, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Islamic Development Bank, the ACP Group, the Council of Arab Economic Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), G-77, the Arab League, the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), COMESA, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. Sudan holds observer status in the WTO.

Though the government has shown cooperation in international counterterrorism talks, Sudan has remained on the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism for its alleged support of such groups as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Lord's Resistance Army. Sudan is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Sudan is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Sudan has an agricultural economy, employing 80% of the workforce, holding considerable potential for irrigated production. Cotton and sesame account for almost a quarter each of export earnings. The livestock sector is sizable as well. However, droughts have led to famines, and civil war has led to the virtual collapse of the economy. The slave trade is alive and prospering in Sudan, operating at about $50 a head in 1999. It is estimated that in the south as many as one million civilians have died and more than five million have been uprooted because of civil war. Economic development is also hindered by a poor transportation system that increases the cost of transporting goods over long distances; Sudan is the largest country in Africa.

Sudan's failure to service its international debt, together with a poor human rights record, led, in 1993, to the World Bank suspending financing of 15 development projects, and to the IMF suspending Sudan's voting rights in the organization (they were restored in 2000). Sudan was the world's largest debtor to the IMF in 2003, with arrears of over $1 billion. Total foreign debt exceeds $24 billion, and high inflation has put consumer goods beyond the reach of most. In 2003, the civil war and Sudan's international isolation continued to inhibit growth in the nonagricultural sectors, although progress on the peace process was being made with strong backing from the international community. Petroleum discoveries in the south-central region of Sudan and their export in 1999 raised hopes of economic salvation, but political instability undermines the prospect for lasting improvement in the economy. The economy, in terms of GDP, grew at an annual rate of 6.32% between 2001 and 2005, largely due to increased oil production, enhanced light industry, and an expansion of export processing zones.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Sudan's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $85.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 8.6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 11%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 38.7% of GDP, industry 20.3%, and services 41%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.224 billion or about $37 per capita and accounted for approximately 6.9% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $621 million or about $19 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.8% of the gross national income (GNI).

It was estimated that in 2004 about 40% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


There were an estimated 11 million people in the Sudanese labor force as of 1996 (the latest year for which data was available). As of 1998 (the latest year for which data was available), industry and commerce engaged an estimated 7% of the labor force, with government accounting for 13% and agriculture 80%. Unemployment was estimated at 18.7% in 2002.

The trade union movement was reconstituted after the 1971 coup attempt. Strikes, banned by the government in May 1969, were legalized in 1985. The 1989 coup, however, brought a swift end to the strong labor movement which had been growing under the Sadiq al-Mahdi administration. The National Salvation Revolution Command Council (RCC) abolished labor unions and prohibited strikes by decree on 30 June 1989. The right to organize and join a union has since been restored, but the government dominates the leadership of all unions and tightly controls their activities. The largest union is the Sudan Workers Trade Union Federation with some 800,000 members in 2002.

The presence of slavery and forced labor continue to persist in Sudan and have increased in recent years. Slaves are generally taken in one of the southern war zones and then sent north to work as domestic servants, agricultural workers, or to be sent abroad. The minimum wage is about $11 per month and is insufficient to support the average family. Although the minimum age for employment is legally set at 18 years, this is not enforced and children as young as 11 years old work full-time in all areas including industry. The legal workweek is set at six eight-hour days, with Friday designated as a day of rest.


About one-third of the total area of Africa's largest country is suitable for agricultural development. Abundant rainfall in the south permits both agriculture and grazing grounds for the large herds owned by nomadic tribes. In the north, along the banks of the Nile and other rivers, irrigation farming prevails. Of an estimated 17.4 million hectares (43 million acres) of arable landing 2003, about 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres) were irrigated. Principal cash crops are cotton, sesame, peanuts, sugarcane, dates, citrus fruits, mangoes, coffee, and tobacco; the principal subsistence crops are sorghum, millet, wheat, beans, cowpeas, pulses, corn, and barley. Cotton is the principal export crop and an integral part of the country's economy. In 2004, agricultural products accounted for 23.5% of imports and 15.2% of exports; there was an agricultural trade deficit of $242.4 million.

Government regional development schemes have played a decisive part in the economy since the 1920s. The Gezirah Scheme, located between the Blue and White Niles near their confluence at Khartoum, is the world's largest under a single management and provides a substantial portion of foreign exchange and government revenue. This storage irrigation project, which covers 840,000 hectares (more than 2 million acres) but has an additional potential of 2 million hectares (5 million acres), dates back to 1911 and was put into operation by a British firm. After the expiration of the firm's contract with the Sudanese government in 1950, the land was leased to tenant farmers, who numbered over 100,000 in 1987. They manage the scheme jointly with the government through the Gezirah Board. In July 1980, construction began on the 354-km (220-mi) Jonglei Canal, intended to drain the Sudd swamp and channel water from the White Nile to the arid northern Sudan and to Egypt. Built by a French consortium at a projected cost of $260 million and scheduled for completion in 1985, the canal could irrigate up to 243,000 hectares (600,000 acres) of Sudanese land. By 1984, however, the project had been halted by SPLA opposition, with less than 100 km (62 mi) to be excavated. In 1992, the public and private agricultural sectors invested heavily in land preparations, pesticides, and related inputs. Agricultural funding for such projects comes from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. However, completion of these projects has been complicated by debt-repayment problems. In spite of efforts to improve Sudan's agricultural resources, famine conditions have existed in southern Sudan since 1986. Inadequate rains, a poor distribution infrastructure, and civil war have hampered relief efforts.

Among agricultural products in 2004 were sorghum, 2,600,000 tons; peanuts, 1,200,000 tons; sesame, 325,000 tons (the fourth-highest in the world after India, China, and Myanmar); and wheat, 332,000 tons. Cotton fiber production in 2004 was 187,000 tons. Production in 2004 also included sugarcane, 5,500,000 tons; millet, 784,000 tons; cottonseed, 269,000 tons; tomatoes, 700,000 tons; dates, 330,000 tons; yams, 137,000 tons; and corn, 60,000 tons.


In 2005, the livestock population was estimated at 47 million sheep, 38.3 million head of cattle, 42 million goats, 3.3 million camels, and 37 million chickens. The national livestock herd was second only to that of Ethiopia in Africa. Cattle, found mostly in the southern rainfall area, are of two types: the shorthorn zebu of Asian origin and the longhorn sanga. Nomadic or seminomadic pastoral tribes own the bulk of the cattle. Sudanese sheep have hairy coats and are grown for meat rather than wool. They are owned almost exclusively by nomadic or seminomadic tribes. The tsetse fly prevents livestock raising in an area of approximately 200,000 sq km (77,000 sq mi) in the south. Livestock products in 2005 included an estimated 3,264,000 tons of cow's milk, 714,000 tons of meat, and 47,000 tons of eggs. Widespread smuggling also reduces income available to the government from livestock exports.


In the southern provinces and towns, fish, particularly the Nile tilapia, is a diet staple. The river yields some 110 varieties of fish, and the Red Sea is another valuable fishing ground. In 2003, the total catch was 59,607 tons, 92% from freshwater sources.


About 26% of Sudan is covered by forests. About 61.6 million hectares (152.2 million acres) of Sudan are covered by forests, half of which are dense stands of trees, mostly in the south. Sudan supplies over 80% of the world's needs of gum arabic, extracted from the acacia. Production of roundwood was estimated at 19.6 million cu m (693.8 million cu ft) in 2003, with 89% used as fuel. Timber production, apart from cutting for local village needs, is confined to forests lying within reach of navigable rivers or areas served by roads and railways. The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources maintains forests, administers public preserves, and operates sawmills. Around 11% of Sudan's forests are in protected areas. The annual average deforestation rate during 19902000 was 1.4%.


Sudan was not rich in mineral resources, and the mineral sector has traditionally made a negligible contribution to the economy, although rising production of gold and crude petroleum in recent years has substantially increased the sector's influence. In 2002, mining accounted for 9% of Sudan's gross national product (GDP), which grew by 5.8% in 2003 and by 6% in 2002.

Estimated mineral production in 2003 included salt, 84,000 metric tons; mine chromite (gross weight), 47,000 metric tons (reported); gold, from the Red Sea Hills, 5,000 kg, down from 5,239 kg in 2002 (excluding artisanal output); gypsum, 4,600 metric tons; and hydraulic cement, 320,000 metric tons, up from 195,300 metric tons in 2002. In addition, Sudan presumably produced in 2003 clay and/or shale for cement, limestone for cement, lime, construction aggregate and fill, other construction materials (clays, sand and gravel, and stone), and marble for export. In 2003 Sudan produced an estimated 3,300 kg of silver. Sudan was also known to have deposits of barite, copper, iron ore (large reserves near Port Sudan), kyanite, lead, nickel, silver, tungsten, wollastonite, and zinc; however, little exploitation of these deposits was expected, because of civil unrest.


Sudan has seen its proven reserves of crude oil increase dramatically since 2001, with crude oil output and exports increasing.

Sudan's proven oil reserves, as of 1 January 2005, have more than doubled from those in 2001, to 563 million barrels versus 2001's total of 262 million barrels, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. However, Sudan's oil reserves may be even larger because much of the country's oil exploration has centered on its central and south-central regions. In 2003 estimated oil production was put at 271,000 barrels per day and at an estimated 343,000 barrels per day in 2004. In 2004, oil consumption averaged 91,000 barrels per day, with net oil exports in that year estimated at 252,000 barrels per day. As of 1 January 2005, according to the Oil and Gas Journal, the country's crude oil refining capacity was estimated at 121,700 barrels per day at three refineries: Port Sudan at 21,700 barrels per day; El Gily at 50,000 barrels per day; and at Khartoum at 50,000 barrels per day.

Although Sudan had natural gas reserves estimated as of 1 January 2005 of 3 trillion cu ft, according to the Oil and Gas Journal, there appears to be no recorded production or consumption as of 2002.

In 2002, Sudan's electric generating capacity totaled 0.728 million kW, of which conventional thermal based capacity totaled 0.405 million kW and hydroelectric generating capacity 0.323 million kW. Production of electricity in 2002 amounted to 2.787 billion kWh, of which 54.2% was from fossil fuels and the rest from hydropower. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 2.592 billion kWh.


Sudan's industrial sector has been buffeted by a series of events leading to a significant contraction of output. Foreign exchange was very scarce in the 1980s and led to shortages of raw materials, skilled labor, and energy. In February 1985, the granting of import licenses and letters of credit was suspended. Over 100 manufacturing enterprises shut down as a result. By 1989, many factories were thought to be operating at 5% of capacity. Industry contributed 17% to GDP in 1999 and 24.1% in 2003.

Prior to this difficult period, Sudan's industries supplied many items that had formerly been importedcotton textiles, sugar, hides and skins, cement, tires, flour, soap, shoes, cigarettes, batteries, sesame oil, biscuits, confectionery, household appliances, paints and varnishes, and plastics. Textiles, the largest industry, were part of a decade-long (198595) rehabilitation project. There are a number of cotton ginning plants, including the large Gezira plant. Sudan has a sizeable number of spinning and weaving mills.

The country's reserves of oil and gas are vast, and Sudan is considered to be underexplored. There are three oil refineries, with a total production capacity of 122,000 barrels per day.

Other factories process cotton seed and groundnuts into oil and cake. The Kenana sugar complex, commissioned in 1980, is one of the largest sugar plantation and refining installations in the world, jointly owned by the Sudanese government, the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and other private interests.


The National Council for Research, founded in 1970 at Khartoum, is responsible for planning and directing national research programs in agriculture, medicine, energy, and other fields. The Agriculture Research Corporation of the Ministry of Agriculture, founded in 1904, has its headquarters in Wad Medani, and a Forestry Research Center and the Geological Research Authority operate in Khartoum. The universities of Gezirah, Juba, Khartoum, and Nilayn all have faculties or colleges in scientific and technical fields, and the Sudan University of Science and Technology, founded in 1950 at Khartoum, has colleges of agriculture, engineering, and sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 16% of college and university enrollments. As of 2002, there were 278 researchers and 112 technicians engaged in research and development per million people. High technology exports in 2002 were valued at $4 million, or 7% of the country's manufactured exports.


Sudan's mercantile community is well organized through the Sudan Chamber of Commerce, which supplies information and facilitates negotiations with the authorities. The major foreign-owned trading companies, which had controlled all Sudanese trade, were nationalized in 1970.

Omdurman is a commercial center for livestock and handicrafts. The cities of El Fasher, El Gedaref, Juba, Kassala, and Wau serve as regional trade and market centers, primarily for agricultural goods. The few modern shops feature imported products. Most retail trade is conducted in open-air markets or in stalls in buildings near market centers. Because of the low literacy rate, newspaper advertising is of limited significance. Window and sidewalk displays and outdoor advertising are the principal marketing aids. An international trade fair is held annually at Khartoum.

Markets usually function from 7 am to 2 pm, in order to escape the afternoon heat. Business hours are from 8 am to 2 pm and 6 to 8 pm, Saturday through Thursday, with Friday as the day of rest. Normal banking hours are 8:30 am to noon, Saturday through Thursday. Government hours are 8 am to 2:30 pm.


Sudan relies on agriculture and animal husbandry for its export commodities. The most important exports are oil seeds, especially sesame (22%), cotton (17%), and sheep (12%). Other exports include gold (7.6%), vegetable oil (6.4%), crude vegetable materials (5.3%), and sugar (3.7%). As of 2000 it was expected that the development of oil reserves estimated at over 211 billion barrels might change Sudan's foreign trade situation. Since then this has indeed happened. Crude oil is now the major export commodity from Sudan. In 2004 oil accounted for 87% of export revenues while Sesame accounted for 5%, livestock for 4%, and the rest which includes cotton and gum Arabic the remaining 4%. In 2000, Sudan imported about $17 million worth of irrigation materials from China. In 2004, 64% of exports went to China and 13% to Japan, while imports came mainly from Saudi Arabia and China.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,616.6 2,492.8 -876.2
China 940.2 254.5 685.7
Saudi Arabia 167.7 316.7 -149.0
United Arab Emirates 70.9 189.5 -118.6
Singapore 65.5 6.3 59.2
United Kingdom 64.0 127.1 -63.1
Egypt 38.9 83.0 -44.1
Areas nes 36.1 173.4 -137.3
Lebanon 24.9 24.9
Japan 24.7 135.2 -110.5
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 17.4 75.8 -58.4
() data not available or not significant.


There is a habitual payments deficit and Sudan continued to suffer from a severe shortage of foreign exchange. Remittances from Sudanese working abroad are discouraged by inequitable exchange rate policies. The 1997 trade embargo with the United States added to stresses on the balance of payments. However, Sudan began implementing IMF macroeconomic reforms in 1997. Sudan began exporting crude oil in 1999, and in the fourth quarter of that year, the country realized its first trade surplus. Approximately 70% of Sudan's crude oil production is exported. The country's external debt stood at $25 billion in 2005, most of which was in arrears, and international credit is generally not available to Sudan.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Sudan's exports was $5.25 billion while imports totaled $5.03 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $220 million.


Current Account -762.5
   Balance on goods -296.6
     Imports -2,651.2
     Exports 2,354.6
   Balance on services -549.3
   Balance on income -582.3
   Current transfers 701.6
Capital Account
Financial Account 1,319.2
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Sudan 1,349.2
   Portfolio investment assets 35.3
   Portfolio investment liabilities
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 296.5
   Other investment liabilities -361.7
Net Errors and Omissions -231.0
Reserves and Related Items -361.7
() data not available or not significant.

The traditional banking system was inherited from the Anglo-Egyptian condominium (18991955). When the National Bank of Egypt opened in Khartoum in 1901, it obtained a privileged position as banker to and for the government, allowing it to operate as a semiofficial central bank. Other banks followed, but the National Bank of Egypt and Barclays Bank dominated and stabilized banking in Sudan until after World War II. Post-World War II prosperity created a demand for an increasing number of commercial banks.

Before Sudanese independence, there had been no restrictions on the movement of funds between Egypt and Sudan, and the value of the currency used in Sudan was tied to that of Egypt. This situation was unsatisfactory to an independent Sudan, which established the Sudan Currency Board to replace Egyptian and British money. It was not a central bank because it did not accept deposits, lend money, or provide commercial banks with cash and liquidity. In 1959, the Bank of Sudan was established to succeed the Sudan Currency Board and to take over the Sudanese assets of the National Bank of Egypt. In February 1960, the Bank of Sudan began acting as the central bank of Sudan, issuing currency, assisting the development of banks, providing loans, maintaining financial equilibrium, and advising the government.

In 1996, there were 27 banks in Sudan, of which one, El Nilein Industrial Development Bank, was state-owned. The Bank of Khartoum was privatized at the end of 1995. Banks were nationalized in 1970 but in 1974, foreign banks were allowed to open branches in Sudan.

In December 1990 the government decided to adopt Islamic banking principles. Seven banks in Sudan are based on the principles of Islamic banking that were introduced in September 1984, namely Faisal Islamic Bank of Sudan (FIBS), Islamic Cooperative Development Bank, Tadamun Islamic Bank of Sudan, Sudanese Islamic Bank, Al-Baraka Bank, Islamic Bank of Western Sudan, and Bank of Northern Sudan. In 1999, there were 14 commercial banks in Sudan.

Banks are required to maintain 20% of total deposits as a statutory reserve with the central bank. They must also direct to the agricultural sector 40% of the funds that they have for lending under the new credit ceilings.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.0 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $1.7 billion.

No stock exchange exists in the Sudan.


All foreign insurance companies were nationalized in 1970; there were at least 20 Sudanese insurance companies in 1997 and a National Reinsurance Co.


Sudan's budgets were in deficit from the 1960s through the 1990s. The budget deficit soared to 22% of GDP in 1991/92, which aggravated inflation. As of 2000, neither the budget deficit nor inflation showed signs of shrinking as civil war disturbs commerce, trade, and aid.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Sudan's central government took in revenues of approximately $6.1 billion and had expenditures of $5.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $429 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 79% of GDP.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were sd216,803 million and expenditures were sd227,265 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$858 million and expenditures us$900 million, based on a market exchange rate for 1999 of us$1 = sd252.55 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 54.7%; defense, 27.5%; public order and safety, 7.8%; economic affairs, 1.1%; housing and community amenities, 0.1%;

Revenue and Grants 216,803 100.0%
   Tax revenue 172,295 79.5%
   Social contributions
   Grants 1,241 0.6%
   Other revenue 43,267 20.0%
Expenditures 227,265 100.0%
   General public services 124,414 54.7%
   Defense 62,528 27.5%
   Public order and safety 17,696 7.8%
   Economic affairs 2,531 1.1%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 133 0.1%
   Health 2,183 1.0%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 327 0.1%
   Education 17,368 7.6%
   Social protection 85 0.0%
() data not available or not significant.

health, 1.0%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.1%; and education, 7.6%.


Sudan, as of 2005, had a standard corporate tax rate of 35%. However, the rates varied depending upon the type of company. Banks, investment and insurance companies were subject to the standard rate. Manufacturing firms were subject to a 10% rate, while agricultural and dairy companies were exempt. Unless they fell into the aforementioned business classifications, joint stock companies and limited liability companies were subject to tax rates of 15% and 35%, respectively. Capital gains derived from the sale of land and buildings were subject to a tax rate of 5%. Capital gains from the sale of automobiles were taxed at 2.5%. Other capital gains and dividends were not taxed.

Other taxes included an income tax on salaries, various consumption and production taxes, stamp duties, miscellaneous fees and charges, including a development tax, and the Zakat, an annual religious tax of 2.5% on entities operating in Sudan. The personal income tax was first imposed in July 1964, and an income tax on Sudanese working abroad was added later. Income from property, hitherto exempt from any tax, became subject to the business profits tax on 1 January 1964. There was also a value-added tax (VAT) of 10%.


The Sudan has a liberal trade policy, although it restricts imports of some goods considered competitive with those produced locally. The customs tariff applies to goods from all countries except Egypt and Jordan, which receive preferential treatment.

Most tariff rates are ad valorem and range from zero to 1,100%. Export duty is 10% on cotton and gum arabic and 5% for all other items. Specific rates are applied mostly to alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Commodities not included in the tariff schedule are dutiable at 40% ad valorem. Also levied are royalties, a consumption tax of 10%, and a 10% defense tax. An additional tax of 5150% is imposed on a list of 122 items. The average tariff rate in 1999, as determined by the IMF, was 19.3%. The customs service is known to be extremely corrupt. In 1997, the United States implemented a trade embargo on Sudan because of terrorist activities.


In 1971, Sudan nationalized the holdings of foreign investors, mostly British. A privatization effort and a move toward a mixed economy began slowly in the early 1980s and picked up momentum via negotiations with the IMF in 1985. The 1980 Encouragement of Investment Act provided for repatriation of profits, tax incentives, customs relief, industrial rates for transport and electricity. However, the introduction of Shariah law in 1983 (unenforced since 1985), along with foreign exchange shortages, discouraged investors through 1986. In 1990, the government invited foreign investors to purchase companies in the parastatal sector. Key properties in the agricultural, tourist, transportation and communications sectors were identified as candidates for privatization under the National Economic Salvation Program. In 1992, the creation of four free-trade zones was announced in an attempt to encourage additional foreign investment.

In 1999, a new investment act guaranteed the equal status of foreign and national projects; and encouraged investment in the sectors of agriculture, industry, and tourism, amongst others. It gave total tax exemptions for business profits and customs duties for 10 years on capital projects and 5 years for nonstrategic industries. Foreign investment in 2000 included inflows from Canadian and Araki oil interests, as well as European investment.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows were $98 million in 1997, but rose to an average of $378 million during 1998 to 2000. In 2001, FDI inflow increased to $574 million. Since then Sudan has experienced record inflows of FDI. Between 2002 and 2004 FDI averaged $1.2 billion reaching a record high of $1.51 billion in 2004.


The suspension of foreign aid and balance-of-payment support by a growing list of countries in the recent past had all but stopped economic development. In spite of this, Sudan's government continued to retain food self-sufficiency as a priority goal and sought to reallocate investment toward agriculture and other productive sectors. Private investment was welcome as the parastatal sector was privatized. Since 2000, oil exploitation began to boost economic development. The economic expansion due to increased oil production led to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lifting Sudan's suspension on voting rights, after the country made payments to the Fund and improved its economic performance since 1997. Sudan's voting and other rights in the IMF had been suspended since 1993. However, the country's foreign debt exceeds $25 billion, more than its annual gross domestic product (GDP). However, economic expansion for Sudan is expected to continue, driven by increases in oil production, with real GDP growth set to reach 8.5% and 8.2% in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Rising oil earnings will cause the current-account deficit to narrow from an estimated $1.5 billion (5.5% of GDP) in 2005 to around $400 million (0.9% of GDP) in 2007.


The social insurance system provides benefits for employed persons and the self-employed. This program excludes domestic workers, home workers, and family laborers. A separated program is in place for the armed forces and all public employees. The social insurance system is funded by employee contributions of 8% of wages, with employer contributions of 15% of payroll. Self-employed individuals contribute 25% of their monthly income. The program includes old-age and disability pensions, workers' compensation, and survivor benefits. Retirement is set at age 60, but reduced for those in arduous labor.

The fundamentalist Islamic government has redefined the place of women in society. Prior to that, the state sought to guarantee basic rights and freedoms to all women, both Muslim and non-Muslim. They were afforded opportunities in trade, the professions, and higher education. These freedoms are currently curtailed. Women have been removed from the civil service and have limited educational opportunities. They are no longer free to travel abroad without the permission of a male family member. Women who walk in public with an uncovered head or wearing slacks are often stopped and taken to police stations. Female university students in Khartoum were sentenced to be flogged, reportedly for wearing pants. Female circumcision (also referred to as female genital mutilation), although illegal, is prevalent, especially in the most drastic form. The city of Khartoum ordered the separation of the sexes in public to conform with strict Muslim law. This separation requires barriers between men and women at social events and bans them from sitting facing each other; the law dictates that the barriers be used at weddings, parties, and picnics and prohibits certain other practices perceived as inappropriate in an Islamic society. The government does not address the problem of violence against women. Women in Darfur are especially vulnerable, where rape and assaults are commonplace.

Sudan's human rights situation remained dismal. Government and SPLA continued to regularly commit abuses, including massacres, kidnapping, enslavement, forced conscription, and rape. According to human rights groups, the practice of slavery has grown as a result of the civil war that has intermittently raged in the Sudan since its independence in 1956. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and political choice are repressed throughout the Sudan.


Between 1984 and 1992, there were about 506,000 civil war-related deaths. The government of Sudan announced a cease-fire in the 12-year-old civil war in the southern part of the country in 1995, permitting health organizations to accelerate efforts to administer vaccinations and distribute vitamin A. Despite the extension of medical services and supervision, such diseases as malaria, schistosomiasis, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, and various forms of dysentery persist. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 3.3% of GDP. Close to 75% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 62% had adequate sanitation.

The central government operates most research laboratories and dispensaries. Hospital facilities and medical and public health services are free. As of 2004, there were an estimated 16 physicians and 85 nurses per 100,000 people.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 37.2 and 9.8 per 1,000 people. About 10% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception in 2002. An estimated 89% of Sudanese women underwent female genital mutilation.

In 2005, average life expectancy was estimated at 58.54 years and the infant mortality rate was 62.50 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality was 500 per 100,000 live births. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were quite high: tuberculosis, 88%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 76%; polio, 77%; and measles, 74%. Approximately 34% of children under five years old were considered malnourished.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 2.30 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 400,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 23,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Most Sudanese live in simple houses of their own or rent from landlords or agricultural-scheme authorities. At last report, over half of all housing units were gottias single rooms with round mud walls and a conical straw roof; about one-third were menzils multi-room houses with toilet facilities. Of all dwellings, over 80% were owned. Almost every house, even in the cities, has a walled courtyard or garden. In the big cities, bungalows are provided for important government officials and high-level foreign employees. A national housing authority provides low-cost housing to government employees, rural schoolteachers, and persons in low-income groups. A town-planning ordinance provides for slum clearance and replanning of towns. Khartoum has a number of modern apartment buildings.


Schooling is compulsory for eight years of basic education. This may be followed by three years of general secondary school. At the secondary level, vocational programs for industrial, commercial, and agricultural studies are available for boys. Home economic programs are available for girls. The academic year runs from July to March.

Primary school enrollment in 2002 was estimated at less than 58% of age-eligible students; about 45% of those enrolled were girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was less than 32% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 49% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 29:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 26:1.

The University of Khartoum was established in 1956. A branch of Cairo University was opened at Khartoum in 1955. Other institutions include the Islamic University of Omdurman and the universities of El-Gezirah (at Wad Madanī) and Juba. In 1999, it was estimated that about 7% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 59%, with 69.2% for men and 49.9% for women.


The University of Khartoum Library, in eight branches, is the principal library network with 350,000 volumes. The Library of the Ahfad University for Women has a collection of about 80,000 books. The library at the Institute of Education in Bakhter Ruda has 28,000 volumes; the Khartoum Polytechnic collection has 30,000; and the Educational Documentation Center, also in Khartoum, has 20,000 volumes. Minor library facilities are maintained by secondary schools, houses of worship, government agencies, and foreign community centers. The National Records Office, in Khartoum, serves as the national archives and contains over 20 million documents, including 13,000 bound volumes covering Sudanese history since 1870.

There are antiquities museums in Khartoum and Merowe, which is also the site of excavations of buildings from the kingdom of Kush. The Khalifa's tomb in Omdurman contains relics of Mahdist and other recent history. The National Botanic Garden in Khartoum contains rare specimens of Sudanese flora. Khartoum also has an ethnographic museum, a natural history museum, and the Sudan National Museum. There are also museums at Al Ubayyid, Port Sudan, Wadi Halfa', Wad Madanī, Merowe, Omdurman, and other locations.


Postal and telegraph services are state-owned. In 2003, there were an estimated 27 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 444,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 20 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The Sudan Broadcasting Service, the government-controlled radio network, transmits daily in Arabic, English, French, Amharic, Somali, and other languages. Television service was inaugurated in 1963; an earth satellite station was completed in November 1974. The government controls all radio and television broadcasts, with particular attention to insuring that content is consistent with government policies. The only privately owned radio station is strictly limited to music. In 2003, there were an estimated 461 radios and 386 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 6.1 personal computers for every 1,000 people and nine of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

Much of the press is privately owned, but the state still has great influence over publications. There are several daily papers. The largest dailies in 2002 were Al Sudani (305,000), Al Ayam (200,000), Al Siasa (60,000), Al Khartoum (25,000), and the English-language Sudan Standard.

The constitution provides for freedom of thought, expression, and press as regulated by law. In practice, the government is said to severely limit free speech and the press through intimidation, surveillance, and economic control. Sudan television has a permanent military censor to ensure that all broadcasts reflect government views.


The cooperative movement, which began in the 1930s, has achieved some importance, especially in the irrigation schemes. In the Gezirah Scheme, tenant farmers have formed many cultural, educational, and recreational groupings.

The Sudan Chamber of Commerce (Khartoum), comprising both local and foreign business interests, performs various functions for the government. There are several smaller chambers, most of them organized by resident European and Egyptian traders. More than 30 clubs serve foreign and minority groups and business firms. Such clubs serve as principal centers of social activity in Sudanese towns.

The National Center for Research, established in 1991, promotes study and research in various branches of science. The multinational African Laser, Atomic and Molecular Sciences Network is based in Khartoum.

National youth organizations include the General Sudanese Students Union, Girl Guides Association of The Sudan, YMCA/YWCA, Sudan Boy Scouts Association, and Sudan International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations. Other youth programs and organizations are sponsored through the Supreme Council of Youth and Sports.

The Babiker Badri Scientific Association for Women's Studies serves as a social action group for the rights and education of women. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, UNICEF, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Caritas.


The main tourist attractions are big-game hunting in the forests of the south, boat excursions down the Nile through the forest and desert, deep-sea fishing, the Red Sea Hills, the underwater gardens at Port Sudan, and archaeological sites in the north. Horse racing has been popular in the Sudan since its introduction in 1929. However, since the civil war and the advent of Islamic rule, tourism in the Sudan is virtually nonexistent. There were 50,000 tourists who arrived in Sudan in 2001. Visitors to Sudan require a passport and a visa. A vaccination certificate against yellow fever is required if traveling from an infected area. Precautions against typhoid, meningitis, and malaria are recommended.

According the US Department of State, in 2005 the estimated daily cost of staying in Khartoum was $298.


The one Sudanese to achieve world renown in modern history was the Mahdi (Muhammad Ahmad bin 'Abdallah, 184385), who set out on a self-appointed mission to purify Islam, a mission he hoped would carry him ultimately to Istanbul and to the apex of the Muslim world. Under his banner, the people of Sudan rose against their Egyptian overlords and for over a decade kept most of their country free from foreign rule. The Mahdi died shortly after the seizure of Khartoum. His able but harsh successor, the Khalifa ('Abdallah bin Muhammad at-Ta'a'ishi, d.1899), organized an independent government, which lasted until 1898, when an Anglo-Egyptian expeditionary corps reconquered Sudan.

The Mahdist wars provided the background for the exploits of famous British soldiers and administrators, among them generals Charles George Gordon (183385), Horatio Herbert Kitchener (18501916), and Sir Francis Reginald Wingate (18611953), the first governor-general of the condominium, as well as other foreign officers and explorers in the service of Egypt, such as the Italian Romolo Gessi (183181), the German Emin Pasha (Eduard Carl Oscar Theodor Schnitzer, 184092), the American Charles Chaillé-Long (18421917), and the Austrian Sir Rudolf Carl von Slatin (18571932).

Osman Digna ('Uthnab Abu Bakr Digna, c.18401926), an organizer and leader of the Mahdist armies, and Sayyid 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Mahdi (18851959), posthumous son of the Mahdi, are revered by Sudanese. The most influential figure in recent years was Gaafar Mohammed Nimeiri (Ja'far Muhammad Numayri, b.1930), leader of Sudan from the 1969 coup until 1985. Sadiq al-Mahdi (b.1936) was prime minister during 196667 and 198689. He was overthrown in a coup led by Field Marshal Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir (b.1944) who subsequently became a dictatorial president.


Sudan has no territories or colonies.


Anderson, G. Norman. Sudan in Crisis: the Failure of Democracy. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.

Burr, Millard. Africa's Thirty Years War: Libya, Chad, and the Sudan, 19631993. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999.

Hale, Sondra. Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State. Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1996.

Lobban, Richard A., Jr., Robert S. Cramer, and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. Historical Dictionary of the Sudan. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

O'Sullivan, Meghan L. Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2003.

Patterson, Donald. Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict, and Catastrophe. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999.

Sikainga, Ahmad Alawad. Slaves into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Verney, Peter. Sudan: Conflict and Minorities. London: Minority Rights Group, 1995.

Woodward, Peter. The Horn of Africa: Politics and International Relations. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2003.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of the Sudan
Region: Africa
Population: 35,079,814
Language(s): Arabic, Nubian, Ta Bedawie, Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic, English
Literacy Rate: 46.1%
Academic Year: August-April
Number of Primary Schools: 11,158
Compulsory Schooling: 8 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 0.9%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 3,000,048
  Secondary: 405,583
  Higher: 37,367
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 51%
  Secondary: 21%
Teachers: Primary: 102,987
  Secondary: 15,504
  Higher: 2,165
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 29:1
  Secondary: 26:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 47%
  Secondary: 20%

History & Background

Originally the term Sudan was one used to signify a large sub-Saharan swathe of Africa from the eastern to the western edge of the continent. Bilal al-Sudan, meaning literally "the land of the blacks," extended far beyond the borders of today's modern political boundaries drawn by the colonial powers who prescribed for Sudan a much smaller allotment of the African continent in the nineteenth century scramble for Africa. Even so Jamhuriyat as-Sudan (the Republic of the Sudan) is today the largest country in Africa, bordering Chad and the Central African Republic to the West; Egypt and Libya to the North; Ethiopia and Eritrea to the East; and Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the South. On the east coast is the Red Sea, and from north to south within Sudan flow the Nile River and its tributaries. The total land area of the country totals 2,505,810 sq km (967,491 sq mi), about one quarter the size of the United States.

As of 2000 the estimated population was 35,079,814 with an average population growth rate of 2.8 percent. But Sudan's population has suffered interminably with drought and politico-military induced famine; nearly a million Sudanese were on the verge of starvation in early 2001, and millions more, as many as 4.5 million, have been displaced by the civil conflict and warfare that have gripped the nation in a humanitarian disaster of catastrophic proportions.

Since its independence in 1956, Sudan has had three military dictatorships interspersed with brief attempts to introduce a parliamentary democracy. Under the dictatorships, more progress and development seem to have been made than under the rule of elected officials. The transition to true democracy has been deceptively elusive, particularly because the perceived success under military rule in developing the country's resources has made military leaders more attractive to voters than candidates from other political factions in Sudan.

As a victim of colonialism, Sudan has a history of using education as an ideological and political weapon. But there are positive aspects to an Islamic-oriented education. Islamic approaches to education are more flexible in nature. Students can begin their education at any point in life, and the process of learning is lifelong. There is much to be said for a system that accepts students whether they are in their young, formative years, or at a somewhat later stage in life when responsibility and maturity will evidence a serious dedication to learning.

In a traditional Islamic educational context, there is less importance attached to the awarding of certificates, degrees, and diplomas than in the West. But such qualifications do exist in the form of the ijaza, a diploma conferred upon students by the Islamic teacher, and the isnad, which lists the names of Islamic teachers who have passed on traditions and teachings. This intellectual and spiritual pedigree of sorts, validates the teaching of its holder, and places him in a line of scholars reaching back to the early scholars of Islam, the companions of the Prophet Mohammed, and the Prophet himself. Teachers in possession of an isnad bearing the names of respected scholars will themselves be esteemed in proportion to the prestige accorded to the scholars listed on the isnad.

In Islam, the search for knowledge is a duty of Muslim believers. Traveling in quest of knowledge has a long history in Islamic tradition, and learners are exhorted to "Seek wisdom though it be in China." Learning and the search for wisdom are equated with worship, and the successors to the prophets are those who seek knowledge. In the collective body of recorded traditions surrounding the life of the Prophet Mohammed, the Hadith, a stamp of approval is given to those on the path to knowledge, and rewards are promised in the hereafter for men and women of learning: "God eases the way to paradise for him who seeks learning," and "angels spread their wings for the seeker of learning as a mark of God's approval" (Bray, Clarke and Stephens 1990).

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Through a national referendum in 1998, the people of Sudan approved the Constitution of the Republic of the Sudan after it had been passed by the national assembly on March 28 of the same year. This new constitution embodies the Islamic ideals of the Muslim umma, or community of believers, and the social order as revealed in the Quran and hadith or traditions of the Prophet Mohammed.

In this new constitution, Articles 12 and 14 of Part I spell out the aims of educating the next generation of Sudanese. Article 12 sets forth the aim of eliminating illiteracy and raising the level of educational, scientific, and artistic achievement within the confines of religiosity:

Article 12 The State shall enlist official capabilities and mobilize popular forces for the purpose of eradicating illiteracy and ignorance and intensifying the systems of education, shall strive to encourage sciences, scientific research and experimentation and facilitate acquiring the same, and shall as well strive to encourage all form of art and strenuously seek to elevate society towards values of religiousness, piety, and good deeds.

Article 14 emphasizes the implementation of education policies and also hints at the politico-religious nature of the educational process in protecting children from spiritual neglect and overseeing the moral care and spiritual cleansing of Sudanese children and youth:

Article 14 The State shall care for children and youth and protect them against exploitation and physical and spiritual neglect, and shall direct policies of education, moral care, national guidance and spiritual cleansing to grow a good generation.

Further on, the constitution guarantees in Article 24 of part II the "freedom of conscience and religious creed" and the "right to. . .manifest the same by way of worship, education, practice or performance of rites or ceremonies; and no one shall be coerced to adopt such faith." And in the following Article 25, the further rights of the populace with regard to freedom of thought and expression are guaranteed, "without coercion by authority."

Educational SystemOverview

Early Foundations of Sudanese Education: The educational system of modern Sudan is rooted in the Islamic culture of the northern riverain Arabs, and influenced by previous British imperial policy and the Mahdist nationalist sentiment prior to the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium era. In this exclusivist and missionary-minded system of education, the Arab language is the medium of instruction and socialization into the Islamic umma, or community of Muslims, distinct from those outside the community who are collectively referred to as the kafir, or nonbelievers in the message of the Prophet Mohammed. The Islamization of the Sudan has been a sometimes gradual, sometimes violent and sudden process of conversion, coalescing, integration, and intermarriage, until the various communities and social institutions of northern Sudan became woven into the very fabric of the greater Islamic umma. Islamic rituals, such as the observance of juma'a (Friday) prayers, the observance of holy days such as Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr, and the establishment of Shari'a (Islamic law), identify the Muslim faithful as members of what is believed to be the universal true religion, whose adherents follow the final revelation of Allah (the one god), such revelation having been given through the Prophet Mohammed. In reciting the shahada, or the confession of the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Mohammed, "There is one God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God," the believers submit themselves to Allah and the societal structure ordained in the Quran and the hadith, or traditions of the Prophet. Islamic societal governance is so closely intertwined with religious doctrine that the distinction between secular and sacred does not exist in fundamentalist Islamic ideology.

Unfortunately, the rule of Islamists in modern day Sudan, notably since the NIF (National Islamic Front) backed military coup of 1989, has gone against Islamic tradition. Rather than reaffirming the positive social aspects of the Islamic faith, Islam in the Sudan has been the path to political power, and a potent ideological weapon for maintaining that power. Hourani (1991) observed the dangers of such misguided use of religion for political ends:

The inherited wisdom of the 'ulema was that they should not link themselves too closely with the government of the world; they should keep a moral distance from it, while preserving their access to rulers and influence upon them: it was dangerous to tie the eternal interests of Islam to the fate of a transient ruler of the world.

It would seem that exactly the opposite has happened in the Sudan over the past several centuries, and the effects of rule by the religious elite, and their attempts to impose on a fractured society their particular version and interpretation of an Islamic state, has been disastrous for the societal structures of the Sudanese. Education has become less a means of enlightenment, than a means of coercive indoctrination, conversion, and enslavement. Instead of uniting, rule by the religionists has fractured, destroyed, and eliminated the very lives of the people who should have beenaccording to Islamic principleprotected and enabled to live moral lives of purity through peaceful measures. Instead, the use of Islamist ideology as a path to power has been fraught with abuse of religious principles toward political ends, a path strewn with the casualties of warfare, Muslim and nonMuslim alike.

The modern Sudanese educational infrastructure has its proto-origins in the times when the need for learning followed close on the heels of the call to Islam. Learning the Quran, for example, necessitated the establishment of khalawas (religious schools) affiliated with mosques for teaching the Quran and Arabic literacy skills. Further religious education developed for the study of such topics as fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), literature comprising praises to the Prophet, and exposition of Shari'a principles. This growth of Islamic education in the Sudan, concurrent with the spread of the Islamic religion itself, continued through the seventeenth century until the Turco-Egyptian administration that began in 1820 and continued until 1881. With the centralized government of the Turco-Egyptian regime, the foundations of the modern Sudanese educational system were established concurrently with the further development of the traditional religious educational systems that began with the coming of Islam.

Missionary Education: It was during the Turco-Egyptian administration (1820-1881) that the foundations of a modern, centralized educational infrastructure were put into place. Under this administration, missionary education was encouraged, and Christian missionary societies were allowed to open schools such as the Khartoum Catholic School, begun in 1846. There were missionary efforts in the southern regions of Sudan, but not as much educational investment as in the North. The catholic missionary Daniel Comboni, with his Kordofancentered missionary drive in the Sudan, was successful in developing vocational and technical education. The El Obeid school in 1876 was training 100 young men in various trades, and to the South of El Obeid in Malbes, families were receiving agricultural training in 1881. About 200 girls and 300 boys were enrolled in the Khartoum school by 1877, and the successes of Comboni were instrumental in Governor General Charles Gordon's later decision to promote missionary work in the South, paving the way for the important achievements made in education through missionary efforts after the brief interruption of the Mahdist regime.

The Mahdist regime (1881-1898), with its emphasis on Islamic reform, brought a temporary halt to missionary education and to the centralized educational system established during the Turco-Egyptian administration. The Mahdia, or Mahdist regime, dismantled the work of the missionaries and Turco-Egyptian administration, so that by the time the Sudan was reconquered in 1898, the only education to be had was in the small number of traditional religious schools allowed by the Mahdi and his successor, the Khalifa 'Abdallahi (Reyero 1995).

Mahdist Reforms & Prohibitions: In order to understand the Islamic nature and character of educational policy in modern Sudan, it is very important to consider the influence of the Mahdia, a revolutionary regime which was "born by the sword, lived by the sword and perished by the sword" (Zulfo 1980). The Mahdi was the leader of this revolution who inspired and inflamed the Sudanese of his day to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Islam, an inspiration which endures today in the form of resistance to Westernization and the jihad (holy war) against the South. The Islamic martyrs of this jihad are held up as heroes of the faith, and institutions such as Khartoum University boast the number of martyr-students they have offered in the holy war to conquer the southern rebels.

The legacy of the Mahdia was a jihad-inspired military takeover of the governmental administration of Sudan, and the implementation of reformist, puritanical, Mahdist Islamism, which oversaw the reactionary dismantling of the previous advancements made in education. The attitude seemed to be that anything tainted by foreign influence had to be done away with. Religious schools in the vein of "true" Islam, or Islam according to the visions of the Mahdi, were the only educational institutions allowed to continue during the Mahdist regime.

Condominium Educational Policy: In 1898 the Sudan was reconquered by combined British and Egyptian forces, and up until independence in 1956, the country was governed by the Condominium administration, which resulted from the signing of the Condominium Agreement in Cairo on January 19, 1899, thus inaugurating the co-domini Anglo-Egyptian rule. From the beginning of the Condominium, Sudanese involvement in education and employment quickly led to a level of political awareness that would later find expression in the nationalist movements toward eventual independence.

The first governors general of the Condominium administration, Sir Herbert Kitchener and Sir Reginald Wingate, set in motion the educational policies that were to guide the content and aims of Sudanese education. The first Director of Education, James Currie, appointed in 1900, set in place the patterns that continued in one form or another for most of the twentieth century. Currie's system of education was envisaged as one that would allow the Sudanese "to understand the elements of the system of government." Also envisaged was the preparation of "a small class of competent artisans" as well as "a small administrative class for entry to the government service." This limited system of education stemmed from budgetary constraints and fears that an educated elite would be dangerous for the status quo. When Gordon College opened in 1902 as the next step for the first intermediate and secondary schools, it reflected a system of education that was politically influenced and designed to meet the needs of governmental departments rather than the needs of the broader Sudanese populace of the North (Holt and Daly 2000).

Under the Anglo-Egyptian rule, khalawas (traditional religious schools) were modified to incorporate secular additions to the traditional Islamic curricula, and this combination of the secular and religious became the basis of elementary education in Sudan. Government supported kuttabs (Quranic schools) were encouraged in a policy of cultivating orthodox Islam in favor of "fanatical" Islam. After the elementary levels, vocational training was introduced but limited to those being trained for government service. The educational reforms were intended to prevent a revival of Mahdism and the resurgence of Islamic ideology hostile to the government.

Also under the Condominium administration, missionary education was begun anew by the Verona Fathers (Comboni missionaries) and the American Presbyterian Mission. But the activities of the missionaries were curtailed and proselytism became a heated issue of debate, because the government did not want to instill mistrust among Muslims and provoke a reaction to perceived sanctioning of Christian missionary proselytism. Concerns and questions notwithstanding, missionaries were permitted to begin their work in the South. Missionary work began in the North too, but with many prohibitions. At first, the missionaries were permitted to open schools in Khartoum for Christian children, but not Muslims, until 1901, when schools outside Khartoum were opened and were allowed to enroll Sudanese Muslim children.

But there was still much distrust and suspicion of the "foreign" schools and educational reforms. Rural Sudanese especially, but the general populace as well, preferred the traditional to the modern, the religious to the secular. The strongest influence was wielded by the traditional religious schools, even when it became apparent that there were many benefits to receiving vocational training and a combined education with elements of both the secular and the sacred. The traditional religious schools represented for some Sudanese the backward state of educational policy, but for others, in particular the Islamic elite, the traditional elements of Islamic education were a protection of societal status, a buffer against the evils of modernization and the imposition of a foreign system of education.

Educational policy as implemented under Anglo-Egyptian rule was tied to the needs of the administration and political service in that administration by the educated elite of the Sudanese. Gordon Memorial College, the forerunner of today's Khartoum University, was established to commemorate Governor General Charles Gordon. It became the center of the Condominium's educational system, and the all-male Sudanese student body was educated and socialized after the European model. Although westernized by having learned to speak English and to dress like Europeans the students retained traditional religious and cultural beliefs. The bonds of Islamic unity forged during the Mahdia in the stand against the enemy were not to be so easily undone through policy which could change the external, but which could not invade the inner being of a people's awakened national self-consciousness.

To cater to those students seeking a more traditional religious education, the government-sponsored Islamic Religious Institute of Omdurman was inaugurated in 1912. But unlike graduates of Gordon Memorial College, graduates of the institute were not on a track toward eventual service in a government administrative capacity. With the failure of state schools to provide enough places for students, and to subsequently train them for jobs in the administration, ma'hads (nongovernment institutes) proliferated and offered students a traditional Islamic educationan alternative to the administrative-track studentships offered in government sponsored institutionsbut without the same potential for employment upon completion.

With little opportunity for profitable employment, the nationalist movement of the 1920s, and everincreasing perception that the Condominium administration's educational policy was more for the benefit of its own needs instead of the Sudanese populace, there were calls for reform. As a result of such pressure for reform, there were changes in the 1930s including the establishment of private schools, the coordination of educational policy with Egypt, and attempts to standardize the curricula of mission schools in the South. After World War II, there was expansion at all levels of education to deal with the growing numbers of students, such as the opening of postsecondary schools like the Khartoum Technical Institute, the Omdurman Higher Teachers' Training Institute, and a Khartoum branch of Cairo University, later to become the nationalized El Nileen University (University of the Two Niles) in 1992.

Prior to independence in 1956, the failures, disparities, and discontinuities of the educational system under the co-domini powers became glaringly evident. Illiteracy was rampant, as high as 86 percent, and only 10-12 percent of eligible children were in primary school. With independence the nationalized government faced serious challenges in expanding and modernizing the educational system so that schooling would be available for all Sudanese, meeting the needs of a linguistically, culturally, and religiously diverse population. It would be easy to blame educational policy under the Condominium administration for the subsequent failures and problems encountered in the postindependence era. And indeed, it has been argued that Condominium policy reinforced disparities between northern and southern Sudan, between Arab and non-Arab, and Muslim and non-Muslim, the disparities that were to lead to the southern "problem" and the interminable civil warfare of the postindependence era.

Education in the South: Both before and after the Mahdia, the southern educational policy was influenced by Christian missionary activities, and after the reconquest of the Sudan, the Condominium administration was concerned with preventing a revival of Mahdisim and the spread of Islamic radicalism to the southern regions. The South was cut off from the North in terms of language planning policy, educational policy, and employment policy of the government administration that prevented northerners from taking up government posts in the South and vice versa.

Southern educational policy differed from northern policy in that Christian missionary organizations were responsible for educational development and planning in regional spheres of influence relegated to the various missionary societies. The South was economically backward and sparsely populated with a remarkable linguistic diversity among tribal populations, some of them nomadic. Amidst a suspicious xenophobia sown among southerners during the slave-trading eras, the Christian missionary groups met the social, educational, and developmental challenges of southern Sudan. The Verona Fathers (Comboni missionaries), the Church Missionary Society, and the American Presbyterian Mission divided the South into spheres of influence and proselytism under regulations established in 1905. The Catholic educators offered vocational, technical, and industrial training, whereas the Church Missionary Society and the American Presbyterian Mission focused in their educational planning on the development of literacy skills.

Unlike the educational system of the North, dominated by the modified Islamic religious institutions and government-sponsored kuttabs using Arabic as the medium of instruction, the southern schools employed English as the language of instruction, with the exception of Bahr al-Ghazal, where Arabic was used. The southern schools after Sudan's reconquest were nearly all for boys except for several elementary schools established for girls. At the time of the reconquest, when missionary activities were renewed after the Mahdist era, the missionary educators could not have foreseen the influence that their policies would have on the future sociopolitical dynamics of the Sudan, the cleavages between north and south, Muslim and Christian, Arabs and non-Arabs, and "true" Muslims versus "other" Muslims. The challenges of working among varied and linguistically diverse tribal ethnic groups on a meager budget left little option but to adopt a common language for education. The pidgen Arabic that was common at the time could just as easily have been chosen, but Mahdist revivalism fears negated such an option. Perhaps one of the many tribal languages could have been used in education, but there could have been no unity of educational policy and planning, and who is to say whether such a choice would have been less divisive than adopting English? What is clear is that the adoption of a Western tongue, and the perception by northern Arab Muslims that this represented a foreign intrusion, later justified in the minds of Arab northerners the future programs of Arabization and Islamization in the name of Allah. It also legitimized the jihad against the southerners to expel the foreign influence from the Sudan, the imposition of Shari'a law, and the establishment of a state founded upon the platform of political Islam.

The Rejaf Language Conference of 1928 further legitimized the linguistic and educational policy that divided the North from the South and deepened the gap between the Arab Muslim north and the African Christian and Animist south. The educational system in the South expanded throughout the 1920s, but due to the differing spheres of influence and the different approaches of the missionary societies, there was a lack of uniformity in the South that highlighted not only the North-South divide, but also the interregional divides in the South.

Thus, the educational administration of the South being an indirect one under the Condominium administration seems to have prevented the interregional unity in the South that might have been achieved through a centrally coordinated policy of education. But although this indirect rule facilitated cleavages along religious, regional, and ethnic divides, progress was made in training Sudanese nationals for government service in the South, in facilitating development of literacy and technicalvocational skills, and in raising the level of awareness of the southern Sudanese of themselves as a distinct entity from the North as indeed they had been even before the coming of the missionaries.

Whatever the failures or successes of the educational policy in the South in forestalling capitulation to northern aggression and the sword of political Islam, the resulting divisions and cleavages underlined the fact that the southern Sudan was different from northern Sudan, and the people had visions of their destiny which differed sharply from the Islamic future that the northerners envisaged for the South. The northern Islamic elite viewed the south in a sense as their "lost brother" who needed to be brought back into the fold of Islam (Abdel Wahab El-Affendi 1990).

With the movements toward nationalism and independence in the 1930s and 1940s, the fears of the Condominium administration began to be realizedthe way was being prepared for a postindependence sociopolitical movement that advocated Islamization and Arabization of the entire Sudan. The sociopolitical impasses between North and South had been deepened through lack of unifying the country on principles other than exclusivist Islamism. It seemed that the advantages gained through the particular educational policies in the South were eclipsed altogether by the sociopolitical divisions. There was virtually no freedom of movement between North and South in terms of employment opportunities for the educational elite, and after independence it was the placement of southern troops under officers of northern origin that prompted mass mutiny and rebellion.

With the determination of the nationalists and Islamists to extend Islam into the South in the 1930s, the maturation of the discourse of independence, nationalism, Arabization, and Islamization was well underway. After independence in 1956, the educational backwardness and state of underdevelopment of the South in relation to the North prompted reforms oriented toward a strict policy of Islamization and Arabization to bring the southern regions into line with the Islamist vision for the newly independent Republic of the Sudan.

Postindependence Arabization & Islamization: Since independence in 1956 the educational policy of the Sudan has been influenced by the ongoing program of Arabization and Islamization. But the Islamist vision has been shown to be incompatible with the ethnically and linguistically diverse populace of the Sudan, particularly the South. Ideally an Islamic state recognizes the rights of linguistic and ethnic minorities, and such a policy of minority recognition remains the stated official line of the Bashir regime as set forth in the constitution.

There are benefits to homogenization, but politicized educational policy has been disastrous for those who have resisted the eclipsing of their autonomous identity. In the displaced persons' camps, it seems that the Islamic relief agencies such as the Islamic African Relief Agency of the 1980s and the Da'wa Islamia, working under the aegis of the NIF and government sponsorship, have been more concerned with religious "needs" than physical needs. The services provided by Islamic relief agencies have been woefully inadequate, not meeting the basic food and health needs of refugees, and the services have been manipulated to "encourage" conversion to Islam. The main focus of Da'wa Islamia, as Peterson (1999) notes, was the providing of schools at the relief camps so that displaced children could be taught according to the Islamic curriculum of the Khartoum regime.

Through education, the Arab Umma hopes to regain the ascendancy now being usurped by the West. In Sudan the Islamists are using education to further religious doctrine, and they are manipulating the government social services apparatus toward that end. As Peterson (1999) has observed, "Islamists in charge have a firm grip on power," they are "unlikely to be displaced in the foreseeable future" and they intend to "Islamize all of Sudan. . .spread their brand of political Islam far and wide. . .[and] they will pursue a strategy of dividing and overcoming those Sudanese who oppose them, and they will work to gain support from groups and individuals in the United States and Western Europe in order to soften or end policies unfavorable to Sudan." Caught right in the middle of the conflict surrounding Khartoum's policies and programs are the children of Sudan. In 1995 a Nuba refugee named Yusuf said "The intent of the Government is complete and utter elimination of Nuba culture. Its intent is not new. I myself believed I was an Arab until high secondary school; that is what we were taught. . . .Our great concern is for our children. For the last eight years, since 1987, there has been no education for children" (Winter 2000).

Preprimary & Primary Education

Although traditional religious instruction has been combined with instruction in other subjects in Sudan's modern education system, Quranic schools are still an important component of educating Sudanese Muslim youth. Quranic schools existed as the first educational institutions in Sudan, and even today the Quranic schools are the first educational experience for many children, and there can be elaborate, formal ceremonies for pupils' first admission to the Quranic schoolfor example, shaving pupils' heads and writing bismallah ar-rahman ar-rahim, on the palms of students' hands, committing at the start the children's education to the cause of Islam in the name of Allah.

Classes in Quranic schools begin each day with a morning session, followed by an afternoon session, and a later evening session for students who cannot attend the day sessionsfor example, if they are enrolled in a primary or elementary school. Thus, students have the option of attending both Quranic and primary school at the same time. The school week in Sudan runs from Saturday to Wednesday, as in most Islamic nations, with the weekend being on Thursday and Friday.

Children normally begin study in the Quranic schools between the ages of three and six. The curriculum consists mainly of memorizing the Quran, and learning the Arabic alphabet for this purpose. Equipped with a wooden slate and a simple ink made of soot mixed with gum, students are economically prepared to begin writing the Arabic alphabet and sections of the Quran. Complete memorization of the Quran normally takes around five years, sometimes longer, and there are ceremonies at the end of each of five stages of memorization.

Competitions for children to demonstrate their ability in reciting the Quran from memory offer rewards to those students who have successfully mastered the memorization challenge. The Quranic schools are not without their critics inside and outside the Muslim world. One of the main criticisms leveled against Quranic schools, in some cases by students who have gone through such schools early on in their education, is the fact that rote memorization and the ability to recite the Quran without understanding are seen as pointless aims of the Quranic curriculum. In many Quranic schools in countries with non-Arabic speaking Muslim believers, there are students who do not understand the words they are being taught to chant with religious fervor, and hence there is no true progress in understanding Arabic without the comprehension of memorized Quranic verses. To some, the ability of a child to chant the entire text of the Quran without understanding the words is evidence for divine inspiration, while to others the practice denotes a futile use of minds that could be put to better tasks.

In the past, some Quranic schools did not always follow this tradition of memorization without compre hensionemphasizing instead poetry, composition, arithmetic, and Arabic grammar in the curricula before moving on to detailed study and memorization of the Quran. There are critics of the Quranic curriculum, but advocates argue that at a minimum, students are introduced to Arabic, and get a foundation for further instruction. It may also be said that the schools socialize students into an Islamic community, instilling and inculcating respect for Islamic scholars and culture.

As Stephen Amin (2000) reported, going to school can be a deadly undertaking for primary school-age children in the Sudan. A missionary-sponsored primary school in Kauda Fouk, in the Nuba mountains of central Sudan, was bombed on 8 February 2000, along with numerous displaced persons camps where Western aid agencies were operating. At Kauda Fouk, four bombs were dropped by a Russian-made Sudanese Airforce Antonov plane on the school where over 600 students attended daily. Ten children and a teacher were killed instantly, while four more died in transit to the hospital. Witnesses note that the plane had identified the school-target several days previously in a flyover of the school premises, during which the terrified schoolchildren fled from the school.

So why would the military directly target a primary school? The answer, according to Ramadan Hamid, is that Khartoum wishes to "create insecurity among civilians, in order to stop life supporting activities such as schooling and farming, to give the civilians no other option apart from 'peace camps."' Another eyewitness explained, "The government of Sudan is not just trying to fight us physically, they want to prevent even our education." Khartoum's strategy succeeded. After this attack, surrounding schools closed their doors and students expressed their terror-stricken state of mind: "I will stay at home, why go to school and die."

The young minds of many primary school-age children in Sudan are being terrorized, to the point that they refuse to come to school for fear of being killed by more attacks. The memories of bombed out classrooms, mutilated classmates, burned churches and mosques, have been etched forever into their tender minds as victims of fratricidal civil war atrocities. Intimidation and terrorism, and the genocidal onslaught of the Khartoum regime, have not spared the innocent children. Their education has been one conducted according to the policy of intractable warfare, whose casualties number in the millions of minds scarred by loss of family, dislocation, malnourishment, psychological intimidation, and desperate privation.

In many refugee camps, school sessions for children might be held under the shade of a tree, and instead of a blackboard there are markings in the dust. Among the 4.5 million plus displaced Sudanese, a whole generation of children has grown up without any formal education.

In addition to severe problems with the provision of social services among the displaced populations, statistics from the Sudanese Ministry of Education for the year 2000 reveal the existence of serious problems apart from those school-age children directly affected by the war. Out of 111,141 teachers at the primary level in the Sudanese education system, only 43 percent had received professional training. So not only are there problems among the displaced populations and a total lack of education in the South, but in the Sudanese education system outside the war zones, there are serious problems including a lack of trained teachers, poorly paid teachers who must resort to handouts from students' families, a lack of facilities, and poor transportation to and from schools. On top of all this there are the budgetary deficiencies resulting from the diversion of funds to the war effort's aim of crushing the southern rebellion.

Pupil enrollment statistics for 2000 reveal the financial problems brought about by a war that devours around half of the annual national budget, an estimated $1 million per day. Teachers are not paid, or severely underpaid, and at the preschool level (kindergarten and nursery schools), only 349,306 out of an estimated 1.8 million eligible school-age children were enrolled in schools. At the primary level, out of a targeted population of 6.6 million, less than half (47.2 percent) or 3.13 million students in the 6 to 14 age bracket were enrolled in primary schools. The Ministry of Education explains that the meager enrollment rates are a result of the civil war. The buying of munitions and military hardware has been a greater priority than paying teachers' salaries and developing the educational infrastructure. An education system that should have been a government-provided education free of charge for all Sudanese has resorted to desperate measures to support teachers trying to educate less than half of the school-age Sudanese children, a large proportion of whom have been adversely affected by the war.

Secondary Education

In the context of a historical, traditional religious education, graduates of Quranic schools went on to an Ilm school of higher learning where they would study a range of Islamic subjects relating to literature, theology, and law. Tafsir, the study of Quranic exegesis, passed along the traditions for interpreting the sacred text of the Quran. Literature studies centered mainly on the texts resulting from scholarly commentary on the Quran, and the study of the hadith focused on the traditions surrounding the life of the Prophet Mohammed. Traditions governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, and personal conduct are derived from how the Prophet himself had behaved and conducted himself in his lifetime, but a modern application and interpretation of these traditions is necessary for use in Islamic societies of today.

Fiqh, or Islamic jurisprudence, is the body of theory surrounding the Islamic sacred law (Shari'a ) that orthodox Muslims believe to be applicable not only to Muslims, but to all men and women. The various subjects of the Ilm schools, fiqh, hadith, tafsir, madih (praises to the Prophet Mohammed), sira (prose and poetic verse narrating stories of the Prophet), and Wa'z (literature discussing Islamic notions of paradise and hell) completed the socialization process of students into the Islamic scholarly community. Students went on after graduating from the Ilm schools for further specializations in fiqh or hadith, for example at the world famous Al Azhar university in Egypt, or they went on to serve as prayer leaders (imams ), or judges (qadi ) in their respective Islamic communities.

Understanding the influence of traditional religious education in the Islamic world is very significant in explaining the development of the modern Sudanese educational infrastructure. As for many citizens in countries of Africa, Islam represented for the Sudanese the ideology needed for development and nationalization in the postcolonial, postimperial era. In Africa, leaders saw the need for strengthening the moral character of their people, and Islam provided a sense of community (Umma ), society, and dignity in resisting the imperialists. Islam provided an identity amid the sweeping changes affecting their countries.

The early to mid-1900s was a time when Arab nationalism was sweeping the Islamic world, and Sudan was not the only country, or the first, to address the challenge of how to best nationalize and develop a system of education that would meet the needs of a generally uneducated, illiterate populace. In Sudan, an educated elite had already developed a vision for such development, and that vision led from the logic of nationalism and independence to the mass education of the entire populace. This was one of the first tasks of primary importance to the national government. But there were problems such as a large population, about 10 million at the time of Sudan's independence, and an ever-increasing population that equated with a need for building an educational system to accommodate not only the unschooled students, but also the steadily increasing number of school-age children who needed to be enrolled in the state schools.

The result of the fast-paced development meant that schools were opened with large class sizes. Teachers often lacked professional qualifications and training, and the level of education was not adequate, especially at the secondary level, and students were nominally equipped for further studies. As in the Condominium era, education focused on preparation for government service instead of vocational and technical training, a repetition of problems inherent in the Condominium era educational policy. Independence in Sudan was not the result of a revolution per se, but a transfer of administrative control to the nationalists.

The schools that were inherited from the Anglo-Egyptian administration were nationalized under the unified educational system and brought under the control of the state. In the South the subsidized missionary schools came under scrutiny after independence. A report in 1954 by an International Commission on Secondary Education had advocated transfer of missionary schools to government control and replacement of English with Arabic as the language of instruction. Such insensitivity to the southern dilemma went even further when in 1957, a year after formal independence, the government proclaimed its decision to nationalize the mission schools. They were integrated into the national education system shortly thereafter. More forceful measures were later taken with the aggressive policies surrounding Arabization and Islamization, and six intermediate Islamic institutes were opened in the South, new mosques were built, and Christian missionaries were not allowed to open any more schools. Furthermore, Sunday as a day of rest was done away with in favor of the Islamic juma'a, the Friday day of Muslim worship.

The Islamic traditional schools and religious institutes in the North were also incorporated into the state system of education, but they were never harassed as the mission schools in the South have been since independence. And although the integrated missionary schools have been allowed to continue up to the present day, the increase of restrictions since the Missionary Societies Act of 1962 has resulted in continued interference and disruption over the years to missionary activities; and there has been outright hostility as in the expulsion of missionaries, and most recently in the bombing of the Comboni Primary School and the bulldozing of mission schools. In line with other Arab countries, the Sudan instituted a policy of Arabizing the schools that presented problems for the southerners who had been taught until then in an English medium of instruction environment. There was, therefore, no Arab-educated elite in the South as there was in the North to institute such a policy of Arabization.

Modern Sudanese education at the secondary level has inherited a system of education that incorporated Islamic schools and Islamic subjects, and the English medium missionary schools of the South, into a centrally controlled national educational infrastructurethat has evolved into a modern system of imparting the previous elements of a traditional religious education, and also the so-called secular subjects requisite for a liberal education in the humanities, arts, and sciences.

The success of the system in passing along the Islamic traditions is fairly obvious, at least in the northern regions. But the failure to unify the country, and the alienation, polarization, and enmity resulting from the programs of enforced Arabization and Islamization of the southern regions especially, can only be seen as dismal failures to accommodate the needs of important elements of postindependence Sudanese society. And this failure has had ramifications for the educational system as a whole, economically, socially, ideologically, and psychologically. Funds have been diverted for the war effort. Transportation from rural areas to schools has been disrupted. And education has been used in the recruitment of youths for the war effort against parents' knowledge and wishes in many cases. The government has even gone so far as rounding up youths off the streets for conscription into military service, and they have withheld the secondary school educational certificates of Sudanese youth who did not enlist for service in the southern jihad. Factionalization and fracturing of diverse societal components against each other in fratricidal slaughter represent symptoms of the graver problems underlying the obvious deficiencies in modern Sudan's educational policy.

The meager statistics for school enrollment at the secondary level reveal the modern failures of the educational system in Sudan to provide a basic foundational level of schooling to the Sudanese populace. In 2000, only 401,424 students were enrolled in secondary schools out of 2.22 million eligible students. The financial constraints in the midst of warfare have meant that students must pay fees to support teachers who should have been salaried by the state, and the financial plight of teachers is only aggravated by the absence of school equipment, supplies, and adequate facilities.

Higher Education

In discussing higher education and scientific achievement in the context of historical Islam, it must be remembered that the Arab Empire's commercial blockade of the West imposed from the seventh to the twelfth centuries left European urban society impoverished, while the Muslim countries became economically and culturally enriched through their control of trade with India and the Far East. The indebtedness of the West to the Islamic world has been de-emphasized to the point that even the rebirth of learning and scholarship in Europe was at one time believed to have resulted from the direct influence of Greek and Roman sources without any input from the "barbaric" Muslims. In fact, the Arabs had translated and preserved the classical works of antiquity, and when the Muslims occupied Spain, Sicily, and southern Italy, they brought their high standards of scholarship and learning to be established in Muslim communities, part of the greater network of scholarship throughout the Muslim world. Although the Arabs never occupied all of Europe, they quite literally conquered Western civilization by cordoning it off through their blockade that extended from the Atlantic Ocean to Central Asia, preventing commercial interaction and cultural exchange with the East. The Arabs preserved the writings and cultural accomplishments of ancient Greece and Rome, and they passed along their scholarship and forms of educational systemization to Europe. That is to say, the body of knowledge that Europe inherited from the Arabs made possible the foundations of modern scientific inquiry. In mathematics the Arabs donated the foundational numerals used for computation, and Arabic numerals replaced the unwieldy Roman numerals. The Arab's mathematical bequeathal also included such advancements as logarithms, algebra, and trigonometry. In other branches of science as well, such as medicine, botany, natural history, and zoology, and the technical-vocational specializations such as paper manufacture, which the Arabs learned from the Chinese, the Muslim world was centuries ahead of backward Europe before the Renaissance. Today this historical bequeathal is an embarrassment of sorts for a civilization such as the West, which in the history of human knowledge and systems of thought would like to believe that it alone has always occupied the lofty perch of the most advanced civilization in the world.

The European university was not a direct product of the Islamic world, but the form which it was to take in the West from its inception in the Middle Ages, as a vitalized, corporately structured entity in the thirteenth century, resulted from what had been inherited from the Islamic structures of higher education. Higher learning in the Islamic world was organized along the lines of charitable trusts and endowments. A madrasa, or boarding school for higher learning most often associated with a mosque, was established through the gift of a benefactor, and the income from the endowment, such as the rental income from a property given or purchased as part of the endowment, was used for paying teachers, funding student stipends, and other educational-related purposes. The main purpose of such endowments was most often the study and teaching of fiqh and Islamic jurisprudence. Endowments provided for a given number of students to study law, hadith, sufism, and other subjects in the madrasa. Teachers of the various subjects were supported by the endowment, and the holder of an endowed chair in a particular subject would be supplied with teaching assistants much in the same manner as the needs of modern university departments are served by teaching and research assistants, part-time lecturers, and adjunct professors.

Students would learn through exposition by a mudarris (teacher) in oral lectures followed by clarification in tutorials and exercises supervised by teaching assistants, learning over several years the consensus of scholarship on particular legal and social issues of the day. Those students wanting to move on to become teachers themselves, or qadi, (judges) or muftis (Muslim legal experts), studied longer than other students, and they were trained in ijtihad, the process of logical dispute and reasoning by which a consensus was reached. At this higher level of learning, students received an advanced certification attesting to their competence in ijtihad, a higher level of ijaza (educational certificate), which authorized them to practice as teachers, judges, and legal experts within the Muslim Umma.

The university that the Islamic world borrowed back, so to speak, from Europe in the nineteenth century was an institution replete with Islamic elements that were the unrecognized inheritance earlier bequeathed to Europe by the Arabsthe foundational knowledge in mathematics, science, and classical studies that made possible the modern advancements and branches of inquiryand the organization of the educational infrastructure, including the endowments and charitable trusts that made possible the forms of higher learning that developed throughout Europe in the form of university communities. Europe took the borrowed system of knowledge in the Middle Ages, organized this borrowed knowledge, and developed it into a corporate system undergirding the branches of modern scholarship and scientific inquiry. So from a "borrower" in the Middle Ages, Europe became a "lender" in modern times, retransmitting to the Islamic world through colonialization and imperialization that which Islam had previously transmitted to the West. The branches of scientific inquiry and the system of education had been changed and christianized by European scholars and scientists, many of whom saw in God's creation the structure and orderliness of intelligent design, which man (and woman) could discover through scientific inquiry. To Christian minds, Christ was the force by "all things consist" (Colossians 1:17). The Christian belief that intelligent design had resulted in an orderly creation spurred some of the greatest minds in Christian Europe, Isaac Newton for example, to diligently search out in an orderly fashion, with scientific methodology, the laws, structure, and composition of a marvelous creation. Western civilization as a debtor to the Arabs, became a debtor to the great minds who demonstrated what scientific advancements could be achieved in searching out the orderly structures of God's creation from the vantage point of a Christian worldview. Both Muslim and Christian controlled governments had shown how scientific advancement could be curtailed by religious interference in politics, but the notion of freedom of conscience to be enunciated in the Protestant Reformation that swept Europe in the sixteenth century was to liberate great minds to do great works with fewer restrictions from overbearing interference by men of religion who sought to maintain their power base under the guise of religiosity.

In the Sudan, the western influence was represented in the complex administrative bureaucracy of Sudan's Condominium government, the missionary schools in the South, the establishment of Gordon Memorial College in Khartoum, and various other social institutions transferred from the Condominium to the national administration at independence. The Islamic counterparts to this influence both before and after the nationalist takeover of the Sudanese government took the form of social institutions developed specifically for the purpose of fostering the growth of an Islamic elite. The establishment and increasing influence of traditional Islamic schools and institutes such as the Islamic African Center of Khartoum (Al Merkaz Al Islami Al Ifriqi bi' Khartoum ), formed in 1977 by the government to offer African societies an alternative model of modernization to the Western model, was seen as a way to counteract the pervasive Western influence. The center's aim was to combat negative perceptions of Islam, and to reverse the work of the European imperialists and Christian missionaries through the development of an Islamic educated elite, young Muslims drawn from not only the Sudan, but other countries in Africa as well. The vision for extending Islam's frontiers beyond Sudan was strikingly reminiscent of the Mahdist Islamic vision.

The high level of instruction in Islamic and Arab culture at the center under highly qualified teachers was designed to reinforce Islamic orthodoxy and improve the general standards of education in communities throughout Sudan from which students had been drawn. The low standards of education among Sudanese youth in the 1960s and the domination of anti-Western nationalist thought in the wake of independence, inspired the Muslim political factions to more firmly embrace Islamization and Arabization as the vehicle for cultural decolonization of the Sudan. Strictly speaking, the Sudan had never been colonized because the joint administration under the co-domini powers represented a continuation of the Ottoman-style rule of the Sudan through Egypt's overlordship. But the effect was the same, and of the co-domini powers, Britain wielded the real authority. In the process of de-emphasizing and reversing the influence of the West, the new Muslim-educated elite, missionaries of the new Islamic revivalism (Al Sahwa Al Islamia Islamic awakening), were being prepared to take on the challenge of competing with Western style education, and Western-educated intellectuals. And from this process of cultural liberation from the "West is best" ideology as well as the "Mecca versus mechanization" dichotomy (Eickelman 1999), there were studies done by Islamists to analyze the possible models of Islamic teaching and research in the modern era.

Religious orthodoxy was needed to liberate the Sudanese from the shackles of European cultural colonization from Sudan's recent past. But in southern Sudan, the policy of Islamization and Arabization failed due toas Islamists themselves realizedthe deep-seated rejection of Islamization for ethnic and religious motivations driven by a desire for autonomy in the face of possible subordination to the new imperialist Islam. In the minds of southerners, Arabization became equated with Islamization. As the loga al Islamiyya (the language of Islam), the Arabic language was heavily freighted with the religion of Islam, and the one entailed the other.

It was hoped that the formation of a new Islamic elite from among the Sudanese youth would stimulate change in favor of the Islamist vision for Sudan. Prior to the establishment of the Islamic center in Khartoum, a center had been established in Omdurman in 1966, the Islamic African Center, created by government decree and housed in a building provided by the Sudanese Wahhabi movement. But from the initial cultural Islamization aims, the goals were to be transformed into the spread of militant Islam, not taking into account the large sectors of Sudanese society who did not want to be Islamicized, or who did not agree with the propagation of militant Islamfor example, nonfundamentalist, secularist Muslims of the North fearing the nonrealization of their own vision for a multiethnic, multireligious, multicultural Sudan.

The Muslim elite-in-training were expected to be able to evince a dynamic image of Islam, and students were trained in high standards of religious instruction. Additionally, they were granted scholarships and free maintenance allowances. The period from 1971 to 1982 saw the center transformed from having a cultural orientation to being militantly and fundamentally Islamist. By 1987 the center was also considering opening a center for female candidates as well for the training of the new elite. From the center, the students would go on to university, for example, the Islamic University of Omdurman, or with a diploma of Da'wa (extending the "call" to the Muslim faith, Islamic proselyzation and preaching), they were qualified as Muslim missionaries to propagate Islam in Sudan and elsewhere. The ideology of Da'wa equates with a militant, missionary activity in modern societies, combining the secular studies with the religious, in the formation of the ideal Muslim man. Of course, less importance was attached to the indoctrination of women. Their role was one of subservience, to comply with being driven from public view back to the domestic scene, behind the veil of religious seclusion. The center was defined by its opposition to Westernization, particularly Western modernization brought about by the missionary activities of the Christian organizations. Combating such Western influence with an indigenous Islamic discourse was a priority. After a governmental decree in 1992, the center became the International University of Africa, a model of an ideal African Islamic institution of higher learning.

Other changes in this period included the reincorporation of the Islamic University of Omdurman as the Quranic University of Omdurman, and the nationalization of the Khartoum branch of Cairo University, which was reincorporated as the University of the Two Niles (El Nileen University). The transformation of universities posed new challenges for educational development in the final decade of the 1900s. Finding highly qualified lecturers to fill teaching posts and integrating student populations from diverse backgrounds was difficult, but the center was successful in that the young, modern, urban youth were attracted toand by and large successfully initiated intothe Islamist vision being propagated by Islamic centers such as the Islamic African Center of Omdurman and the Islamic African Center of Khartoum. But the effect on the Muslim to non-Muslim discourse cannot be seen in any sense as a success. For militant movements such as the brand of political Islam espoused by Sudan's NIF regime since 1989, compromise is not an option. Strategic retreat perhaps, but never compromise.

During the 1990s there was a large increase in university student enrollment in Sudan. The number of new universities created in the last 15 years of the twentieth century is impressive. But this expansion in numbers has not necessarily been accompanied by a correlating growth of educational services in terms of quality of education and scientific research. From 4,000 university students in 1990, university enrollment increased to 30,000 in 1999, and the number of universities mushroomed from only 6 in 1989 to 26 in 1999. But as of the year 2000, the exodus from Sudan of qualified lecturers and teachers to the oil-rich Gulf states continued. In Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, Sudanese educators could be sure of a regular salary, a degree of stability, and adequate facilities for their professions. This exodus of Sudanese professionals has made necessary the hiring of foreign educational professionals from Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and the poorer countries of the Arab world.

The growth of the Sudanese university system occurred after the 1989 military coup of General Omer Ahmed el Beshir, under whose administration a new educational policy was developed and implemented. This policy became known as the New Educational Policy of 1991, and it involved a reorganization of the entire educational system. The new policy targeted the curricula of state schools and the management of higher institutions of learning. As of 1991, the Ministry of Education issued orders instituting Arabic as the sole language of instructions at all levels of education, a directive which has not necessarily been strictly implemented, for example at Al Ahfad University where English remains the language of instruction. In the words of the 1998 constitution, other languages are "tolerated." The directive seems to have been aimed at the lower levels of education, in particular the schools in the South where English is still used. The Arabization of all universities and institutions of higher learning has meant that any student wanting to go for higher education in Sudan, must have a grounding in Arabic at the primary and secondary levels if he or she is to have any chance of obtaining a university placement. Also of importance, many universities were opened under the new policy, and students studying abroad at the time were requested to return to Sudan to enroll in one of the national universities. Additional changes included the reincorporation of the Khartoum Polytechnical Institute as the Sudan University of Science and Technology. Also as a result of the New Educational Policy of 1991, four new regional universities were established in Darfur, Kordofan, the Northern Region, and the Eastern Region, along with other specialized universities such as the Quranic University of Omdurman.

Additionally, the University Act gave the government authority over officer appointments for all universities, and according to this act all state postsecondary institutions had to be affiliated with one of the state uni-versities. The main criticism of the new policy has been that it has been informed more by the politics of the day, namely the politics of Islamization and Arabization, to the detriment of multicultural diversity and plurality of ideology instead of the recommendations of professional educators.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

As part of a centrally organized system, Sudan's educational institutions are tightly controlled by the Khartoum regime, and heavily influenced by the politics of the day. The Ministry of Education has three branches. The General Directorate of Education Planning is responsible for the planning and implementing of public educational policy, which includes:

  • Development and implementation of planning policies
  • Statistical data collection, analyses, and publication
  • Personnel training and coordination
  • Educational research and surveys
  • Problem resolution
  • Budget planning
  • Conference and seminar sponsorship/participation.

The General Directorate for Training and Education Qualifying is in charge of:

  • Preparing training plans/programs
  • Supervising the educational professional training process
  • Designing curricula for training programs
  • Qualifying trainers for conducting specialized training sessions.

And the National Committee for Education, Science, and Culture is responsible for:

  • Cooperating with Arab and Islamic states in coordination of educational policy
  • Organizing programs and national activities in education, science, culture
  • Facilitating participation in international conferences.

The civil war has devoured the funds needed so desperately for education, not to mention the more basic needs of food and shelter for the displaced populace. The meager enrollment in the state schools testifies to the educational catastrophe that continues as many Sudanese youths reach maturity without having been educated in a formal, systematic manner throughout their formative years.

In an ideal Sudan, the Ministry of Education's policies would ensure the provision of adequate educational services as outlined by the General Directorate of Education Planning. According to the Ministry of Education, these policies are centered on maintaining the plans and programs of education according to a nationally envisioned, inclusive strategy, in line with the objectives and educational policies prescribed by the government. A national educational strategy was devised by the NIF-dominated Bashir-Turabi regime in June 1989. Their government formulated and implemented the New Education Policy of 1991, targeting the national curricula of public schools, the management of higher institutions of learning, and the Arabization-Islamization of all schools within Sudanthereby tightening control over the process of religious and ideological homogenization.

Nonformal Education

In 2001 less than half of eligible Primary school-age students and less than one quarter of eligible secondary school-age students are enrolled in schools; there are thousands of displaced school-age children receiving no education whatsoever; and sitting on the ground under a tree is considered "school" by many students. It can be argued that nonformal education constitutes the most important means of schooling in war-ravaged Sudan. In the areas outside the famine zones relatively unaffected by the fighting, there are schools filled with children. But in the rural areas of Sudan, the educational process has suffered greatly. Erratic patterns of education and frequent disruptions in the learning process are characteristic features of education in Sudan.

With more internally displaced persons than any other country, Sudan poses tremendous challenges for educators in working with the repeatedly displaced populace in refugee camps. Amidst such hardship, a sporadic educational enterprise is conducted. According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), 80 percent of the displaced population are very poor, spending about 80 percent of their income on food and meeting barely half of their nourishment needs. In Khartoum, only one third of the displaced children attend school. Such poverty means that most of these children never will attend school.

Rural Extension Programs: Among populations other than the children of displaced war refugees, nonformal education endeavors include programs to train women in rural extension projects. Al Ahfad University, the only university for women in Sudan, is a leader in this area, and its School of Rural Extension Education and Development has made important contributions in areas such as nutrition and health education, family planning, women's studies, and early childhood development. With over 4,600 students enrolled in the university, many of whom participate in the rural extension programs, the university has pioneered the contribution of educational projects to communities who need help and training the most. Other pioneering projects include the Ahfad Journal: Women and Change, the only professional journal regularly published in Sudan today, reporting research on the roles of women in Sudan, and the contributions that women can make to the development of their communities. Ahfad University also sponsors educational initiatives such as the Sudan-American Foundation for Education (SAFE), an organization that provides books, journals, and educational supplies for use at Ahfad and other universities. The secondhand materials donated to this organization from schools and individuals in the United States are a welcome contribution to the cash-starved educational sector in Sudan, and the materials are put to good use.

As far as rural education programs are concerned, Ahfad University has taken the lead in the nonformal education sector with regard to community outreach programs targeting the needs of women and the roles for them as positive agents for change within their communities. Through Ahfad University's Rural Extension Program, families in rural areas of Sudan are helped to improve their quality of life. Students involved in these extension programs live in rural areas, planning and participating in projects that help local women to educate themselves, organize community projects, develop leadership, and earn certificates in training. For example, past studies have investigated how women can become involved in small-scale economic enterprises to better feed their families. Other projects have involved training women how to implement better food-processing and storage techniques and new technologies in water management and animal husbandry. Education videos and films have been produced on health topics such as childbirth and midwifery, and also topics relating to the prevention of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, STDs, and malaria.

Education of women through such programs is very important because the illiteracy rate among Sudanese women is around 90 percent (Badri, Haga Kashif 1994). Programs such as those sponsored by Ahfad's Rural Extension Program are vitally needed to raise the level of nourishment in the famine zones. Women, in the experience of aid groups, have been more honest than men in controlling the food better and using it to nourish their families instead of stealing and diverting it for the support of militia troops, whether Khartoum-sponsored or rebel-sponsored.

Since the establishment of the Sudanese Women's Union (SWU) in 1952, which was outlawed later by Islamists, and had to find other outlets for expression, the level of women's involvement in politics has varied, and some important gains have receded in recent years. But progress continues through nonformal education programs and rural extension outreaches such as those sponsored by Ahfad University. For example, issues such as improving the standard of learning for women and girls, healthcare and nutrition, literacy and numeracy, freedom in decision-making, and economic and political empowerment will be addressed and hopefully improved.

The social predicament of women (Duany, Julia Akery 1999) reflects the systematic gender-segregation in Sudanese society. Access to education for women is severely limited by traditional beliefs about women's roles and by familial inability to finance a girl's education; if progress is to be made in empowerment and education of women, important steps can be taken at the nonformal level of education.

Teaching Profession

The General Directorate for Training and Education Qualifying in the Sudanese Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing the qualifying and preparation of educators and teaching personnel for service in the teaching profession. Designing training programs and curricula, and qualifying professionals for the educational training process, are among the directorate's mandates. Teachers and tutors for elementary and intermediate schools, holders of Sudan's Certificate of Higher Education, school headmasters, directors and supervisors, are enrolled for both short-and long-term training courses in university faculties of education throughout Sudan.

By requiring enrollment in such training courses for teachers and tutors who have never completed their professional qualifications, the Ministry of Education hopes to raise the level of instruction in the public education system. Since the New Educational Policy of 1991, and the accompanying new curricula, the need has become clear for refresher courses and sessions in basic subjects including Islamic religion, education and educational methodology, Arabic, English, Applied Arts, mathematics, and social studies. Specific training is offered for teachers working among the displaced populations, but one can only surmise as to the true agenda behind the educational process in "peace" camps to which forcibly displaced refugees have fled to escape "starvation traps," violence, and government-planned deprivation. For many, an education is obtained at the cost of being socialized into the Khartoum-subordinate Islamist culture.

Grants and scholarships are made available to teachers for further professional development in areas such as Islamic studies, education diplomas, math, technical and vocational studies. But education in Sudan is generally a subsistence-level enterprise. The war-induced poverty of Sudan has translated for teachers into unpaid salaries and poor working conditions, leaving teachers to rely on students' families for support and subsidy, and resulting in an exodus of qualified teachers amidst the civil strife and instability.


It is an interesting fact that some of the very criticisms leveled against the Condominium educational policy have become the criticisms of the modern Sudanese educational policy. Namely, education has been subordinated to the interests of the Khartoum regime whether to conscript youths for service in the southern jihad or to Islamize refugee children in the so-called "peace" camps. Rather than addressing the real needs of the entire populace, Khartoum has engaged in a protracted civil war against its citizens in the South while maintaining a posture of compromise. And this pseudowillingness to hold out the olive branch has meant that educational endeavor in the South has come to a standstill.

In other regions of the country, education has suffered from the diversion of funds to the war effort and the exodus of qualified teachers. The meager enrollment of school-age children testifies to the failures of the Sudanese government in meeting the educational needs of large sectors of the Sudanese populace. Such troubling issues prompt many questions. How will the alienation of southerners be dealt with in future educational policy planning? Will the accommodative ideals expressed in the constitution be upheld to allow a limited degree of autonomy and freedom from coercion?

What is clear though is that the Khartoum regime has the upper hand in the civil war. It is very likely to win the war, especially with the money earned from the oil pipeline and refinery exports. How to rebuild after the war and assimilate the displaced persons and populations of the South in forging a national unity will be a responsibility involving future educators. A difficult task indeed will be the rebuilding of an intact system of governance and social service after so many years of fratricidal war and bloodshed. The "lost brother" may be brought back from the "evil" influence of the West to the fold of Islam. But how many of the displaced Sudanese will survive this process? Will those who do survive merely bide their time, regrouping for a number of years, until they are ready again to assert their southern identity in resisting Khartoum?

The poisoned relations with the South, a poisoned image in the worldwide community, and a poisoned record of human rights violations have no antidote but the diluting passage of time. From Sudan's experience with political Islam, religion poisoned by political ambitions, or vice versa, will continue to be seen by manyand not just in the Westas yet another failure of a system that combines and intertwines religion with politics to the detriment of social services and provision of basic educational foundations to citizens. The Bashir regime has given ample proof that it is a "repressive system that survives by force." The 1990s for Sudan were years that gave "credence to the thesis that any government based on religious fundamentalism and intent on propagating its religious beliefs will by its nature be tyrannical, intolerant of dissent, and prepared to use any means, including violence against its own people, to maintain itself in power" (Peterson 1999).

If only educational objectives had been formulated to comprise solutions other than violent homogenization and cultural extermination. If only tolerance had prevailed. If only there had been a genuine willingness to compromise on all sides in light of the multicultural, multireligious, multi-lingual heritage of the Sudan. The poisoning of the education process is perhaps one of the saddest results of the Sudan's ongoing civil war. When there is little or no education for the children, educators have little hope of reversing the historical cycles of factionalization, violence, and bloodshed in the name of politicized Islamist religiosity.


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John P. Lesko

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Republic of the Sudan

Jumhuriyat as-Sudan



Sudan is located in North Africa. Sudan borders the following countries: Central African Republic (1,165 kilometers, 724 miles), Chad (1,360 kilometers, 845 miles), Democratic Republic of the Congo (628 kilometers, 390 miles), Egypt (1,273 kilometers, 791 miles), Eritrea (650 kilometers, 404 miles), Ethiopia (1,606 kilometers, 998 miles), Kenya (232 kilometers, 144 miles), Libya (383 kilometers, 238 miles), and Uganda (435 kilometers, 270 miles). Sudan is the largest country on the African continent; its total area is 2,505,810 square kilometers (966,710 square miles), making the country slightly larger than one-quarter the size of the United States. The 853-kilometer (530-mile) long coastline borders the Red Sea and lies between Egypt and Eritrea. The Sudan's capital, Khartoum, is located in the central part of the country, on the Nile river.


The population of Sudan was estimated at 35,079,814 in July 2000 and represents a net growth of 2.84 percent in comparison with 1999. Estimates increased to 36,080,373 by July 2001. The birth rate stood at 37.89 per 1,000 and the death rate at 10.04 death per 1,000 in 2001. In 1975, the total population was estimated at 16 million, in 1998 at 28.3 million, in 2001 at 36.1 million, and in 2015 it should reach 39.8 million.

The Sudanese population is highly diverse, consisting of about 19 different ethnic groups and almost 600 subgroups. Most of the inhabitants are of black African origin (52 percent), 39 percent are Arabs, 6 percent Beja, and 3 percent foreigners and other small national groups. Cultural conflicts between the black Africans, who live mostly in the south, and the Arabics, who live mainly in the north, have been the source of many internal struggles within the country. The official language is Arabic, which is spoken by about 60 percent of the population. An estimated 115 tribal languages are spoken as well, including Nubian, Ta Beawie, Nilotic, and Nilo-Hamitic. English and several Sudanic languages are also spoken.

The population is relatively young: while 45 percent are younger than 14 years old, only about 2 percent are older than 65. A majority of the population (69 percent) lives in the rural regions, while 31 percent live in the urban areas. The average population density is 9.8 per square kilometer (25.4 per square mile). The highest density is in the western and some southern provinces of the country, while the northern part of the country is rarely inhabited.

Population development and assessment is complicated by a continuing civil war and famine. Many people fall victim to the conflict or die as a result of the famine or diseases, and some of them escape to find asylum in Chad or Uganda. The average life expectancy is estimated at 55.85 years for men and 58.08 years for women. The literacy rate is 58 percent for men and 35 percent for women.


For the past 2 decades, Sudan has suffered from a violent civil war, chronic political instability, devastating drought, weak world commodity prices, decreases in remittances from abroad, and counterproductive economic policies. Agriculture is the largest portion of the economy, accounting for 39 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employing nearly 80 percent of the workforce. Other important areas of the private sector include trading and the processing of agricultural products. Sluggish economic performance over the past decade, attributable to declining annual rainfall, has kept per capita income at low levels. A large foreign debt and huge arrears continue to cause economic difficulties.

In 1990, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) took the unusual step of declaring Sudan non-cooperative because of its nonpayment of arrears to the Fund. After Sudan backtracked on promised reforms in 1992-93, the IMF threatened to expel Sudan from the Fund. To avoid expulsion, the Sudanese government agreed to make token payments on its arrears, to liberalize exchange rates , and to reduce subsidies . By 2000, the government had partially implemented these measures. The government has also tried to develop the oil sector, and, working with foreign partners, the country is now producing approximately 150,000 barrels per day. But the continuing civil war and the country's growing international isolation has inhibited growth in the nonagricultural sectors of the economy.

In addition to civil strife, Sudan has an economy which suffers from the country's geographic location. Sudan belongs to the Sahel belt of Africa along the Sahara Desert, which comprises some of the poorest countries in the world. The dry climate in the central parts of the country makes economic and agricultural performance difficult. The main agricultural activities concentrate, therefore, in Khartoum, Port Sudan, or around the Nile River.

In 1999, the government changed its economic behavior and started implementation of IMF programs, including privatization and economic liberalization. It decreased subsidies on some products, which consequently led to a 30 percent increase in the price of chicken and beef and a 20 percent increase in the price of oil and petrol. Foreign direct investments , mainly from rich Arab countries, have enabled oil pipelines and extraction accessories construction, producing an estimated oil income for 2000 of US$300 million. The reforms have sparked the economy. The GDP growth was predicted to be 7 percent in 2000.

The privatization program was expected to include some of the largest state-controlled companies, including the state airlines Sudan Air, the state energy giant NEC, the irrigation system Al-Gezira, the sugar factories, and the maritime transport providers. French energy company, Electricité de France, has already expressed its interest in NEC, and 1 consortium (group) from South Korea was pursuing the purchase of the irrigation system. The future regulation of the private sector remains unclear. The legislature has not laid firm regulations for the private sector and some financial experts fear that that may limit the activities of private companies and allow monopolies in some sectors. The uncertainty surrounding the legislation for the private sector has stalled foreign investment in the country.


Before independence in 1956, Sudan had been a British-Egyptian condominium (under the common governance of both countries). Since independence, Sudan's political situation has been very unstable. Sudan experienced several coups d'etat and conflicts. There is a clear difference between the predominantly Arab and Muslim north side and the predominantly African south, which has a population of mainly Christians and followers of indigenous religions. The cultural differences between the groups has led to an ongoing conflict within the country.

Since independence, the northern population has dominated politics, filling more governmental posts and gaining official authority. Shortly after independence, southerners, upset by the strict Islamic penal code (which included amputations for stealing and public beatings for alcohol possession) that had been added to the country's laws and the deterioration of the economy, began a civil war to gain independence for the south.

The country experienced its first coup d'etat in 1958, another in 1964, and yet another in 1969. The coup of 1969 brought Jaafar al-Nimairi to power and started Sudan's cooperation with the countries of the Communist block. Nimairi shaped Sudan's government around the idea of National Socialism and patterned his administration after his idol Abd al-Nasser in Egypt. Nimairi established the Arab Socialist Union and included the Communist Party in a government coalition. He also gave a great deal of autonomy to the south. In 1971, Communists tried to overtake the government, but Nimairi remained in power with help of the army.

Until this conflict, all the revolutions and coups d'etat in Sudan were bloodless. This one changed the course. Nimairi had the Communist leaders executed. He also turned away from the Communist block and sought better cooperation with the rich oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf, mainly Saudi Arabia. Under Nimairi, Sudan actively tried to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) and studied which areas of the economy should be targeted. Agricultural production, especially grains, topped the list for FDI; some even expected that Sudan could become the main grain supplier for all Arab countries. Sudan's first oil deposits were also found, which led to conflicts with the south over the proposed oil revenues distribution.

But economic growth did not come to Sudan; by the 1980s, the economy had deteriorated and the living standards of the vast majority of the population plunged to very low levels. In addition, in 1983 Nimairi again changed his ruling policy, this time to a radical Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism. He tried to implement the Islamic legislative system "Sharia in praxis," which included such extreme punishments as cutting off a hand for theft or stoning to death for fornication. He also canceled autonomy for the south.

Civil war erupted, displacing nearly 2 million people. The war practically split the country in 2. The larger northern part of Sudan remained under the official control of the Muslim pro-governmental army. The south was controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Army led by John Garang. But the division was unstable, and by 1985, another coup removed Nimairi's regime from power. The new government was led by Sadiq al-Mahdi, an Oxford University graduate and an intellectual. Al-Mahdi sought normalization of the political situation and revitalization of the economy. However, he did not succeed in finding compromise with the rebelling south, and another coup overthrew his administration in 1989.

The 1989 coup installed a one-party system led by the National Islamic Front (NIF). Umar al-Bashir became the official head of the state and prime minister. Hasan al-Turabi became the second most important political figure since 1989 as the leader of the NIF and the spiritual Islamic leader of the country. The new regime was marked by a hard dictatorship, prohibition of any political activities that would not be in accordance with official propaganda, suppression of any opposition, and support for international terrorism.

The only country that continues to have good relations with Sudan is Iran, its main financial supporter. Sudan has served as a vanguard and loyal agent of Iranian interests in the region. Through Sudan, many extremist Islamic and fundamentalist movements were supported in neighboring Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and other countries. Therefore, the relations with those countries deteriorated, and Sudan remained totally isolated. The country once granted asylum to the international terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. The extremist Islamic and fundamentalist leadership of the country forced the population to follow its religious instructions and introduced hard Islamic laws which led to uprisings among other religious groups and sharpened the fights for independence in the south. Sudanese leaders introduced more violence to the country when they blamed neighboring countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda) for giving support to the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which led to border conflicts with those countries.

By the 1990s, Sudan was so isolated that its economic situation became unsustainable. In addition, some changes in the Iranian political scene occurred that led to policy changes towards Sudan. The new Iranian government did not want to be connected with Sudan's support for international terrorism and pressed the Sudanese government to change its political course. In 1996, the terrorist Osama bin Laden was expelled from Sudan. Negotiations with the opposition leaders, including former country leaders Sadiq al-Mahdi and Jaafar al-Nimairi, started. However, the political change was not sufficient. In 1997, the United States imposed economic sanctions that forbid U.S. companies from investing in Sudan.

In 1998, the NIF was reorganized as the National Congress (NC) and the country adopted a new constitution and legislature allowing political activities and official registration of other parties. This new legislature came into force in 1999 and other political parties were formed at that time, including the National Democratic Alliance (NDA; the Alliance consists of the Umma Party and Democratic Unionist Party), Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Muslim Brothers, People's Social Party, and the Liberation Party.

This change in the policy brought about conflict between the president Umar al-Bashir and the religious leader and chairman of the parliament, Hasan al-Turabi.In December 1999, Umar al-Bashir dismissed the parliament and declared a state of emergency. Al-Turabi summoned protest demonstrations, but with little success. Al-Turabi was excluded from the official policy and formed his own opposition group called the Popular National Congress.

In December 2000, there were presidential and parliamentary elections. Umar al-Bashir gained 86 percent of the votes and the ruling National Congress of President Umar al-Bashir won 97 percent of the seats. Nevertheless, most of the opposition representatives, including al-Turabi, boycotted the elections, saying the elections were manipulated and rigged. The political situation is, in spite of Bashir's victory, still not clear or stable. Negotiations with the south, for example, have not been fruitful.

Until the recent time, the government had a dominant role in the country's economy. All key sectors were totally controlled by the state authorities, with the exception of some small activities and agriculture. The taxation policy of the government was always very unstable and obscure. The state budget has been in permanent deficit. Financial experts, however, expect this to change now that the government has started a privatization and liberalization process.


The infrastructure is at a relatively low level because of the bad economic situation and internal conflicts. Some parts of the country (mainly in the south) are cut off from the modern world, leaving some villages totally isolated. The total railways length is 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). However, because of the conflict in the south and long time neglect, the quality of the rail tracks is very poor. Therefore, only about one-fifth of its length could be used. Narrow single track railways from the beginning of this century are prevailing. The main railway leads from Wadi Halfa through Khartoum to El Obeid, from Khartoum to Port Sudan and from El Obeid to Nyala in the southern part of the country. In 1997, new railways were finished connecting Muglad and Abu Jabra. All railways are managed by the state-run Sudan Railways Corporation.

There are 50,000 kilometers (31,070 miles) of roads in Sudan, but the quality is commonly very poor. Many of the roads are located in the desert and are not passable during the rainy seasons. Only the road connecting Khartoum and Port Sudan is covered by asphalt. Bus connections are between these 2 cities and Kassala. Gravel roads connect Khartoum with Port Sudan, Atbara, Dongola, and Gedarif. The connections are commonly very bad and transport facilities very old. The Iranian government

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Sudan 27 271 87 0.0 0 0.6 1.9 0.00 5
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Egypt 40 324 122 N/A 1 0.5 9.1 0.28 200
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 1
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

is financing the construction of connections between Rabak and Juba. Taxi services are available in big cities, but donkeys and camels are often used in villages. To improve the infrastructure, the government opened road construction to the private sector in 1998. According to contracts with Saudi Arabia, 250 kilometers (155 miles) of new roads between Khartoum and Port Sudan should be finished in 20 years. Another project, which should bring 126 kilometers (78 miles) of roads between Khartoum and Wad Medani in 20 years, involves the cooperation of the United Arab Emirates.

Besides roads and railways, water is also an important transport route in Sudan. The Nile River is the main source of some 5,310 kilometers (3,300 miles) of water transportation routes. There are some ports, including Khartoum, along the Nile and others, including Port Sudan and Sawakin, along the Red Sea. The main sea port is Port Sudan. The country has 4 merchant marine ships.

Sudan Airways owns 2 Boeing 707s, 2 Boeing 737-200s, 4 Fokkers, and 3 Airbus planes. Major airports are in Khartoum and Port Sudan, and there are some minor airports throughout the country. Of the country's 61 airports, 12 have paved runways. There is 1 heliport.

Sudan has not established a comprehensive power supply for the country. Khartoum uses 87 percent of the country's energy. The country's own energy producing power is not sufficient and is complicated by the conflict in the south. Sometimes, the opposition groups have stopped the power stations providing Khartoum with energy and have endangered the city. Hydroelectric power stations in Roseires, Sennar, and Khaslun Al Gibra provide 250 megawatts (MW), 15MW and 12MW of electric energy. The capacity changes during the year. Dips in power supply are caused by river pollution from heavy materials and mud in the raining seasons that requires turbines to be repaired. When the hydroelectric plants slow their production for repairs, heating plants located around Khartoum supply energy, but their total capacity is only 150MW. The government plans construction of 2 new hydroelectric power stations. The Merowe project located 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Khartoum should have 10 generators, each of them producing 110MW. The Kajbar project should supply 80MW. In addition, a heating plant that will produce 200MW is planned to be built near Khartoum. Negotiations regarding possible non-traditional power station construction are being held with some German companies. Such power stations could use solar or wind energy.

The telephone system in Sudan is well equipped by regional standards, but barely adequate and poorly maintained by modern standards. There were about 75,000 fixed telephone lines in use (serving 6,000 inhabitants) in the 1990s, but the World Factbook estimated that there were 400,000 by 2000. About 40 percent of the fixed lines are in Khartoum. Cellular communications started in 1996, and there were about 3,000 mobile phones by the end of the 1990s and nearly 20,000 by 2000. In 1997, an agreement between the Sudanese government and French company Alcatel for telephone net modernization was signed. A Sudan-South Korean consortium (including Sudatel and Daewoo companies) is constructing mobile phone facilities for Khartoum, Omdurman, and Wad Medani. The target is to gain 1.5 million users by 2003.

Other means of communication include radio, television, and computers. There are 7.55 million radios in use and 2.38 million televisions (141 per 1,000 people). There were 12 AM stations, 1 FM, 1 shortwave, and 3 television stations in 1997. There was only 1 Internet service provider by 2000, and only 2 of every 1,000 inhabitants owned a personal computer.


Sudan belongs to a group of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Its economy is very sluggish and underdeveloped. Sudan's civil war and political instability have caused havoc on the country's economic sectors. There are labor shortages for almost all the categories of skilled employment. The most recent labor force estimation is from 1996 and measured the workforce at 11 million. Of that 11 million, 4 percent (or 440,000) were officially registered as unemployed. Some estimate that the real unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent, however. Most of the population survives on subsistence agriculture . Industry is limited to some textile and foodstuffs manufacturing facilities, which operate at very low standards.

Since the late 1990s, the government has been trying to improve the economic prospects of the country. If it succeeds in breaking international isolation, mitigating the inner conflict, and attracting more investment, the country could experience significant growth. There were plans for developing the petrochemical and chemical industry, improving textile manufacturing, and attracting tourism. But by 2001, little progress had been made.


The agricultural sector is the most important economic sector in the country. It created 39 percent of the GDP, employed about 80 percent of population, and contributed 80 percent of the country's exports in the late 1990s. Cotton is the main agriculture export item, although its export volumes have been decreasing recently. The lack of any marketing or developed market policy is evident. The government has suggested the end of export taxes in order to promote more agriculture products in the future. Other agricultural products include sesame seeds, sorghum, and gum arabic.

Sudan's climatic conditions, mainly the rainy seasons, enable double annual harvests (in July and November) in the southern parts of the country. Most of the agricultural activities are concentrated near the Nile River. The Al Gezira irrigation system that is located between the White and the Blue Nile Rivers (both rivers merge to form the Nile River) is the most important agriculture project and, according to some statistics, is also the largest artificially irrigated region in the world. As the irrigation system has been put in place, sorghum, wheat, and groundnuts have been planted instead of cotton in an effort to make Sudan self-sufficient in foodstuffs.

Animal husbandry represents a very important part of the national economy, as well. Its production increased during recent years as a result of better veterinary treatment, better credit policy, and higher prices in the market.

Fishing is another important sector of the national economy. The average yearly production averages around 33,000 tons, from which sea fish represent about 1,500 tons. Perch is the most important fresh-water fish, which is caught mostly in the Nile River.


Sudanese industry accounted for an estimated 17 percent of GDP in 1998. The small size of the country's industrial sector is a result of chronic problems, including lack of skilled labor force, raw materials, and investments. These problems are most apparent in the textile and foodstuff industries, as well as in the production of sugar. If these problems were resolved, Sudan could dramatically reduce its reliance on imports.

About 80 percent of the industrial sector is privately-owned. The main industries are: tannery and leather production, weaving mills, spinning mills, gum arabic production, paper mills, minerals, ores, and raw materials extraction. The tannery industry creates 6 percent of the country's exports. It contains production of raw furs for export and local market, furs for the footwear industry, belts production, and artificial leathers. There are 7 big tanneries and 290 traditional manufacturers in Sudan. The furs and leathers are manufactured in 72 factories, and the yearly production of shoes amounts to 12 million pairs.

The textile industry is the oldest one in the country. Weaving and spinning mills are supported by the government that has spread the motto, "Let's wear what we produce ourselves." There is a large gap between production and consumption, however. Production amounts to 2,000 tons of combed cotton yarn: 235 million meters of textile fabrics, 5 million pieces of clothing, 1 million cover blankets, and 400 tons of cotton bandages yearly. By the end of the 1990s, plans were in place to increase investment incentives that would boost production capacities, to invest in new technologies, and to build spare parts factories. In 1999, an agreement with a Chinese consortium was signed that could lead to a new cooperation in textile factories reconstruction.

Sudan is the biggest producer of arabic gum that is extracted from the resin of Senegalese acacia trees. Its production covers 80 percent of the world consumption. The gum is used in foodstuffs, the chemical industry, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and lithography.

Sudan has 2 paper mills producing 2 tons of paper every year. Because Sudan has access to all the materials necessary for production (wood, papyrus, and other raw materials) and a cheap labor force, it is expected that investments in this sector will grow in the future.

Foodstuffs production include sugar, beef, poultry, fish, and others. Sugar production is very important to Sudan. Sudan is the third largest producer of sugar in Africa, after South Africa and Egypt. The yearly production is estimated at 450,000 tons in the late 1990s, up from 100,000 tons in 1980. The government plans enlargement of crop fields near the Nile River. The biggest country producer is White Nile Sugar Co. The Kenana Sugar Company is an excellent example of how the government wants joint ventures and investments to spur growth in the industrial sector. The growth of the Kenana Sugar Company prompted the government to open its state-owned Sudanese Sugar Company to private investment at the beginning of the millennium.

There are large deposits of copper, gold, chrome, iron ore, lead, wolfram, zinc, uranium, diamonds, marble, talc and plaster. The gold production is estimated at 6 tons yearly and is realized by 2 joint ventures: first, Sudan-Chinese and, second, Sudan-French. Total gold deposits are expected to contain 37 tons. Copper extraction is to be set in the future in cooperation with the British Western Cordofan.

Oil deposits were found in the 1960s and 1970s and Sudan started its extraction in the 1980s. Most of the oil deposits are located in the southern part of the country. Disputes over how the oil revenues would be used fueled the civil conflict and made construction of extraction facilities and a pipeline difficult. Many times, opposition groups have blasted some of the pipelines and cut production.

Oil extraction and export in Sudan has benefitted from cooperation with foreign companies. Foreign oil consortiums from China, Malaysia, Canada, Qatar, and Austria are operating in the country. (The United States has imposed sanctions against the country so large U.S. oil companies have withdrawn from Sudan.) A pipeline from the oilfields in the south to Port Sudan along the Red Sea was completed in 1998, and the country exported its first oil in 1999. The yearly oil production is expected to reach 1 million barrels in 2005. This result, however, depends also on the political climate and evasion from attacks. Besides this there are still some unchecked fields where new deposits are expected. Oil refineries are already established in Port Sudan, El Obeid, and Abu Gabra.

A petrochemical factory is being built 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Khartoum in cooperation with China. Its yearly production should be 2.5 million tons. Gas deposits were detected in the Red Sea shelves, where 7 sources are being drilled.


The service sector's contribution to the GDP suffered in the early and mid-1990s but appeared to be improving by the end of the decade. In 1996, services accounted for 40.6 percent of the GDP, but services in 1999 accounted for only 34.4 percent. By 1998, services had increased to 44 percent of the GDP, according to the World Factbook. Services include commerce and commerce services, restaurants and hotels, finance and insurance, transport and communications, and government offices.


Revenues from tourism could play a more important role in the future, but their contribution to the state budget is now very poor because of the low quality and standards. To increase revenues, the government, in coordination with the International Monetary Fund, has privatized many accommodations and tourist facilities. The government plans to enlarge usage of the Red Sea for special tourism activities, including wind surfing and diving possibilities. There are plans for the construction of new hotels, restaurants, and camps as well as tourist agencies. The Nile River could also be used for water sports.

The country has a total hotel capacity of 17,990 beds. The total number of hotels is 45, with another 48 in construction. There are 3 tourist resorts, 8 youth hostels, and 2 tourist camps. There are 3 five-star hotels in Khartoum (the Hilton, Grand Holiday Villa, and Palace), 1 four-star hotel (Meridien), and 5 three-star hotels. Khartoum and Port Sudan have the most accommodations.

Development of the tourism sector is complicated by the conflict in the south of the country and the unstable political situation. The government had difficulty attracting tourists and had difficulty getting Sudan added to the lists of world famous tourist places. Although the number of tourists is expected to grow in the future, Sudan could hardly attract as many tourists as neighboring Egypt at the end of 1990. Without a more stable political climate, Sudan will not be able to attract increasing numbers of tourists.


Sudan has long had an adverse foreign trade balance. Foreign trade has been negatively influenced by the civil war and international isolation. In August 1999, Sudan started exporting oil. Nearly 70 percent of the oil production is exported. In 1999-2000, the country experienced its first trade surplus . That surplus rose to US$500 million in 2000 on exports of US$1.7 billion and imports of US$1.2 billion.

Foodstuffs are the most important import into Sudan. But steel and alloy products were the main industrial items having been imported to Sudan. Their imports accounted for US$76.6 million. Spare parts import accounted for US$88.3 million, audio and video devices for US$43.1 million, refrigerators for US$112.2 million, personal cars for US$30.2 million, lorries and trucks for US$38.7 million, and buses for US$6.8 million.

Export and import policy has recently been liberalized. In the past, the country was isolated, and foreign trade was highly restricted. Since the early 1990s, trade

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Sudan
Exports Imports
1975 .438 .887
1980 .543 1.576
1985 .374 .771
1990 .374 .619
1995 .556 1.219
1998 .596 1.915
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: Sudan
Sudanese dinars per US$1
Jan 2001 257.44
2000 257.12
1999 252.55
1998 200.80
1997 157.57
1996 125.08
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

policy has been more open. All import prohibitions were removed with the exception of alcoholic beverages, drugs, hazard playing machines, weapons, and ammunition. Foreign trade has been especially encouraged in 2 free zones : the Red Sea Free Trade Zone and the Al Gaili Free Zone.


The Sudanese dinar has declined in value as a consequence of the civil war and political instability in the country. Until the late 1990s, the Sudanese pound (an old currency) was commonly used as well. In July 1999, the Sudanese Central Bank made the formal declaration that all dealings in the Sudanese pound should stop.

The Central BankBank of Sudanregulates the liquidity of other banks and governs the financial aspects of national development programs. The bank has 11 branches. Although the banking system has been centralized in the past, changes in the economic policy of the country has led some to expect that the banking sector will be liberalized in the future. There are 29 other banks in Sudan with a total of 671 offices.

Sudan has 1 stock exchange, the Khartoum Stock Exchange, which was started in 1994, even though plans for a Sudanese stock exchange began in 1962. The Khartoum Stock Exchange is one of the only stock exchanges to work under the rules of the Islamic Sharia. One of the primary objectives of the stock exchange is to promote savings and to infuse the private sector with the capital it needs to grow. There are 8 brokers for the stock exchange.


Sudan is one of the poorest countries of the world. Most of the population lives in unbelievably hard conditions. One of the Sahel countries, Sudan is located in the Sahara desert. Hard climate conditions and lack of natural resources were always responsible for the poor life conditions. But the country's political instability and internal conflict has increased the poverty.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Sudan 237 229 210 198 296
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Egypt 516 731 890 971 1,146
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

The southern parts of the country are practically isolated and it is very hard to estimate the level of poverty in those territories, although it is known that many people are dying of hunger or diseases. It is difficult for international aid or health-care organizations to provide care for southern Sudanese because of the civil war.

Most of the population is nourished from subsistence agriculture. Food is so scarce that during droughts lives are endangered. The isolationist policies of the totalitarian regime deprived the country of foreign direct investment, as well. The result was that only sporadic international humanitarian aid reached some of the poorest regions for many years. Historically, the United States has been the most important donor of financial aid to the south.

To escape the difficult conditions, many people have fled the country. The people of relative wealth in Sudan live in Khartoum, Port Sudan, and near the Nile River, where the conditions are a bit better. Only small groups of people loyal to the regime would be considered "rich."

According to the Human Development Report 2000, 26.6 percent of the population is not expected to survive to more than 40 years of age. Comparatively, in Egypt the number is only 9.9 percent and in China 7.7 percent. The early death of so many Sudanese can be traced to the violence but also the lack of basic necessities. About 27 percent of the population do not have access to safe water (in Egypt, 13 percent); 30 percent have no access to health services (in Egypt, 1 percent). For children under the age of 5, 34 percent are underweight (in Egypt, 12 percent). The World Factbook estimated that the GDP per capita at purchasing power parity in 2000 was US$1,000. All of these numbers underscore the difficulty of most people's lives in Sudan.


The working conditions in Sudan are very difficult to measure. Although the World Factbook estimated the unemployment rate to be 4 percent in 1996, some believe the real unemployment is much higher, perhaps even 30 percent. Estimating unemployment is impeded by the lack of official registration, the fact that women are isolated in their homes as housekeepers, and the isolation of southern regions.

Sudanese nationals once made up a very skilled workforce. Since the British colonial era, education has been given a high priority. Many Sudanese succeeded at the best British schools and universities. Sudanese were known as intelligent and educated people. Unfortunately, during the years of political instability and conflicts, education deteriorated and most of the skilled people fled the country. There are no chances for skilled people to succeed in Sudan. The salaries are very low and political loyalty is the main criterion for creating a successful career. You can find more Sudanese intellectuals, doctors, engineers, and specialists in New York; Washington, D.C.; London; or Paris than in Khartoum or other parts of Sudan.

Of the Sudanese in Sudan, 80 percent work in agriculture, 10 percent in industry and commerce, and about 6 percent in government offices. Working conditions in the rural areas are very undeveloped and resemble medieval times. Children also commonly work.


7TH CENTURY. The territory is conquered by Arab fighters and added to the Arab-Islamic empire.

1820-21. Mohammed Ali conquers the areas and incorporates it with Egypt. Gold extraction and slavery flourish.

1885-98. Mohammed Ahmed al-Mahdi, an Islamic spiritual leader, brings independence to Sudan.

1898. Sudan is conquered and proclaimed a Egyptian-British condominium. The British dominate the ruling of the government.

1956. Independence is declared.

1958-64. Ibrahim Abbud becomes president. Abbud prohibits political parties and starts the Islamisation of the country. Arabic is introduced as an official language, replacing English. First conflicts with the south begin. In 1964, Abbud resigns after mass protests.

1964-69. Relative stability, prosperity, and parliamentary democracy come to Sudan.

1969. Jaafar al-Nimairi organizes a coup d'etat. Nimairi grants wide autonomy to the south but follows socialistic and nationalistic policy influenced by the Communist countries.

1971. Communists try to overthrow the government, but Nimairi's forces defeat them, and Nimairi orders the leaders to be executed. Nimairi breaks off relations with the Communist countries in favor of cooperation with conservative Islamic oil producing countries of the Persian Gulf.

1983. Nimairi introduces Islamic law into the civil legal system. Autonomy for the south is terminated and the economy deteriorates. The civil war starts.

1985-89. Sadiq al-Mahdi, descendant of the legendary Mohammed Ahmed al-Mahdi, overthrows Nimairi. Al-Mahdi's regime brings relative stability and some economic growth to Sudan. But Al-Mahdi is unable to stop the conflict in the south.

1989-99. Umar al-Bashir overthrows al-Mahdi's regime and institutes a dictatorship. Hasan al-Turabi, the Islamic spiritual leader and chairman of the parliament, becomes the second most important state official. Together, al-Bashir and al-Turabi enforce one of the worst totalitarian regimes in the world. Strict Islamic laws and fundamentalist rules are implemented. Sudan supports international terrorism. The civil war rages in the south. Sudan is practically isolated internationally.

1996. Bashir is popularly elected as president of Sudan.

2000. Bashir is popularly elected for a second term as president.


The future of Sudan is uncertain. Even though Bashir won 2 democratic elections, the opposition to his government seems to be growing. His main opponent, Turabi, boycotted the elections in 2000 and is actively seeking coalitions with other strong leaders, including Sadiq al-Mahdi and John Garang. The coalition of more parties and more autonomy for the south is necessary for any kind of positive development in the future.

Sudan has an urgent need for foreign direct investment. Without it, Sudan will hardly be able to survive. Sudan needs to stop its isolationist policies and seek cooperation with other countries. Even though the government is seeking such changes, it is unlikely that much improvement will happen under the current government. It is more likely that the government of Sudan will change and open the country to relative democracy and a more open economy.

Sudan has experienced some positive changes: it has improved relations with its neighbors, mainly Egypt and Libya, and mutual cooperation agreements have been signed with these countries. In addition, the country has started to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund, and the economy is implementing liberalization and privatization policies. Sudan's focus on these policies combined with more oil extraction and exploration are the most encouraging trends for future.


Sudan has no territories or colonies.


Africa: South of the Sahara. European Publications Ltd., 1997.

Anderson, G. Norman. Sudan in Crisis: The Failure of Democracy. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1999.

Bank of Sudan. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Sudan 1999-2000. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

International Historical Statistics: Africa, Asia and Oceania 1750-1993. Macmillan Reference Ltd., 1999.

International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 2000. London: International Monetary Fund, 2000.

Kok, Peter Nyot. Governance and Conflict in the Sudan 1985-1995: Analysis, Evaluation and Documentation. Berlin: Deutsches Orient Institut, 1996.

Sidahmed, Abdel Salam. Politics and Islam in Contemporary Sudan. London: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

"Sudan." WTC Corps. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

World Bank. Human Development Report 2000. London: WorldBank, 2000.

World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000. London: World Bank, 2000

Tomas Strnad




Sudanese dinar (SDD). One Sudanese dinar equals 100 piastres. There are bills of 10, 25, 50,100 and 1,000SDD.


Cotton, sesame, livestock, groundnuts (peanuts), oil, gum arabic.


Foodstuffs, petroleum products, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, medicines and chemicals, textiles.


US$35.7 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$1.7 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$1.2 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

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Republic of the Sudan

Major City:

Other Cities:
'Atbarah, El Fasher, El-Gedaref, Jubā, Kassalā, Khartoum North, Omdurman, Port Sudan, Wadi Medani, Wau


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated July 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Called Nubia by the ancient Egyptians, the Republic of the SUDAN , with its rich cultural diversity and historical background is, in many ways, Africa in microcosm. The largest country in area on the continent, it lies at the traditional crossroads between East and West Africa, and between Africa and the Middle East.

Sudan has been called a country of the 21st century. Although it is one of the least-developed nations in the world, and remains primarily agricultural, it continues efforts to implement an ambitious development program. With the cooperation of several Western countries and international institutions, it has had the potential of emerging as a principal food-growing area and an important source of minerals. However, the drought which has enveloped such a large part of Africa in this decade has significantly slowed economic growth.



Khartoum is northeast of the country's geographical center, at about 15 degrees north latitude. At the junction of the White and Blue Niles, the area contains a total population of an estimated 3.8 million in three cities: Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman. Khartoum is the busiest and the government center. Most resident Europeans live in the city and its outlying suburbs. Across the Blue Nile from Khartoum is Khartoum North, a traditional city with a growing industrial area. The ancient city of Omdurman, across the White Nile from Khartoum, contains miles of traditional markets, where local artisans make and sell their wares.

Once dominated by Arabs, Khartoum now has a sizable population of displaced southerners. Arabic is the common language, but English is usually understood by Sudanese who have completed secondary school. English is used in transacting business with foreigners. Minority groups resident in Khartoum include Egyptian, Greek, Lebanese, Italian, West African, and Armenian.

Shops and businesses often close between 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm, during the hottest part of the day.


Importation, manufacture, or consumption of alcohol is prohibited by the Government of Sudan.

Some imported products can occasionally be found in local groceries. Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold at open air markets. Available fruit includes small bananas, grapefruit, limes, oranges, watermelon, and mangoes. Throughout the year, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, carrots, tomatoes, okra, garlic, and eggplant are available. For a few months such cool season crops as cabbage, potatoes, beets, squash, lettuce, green beans, radishes, peas, and cauliflower appear. Beef, mutton, chicken, and, occasionally pork are available locally. Pork can be ordered. Beef and mutton are frequently found in unfamiliar cuts. Outstanding Nile perch and tilapia provide an alternative to meat and are sometimes available.

Individuals in outlying areas find some food staples available locally. Meat and seasonal fruits and vegetables are usually available; the variety depends on local production.


Clothing is informal; however, Sudanese are conservative in dress, and Western attire is frowned upon. Clothing is washed more frequently here and therefore wears out faster. Sturdy cottons are best for hot months, and polyester is suitable for winter. Sweaters and wraps are needed in early mornings and evenings during cool months; a few winter things are necessary if you intend to travel to cooler climates.

Clothing needs in outlying areas are similar to those in Khartoum, except individuals visiting the southern regions should include rain gear because of the heavy annual rainfall in that area.

For men, work attire consists of sport shirts or safari suits. Many men wear shorts for home or recreation. A lightweight suit or sports jacket is appropriate for more formal occasions. Men should avoid shorts and going shirtless in public. Bring wash-and-wear shirts since dry-cleaning is expensive, and quality may be unsatisfactory. Women wear dresses, skirts, and tops or pants in the office or for leisure. In deference to Islamic traditions, women should avoid sundresses, shorts, or tight slacks or blouses. For evenings, long skirts or caftans are popular. Outdoor entertaining makes flats more comfortable, as high heels sink into the lawn. Children wear jeans and shorts, and sandals or tennis shoes. Long Bermuda shorts can be worn to school.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: Many commodities are in short supply or not available. Bring favorite brands of toiletries and cosmetics, unless you are prepared to switch.

Basic Services: Tailors and seam-stresses can be found, but work is slow and quality poor, except for the most simple safari suits for men and long, formless dresses for women. Simple shoe repair is available.

Barber shops and beauty parlors are more reasonably priced than those in U.S. cities. Quality of supplies, cleanliness standards in the shops, and qualifications of some operators, do not measure up to U.S. standards, however.

Religious Activities

The Anglican, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches, and the Khartoum International Church (Protestant) conduct regular English-language church services.


Most American children attend Khartoum American School (KAS). The school's major vacation is 18 days at Christmas. School hours are 7:20 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The school is located on the southern edge of New Extension in a new, air-conditioned/air-cooled, eight-building campus built to U.S. standards. KAS offers a U.S. curriculum taught by a well-qualified staff that maintains U.S. standards. The curriculum consists of various academic subjects, ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction, music, art, and physical education. Foreign-language offerings include Arabic and French. There is also a computer specialist and a resource specialist. A good library is served by a trained librarian. It has 14 classrooms, a science laboratory, a computer lab, and art and music rooms.

Bring paper, notebooks, pencils, pens, colored pencils, colored pens, etc., as a limited supply is available at school. A lunch break is given at midday. All children take at least a quart of water to drink each day, usually utilizing a large, unbreakable Thermos (e.g., Playmate jug).

There are no other English-language schools in the area, other than the KAS. The French School might accommodate students reasonably fluent in French, though its enrollment is small.

While there are secondary-level English-language schools in Khartoum (e.g., Unity High School, Sisters School for girls, and Camboni College for boys), vacancies are rare.

Special Educational Opportunities

The University of Khartoum and the African International University offer language instruction in Arabic. Applicants for full-time university study must pass rigorous exams in both English and Arabic.


Khartoum has an American Club. Membership includes expatriates assigned to Sudan as well as Sudanese. The American Club's facilities include a swimming pool, concrete tennis courts, and a snack bar.

Sudanese professional clubscivil service, army, engineers, universityare exclusive, but sports clubs accept those actively interested. The Sudan Lawn Tennis Association is also open for membership and offers both grass and cement courts.

Bowling and billiards are available to those who join the private Hilton Hotel Club. The annual individual membership fee allows access to bowling (with automatic equipment), billiards, sauna, massage, and hard-surface tennis courts with lighting.

Water skiing on the Blue Nile is available. Joggers are invited to participate with the Khartoum Hash House Harriers on their weekly jaunts. Spectator sports are limited to soccer, tennis tournaments, occasional horse and camel races, and informal polo matches. Public sports facilities are scarce, and each private national club has its own activities for members only.

Al Mogran Family Park is an amusement park on the point of land where the White and Blue Niles meet. The park has rides, refreshment stands, and a first-aid station. It is operated by the Sudanese People's Armed Forces.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Jebel Aulia Dam, a 1-hour drive (possible in a sedan with high clearance), is a pleasant spot to see a wide variety of water birds and watch Sudanese cast their round nets for fish. Fish can be purchased on the spot. A small grass plot is available for picnics. The dam serves as a major crossing of the White Nile. A constant stream of camels, donkeys, sheep, and goats with their herders passes by. Bird-watching, especially during migratory seasons, is also good all along the Niles.

Other excursions outside Khartoum are likely to take on the aspects of a picnic or a camping trip by four-wheel-drive vehicle fully equipped for the length of the journey. A favorite day or overnight outing is an about a 2-hour drive north to the Nile's Sixth Cataract in Sabaloka Gorge. On a 3-day weekend you can visit the Meroitic ruins near Shendi. A visit to Dinder National Park, a game preserve, takes several days and is rugged. If attempting this last trip, one must be prepared to carry along about 90 gallons of fuel.

Facilities available to travelers are almost nonexistent outside Khartoum. Ample food, fuel, and water must be carried on trips. Bring camping gear if you enjoy this type of activity. With continual fair skies, people rarely bother with tents, but cots are recommended, as the ground is stony and covered with thorns.

The Red Sea has some of the world's most beautiful coral. Snorkeling and scuba diving in Port Sudan are popular, but no facilities are available to refill scuba tanks. The coast is over 700 miles away from Khartoum. Port Sudan is 1 hour by jet, or 2½ hours by prop plane from Khartoum. A small resort at Arusa is north of Port Sudan, and the ancient city of Suakin is 60 km. south of Port Sudan. To reach Suakin, one must fly to Port Sudan and obtain transportation to Suakin.

Hunting opportunities range from local bird shooting (sand grouse, dove, water fowl) to big game hunting in the southern parts of Sudan. Hunting requires use of a four-wheel-drive vehicle and often a guide. Hunting licenses are required for different types of game. Sport fishing is possible along either Nile or at Jebel Aulia Dam on the White Nile. Giant Nile perch are excellent to eat, but are rarely caught from shore. Good tasting and commonly caught from shore are tilapia and several varieties of cat-fish. Tigerfish are good game fish, but they are not edible.

Points of interest in the Khartoum area include the National Museum housing archeological collections and the Faras frescoes, the Ethnological Museum with a charming display of tribal artifacts, and the Natural History Museum's display of specimens of Sudan's birds and wild game. There are a few zoological gardens in Khartoum that are also pleasant to visit.

Omdurman's large market area (or "souk") offers local color, an occasional bargain, and the Khalifa Museum. The museum was formerly a residence and now houses relics of the Mahdiya period. On Friday afternoons, whirling dervishes perform near the tomb of a saint. Opposite the zoo is the landing for the Tuti Island Ferry. You can cross to the island for a walk around its typical rural village and small farms.

Photography in Sudan requires a special permit. Caution must be exercised, since many scenes or areas are not to be photographed. At times whole groups will insist on posing for you; in other cases, the presence of your camera will create vigorous disapproval.


American, British, French, and German cultural centers have libraries, show films, and sometimes offer special programs. The Rec Site has a film night each week. Dining out choices include restaurants in the larger hotels, a Chinese restaurant, and a few restaurants serving local cuisines.

Social Activities

Among Americans: The International Volunteer Welfare Group (IVWG) membership has open membership. They meet monthly to raise funds for Sudanese charities and hold monthly programs on Sudanese culture.

International Contacts: Although private clubs are strongly divided by nationality, it is possible to mix internationally. Social activities, such as tennis, bridge, Hash runs, bingo, and sports, provide contacts in the local and international communities. For those interested in singing, the Khartoum Singers is an informal group that performs at Christmas and at a few private functions. The Sudanese Archaeological Society, supported by the German and British Cultural Centers and the University of Khartoum, arranges regular tours of sites and lectures for its members.


'ATBARAH (also spelled Atbara), a city of about 115,000 in 2002, is situated in northeastern Sudan. Located at the junction of the Nile and Atbara rivers, it is a major administrative and commercial center. Two main road and rail lines converge at 'Atbarah, providing the bulk of the jobs in railway maintenance. A large cement factory is located south of town.

EL FASHER (also spelled Al-Fashir) is the capital of Darfur Province, about 500 miles southwest of Khartoum. It is a primitive city, with simple buildings and straw homes. As the market center for the cereals and fruits of Darfur, El Fasher also has a vigorous trade in animals, as well as in gum. El Fasher's population is about 186,000.

About 200 miles southeast of Khartoum is EL-GEDAREF (also spelled al Qadārif), a commercial center for many products from the southern areas of the province. The population, currently 251,000, is mainly Arab or Nubian Sudanese.

Situated in southern Sudan, 100 miles north of the Ugandan border, JUBĀ acts as a critical transportation hub. The nearby agricultural areas bring tobacco and coffee for trade; Jubāis the southern terminus for Nile River traffic. It is the headquarters of the University of Jubā, founded in 1975. The city was the site of a conference in 1947 which united the Sudan. Ironically, Jubāspurred a revolt that led to civil war in the late 1950s. The population is about 151,000.

KASSALĀ is the capital of Kassalā Province in the northeast, 250 miles east of Khartoum. The city, with a current population of 308,000, is situated on a plain about 1,700 feet above sea level. It has noted fruit gardens and an extensive market trade which compensate for the decline of its cotton trade. It has excellent transportation links to Khartoum and Port Sudan, to the north of the Red Sea. Kassalā was founded as a fort by the Egyptians in 1840. It was held from 1885 through 1894 by Mahdists and retaken by Italian forces after a battle on July 17, 1894, and restored to Egypt in 1897. During World War II, the city was held briefly by the Italians.

KHARTOUM NORTH and Omdurman, although technically part of the greater capital area, are large cities which have expanded from town or suburb status on the river banks across from Khartoum. Khartoum North, with a population of 921,000, is a growing textile city, and the site of an agricultural college. The city contains dockyards, marine and rail work shops, and sawmills. Several industries are located in Khartoum North, among them brewing, brickmaking, tanning, and food processing. A cultural center located in town has tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a library.

OMDURMAN has a population of 1.7 million, and is a commercial center for livestock and a variety of handicrafts and other goods. The Islamic University of Omdurman founded there in 1912, was elevated to university status in 1965. Furniture, pottery factories, and a tannery are also important to the local economy. Most goods are shipped by truck. For the tourist, Port Sudan offers sailing, a selection of swimming pools, and an excellent fishing opportunities.

PORT SUDAN , in the far northeast part of the country on the Red Sea, is a modern harbor and rail terminus. Located in Kassalā Province about 400 miles northeast of Khartoum, it currently is the country's only port; however, another is planned at New Suakin. Port Sudan was founded in 1904, but was not expanded and modernized until the 1950s and 1960s. Shipping lines are operated here from the Red Sea to ports in the Mediterranean and northern Europe. Port Sudan serves the cotton-growing regions of the Nile Valley, and also is the export center for peanuts, oils, and hides. An oil refinery and an international airport are located near the city. The city has a population of approximately 401,000 (2002).

WADI MEDANI (also spelled Wad Madanī), capital of the Blue Nile Province 100 miles southeast of Khartoum, is another city of significant size (277,000), but is not often visited by Americans. It is the center of Sudan's irrigated agricultural region. The University of al-Jazirah, founded in 1975, is located in Wadi Medani. A good railway and road link Wadi Medani to Khartoum. A ferry service operates on the Blue Nile near the city.

Located in Southwestern Sudan, WAU is an important trading center for agricultural produce, cereals, fruits, and vegetables grown north of the city. Wau was virtually destroyed during anti-government protests in 1965. The city was reconstructed in 1972 and is home to 110,000 residents.


Geography and Climate

Sudan, a vast, sun-baked land, gained independence in 1956, following the end of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium. It is the largest country in all Africa, stretching almost 1 million square miles. Superimposed over a map of the U.S., Sudan would reach from the Canadian border to Houston, and from eastern Utah to St. Louis. To the north are the Libyan and Nubian Deserts. In mid-country, a band of rocky semi-desert reaches from the Chad border eastward to encompass the range of arid mountains along the Red Sea coast and the Ethiopian border. The southern half consists of savanna and swampland grading into semitropical forests along the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda borders. Although arable, fertile land is available (37%); little (1.5%) is cultivated because of inadequate water usage. The U.S. was involved in many projects to improve water usage and agricultural methods through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), but these programs were cut when the military took over the civilian government in 1989.

Through these diverse regions flow the White and Blue Niles, which converge at Khartoum. The Nile system, with its major tributariesthe Bahr al Ghazal, Sobat, and Atbarais the primary water supply for much of northeastern Africa. Most cultivation in the north of Sudan depends on these rivers, but further south, rainfall is sufficient for cultivation and grazing.

The river is navigable only in certain areas. The Bahr al-Arab, flowing west to east, forms a natural frontier. Another, more formidable obstacle to the south is the Sudd, an immense 12,000 square miles of swamp and floating vegetation into which the White Nile expands before reverting to river again. Over great distances, only a few paved roads, a limited rail line, and unreliable air service connect broadly scattered towns and settlements.

Khartoum is Usually hot and dUsty. During May, June, and July, daily temperatures average 120 °F, with frequent dust storms called "haboobs." July, August, and part of September are not as hot, with rare but heavy rain storms (average 8 inches yearly) and continuing haboobs. From November until April, daily temperatures range around 95 °F; nights, around 70 °F, are pleasant. Cool weather at night and in the early mornings sometimes requires light sweaters or blankets.


Sudan bridges Arabic and African cultures. Its approximately 36 million people are from different ethnic groups, cultures, and creeds. About 70 percent are Moslem and 30 percent are Christian or animistic. Among the northern groups are the Hadendowa, Bisharin, and Beni Amer of the Red Sea hills; the Nubian tribes of the northern Nile Valley; a conglomeration of "Arab" tribes occupying the central belt; the Kababish and other nomadic tribes west of the Nile; and descendants of earlier peoples, such as Nuba, Fur, and Ingessana. Although some still speak their own Hamitic, Semitic, or other ancient languages, the common language of northern Sudan is Arabic. Many local dialects are spoken.

Southern Sudan was isolated from early external influences by climate and geography. It is inhabited by African ethnic groups that speak over 100 separate languages and dialects classified as Sudanic, Nilotic, and Nile Hamitic. The common language of Sudan is Arabic. The Dinkas, with a population around 2 million, constitute the largest southern tribe. Other tribal groups include the Nuer, Shilluk, and Azande.

Political History

The North and South of Sudan have been at war for the last 10 years. The military dictatorship was overthrown in April 1985. After a transitional period, Sudan held its first free elections in 17 years in 1986. Although the civil war prevented elections in 37 of 68 southern constituencies, a Parliament was elected and a democratic coalition government formed. Six of 40 parties from a broad political spectrum participated in Sadiq Al-Mahdi's coalition government until June 30 1989, when General Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir headed a military coup which overthrew the government. Bashir dissolved the Parliament and suspended activities of all political parties. The present regime is heavily influenced by the National Islamic Front.

Arts, Science, and Education

Sudan's education system requires 12 years compulsory education. Literacy is 46 percent. Instruction through high school is in Arabic. The University of Khartoum is the center of Khartoum's intellectual life. Arabic has replaced English as the primary language of instruction in Sudanese universities.

Al Nilein University (or University of Two Niles), formerly the University of Cairo, is located in Khartoum; the Islamic University and the Ahfad College for Women operate in Omdurmanadjacent to Khartoum. The University of Juba has moved to Khartoum due to the war. There are also the University of Gezira in Wad Medani, and Kordofan University in El-Obeid. The French and German Cultural Centers offer language classes and cultural events. The American Center (U.S.IS) sponsors academic exchanges and arranges cultural activities.

Commerce and Industry

Agriculture is one of the country's major activities, capitalizing on extensive fertile land irrigated from the Nile. Agriculture provides much of the country's export income: cotton is the leading cash crop, followed by sorghum, groundnuts, sesame, gum arabic, and livestock. Fruits and vegetables are grown for local consumption. Limited industry processes agriculture produce. Sudan's natural resources include some oil reserves, iron ore, copper, and chrome. Although Sudan is believed to possess other minerals, including zinc, iron, and uranium, mining is still insignificant. The country's petroleum resources had attracted some foreign investment (led by Chevron), but Chevron sold its last oil concessions to a private Sudanese corporation in 1992. In 1999, a boom in oil production changed the face of Sudan's economy, spurring economic growth. Approximately 185,000 barrels of oil are produced daily, and oil now accounts for 70 percent of the country's export earnings.

Despite Sudan's physical advantages, it is among the world's poorest countries, with a per capita income of about $1,000 a year. The Sudanese economy has suffered from high inflation and low output. Labor shortages have developed, because skilled workers have emigrated to better job prospects abroad. Like many developing countries, Sudan's infrastructure has gaps: Transportation, especially outside Khartoum, is difficult and impedes development; power blackouts are frequent, and telephone service is irregular. Certain essential commodities are occasionally scarce.

Oil production has helped lift Sudan's economy, allowing growth of 6-7% annually in recent years. Overall results, however, have been disappointing, in part because of declining foreign assistance levels. Western economic assistance has declined drastically due to international dissatisfaction with the Government's human rights record, and any assistance received from the Gulf states was terminated when Sudan sided with Iraq during the Gulf War. Current Western assistance is almost entirely humanitarian relief.



Local buses are rarely used by foreigners. Taxis are easy to find downtown, but cannot be called by telephone. Most Sudanese white-collar workers use taxis, frequently in groups. Taxis are not readily available after dark in residential areas. Most taxi drivers do not speak English. Daytime rates are reasonable; they usually double at night. Rates typically are at least double for foreigners.


Sudan's regional transportation system seriously impedes its economic development. Paved, all-weather roads connect Khartoum with Port Sudan via Kassala, and with Kosti and Sennar. Travel elsewhere by car is difficult, even with four-wheel-drive vehicles. In the rainy season, travel in the southern regions is virtually impossible. At the present time, travel to the south is restricted due to the ongoing civil war. Because of the danger of breakdown, you should travel any lengthy journey with at least another four-wheel-drive vehicle.

There is good, daily train service between Port Sudan and Khartoum.


Telephone and Telegraph

The telephone system is overloaded in Khartoum and inadequate beyond. Installation of a new telecommunication system is underway.

Commercial telex facilities are available at the Hilton and the Acropole hotels. Some individuals have had success placing international calls at Key International and the Nissan Parts Place, both in the Amarat section of Khartoum.

Radio and TV

Radio Omdurman broadcasts one 15-minute English newscast daily. Other programs of commentary, poetry, drama, and music are in Arabic. Sudan TV broadcasts in color about 7 hours each day. Four or five programs a week are broadcast in English, but they are usually dated and of minimal interest.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The main printed source of news in English is the daily mimeographed news bulletin put out by SUNA (Sudanese News Agency). A monthly magazine in English published by the Government of Sudan, Sudanow, is filled with informative stories of Sudanese issues and events, as does the daily New Horizon.

The European edition of Newsweek appears on newsstands some days old, as do copies of the International Herald Tribune and a few other European papers, but availability is inconsistent. If you want regular delivery, it is best to order your own subscription. The American Center (U.S.IS) holds the best collection of U.S. periodicals and newspapers.

Several small bookshops offer a limited selection. All English-language books are imported, and the costs of transportation, duty, etc., make them expensive.

Health and Medicine

Community Health

Khartoum water is potable when it leaves the processing plant, but the distribution system is subject to contamination.

The extreme heat occurring 9 out of 12 months of the year quickly ferments uncollected garbage dumped on abundant vacant lots. Sewage problems are common in some areas of the city when frequent power out-ages stop sewage pumps. Lack of toilet facilities, inadequate refrigeration, and poor health standards in food handling and processing make it necessary to use extreme care in preparing food at home and selecting food when eating out. During and following the short rainy season, the city is infested with flies, mosquitoes, and other insects.

Constant dust plays havoc with sinus and bronchial systems. If you are prone to respiratory disease, dust allergies, and hay fever, be aware that this is a hazard in Khartoum. Air humidifiers are recommended in the bedrooms at night because of extremely low humidity.

Preventive Measures

Endemic diseases or other health hazards in Khartoum and throughout Sudan include malaria, dysentery, parasitic and respiratory infections, hepatitis, rabies, cerebrospinal meningitis, and tuberculosis. Bilharzia is present in the Blue and While Niles, and the main Nile.

Boil and filter drinking water, and drink pasteurized, fresh milk. Do not use local long-life milk because of local storage and age factors. Other brands of long-life milk are available at the commissary. Meat should be well cooked, and salads or other uncooked vegetables and fruits should be avoided unless you are sure that they have been properly cleaned.

Adults should drink 12-16 glasses of water or similar clear liquid (excluding coffee, tea, and alcohol) a day to prevent dehydration in the extreme heat and low humidity.

All persons coming to Sudan should begin taking malaria suppressant tablets two weeks before arrival and continue the program throughout the specified period. Yellow fever, rabies, polio, tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis immunizations, and necessary childhood immunizations should also be current before arrival.


The U.S. Department of State warns against travel to Sudan due to security instability. Rebel activities, ongoing civil war, and bombing campaigns make the area unsafe for travelers. Extreme caution should be exercised at all times.

American carriers do not operate to Sudan. The best connections from the U.S. are made through Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam. Each of these involves another stop in Cairo before arriving in Khartoum.

Importing foreign currency is not quantitatively restricted, but is closely monitored by the Sudan Government.

A visa is required for entry into Sudan. Although presentation of up-to-date immunization records is no longer routinely required upon arrival in Sudan, travelers should have them available.

Careful consideration should be made before bringing a pet to Sudan. Owners should keep in mind the extreme heat and possibilities of disease. Though death/illness of pets does not happen often, a few very unfortunate incidents have occurred. Many people choose to adopt animals found in Khartoum, such as dogs, cats, even rabbits. Veterinary care is available in Khartoum for treatment or inoculation.

You may bring animals into Sudan with an import permit. Pets arriving without a permit are subject to quarantine and possible extermination.

The Sudanese dinar (SDD) is the national currency. In January 2002, the exchange rate was SDD 257.44/ U.S.D.

The metric system of weights and measures is used.


Jan. 1 Independence Day

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Sham El Nasseem/Easter Monday

Jun. 30National Salvation Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Id al-Adah*


Id al-Fitr*

Hijra New Year*

Mawlid an Nabi*



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Area Handbook for the Democratic Republic of the Sudan. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1973.

Barnett, Tony, and Abbas A. Karim, eds. Sudan: State, Capital, & Transformation. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1988.

DeWael, A. Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Ewald, Janet. Soldiers, Traders, and Slaves. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

Forbes, Lesley, and Martin Daly. Sudan in Original Photographs. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1987.

Holt, Peter Malcolm. The History of the Sudan, from the Coming of Islam to the Present Day. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 1988.

Holy, Ladislav. Religion & Custom in a Muslim Society: The Berti of Sudan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Kibreab, Gaim. The Sudan: From Subsistence to Wage Labor. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1989.

Lightfoot-Klein, H. A Woman's Odyssey into Africa. Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 1992.

Mahgoub, Mohamed Ahmed. Democracy on Trial, Reflections on Arab and African Politics. Andre Deutsch: London, 1974.

Manager, L.O. The Sand Swallows Our Land. New York: Barber Press, 1985.

Morehead, Alan. The Blue Nile. New England Library: London, reprinted 1980.

Roddis, Ingrid. Sudan. Let's VisitPlaces & People of the World Series. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Stewart, Judy. A Family in Sudan. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1988.

Voll, John O., ed. Sudan: State and Society in Crisis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Wayne, Scott. Egypt & the Sudan: A Travel Survival Kit. Oakland, CA: Lonely Plant, 1990.

Woodward, Peter, ed. Sudan after Nimeiri. New York: Routledge, 1991.

. Sudan, 1898-1989: The Unstable State. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publications, 1990.

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Sudan (sōōdăn´), officially Republic of the Sudan, republic (2011 est. pop. 36,740,000), 718,723 sq mi (1,861,484 sq km), NE Africa. It borders on Egypt in the north, on the Red Sea in the northeast, on Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, on South Sudan in the south, and on the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya in the west. Khartoum is the capital and Omdurman is the largest city.


The main geographical feature of Sudan is the Nile River, which with its tributaries (including the Atbara, Blue Nile, and White Nile rivers) traverses the country from south to north. The Nile system provides irrigation for strips of agricultural settlement for much of its course in Sudan and also for the Al Gezira plain, situated between the White Nile and the Blue Nile, just south of their confluence at Khartoum. In the extreme north, the Nile broadens into Lake Nasser, formed by the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.

Much of the rest of the country is made up of an undulating plateau (1,000–2,000 ft/305–610 m high), which rises to higher levels in the mountains located in the northeast near the Red Sea, as well as in the central and western portions of the country. Rainfall diminishes from south to north in Sudan; thus, the south is characterized by savanna and grassland which becomes desert and semidesert in the center and north.


The inhabitants of Sudan are divided into two main groups. Those who live mainly near the Nile consist of Arab and Nubian groups; they are Muslim (mostly of the Sunni branch), speak Arabic (the country's official language), and follow Arab cultural patterns (although only relatively few are descended from the Arabs who emigrated into the region during the 13th–19th cent.). The westerners, so called because they immigrated (primarily in the 20th cent.) from W Africa, are also Muslim, live mostly in the southern part of Sudan, and work as farmers or agricultural laborers. Other ethnic groups include the Beja in the northeast and the Fur in the southwest.

The great majority of the country's population live in villages or small towns; the only sizable cities are Port Sudan, Wad Madani, Al Ubayyid, and the conurbation of Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North. The desert and semidesert of the center and north are largely uninhabited.


Sudan is an overwhelmingly agricultural country. Much of the farming is of a subsistence kind. Agricultural production varies from year to year because of intermittent droughts that cause widespread famine. The government plays a major role in planning the economy. The leading export crops are cotton, sesame, peanuts, and sugar. Other agricultural products include sorghum, millet, and wheat. Sheep, cattle, goats, and camels are raised. The leading products of the country's small mining industry are iron ore, gold, copper, and chromium ore. Petroleum deposits were developed in the 1970s, but the work was discontinued in the mid-1980s as military conflict in the now independent South Sudan intensified. In the late 1990s, the government sought foreign partners to help redevelop the oil sector, and a pipeline was built from S Sudan to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. Sudan began exporting crude oil in 1999. With the independence of South Sudan (2011) some three quarters of the country's oil production was lost, but the petroleum industry remains important.

Industry is largely confined to agricultural and natural resource processing and light manufacturing; the chief products include ginned cotton, textiles, processed food, beverages, soap, footwear, pharmaceuticals, and armaments. There is also some automobile and light-truck assembly. Petroleum and gold and silver are refined and hydroelectric power is produced. The country has a very limited transportation network. Foreign trade is largely conducted via Port Sudan. Chief among the annual imports are food, manufactured goods, refinery and transportation equipment, medicines, chemicals, textiles, and wheat; the principal exports are oil and petroleum products, gold, cotton, sesame, livestock, peanuts, gum arabic, and sugar. The leading trade partners are China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Sudan.


Sudan is governed under the interim national constitution of 2005 as amended. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is both head of state and head of government. The bicameral National Legislature consists of the 30-seat Council of States, whose members are elected by state legislatures to six-year terms and the 351-seat National Assembly, whose members are elected to six-year terms. Administratively, Sudan is divided into 17 states.


Early History

Northeast Sudan, called Nubia in ancient times, was colonized (c.2000 BC) by Egypt as far as the fourth cataract of the Nile (near modern Karima). From the 8th cent. BC to the 4th cent. AD this region was ruled by the Cush kingdom, centered first at Napata (near the fourth cataract) and after c.600 BC at Meroë (between the fifth and sixth cataracts). From c.750 to c.650 BC, Cush ruled Egypt as a result of a dynastic replacement. Meroë was a center of trade and ironworking, and from there iron technology may have spread to other parts of Africa.

Most of the inhabitants of Nubia were converted to Coptic Christianity in the 6th cent. AD, and by the 8th cent. three states flourished in the area. These states long resisted invasions from Egypt, which had come under Muslim rule in the 7th cent. However, from the 13th to the 15th cent. the region was increasingly infiltrated by peoples from the north; the states collapsed, and Nubia gradually became Muslim. The former southern part of Sudan, which became independent as South Sudan in 2011, continued to adhere to traditional African beliefs. Much of the north was ruled by the Muslim state of Funj from the 16th cent. until 1821, when it was conquered by armies sent by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.

The Era of Foreign Control

The Egyptians founded (1823) Khartoum as their headquarters and developed Sudan's trade in ivory and slaves. Ismail Pasha (in office 1863–79) tried to extend Egyptian influence further south in Sudan, ostensibly to end the slave trade. This campaign, which was headed first by Sir Samuel Baker and then by Charles Gordon, provoked a complex revolt (1881) by the Mahdi (Muhammad Ahmad), who sought to end Egyptian influence and to purify Islam in Sudan. The Mahdists defeated Anglo-Egyptian punitive expeditions, and Britain and Egypt decided to abandon Sudan. Gordon, sent to evacuate the British and Egyptian troops, was killed by the Mahdists at Khartoum in early 1885. The Mahdi died in the same year, but his successor, the Khalifa Abdallahi, continued to build up the theocratic Mahdist state.

In the 1890s the British decided to gain control of Sudan, and, in a series of campaigns between 1896 and 1898, an Anglo-Egyptian force under Herbert (later Lord) Kitchener destroyed the power of the Mahdists. Agreements in 1899 (reaffirmed by the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936) established the condominium government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Under the condominium, Sudan was administered by a governor-general, appointed by Egypt with the consent of Great Britain; in practice, however, the British controlled the government of Sudan. The Sudanese continued to oppose colonial rule, and the Egyptians resented their subordinate role to the British.

In 1924 the British instituted a policy of isolating the southern Sudan (now South Sudan) by administering it separately from the north. An advisory council for the northern Sudan was established in 1943, and in 1948 a predominantly elective legislative assembly for the whole territory was set up. In the 1948 elections, the Independence Front, which favored the creation of an independent republic, gained a majority over the National Front, which sought union with Egypt. After the 1952 revolution in Egypt, Britain and Egypt agreed to prepare Sudan for independence in 1956. In 1955 southerners, fearing that the new nation would be dominated by the Muslim north, began a revolt that lasted 17 years.

Struggles of an Independent Nation

In spite of the continuing revolt in the south, Sudan achieved independence as a parliamentary republic in 1956, as planned. In 1958, Gen. Ibrahim Abboud led a military coup that ended the parliamentary system. Unable to improve the country's weak economy or to end the southern revolt, Abboud in 1964 agreed to the reestablishment of civilian government. The new regime also had little success in coping with the country's problems.

In 1969, Col. Muhammed Jaafar al-Nimeiri staged a successful coup. He banned all political parties and subsequently nationalized banks and numerous industries. The bloody civil war was ended by an agreement between the government and the Southern Sudan Liberation Front (whose military arm was known as Anya Nya) signed (Feb., 1972) at Addis Ababa. Under the agreement S Sudan was granted considerable autonomy. Also in 1972, the Sudanese Socialist Union, the country's only political organization, elected a "people's assembly" to draw up a new constitution for the country, which was adopted in 1973. Nimeiri's regime became the target of criticism at home because of worsening economic conditions and for its support of Egypt's part in the Camp David accords with Israel; in the late 1970s, Nimeiri dismissed his cabinet and closed universities in an attempt to quell opposition.

During the 1980s, political instability in S Sudan increased, with renewed fighting by the largely Christian and animist Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Motivated at least partly by a desire to shore up his popularity in the largely Muslim north, Nimeiri in 1983 instituted strict Islamic law, further inflaming opposition in the south. Having survived numerous earlier coup attempts, he was overthrown in 1985, and Gen. Abdul Rahman Swaredahab was installed as leader of a transitional military government. Elections were held in 1986 and a civilian government led by Sadiq al-Mahdi ruled until it was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1989.

The new military regime under Lt. Gen. Omar Hassam Ahmed al-Bashir strengthened ties with Libya, Iran, and Iraq; reinforced Islamic law; banned opposition parties; and continued to pursue the war with the south, diverting relief aid (primarily food) from the famine-stricken south to the Muslim north. In 1990 the United States halted relief efforts to Sudan; ties between the two nations were further strained when Sudan supported Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. Bashir officially became president in 1993, but significant political power was held by the National Islamic Front, a fundamentalist political organization formed from the Muslim Brotherhood and led by Hassan al-Turabi, who became speaker of parliament. In 1996, Bashir won a presidential election that was boycotted by most opposition groups; a multiparty system was restored in 1999.

In Aug., 1998, U.S. missiles destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum that was suspected of manufacturing chemical-weapons compounds to be used in terrorist activities; however, international investigators were unable to find evidence to support the charges. Civil war continued through the 1990s, by which time it had reportedly resulted in nearly 2 million deaths (mostly from war-related starvation and disease) and had left the economy crippled. Sudan was cited by the UN Human Rights Commission for human-rights violations (including alleged widespread slavery and forced labor), condemned for supporting terrorism abroad, and accused by human-rights groups of "ethnic cleansing" in its offensive against the south. A cease-fire was declared in July, 1998, in order to allow food shipments to be delivered, but there were violations. In July, 1999, peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya, broke down as the warring sides failed to renew the cease-fire.

During 1999 the parliament increased Turabi's powers and moved to limit those of the president. In response, Bashir declared a state of emergency in December and dissolved parliament; the next month he appointed a new cabinet. Bashir also improved his position in the ruling National Congress party. In May, 2000, Turabi's position as secretary-general of the party was frozen, and Turabi subsequently formed his own party, the Popular National Congress party.

Meanwhile, Bashir's government worked to improve its foreign relations, and, in December, Bashir was reelected president. The opposition boycotted the vote, and the concurrent parliamentary elections were swept by the National Congress party (NCP). In Feb., 2001, Turabi was placed under house arrest after signing a memorandum of understanding with the southern rebels in which they called for joint peaceful resistance to Bashir's government, and subsequently other members of Turabi's political party were arrested; Turabi was not released until Oct., 2003. In Jan., 2002, a cease-fire was declared in the ongoing civil war in the Nuba Mts. to allow relief aid to be distributed in the drought-stricken south-central region, but fighting continued elsewhere. The same month two rebels groups, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan People's Defense Force, established a formal alliance.

The government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM, the SPLA's political arm) agreed to a framework for peace in July, 2002; however, three regions of central Sudan claimed by the rebels were not covered by the agreement. A broad truce was agreed to in Oct., 2002. Despite some violations of the cease-fire, talks continued in 2003. In Sept., 2003, an accord between the two sides called for the withdrawal of government troops from the south, rebel forces from the north, and the establishment of a joint government-rebel force in the south and in two central regions, and talks continued. Additional protocols were signed in May, 2004.

In 2003 a separate rebellion broke out in the Darfur region of W Sudan; it involved a group linked to an opposition party. A cease-fire was signed in Sept., 2003, but fighting continued. The Darfur rebels subsequently agreed to form alliance with the Beja rebels in NE Sudan (around Kasala and the Eritrean border) if they were not included in any settlement with the government. The Beja group had been expected to be part of the negotiations with the southern rebels, but talks with the Beja rebels were not fruitful until 2006, when a cease-fire and a peace agreement were signed.

Militias allied with the government in Darfur (and the government itself) were accused of ethnic cleansing, and many Sudanese were displaced by the fighting, some of them fleeing to Chad. A new cease-fire was signed in Apr., 2004, but it too did not hold. Also in April, Turabi and members of his party were again arrested by the government, which accused them of plotting against it. In September the government asserted that a new coup plot involving the jailed Turabi had been uncovered, but Turabi was ultimately released (June, 2005). Turabi, who remained a the most prominent northern critic of Bashir, was arrested again on several occasions in subsequent years.

There was increasing pressure in mid-2004 from the United Nations, United States, and European Union on Sudan to end the attacks in Darfur, and in July, 2004, Bashir's government promised the United Nations that it would disarm the militias. A lack of significant progress in ending the fighting and disarming the militias led to UN Security Council resolutions against Sudan in July and September. The latter resolution called for an investigation into whether the attacks were genocide, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had charged; investigating commission ultimately termed various attacks war crimes and crimes against humanity but not genocide. In August, the African Union began sending peacekeepers into Sudan, and subsequently expanded the force. An African Union–sponsored peace accord in Nov., 2004, failed to hold when a new offensive was sparked by a rebel attack later the same month, and fighting continued into 2005, at times spilling over into Chad. By early 2005 it was estimated that 2 million had been displaced by the conflict in Darfur. Lawlessness worsened there in 2005, and the area also became a base for Chadian rebel attacks against Chad, souring relations between Sudan and its neighbor. Meanwhile, there were attacks against Sudanese in the south by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group, leading both southern Sudanese rebels and government-allied militias to mount a drive against the LRA. LRA attacks in S Sudan continued sporadically in subsequent years; in late 2008 South Sudanese forces joined Ugandan and Congolese troops in a coordinated attack against LRA bases in NE Congo. Uganda continued to mount small-scale operations against the LRA in Sudan in subsequent years.

Additional protocols relating to peace with the SPLM were signed in early in Jan., 2005, and shortly thereafter a final peace agreement was sealed. The deal called for Islamic law to be restricted to the north, for the south to be autonomous and hold a vote on independence in 2011, and for central government power and southern oil revenues to be shared. Later in January the government signed a preliminary peace agreement with the National Democratic Alliance, an umbrella organization embracing more than a dozen opposition groups, including the SPLM.

In July, 2005, SPLM leader John Garang became Sudan's vice president, and the state of emergency in force since 1999 was lifted (except in Darfur and two provinces in E Sudan). Northern opposition parties, however, criticized the interim power-sharing constitution because of the limits it placed on their and southern opposition groups' participation in the government. Garang was killed in a helicopter crash in late July, sparking several days of riots in Khartoum. Salva Kiir was chosen to succeed Garang as head of SPLM and as vice president, and subsequently thousands of refugees from the south began returning there. Sudan's power-sharing government was finalized in September, and a government for autonomous S Sudan was established in Juba in Oct., 2005. Since then, however, there has been fighting in S Sudan between the SPLA and other rebels who have refused to be integrated into the SPLA, and between other Sudanese forces and the SPLA.

Attempts to invigorate the much violated AU-monitored peace accord in Darfur progressed slowly in 2006. The African Union failed to win an agreement on a new cease-fire for Darfur, and Sudan objected to replacing the AU monitors with UN peacekeepers. A failed drive by Chadian rebels that reached Ndjamena, Chad's capital, in Apr., 2006, led to a break in diplomatic relations with Chad, which accused Sudan of supporting the rebels. A peace agreement was reached with one faction of Darfur rebels in May, but subsequently there was fighting among ethnically based rebel factions as well as with government forces.

An Aug., 2006, UN Security Council resolution establishing a UN peacekeeping force for Darfur was rejected by Sudan, and the AU agreed in September to extend its forces' mandate until the end of 2006. In Oct., 2006, Chad again accused Sudan of backing a Chadian rebel incursion, and said Sudan's air force had bombed several E Chadian towns. In early 2007 there was fighting between Chadian and Sudanese forces after Chad's military pursued rebels into Sudanese territory.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the United Nations and Sudan appeared to be making some progress in late 2006 on establishing a mixed AU-UN peacekeeping force for Darfur, but there was no final agreement. In Jan., 2007, both sides in Darfur were reported to have agreed to a 60-day cease-fire and a peace summit, but it was breached, apparently by both sides, later the same month. In March, the International Criminal Court accused Ahmed Haroun, a member of the Sudanese government who was responsible for Darfur in 2003–4, of war crimes; the ICC said it had evidence that the Sudanese government had orchestrated militia attacks. The following month, after pressure from China, Sudan agreed to allow some 3,000 UN peacekeepers to join the AU force, and in June it agreed to a larger joint UN-AU peacekeeping force that would be put in place later. In Dec., 2007, the joint UN-AU operation officially began, but Sudan moved slowly in approving the components of the peacekeeping force.

In the second half of 2007 the conflict in Darfur degenerated as a peace conference scheduled to begin in October approached. Some of the Arab militias battled among themselves, a rebel force attacked AU peacekeepers, and government and militia forces attacked the rebel faction that had signed a peace agreement in 2006. A cease-fire was declared by the government at the beginning of the peace conference, but several major factions boycotted the conference, and two rebel groups that did not attend reported that they had been attacked. The conference did resolve the conflict, and fighting continued continued in Darfur through 2008.

Also in Oct., 2007, the southern Sudanese withdrew from the national government, accusing it of not honoring the peace accord; after negotiations, the south rejoined the government in December, and by Jan., 2008, all government forces finally were withdrawn from the south. However, in Dec., 2007, fighting broke out in the disputed, oil-rich Abyei region between SPLM forces and nomadic Arabs aligned with the government; the conflict, which originally erupted over passage for grazing, continued sporadically into 2008. In May the significant fighting again broke out in Abyei; in June, 2008, after negotiations, a joint north-south force was deployed in the region.

Darfurian rebels mounted an attack against Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, in May, 2008. The rebels were unable to hold Omdurman, but the attack surprised the Sudanese government, which for six months broke off ties with Chad, accusing it of helping the rebels involved in the operation. (The attack was reminiscent of an assault on the Chadian capital by Chadian rebels in Feb., 2008.) Subsequent accords failed to ease Sudanese-Chadian tensions, and in May, 2009, after rebels attacks against Chad, Chadian forces launched attacks against rebel bases in Sudan. In early 2010, however, there were new talks between the two countries.

In July, 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor accused President Bashir of war crimes in connection with the conflict in Darfur; the ICC issued a warrant for Bashir's arrest for war crimes and other charges in Mar., 2009. (The ICC has investigated leaders on both sides in the conflict with respect to possible war crimes.) Sudan ordered international aid agencies to leave Darfur and other parts of the country in retaliation. Some 300,000 are estimated to have died (directly or indirectly) as a result of the Darfur conflict; some 2.7 million have been displaced.

The census that began in Apr., 2009, was denounced by Kiir after it showed southern Sudanese to make up just over a fifth of the population. The S Sudan government believed the true proportion to be at least a third, and accused Khartoum of deliberately miscounting. In July a Sudanese opposition party and a Darfur rebel group jointly denounced the current power-sharing government as illegitimate and called for a new transitional government to be formed because the accord that created the current government called for new elections by mid-2009. Also in July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague established the boundaries of the disputed Abyei region; although the region was reduced in size and lost some significant oilfields to N Sudan, the resulting population changes tied Abyei more closely ethnically to S Sudan. Nonetheless the region remained a source of ethnic tension and sporadic violence in subsequent months, and arrangements to include it in the Jan., 2011, referendum could not be worked out. An agreement resolving most remaining disputes concerning the S Sudan peace agreement was signed by both sides in Aug., 2009, but the two thorniest issues, the census and the law governing S Sudan's referendum on independence, were not included.

In Sept., 2009, fighting broke out in N Darfur as government forces moved to oust the rebels there, and it continued intermittently, at times worsening, into 2011. Increased ethnic fighting in the south, along with the unresolved issues, raised north-south tensions as 2009 ended. One of the main Darfur rebel groups signed a truce with the government in Feb., 2010. The agreement also established a framework for further negotiations toward a final peace treaty, but the rebels later withdrew from the talks. Other significant rebel groups were not party to that agreement, but Sudan began talks with another Darfur group in May. A draft peace was proposed a year later (Apr., 2011) in talks in Qatar, but rejected in part by one of the main rebel groups.

The presidential and other elections were finally held in Apr., 2010, but logistical problems, irregularities in both north and south, and, in the north, boycotts by many opposition parties resulted in serious flaws and guaranteed that there would be no significant political changes. Bashir was reelected president with more than two thirds of the vote, while Kiir was reelected as S Sudan's leader with more than 90% of the vote, and subsequently the SPLM again participated in Sudan's coalition government. Tensions between the central government and S Sudan increased, however, in subsequent months as the Jan., 2011, independence referendum neared. The voting was nonetheless largely peaceful and credible, though there were clashes in Abyei, which was not taking part. More than 98% voted in favor of independence.

The months after the vote were marked by ongoing unrest in Abyei and the rise of anti-SPLM militias in parts of S Sudan, particularly in non-Dinka, minority areas. In Feb., 2011, the NCP majority in parliament amended the constitution to immediately exclude representatives of the 10 S Sudanese states, a move that was protested by S Sudan. In July, the south became independent as South Sudan, but the question of Abyei remained unresolved. A full-scale conflict erupted there in May, as the Sudanese government seized control of the area; thousands fled south, and UN peacekeeping forces were deployed in Abyei in July. Another disputed region, Kafia Kingi, a mineral-rich area along the Central African Republic border with a mixed but relatively small population, is also occupied by Sudan.

There also was significant fighting in Southern Kurdufan and, later, Blue Nile states in the south as government forces attempted to crush non-Arab forces, the Sudan People's Liberation Army–North (SPLA-N), who had been allied with the southern rebels; government forces were again accused of ethnic cleansing. In November, the SPLA-N joined with Darfur rebel groups to form the Sudan Revolutionary Front. Fighting in the region continued in subsequent years. A dispute over oil transit fees charged by Sudan led South Sudan to halt oil production in early 2012. In March and April there were significant border clashes between the two nations, which led to an AU-UN ultimatum that called for an end to the fighting and an agreement on border issues. Both nations have been accused of arming each other's rebels.

Loss of oil revenue in Sudan led in June, 2012, to austerity measures that sparked antigovernment protests. An agreement on the resumption of oil shipments (but not border issues) was signed with South Sudan in Sept., 2012, and negotiations continued into 2013 on issues relating to the border and rebels, delaying the resumption of shipments, but in Apr., 2013, South Sudan resumed oil production. In Nov., 2012, the government accused the country's intelligence chief of plotting a coup. In Feb., 2013, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the main Darfur rebel groups, signed a cease-fire agreement and committed itself to negotiations with Sudan; it was the second Darfur rebel group to do so. Subsequently, however, there has been resurgent fighting involving groups on both sides. In Apr., 2015, Bashir was reelected president in a landslide. The main opposition parties boycotted the vote, and the turnout was said to be lower than the 46% reported by the government.


See P. M. Holt, A Modern History of the Sudan (3d ed. 1979); R. O. Collins, Shadows in the Grass: Britain in the Southern Sudan, 1918–1956 (1983); N. O'Neill and J. O'Brien, Economy and Class in the Sudan (1988); J. O. Voll, ed., Sudan (1991); P. Woodward, Sudan, 1898–1989 (1991); J. M. Burr, Africa's Thirty Years' War: Chad, Libya, and the Sudan, 1963–1993 (1999); D. Petterson, Inside Sudan (1999); R. O. Collins, A History of Modern Sudan (2009).

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A country in northeast Africa located south of Egypt on the Nile.

Known in the past as bilad al-sudan (the land of the black people), Sudan is the largest country in Africa, covering one million square miles. Its nearly thirty million residents, who live scattered across the wide expanse, differ along lines of ethnicity, language, and religion. The country's political instability is, in part, a result of this diversity. Moreover, given its geostrategic location astride the Nile, it has been vulnerable to foreign pressure.


Sudan contains more than fifty ethnic groups, which are subdivided into at least 570 tribes. The principal groups in the north are Arab, Beja, Nuba, Nubian, and Fur. Nearly half the population identifies itself as Arab, generally meaning peoples who speak Arabic and reflect its cultural heritage. The Arabs along the northern and central Nile valley tend to dominate Sudanese political and economic life. The Beja, who comprise 6 to 7 percent of the population, are concentrated in the east along the Red Sea and coastal mountain ranges; they are Muslim but speak a distinct language. The Nuba, residing in the Nuba mountains of southern Kordofan, are 5 percent of the population and also speak their own languages, not Arabic; some are Muslim, others Christian or adherents of traditional African religious beliefs. About 3 percent are Nubians, who traditionally lived along the northern reaches of the Nile, merging into Egypt. In the early 1960s, many Nubians were relocated to Khashm al-Ghirba in central Sudan when the construction of the Aswan High Dam flooded their homes. They speak their own ancient languages; they were early converts to Christianity but converted to Islam several centuries ago. The Fur, 2 percent of the population, live in the far west; like the Nubians, they have a tradition of independent kingdoms. The Sultanate of Fur lasted from the fifteenth century until the early 1890s. Many other non-Arab peoples live in villages in the west, notably the Berti, Zaghawa, Borgu, and Massalit.

In the southern third of Sudan, the Dinka are 40 percent of the population, or 12 percent of the Sudanese as a whole. The Nuer are 5 percent of the whole Sudanese people, and the Shilluk are 1 percent. None of those groups are homogeneous, and they compete for territory, cattle, and trade routes. The numerous groups that live in Equatoria, the southernmost area, differ in language, customs, and religion. Overall, the ethnic fragmentation in the south is greater than in the north.

In addition to those indigenous groups, 6 percent of the Sudanese are migrants from West Africa who settled in western and central Sudan in search of employment or on their way to or from Mecca, the most important site for Muslim pilgrims. Known by the pejorative term fellata, they lack many of the legal and economic protections accorded to full Sudanese citizens.

Language overlaps with ethnicity as a basic distinguishing trait among the Sudanese. Half the population speaks Arabic as its native tongue. At most, half the adults are literate (far fewer than that in the wartorn south and Nuba Mountains), and indigenous languages remain important. Arabic serves as the lingua franca among the educated classes in the north. Although residents of the south resisted learning Arabic and were taught English in the missionary schools, Arabic has made inroads there in recent decades.

Religion also divides the population65 to 70 percent are Muslim, 20 to 25 percent follow traditional beliefs, and 5 to 10 percent are Christian. The north is overwhelmingly Muslim, with pockets of Christians in the Nuba Mountains and in urban areas. Many Muslims belong to the networks of Sufi tariqas (brotherhoods) that formed around holy men and serve economic, social, and political as well as religious functions. The brotherhoods cut across tribal and ethnic allegiances: For example, many Beja belong to the Khatmiyya order, which is led by the Arab riverain Mirghani family. Otherwise, most of the divisions reinforce cleavages, particularly the Arab/Muslim separation from the African/non-Muslim.

Geography and Economy

Sudan is predominantly rural, with a third of the population living in urban areas. (That share is growing as people flee famine in the outlying provinces.) Two-thirds of the labor force works in agriculture or herding, and a third of the gross national product was derived from agriculture until the advent of oil exports in 1999. Northern Sudan is largely flat savannah and desert where cattle, camels, and sheep are raised, sorghum and sesame are grown, and gum arabic is harvested. Meat and grains are sold in large amounts to oil-rich states in Arabia, and gum arabic is exported to Europe and the United States for use in soft drinks. Along the Blue and White Nile, south of Khartoum, cotton and peanuts are grown for export on large-scale agricultural holdings called schemes. Rains are heavier in the tropical south than in the north, but development in the south has been hampered by civil war and difficult conditions, such as the vast swamp known as the Sudd (barrier). The north suffers from severe deforestation: The forest cover diminished annually by one percent in the 1980s and 1990s due to overgrazing, charcoal burning, and drought.

Industry is based on agriculture, and its products are consumed within the country. Manufactures include sugar refining, flour milling, vegetable oil processing, canning, and textiles. Cement, tire, and cigarette production is also important for the domestic market.

There are substantial untapped deposits of copper and other minerals in Sudan. Chinese and French joint ventures export gold from the Red Sea Hills. Oil has now become the most important resource.

In 1979 the Chevron Oil Company discovered oil in Bentiu (Upper Nile) and Muglad (southern Kordofan). Extraction was blocked by the civil war that resumed in 1983. Chevron sold out its share to the Sudanese government in 1984. In the mid-1990s the government resumed exploration, utilizing the skills of a consortium of Canadian, European, Chinese, and Malaysian oil companies. Export began in August 1999, when the pipeline to Port Sudan was completed. Since then Sudan has become self-sufficient in oil. It exports increasing amounts of crude and refined oil, particularly to East Africa and Asia. The Canadian Talisman company sold its share to the Indian state oil company in 2002 after widespread protests by human-rights groups against the government's expulsion of Nuer from Upper Nile in order to ensure central control over this vital resource.

Oil exports have enabled Sudan to have a positive balance of trade for the first time in decades and to start to reduce its heavy debt burden. That burden is estimated at $23 billion, most of which is long in arrears. U.S. government sanctions, imposed in November 1997, ban U.S. companies from conducting transactions in Sudan, with the exception of those for gum Arabic.

Urban Areas

The urban population is centered in the Three TownsKhartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum Northwhich serve as the political and economic capital and together house at least 1.2 million people. Port Sudan (pop. 300,000), built by the British in 1910, remains the only port on the Red Sea, although efforts have been made to revive the historic port at Sawakin. Kassala (pop. 235,000) and Qadarif (pop. 190,000) are the main towns in the grain-growing east, and Wad Madani (pop. 220,000) is the capital of the cotton-growing Gezira area. In the west, al-Ubayyad (pop. 230,000) serves as the capital of Kordofan, and al-Fashiron the border with Chadis the capital of Darfur; both are important trading centers. Juba (pop. 115,000), the capital of Equatoria, was the capital of the south when it was unified from 1972 to 1983; it has been isolated from the surrounding countryside by the rebel forces of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) since 1985.

History since 1821

The territory that now comprises Sudan was not unified until the Turco-Egyptian invasion of 1821, which imposed centralized control over most of the north relatively quickly. The Turco-Egyptian forces did not conquer Darfur until 1874 and never subdued the southern tribes. Their raiders seized gold, ivory, and slaves from the south, deeply alienating those African peoples.

The indigenous politico-religious movement called the Mahdiyya overthew the Turco-Egyptian government in 1885 and ruled until 1898. Muhammad Ahmad ibn Abdullah called himself the mahdi (messiah) in 1881, gathering his followers on Aba Island (White Nile) and later in Kordofan, from which he launched attacks against the Turco-Egyptian army. The mahdi died shortly afterward. His successor (khalifa) Abdullahi al-Taʿisha consolidated control over northern Sudan and attempted to seize territory from Ethiopia and Egypt. He established a religious-based government that continued to raid into the southern areas, seizing slaves and promoting Islam.

British forces, marching south from Egypt, overran the country in 1898 to 1899 and imposed the Anglo-Egyptian condominium. Messianic anti-colonial revolts broke out in the west and center, and were finally subdued in 1912. Sultan Ali Dinar was not defeated in Darfur until 1916. In the early 1920s nationalist outbreaks called for Sudan's independence, or for its linking with Egypt: Those two strands persisted in the northern nationalist movement until Egypt renounced its claim to Sudan in the 1950s. One enduring legacy of British rule was the virtual separation of the south from the north; from 1922 to 1946 the southern provinces and Nuba Mountains were isolated from the rest of the country. Meanwhile, considerable economic and educational development took place in the north, centered on the Gezira agricultural scheme (opened in 1925) and Gordon Memorial College (opened in 1903). In 1938 the graduates formed the Graduates Congress, which lobbied for independence during World War II. By then, several northern political parties also competed for influence. Britain established a legislative assembly in 1948; this led to self-government in 1952 and the election of the first parliament in the next year. Sudanization of the army and administration began in 1954. Those measures primarily benefited the north; the south was compelled to accept a subordinate position at the Juba Conference (1947) and hardly benefited from Sudanization.

When Sudan gained independence on 1 January 1956, parliamentary rule was established. The two leading religious ordersthe Ansar and the Khatmiyyapredominated in the new governments, although secular nationalists, communists, and southerners gained token positions in the parliament. The democratic institutions had not had taken root by the time General Ibrahim Abbud instituted military rule on 17 November 1958. His rule lasted until November 1964, when a popular uprising led to a renewed democracy. That, too, proved unstable as the traditional politicians jockeyed for power, were challenged from the religious right by Hasan alTurabi's Islamist Party, and failed to deal with the rebellion that had accelerated in the south during Abbud's era.

Young officers led by Muhammad Jaʿfar Numeiri launched a coup d'état on 25 May 1969 and crushed the traditional political groups. Numeiri turned against his left-wing allies in 1971 but mollified the south by granting regional autonomy in 1972. He instituted major economic development programs in the mid-1970s, backed by the party, the Sudan Socialist Union. Economic development remained hampered by poor planning, high-level corruption, and skyrocketing oil prices. In 1977 to 1978 Numeiri sought to widen his base of support by reconciling with the traditional and fundamentalist religious forces. That led to the gradual Islamization of the political system. Numeiri instituted Islamic criminal punishments in September 1983, which he enforced against widespread opposition by draconian emergency measures. By spring 1985 Numeiri's support was confined to Turabi's Islamic movementnorthern secularists, the banned political forces, and the southerners (who resumed their civil war in 1983 under the banner of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement) actively sought to overthrow him.

In April 1985 a popular uprising led to a bloodless coup and the installation of a one-year Transitional Military Council. Elections were held in April 1986, and northern religious-oriented political movements won 85 percent of the seats. Turabi's National Islamic Front (NIF) won 20 percent of those seats. African (southern and Nuba) and northern secularist (communist) parties controlled only 15 percent of the parliamentary seats. Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party and the Ansar religious order, became prime minister. Despite his pledges to institute a liberal government and to negotiate an end to the fighting, he failed to cancel Numeiri's Islamic laws. Instead, he announced that he would not enforce them in the south, a move that alienated the southerners as well as northern secularists. Mahdi's rival Muhammad Uthman alMirghani, leader of the Khatmiyya Sufi order and head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), won acclaim for reaching an agreement with the SPLM to freeze the Islamic laws pending the convening of a constitutional conference. Mahdi and Turabi joined to force the DUP out of the government, but the senior army officers then compelled Mahdi to endorse Mirghani's agreement and negotiate with the SPLM.

On 30 June 1989, hours before the government could finalize the freezing of Islamic law, Brigadier Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir overthrew the government. The coup d'état was orchestrated by Turabi's NIF, which vehemently opposed the annulment of Islamic law. Once again, constitutional institutions were banned: Bashir closed the parliament, banned political parties and trade unions, and shut down independent newspapers. The government accelerated the fighting in the south and in the Nuba mountains. The civil war was redefined as a jihad (holy war) against infidels and apostates. The regime instituted Islamic legal codes in 1991 and an Islamic constitution in 1999. In the late 1990s it reintroduced carefully controlled parliamentary elections and a direct presidential election, which Bashir won handily. In late 1999 Bashir and Turabi had a major falling-out after Turabi sought to sideline Bashir. Bashir, using his power as president and commander of the military and security services, decreed emergency rule and closed down the parliament. From early 2001 until late 2003, Bashir kept Turabi either in jail or under house arrest.

The political and trade union groups that had benefited from the short-lived parliamentary system formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in October 1989. NDA members inside Sudan attempted to mount protests and petitions, which were crushed by the military regime. Most of the leaders fled into exile, from which they continued to try to overthrow the government and rein-stitute democracy. The NDA attempted to mount military operations in eastern Sudan, but it lacked the strength to bring down the regime either militarily or politically. The government even attracted Mahdi back to Khartoum in 2000, but it failed to provide him with a significant political position.

Sudan Today

The geostrategic location of Sudan contributes to its sociopolitical instability. Located astride the Nile River, which flows north from Ethiopia and Uganda into Sudan and through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea, Sudan has been the object of contention by those neighbors as well as external powers. Egypt cannot tolerate the presence of a hostile government in Khartoum, because the Egyptian economy depends on the Nile waters. Sudan and Egypt worry that Ethiopia might dam the Blue Nile and deprive them both of water. Sudan also borders the Red Sea, a major artery of international trade, and adjoins nine countries (Egypt, Libya, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea). Lacking the capacity to police its remote desert borders and its lengthy coast along the Red Sea, Sudan is vulnerable to incursion. Refugees from neighboring civil wars and famines find haven in Sudan, and hostile governments support rebellious Sudanese groups. Sudanese governments have meddled in the politics of such neighbors as Ethiopia, Chad, and Uganda, although those countries can easily undertake reprisals.

Some view Sudan as a terra media, lying between and linking Africa and the Arab world; others see it as lying on the fault line between the two peoples, torn between them and unable to unite. Nearly fifteen years after achieving independence, Sudan's national identity and political system are still violently contested.

see also abbud, ibrahim; ansar, al-; beja; dinka; khartoum; kordofan; nubians; nuer; numeiri, muhammad jaʿfar; omdurman; shilluk; sudanese civil wars; turabi, hasan al-; umma party.


Abdel Rahim, Muddathir. Imperialism and Nationalism in the Sudan. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1969.

Bechtold, Peter K. Politics in the Sudan: Parliamentary and Military Rule in an Emerging African Nation. New York: Praeger, 1976.

Beshir, Mohamed Omer. Revolution and Nationalism in the Sudan. London: Rex Collings, 1974.

Khalid, Mansour. The Government They Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan's Political Evolution. London: Kegan Paul, 1990.

Lesch, Ann M. The Sudan: Contested National Identities. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Lobban, Richard A., Jr.; Kramer, Robert S.; and Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. Historical Dictionary of the Sudan, 3d edition. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Mahmoud, Fatima Babiker. The Sudanese Bourgeoisie: Vanguard of Development? London: Zed Books, 1984.

Voll, John Obert, and Voll, Sarah Potts. The Sudan: Unity and Diversity in a Multicultural State. Boulder, CO: West-view Press, 1985.

Woodward, Peter. Sudan, 18981989: The Unstable State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

ann m. lesch

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Official name: Republic of the Sudan

Area: 2,505,810 square kilometers (967,499 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Kinyeti (3,187 meters/10,456 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 2,192 kilometers (1,362 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest; 1,880 kilometers (1,168 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest

Land boundaries: 7,687 kilometers (4,776 miles) total boundary length; Egypt 1,273 kilometers (791 miles); Ethiopia 1,606 kilometers (998 miles); Kenya 232 kilometers (144 miles); Uganda 435 kilometers (270 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo 628 kilometers (390 miles); Central African Republic 1,165 kilometers (724 miles); Chad 1,360 kilometers (845 miles); Libya 383 kilometers (238 miles); Eritrea 605 kilometers (376 miles)

Coastline: 853 kilometers (530 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Sudan is located in northeast Africa on the western border of the Red Sea. It is the largest country in Africa and shares borders with Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. With an area of about 2,505,810 square kilometers (967,499 square miles), it is slightly more than one-fourth the size of the United States. Sudan is divided into twenty-six states.


Sudan has no outside territories or dependencies.


Sudan has an equatorial climate. The northern plains and desert region are hot and dry with maximum temperatures reaching 42°C (108°F) from March through June. November through February are the coolest months, with average temperatures of 32°C (90°F) and nighttime lows of 4°C (40°F). Average temperatures in the central and southern regions are 27°C (80°F) and 29°C (85°F) respectively.

Rainfall increases from north to south. In the north, annual rainfall totals about 10 centimeters (4 inches). The southern regions receive 76 to 127 centimeters (30 to 50 inches) of rain during the long rainy season; as a result, these areas support a rich variety of tall grasses, shrubs, and trees. The lush vegetation in the south contrasts sharply with the deserts of Northern Province, where the occasional rains vanish in the parched sand and vast areas are devoid of both vegetation and people.


Sudan is an immense, sparsely populated plain, with plateaus or mountains near the borders in the west, the southeast, and along the Red Sea coast in the northeast.

The most prevalent landscape is semiarid savannah, a mixture of short grasses, scattered brush, and short trees.

Narrow belts of irrigated cropland, no more than a few miles wide, bisect the northern savannah and deserts along the main Nile River; these farmlands also run along the White Nile, the Blue Nile, and the Atbara Rivers. They contrast sharply with the arid savannah or barren desert which is just beyond the limits of irrigation. Only 5 percent of the land in Sudan is arable; of the remaining terrain, 24 percent is meadows and pastures, 20 percent is forest and woodland, and 51 percent is semiarid desert.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Sudan has an eastern coast on the Red Sea, which is a narrow, landlocked sea that separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula. In the north, it links to the Mediterranean through the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal. In the south, the sea links to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea through the strait of Bab el Mandeb. The Red Sea is therefore a major shipping route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aden. At its widest point, it is only 326 kilometers (205 miles). The Red Sea is rather deep, with an average depth of 500 meters (1,640 feet). It reaches a maximum depth of 2,000 meters (6,562 feet), and it features red coral reefs and extensive coral gardens.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Natural harbors of the Red Sea exist at Port Sudan (Bur Sudan) and Sawākin.


Sudan has very few lakes. The largest ones are artificial, resulting from dams on the Blue Nile and Upper Nile Rivers. The backwaters of the Aswan Dam in Egypt created Lake Nubia, the largest lake in Sudan. The lake begins in Egypt and extends into Sudan as far as the northern terminus of the Sudanese railway at Wadi Halfa. Its total surface area during the wet season is 968 square kilometers (373 square miles).


With a total length of about 6,693 kilometers (4,160 miles), the Nile is the longest river in the world, although other rivers carry more water. The Nile is a combination of the White Nile, which originates in Lake Victoria in Uganda and Tanzania, and the Blue Nile, which originates in Ethiopia. These rivers meet in Sudan near the city of Khartoum.

From the confluence of the White and Blue Nile Rivers near Khartoum, the Upper Nile winds northward through this desert area for a distance of 1,287 kilometers (800 miles) inside Sudan. It provides the only water for the narrow strips of cultivation along the riverbanks. Virtually no rain falls in the area between Atbara and the Egyptian frontier at Wadi Halfa; Wadi Halfa is often completely rainless for years at a time. The settlements along the Nile depend on various types of irrigation or periodic flooding for their livelihood.

Within Sudan, the Blue Nile experiences seasonal flooding caused by torrential rains in the Ethiopian highland regions. Half of the people of Sudan are dependent on waters from these floods. During flood times, the flow of the Blue Nile may be sixty times greater than that of its low-water period.

An important tributary to the Upper Nile is the Atbara River, similar in seasonal behavior to the Blue Nile and also originating in the mountains of Ethiopia. It traverses northwest across eastern Sudan and empties into the Nile at the town of Atbara. The gradient of the Nile from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa on the northern border of Sudan is very steep. Along this lower reach are five of the Nile's six cataract areas of swift, rough water.

The Nile crosses the northern border of Sudan into Egypt and eventually empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

All perennial streams of significant size in Sudan are part of the Nile system. There are also numerous wadis, or intermittent streams, which flow only part of the year. Some drain into the Nile during the rainy season and stand empty at other times. Others drain into swamps that have no outlet to a river or simply disappear into the sands of an inland basin during the dry months. For example, the Wadi Howar and the Wadi Al-Ku, both originating in the Teiga Plateau region, disappear into the desert. Another stream of similar origin, the Wadi Azum, eventually reaches the Lake Chad drainage system to the west. Some of these intermittent streams carry large amounts of water during the rainy season and support local areas of agriculture. The Mareb, also known as the Gash or Al-Qāsh in Sudan, and the Baraka River flow into northeast Sudan from the Eritrean highlands during the months of July, August, and September. The Mareb River provides water for important irrigation schemes north of Kassalā and the Baraka feeds the Tawkar delta near the Red Sea coast. The Bahr el Arab in southwestern Sudan is another important seasonal river.

Permanent swamps surround the river systems in the southern provinces and Upper Nile, covering about 129,500 square kilometers (50,000 square miles), where there is an excess of water for most of the year. This phenomenon is best characterized by the Sudd, a vast region of swamps and marshes covering an area of about 7,770 square kilometers (3,000 square miles) and extending from Boma National Park several hundred miles northwestward to the Al-Ghazāl River, ending at the Machar Marshes near the Ethiopian border. The vast swamp and marsh area is as monotonous as the featureless plains farther north, but there is considerable variety of terrain and vegetation in the uplands south of the swamps, particularly near the Uganda and Kenya borders. The largest swamp in the Sudd, Badigeru Swamp, is located between the Al-Jabal and Boma National Park. Lotagipi Swamp is located in the southeast corner of Sudan, at the junction with Kenya and Ethiopia.


A line running east to Atbara and Port Sudan from the western frontier at 16°N latitude defines the approximate southern limit of desert, which covers the northern quarter of Sudan. The Libyan Desert extends into Sudan from the northwest. In the northeast, the Nubian Desert covers the area between the Nile and the Red Sea Hills. These deserts are part of the larger Sahara Desert.

The desert west of the Nile supports only a few Arab nomads who cover great expanses of the parched country in search of grazing land for their camels, sheep, or goats. They usually find pastures in the south, where a little rain occurs during most years and grass springs to life. Water is available only in scattered oases, such as Al Atrun in the western desert and Well No. 6 on the railway between Wadi Halfa and Abu Hamand. Terrain in this northern desert consists of broad areas of sand and flintrock with occasional hills of basalt, granite, and limestone, often surrounded by banks of sand deposited by the wind.


The topography of the country outside the mountains and the Nile valley is basically a flat plain extending some 804 to 965 kilometers (500 to 600 miles) from east to west and more than 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles) from north to south. It is a part of the broad savannah belt that begins at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert and extends across the African continent. For hundreds of square kilometers the only features relieving the monotony of the Sudanese plain are low rolling hills (sometimes referred to locally as mountains) or extensive sand dunes created thousands of years ago and partially or entirely fixed by vegetation. Soils are composed mainly of clay, much of which is impermeable and difficult to cultivate, or of sand that contains little clay or humus (organic matter).


The country of Sudan lies within the greater region also known as the Sudan. The Sudan region covers an area that is south of the Sahara Desert but north of the equator. It extends from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the mountains of Ethiopia.

The Sahara Desert, which covers an area of 9,065,000 square kilometers (3,500,000 square miles), is the largest desert in the world. It covers the entire region of North Africa, from the Atlantic coast in the west to the Red Sea in the east. It borders the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the north and extends through the Sudan region. Scientists believe that during the Ice Age (fifty thousand to one hundred thousand years ago), the Sahara was covered with shallow lakes that provided water for large areas of lush vegetation.


Sudan has four mountain or upland zones. To the northeast near the coast lie the Red Sea Hills. In the west are the Marra, a mountain range that slopes to the border with Chad, and in central Sudan south of El Obeid are the Nuba Mountains, a relatively minor system that rises above the clay plains. The fourth zone includes the Imatong and Dongotona Mountains in the extreme south along the Uganda border.

The Red Sea Hills are eroded outcroppings of base rock rising from a narrow coastal plain. The abruptness of their eastern slope gives rise to gushing torrents during winter rains that are blown in from the sea. The western slopes incline more slowly toward the Nile and receive only light summer rains. North of the Atbara-Port Sudan railway, the hills extend into the desert and are bare of vegetation except in the valleys. South of the railway, however, increased rainfall permits the growth of a few trees and thorny shrubs. The area is inhospitable and supports only semi-nomadic herders, who also cultivate hardy varieties of millet in the wetter valleys. They move their flocks laterally across the mountains or to higher or lower altitudes, depending upon the vagaries of the rainfall at various elevations. The highest of the Red Sea Hills are above 2,133 meters (7,000 feet).

The only major mountain range in western Sudan, the Marra, stands near the city of El Fasher, rising above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) in elevation. The Marra is of volcanic origin and its valleys are relatively fertile. The upper elevations receive a slightly higher rainfall than the surrounding plains and the relatively rich soil of the valley is more productive. Some of the rocks and peaks have a sculptured appearance resulting from the action of the rains upon the soft volcanic rock. Streams deposit much of the eroded rock on the desert floor below, but on the higher hillsides, artificial terraces of ancient origin retain topsoil and water. Although cultivation is generally dependent upon the seasonal rains, some valleys and terraces are irrigated with water from small perennial mountain streams.


The Pyramids of Meroe, in central Sudan, stand as monuments to the kingdom of Nubia, known as Kush to the Egyptians. Sudanese kings reigned over Nubia for a relatively short period of time, from about 712 b.c. until 657 b.c. The ancient region of Nubia covered part of the area of modern-day southern Egypt and northern Sudan. (Much of this area was submerged recently by the Aswan Dam's creation of Lake Nassar.) When the Sudanese kings controlled the region, the capital of their kingdom was at Meroe, near what is now Khartoum. More than fifty pyramids that once served as part of the royal cemetery still stand in this desert region. Though smaller than the pyramids of Egypt (the largest of these measures about 51 meters/ 170 feet at its base), the Pyramids of Meroe are the world's largest collection of pyramids in one place.

The Nuba Mountains of central Sudan are scattered granitic masses, rising as much as 914 meters (3,000 feet) above a level clay plain. They are covered in many areas by variations of savannah vegetation. Some slopes were once terraced and then abandoned by subsistence farmers. Water is not as scarce in the mountains as in the surrounding plains. Wells are numerous in the open valleys, and a few short mountain streams continue to flow throughout the year.

The Imatong and Dongotona Mountains stand in the extreme south, with the lower Didinga Hills flanking them to the east. The Imatongs are the highest mountains in Sudan, with peaks above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) including Mount Kinyeti, the highest point in the country, which rises to a height of 3,187 meters (10,456 feet). The Dongotona Mountains, lying east of the Imatongs, reach a maximum height of about 2,529 meters (8,300 feet). Both mountain chains have a considerable coverage of rainforest.


There are no major caves or canyons in Sudan.


Plateau-like formations characterize the mountainous areas and their foothills and, therefore, tend to rim the country, serving as watersheds for the great Nile basin drainage. The best examples are found in the large Teiga Plateau north of the Marra in the west and the extensive Ironstone Plateau in the southwest. Near the Imatongs and Dongotona Mountains area in the southeast, on the border with Ethiopia, sits the Boma Plateau, the site of a national park. West of this region, north of the mountains and northeast of Ironstone Plateau, lower plateaus slope generally northward toward the Sudd. In the north, the Libyan Desert runs across the Jebel Abyad Plateau. Along the Red Sea coast in the northeast, there are also some smaller plateaus.


There is an extensive system of dams and reservoirs built throughout the course of the Nile River. These dams serve to control flood waters, irrigate agriculture lands, provide drinking water, and generate hydroelectric power. For instance, in Sudan, the Sannar Dam on the Blue Nile allows for irrigation of the Al-Jazirah plain and produces hydroelectric power. The Ar-Rusayris Dam, also on the Blue Nile, helps contain water from Lake Nassar (at the Egyptian border) for use in Sudan.



Africa South of the Sahara 2002: Sudan. London: Europa Publishers, 2001.

Lobban, Jr. Richard A., Robert S. Kramer, and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. Historical Dictionary of the Sudan. 3rd ed. Meutchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Moorehead, Alan. The Blue Nile. New York: HarperTrade, 2000.

Williams, Martin A. J., and D. A. Adamson. Land Between Two Niles: Quaternary Geology and Biology of the Central Sudan. Salem, NH: MBS, 1982.

Web Sites

The Embassy of Republic of Sudan in London. (accessed May 6, 2003).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of the Sudan
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 30,080,373
Language(s): Arabic (official), Nubian, TaBedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic, English
Literacy rate: 46.1%
Area: 2,505,810 sq km
GDP: 11,516 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 3
Number of Television Sets: 2,380,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 79.1
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 56,400
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 1.9
Number of Radio Stations: 14
Number of Radio Receivers: 7,550,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 251.0
Number of Individuals with Computers: 100,000
Computers per 1,000: 3.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 30,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 1.0

Background & General Characteristics

In 2002, the Republic of Sudan continued to be embroiled in a civil warMuslim north versus Christian/ animist souththat began just prior to its independence in 1956. While brief periods of peace and parliamentary rule have resulted in a revived press structure, military flare-ups and revolving dictatorships contribute to a heavily regulated and controlled press.

By all accounts, this pattern of activity began during the Sudanese parliamentary period prior to the military coup in 1989 that put Islamic fundamentalist Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in power. Most private publications were closed at this time. The Al-Bashir government and its official censors, appointed in 1999, want Sudan portrayed in a positive manner both within the country and internationally.

The capital city, Khartoum, is in the mountainous central region where the Blue and White Nile Rivers converge before flowing north as the Nile proper. The city is the center of most press activity.

Nature of the Audience

Sudan is Africa's largest country, and the topography varies widely from region to region: the north is arid desert; the south is tropical and prone to flooding; and the central region is mountainous. According to the CIA Factbook, the people of Sudan mirror its diverse landscape: blacks (52 percent), Arab (39 percent), Beja (6 percent), foreigners (2 percent), and others (1 percent). The north is comprised mostly by Arabs (70 percent Sunni Muslim) and by black Africans in the south (indigenous beliefs 25 percent and Christian beliefs 5 percent, mostly around Khartoum). The CIA's July 2001 estimate of Sudan's population is 36,080,373, with 45 percent of the population less than fourteen years of age. claims a slightly different religious distribution within the population: 73 percent of the population Sunni Muslim, mostly in the north; 17 percent tribal religions; and the remainder Christian, primarily Catholic.

The official language of Sudan is Arabic, but English, Nubian, Ta Bedawie, Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, and Sudanic languages are also spoken.

Given a literacy rate of 46 percent, workforce distribution, and the daily life of the average Sudanese citizen, the print media's readership is composed of academics, government officials, and economically privileged individuals.


Prior to Al-Bashir's coup, over 55 daily and weekly newspapers and magazines were published, many representing political parties' views. In Khartoum alone, 19 Arabic-language and three English dailies are published. All of these publications are banned by Al-Bashir's government, and over 1,000 journalists are dismissed or even arrested. The government in the 1990s licensed few publications, and official censors edited these. In 2001 a presidential directive lifted censorship on twelve of the sixteen daily newspapers, offering a glimmer of hope for those advocating the free expression and growth of print media in Sudan.

Economic Framework

The economy of Sudan is unstable and chronically victim to adverse weather, weak agricultural prices, and the on-going civil war. A 1996 estimate of the labor force of 11 million held that the majority worked in agriculture (80 percent), industry and commerce (10 percent), government (6 percent), and unemployment was at 4 percent (CIA Factbook ).

Oil production85,000 barrels per day in 2001 has bolstered the economy since 1999. Seventy percent of the oil is exported, giving Sudan its first recorded trade surplus in 1999-2000; the remaining oil is processed for domestic consumption. Thanks in large part to oil production, the return of regular rains, and irrigation systems, the country experienced economic growth (6 percent) in 2001 (CIA Factbook ).

Press Laws

Article 25 of the 1998 Sudanese Constitution (authorized English version) explicitly offers Sudanese citizens "freedom of opinion and expression":

There shall be guaranteed for citizens the freedom of pursuing any science or adopting any doctrine of opinion or thought withoutcoercion by authority; and there shall be guaranteed the freedom of expression, reception of information, publication and the press withoutprejudice security, order, safety and public morals, all as regulated by law. (The Sudan Foundation)

Article 26 guarantees "freedom of association and organization." Despite articles 25 and 26, the Sudanese government maintains tight controls on the press.

The National Press Council oversees the media and determines who has overstepped the boundaries of the law and offended Islam or the government. Sudan's court system often supports the government's position and fines or imprisons journalists.


Censorship, both self-and government-imposed, has been strong under President Al Bashir's leadership. There have been many documented arrests, closings, suspensions, seizures of copy, abductions, and threats, but there is little documentation of physical torture or the death of journalists. Throughout the 1990s, censorship, searches, and fines were well documented, however.

Even with a 2001 Sudanese presidential directive suspending censorship for most daily papers, there is no de facto freedom of expression or organization since texts that contradict the government view are considered problematic and do not reach publication because of internal censorship at most papers. Most journalists do not want to risk losing their licenses.

Newspapers taking more independent stances or even challenging the government are often met with harassment and legal action. For example, the English-language daily Khartoum Monitor gave strong voice to southern grievances in 2001 and received retribution in the way of harassment, fines, suspensions, and arrests. The paper then returned with a less critical tone.

State-Press Relations

In the 1980s, 1990s, and into the early 2000s, the civil war left more than 1.5 million dead from violence and famine. Many other Sudanese citizens have been homeless or unemployed, and many have escaped the war by fleeing the nation. This internal strife has left a countryside scattered with landmines, refugees, and orphans.

In 1999, Al-Bashir declared a state of emergency, invoked constitutional powers allotted in Articles 131 and 132, suspended parts of the constitution, and chose official censors to monitor the press.

On November 29, 2001, a presidential directive lifted censorship on twelve of the sixteen daily newspapers. Khartoum Monitor, Alwanal-Watan, and al-Rai al-Akhjeri are still subject to censorship, however, because of controversial articles and multiple suspensions. According to the World Press Freedom Review, for example, on September 11, 2001, the National Press Publications Council ordered a three-day ban on the Khartoum Monitor because of articles published in August and September "which were judged 'harmful' to relations between the country's north and south."

Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the Popular National Congress (PNC), has become a vocal advocate of press freedom. The Bashir-Turabi struggle and the lifting of prepublication censorship in late 2001 are hopeful signs of a movement toward press freedom in Sudan.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Foreign journalists have been the targets of criticism from both the Sudanese government and from international organizations. Foreign journalists can receive the same treatment as many of their Sudanese counterparts: harassment, fines, detention, arrest, and banishment. When critiqued by the international community, the consequences for foreign journalists can be verbal and written criticism.

Both The Daily Telegram (London) and the Washington Post have been criticized for their coverage of Sudan. In June 1998, the Sudan Foundation and the British-Sudanese Public Affairs Council co-authored "The Daily Telegram and Coverage of Sudan: Islamophobia, Poor Journalism, or Bad Judgment?" and "Taking Sides in Sudan: The Daily Telegraph's Support for Continuing War and Starvation in Sudan." Both articles take exception to the newspaper's facts and judgments and offer counterarguments with evidence gathered and conclusions drawn from more reputable sources. These two groups also criticized a 2001 Washington Post article on the same grounds.

Overall, media coverage of Sudan has been limited because of drought and wartime conditions, which make travel between the north and the south difficult. Ethnic and religious differences and the difficulty or absence of learning of such differences among both journalists and the Sudanese themselves are another challenge to those in the media industry.

News Agencies

The Sudan News Agency (SUNA), the official news agency, disseminates information in Arabic, English, and French to both foreign and domestic services.

Broadcast Media

The Sudanese government controls all broadcast media.


The Sudan National Radio Corporation provides national and regional programs. According to the CIA Factbook, in 1998 Sudan had 12 AM, 1 FM, and 1 one shortwave station. These stations offer programming in Arabic, English, and several Sudanese languages. In 1997, 7.55 million radios were estimated to be available, which translates to 4.8 listeners per radio and twelve million listeners per station.


Sudan National Broadcasting Corporation (SNBC) is the official government television broadcaster. Sudan had three television stations in 1997, and the CIA Factbook stated that there are 2.38 million television sets. The television industry has a low saturation rate across the country and is more commonly viewed in urban areas than in rural areas.

Electronic News Media

The Internet has extensive resources on Sudan including domestic newspapers on-line, governmental Web sites, and private and public organizations designed to educate and inform the public. One such organizationThe Sudan Foundation, based in Englandseeks to inform readers, connect relocated Sudanese, and battle erroneous images of Sudan.

There is great concern about the Internet in Sudan; hard-line Muslims want a full ban on Internet access because they fear it fills young Sudanese with Western images and ideology.

Sudan had one Internet Service Provider (ISP) and approximately 10,000 Internet users in 2002 (CIA Fact-book ).

Education and Training

Sudan's institutions of higher education in 2002 include Ahfad University for Women, Bayan Science and Technology College, Canadian University of Sudan, College of Technological Sciences (CTS), ComputerMan College, Neelain University, Sudan University of Science and Technology, and University of Khartoum, which has four campuses, including Central, Shambat, Education, and Medical. These schools have no identified journalism programs; presumably journalists are trained outside of Sudan, likely in England, or learn the trade through apprenticeship.

In 2000, the state press council offered Internet training to journalists. International Journalists' Network offers training in Sudan and sponsors an exchange between Sudanese and Ugandan journalists that began March 28, 2002.


There are several issues to consider when examining the future of the press in Sudan. First, according to 2002 data from the CIA, there is a program of "Arabization" in place whose aim is to limit the number of newspapers available in languages other than Arabic, thus curtailing readership throughout the country and the views of southern Sudan. If the "Arabization" is successful, then northern Sudan's views will be those prevalent in print and the south will be silenced. If the program is unsuccessful, the south may claim a moral victory and nothing more.

Second, according to the Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA)the largest armed opposition group which formed in 1984the increase in oil production has escalated the civil war by both funding the Bashir government's attacks on the southern Sudan, forcing its residents off the land surrounding the oil fields in central and southern Sudan (Bergmann). Any increase in violence creates more challenges to those reporting for the media. However, it is the battle over oil revenues that many credit with creation of the third issue to consider, the peace talks.

Under the support of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), President Al-Bashir and John Garang, southern rebel leader, met face to face for the first time in Kampala, Uganda, in 2001 (Odhiambo); and in July 2002, the two leaders signed the Machakos Protocol in Kenya. The Protocol addresses the two largest political problems facing Sudan: self-determination for the south and separation of church and state. According to the Protocol, the southern states will vote on a referendum on independence after the interim period, and the southern states are exempt from Islamic Sharia'a. Further negotiation is to focus on oil revenue distribution and arrangements for a permanent cease-fire. After six months, the Protocol calls for ceasing all hostilities, establishing institutions and mechanisms, and establishing a constitutional framework.

If peace persists as a result of the Machakos Protocol, then the press in the south will likely be less censored and have growth opportunities. Additionally the possibility of the south declaring independence raises questions about the way the press would be viewed and treated in a newly created nation.

The dynamic political situation in Sudan is likely to continue and a free, or at least freer, press is a possibility. However, the daily strife of most Sudanese makes this struggle for press freedom a victory or defeat that may never have an impact on the majority.

Significant Dates

  • 1989: Bashir coup, interim constitution of 1985 suspended, all independent newspapers closed.
  • 1998: New constitution implemented on June 30.
  • 1999: President Bashir partially suspends 1998 constitution; Turabi removed as speaker of Parliament; local and foreign news media ordered not to cover political parties that have not registered with the government; official government censors chosen.
  • 2001: Presidential directive lifts pre-publication censorship on 16 daily newspapers.
  • 2002: Sudan government and SPLA sign Machakos Protocol on July 20.


Amnesty International. "Annual Report 2000: Sudan." Available from:

ArabNet. "Sudan: Overview." Available from

Bergmann, Kristina. "Disputed Oil Production in Southern Sudan." World Press Review, July 2001. Available from

CIA Factbook. "Sudan." Available from

International Journalists' Network. "Sudan." Available from

IRIN (United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network). "US, UN Hail Peace Deal." Available from

Odhiambo, Luke. "Regional Summit in Nairobi to re-launch Sudanese peace process," 31 May 2001. Available from

POGAR: Programme on Governance in the Arab Region. "Sudan." Available from

"Sudan: 2001 World Press Freedom Review." Available from

Sudan Foundation. "The Daily Telegraph and Coverage of Sudan: Islamophobia, Poor Journalism, or Bad Judgement? A statement of Concern by the Sudan Foundation and the British-Sudanese Public Affair Council, June 1998." Available from

. "Taking Sides in Sudan: The Daily Telegraph's Support for Continuing War and Starvation in Sudan. A statement of Concern by the Sudan Foundation and the British-Sudanese Public Affair Council, June 1998." Available from

United States Committee for Refugees. Worldwide Refugee Information. "Current Country Update: Sudan." Available from

Williams, Dana G. "U.S. news media limited in coverage of Sudan's civil war," 8 August 2001. Available from

Suzanne Drapeau Morley

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2,505,810sq km (967,493 sq mi)



capital (population):

Khartoum (1,244,500)


Military regime

ethnic groups:

Sudanese Arab 49%, Dinka 12%, Nuba 8%, Beja 6%, Nuer 5%, Azande 3%


Arabic (official)


Islam 73%, traditional beliefs 17%, Christianity (Roman Catholic 4%, Protestant 2%)


Dinar = 10 Sudanese pounds

Republic in ne Africa. Sudan is Africa's largest country by area. It extends from the arid Sahara in the n to an equatorial swamp region (the Sudd) in the s. Much of the land is flat, but there are mountains in the ne and se; the highest point is Kinyeti, at 3187m (10,456ft). The River Nile (Bahr el Jebel) runs sn, entering Sudan as the White Nile, converging with the Blue Nile at Khartoum, and flowing n to Egypt.

Climate and Vegetation

The deserts in the n are virtually rainless. Khartoum is prone to summer dust storms (haboobs). From the bare deserts of the n, the land merges into dry grasslands and savanna. Dense rainforests grow in the s.

History and Politics

The ancient state of Nubia extended into n Sudan. In c.2000 bc, it became a colony of Egypt. From the 8th century bc to 350, it was part of the Kush kingdom. Christianity was introduced in the 6th century. From the 13th to 15th centuries, n Sudan came under Muslim control, and Islam became the dominant religion.

In 1821 Muhammad Ali's forces occupied Sudan. Anglo-Egyptian forces, led by General Gordon, attempted to extend Egypt's influence into the s. Muhammad Ahmad led a Mahdi uprising, which briefly freed Sudan from Anglo-Egyptian influence. In 1898, General Kitchener's forces defeated the Mahdists, and in 1899 Sudan became Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, governed jointly by Britain and Egypt.

Opposition to colonial rule continued until independence in 1956. The s Sudanese, who are predominantly Christians or followers of traditional beliefs, revolted against the dominance of the Muslim n, and civil war broke out. In 1958, the military seized power. Civilian rule was re-established in 1964, but overthrown again in 1969, when Gaafar Muhammad Nimeri seized control. In 1972, s Sudan received considerable autonomy, but unrest persisted. In 1983, the imposition of strict Islamic law sparked off further conflict between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the s. In 1985, Nimeri was deposed and a civilian government installed. In 1989, the military, led by Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, established a Revolutionary Command Council. Civil war continued in the s. Peace initiatives foundered as the SPLA split over the nature of independence from the North. In 1996, Bashir was re-elected, virtually unopposed. The National Islamic Front (NIF) dominated the government and was believed to have strong links with Iranian terrorist group. In 1996, the UN imposed sanctions on Sudan. In 1997, an SPLA offensive, led by John Garang, made major advances. A South African peace initiative (1997) led to the formation of a Southern States' Co-ordination Council. In 1997, the US imposed sanctions on Bashir's regime and Madeline Albright met rebel leaders. In 1998, the USA bombed a pharmaceuticals factory in Khartoum. In 1999, Bashir declared a state of emergency and dissolved parliament. In 2000, Bashir dismissed Speaker Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan's Islamicist leader.


Sudan is a poor economy (2000 GDP per capita US$1000). Food shortages and a refugee crisis worsened its economic plight Agriculture employs 62% of the workforce. The leading crops are cotton, millet, wheat, and sesame. Nomadic herders raise livestock. Mineral resources include chromium, gold, gypsum, and oil. Manufacturing industries produce cement, fertilizers and textiles. The main exports are cotton, gum arabic, and sesame seeds.

Political map

Physical map


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SUDAN, also the Sudan. A country of north-eastern Africa. Languages: ARABIC (official), Nubian, and other indigenous languages. In the early 19c, the northern Sudan was controlled by Egypt. In 1899, the entire region became a condominium of Britain and Egypt (the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan), and in 1956, it became independent. The division between Arab and Nubian Muslims in the north and pagan and Christian societies in the south has been an on-going source of unrest. English was widely used in the 19c and earlier 20c, but currently has no official status. Of all the African nations colonially associated with Britain and English, Sudan has had least interest in maintaining the language, although English is more attractive to the non-Muslim south than to the Arabic-using north.

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

In Arabic, it is called Jumhuriyat as-Sudan, or simply as-Sudan.


Identification. In the Middle Ages, Arabs named the area that is present-day Sudan "Bilad al-Sudan," or "land of the black people." The north is primarily Arab Muslims, whereas the south is largely black African, and not Muslim. There is strong animosity between the two groups and each has its own culture and traditions. While there is more than one group in the south, their common dislike for the northern Arabs has proved a uniting force among these groups.

Location and Geography. Sudan is in Africa, south of Egypt. It shares borders with Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. It is the largest country in Africa and the ninth largest in the world, covering one million square miles (2.59 million square kilometers). The White Nile flows though the country, emptying into Lake Nubia in the north, the largest manmade lake in the world. The northern part of the country is desert, spotted with oases, where most of the population is concentrated. To the east, the Red Sea Hills support some vegetation. The central region is mainly high, sandy plains. The southern region includes grasslands, and along the border with Uganda the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dense forests. The southern part of the country consists of a basin drained by the Nile, as well as a plateau, and mountains, which mark the southern border. These include Mount Kinyeti, the highest peak in Sudan. Rainfall is extremely rare in the north but profuse in the south, which has a wet season lasting six to nine months. The central region of the country generally gets enough rain to support agriculture, but it experienced droughts in the 1980s and 1990s. The country supports a variety of wildlife, including crocodiles and hippopotamuses in the rivers, elephants (mainly in the south), giraffes, lions, leopards, tropical birds, and several species of poisonous reptiles.

The capital, Khartoum, lies at the meeting point of the White and Blue Niles, and together with Khartoum North and Omdurman forms an urban center known as "the three towns," with a combined population of 2.5 million people. Khartoum is the center for commerce and government; Omdurman is the official capital; and North Khartoum is the industrial center, home to 70 percent of Sudan's industry.

Demography. Sudan has a population of 33.5 million. Fifty-two percent of the population are black and 39 percent are Arab. Six percent are Beja, 2 percent are foreign, and the remaining 1 percent are composed of other ethnicities. There are more than fifty different tribes. These include the Jamala and the Nubians in the north; the Beja in the Red Sea Hills; and several Nilotic peoples in the south, including the Azande, Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk. Despite a devastating civil war and a number of natural disasters, the population has an average growth rate of 3 percent. There is also a steady rural-urban migration.

Linguistic Affiliation. There are more than one hundred different indigenous languages spoken in Sudan, including Nubian, Ta Bedawie, and dialects of Nilotic and Nilo-Hamitic languages. Arabic is the official language, spoken by more than half of the population. English is being phased out as a foreign language taught in the schools, although it is still spoken by some people.

Symbolism. The flag adopted at independence had three horizontal stripes: blue, symbolizing the Nile River; yellow, for the desert; and green, for the forests and vegetation. This flag was replaced in 1970 with one more explicitly Islamic in its symbolism. It consists of three horizontal stripes: red, representing the blood of Muslim martyrs; white, which stands for peace and optimism; and black, which represents the people of Sudan and recalls the flag flown by the Mahdi during the 1800s. It has a green triangle at the left border, which symbolizes both agriculture and the Islamic faith.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The first known civilization to inhabit the region of present-day Sudan were the Meroitic people, who lived in the area between the Atbara and Nile Rivers from 590 b.c.e. until 350 b.c.e., when the city of Meroe was ransacked by the Ethiopians. At about this time, three Christian kingdomsNobatia, Makurra, and Alwacame into power in the area. Several hundred years later, in 641, the Arabs arrived, bringing the Islamic faith with them. They signed a treaty with the Christians to coexist in peace, but throughout the next seven centuries, Christianity gradually died out as more Arabs immigrated to the area and gained converts. In 1504 the Funj people arrived, initiating a rule that would last for nearly three centuries. This was known as the Black Sultanate. Little is known about the origins of the Funj; it is speculated that perhaps they were part of the Shilluk or some other southern tribe that migrated north. Funj rulers converted to Islam, and their dynasty saw the spread of the religion throughout the area.

During the 1800s, the slave trade became a growing business in the region. There had long been a system of domestic slavery, but in the nineteenth century, the Egyptians began taking Sudanese slaves to work as soldiers. Also, European and Arab traders who came to the area looking for ivory established a slave-trade market. This tore apart tribal and family structures and almost entirely eliminated several of the weaker tribes. It was not until the twentieth century that the slave trade was finally abolished.

In 1820, Egypt, at the time part of the Ottoman Empire, invaded the Sudan, and ruled for sixty years until the Sudanese leader Muhammad Ahmed, known as the Mahdi, or "promised one," took over in 1881.

When the British took control of Egypt in 1882, they were wary of the Mahdi's increasing power. In the Battle of Shaykan in 1883, followers of the Sudanese leader defeated the Egyptians and their British supporting troops. In 1885 the Mahdi's troops defeated the Egyptians and the British in the city of Khartoum. The Mahdi died in 1885 and was succeeded by Khalifa Abdullahi.

In 1896 the British and the Egyptians again invaded Sudan, defeating the Sudanese in 1898 at the Battle of Omdurman. Their control of the area would last until 1956. In 1922 the British adopted a policy of indirect rule in which tribal leaders were invested with the responsibility of local administration and tax collection. This allowed the British to ensure their dominion over the region as a whole, by preventing the rise of a national figure and limiting the power of educated urban Sudanese.

Throughout the 1940s an independence movement in the country gained momentum. The Graduates' Congress was formed, a body representing all Sudanese with more than a primary education and whose goal was an independent Sudan.

In 1952 Egypt's King Farouk was dethroned and replaced by the pro-Sudanese General Neguib. In 1953 the British-Egyptian rulers agreed to sign a three-year preparation for independence, and on 1 January 1956 Sudan officially became independent.

Over the next two years the government changed hands several times, and the economy floundered after two poor cotton harvests. Additionally, rancor in the south grew; the region resented its under representation in the new government. (Of eight hundred positions, only six were held by southerners.) Rebels organized a guerrilla army called the Anya Nya, meaning "snake venom."

In November 1958 General Ibrahim Abboud seized control of the government, banning all political parties and trade unions and instituting a military dictatorship. During his reign, opposition grew, and the outlawed political parties joined to form the United Front. This group, along with the Professional Front, composed of doctors, teachers, and lawyers, forced Abboud to resign in 1964. His regime was replaced by a parliamentary system, but this government was poorly organized, and weakened by the ongoing civil war in the south.

In May 1969 the military again took control, this time under Jaafar Nimeiri. Throughout the 1970s, Sudan's economy grew, thanks to agricultural projects, new roads, and an oil pipeline, but foreign debts also mounted. The following decade saw a decline in Sudan's economic situation when the 1984 droughts and wars in Chad and Ethiopia sent thousands of refugees into the country, taxing the nation's already scarce resources. Nimeiri was originally open to negotiating with southern rebels, and in 1972 the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement declared the Southern Region a separate entity. However, in 1985 he revoked that independence, and instituted new laws based on severe interpretations of the Islamic code.

The army deposed Nimeiri in 1985 and ruled for the following four years, until the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), under the leadership of General Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, took control. The RCC immediately declared a state of emergency. They did away with the National Assembly, banned political parties, trade unions, and newspapers, and forbade strikes, demonstrations, and all other public gatherings. These measures prompted the United Nations to pass a resolution in 1992 expressing concern over human rights violations. The following year, the military government was disbanded, but General Bashir remained in power as Sudan's president.

Internal conflict between the north and the south continued, and in 1994 the government initiated an offensive by cutting off relief to the south from Kenya and Uganda, causing thousands of Sudanese to flee the country. A peace treaty between the government and two rebel groups in the south was signed in 1996, but fighting continued. In 1998 peace talks, the government agreed to an internationally supervised vote for self-rule in the south, but a date was not specified, and the talks did not result in a cease-fire. As of the late 1990s, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) controlled most of southern Sudan.

In 1996 the country held its first elections in seven years. President Bashir won, but his victory was protested by opposition groups. Hassan al-Turabi, the head of the fundamentalist National Islamic Front (NIF), which has ties with President Bashir, was elected president of the National Assembly. In 1998 a new constitution was introduced, that allowed for a multiparty system and freedom of religion. However, when the National Assembly began to reduce the power of the president, Bashir declared a state of emergency, and rights were again revoked.

National Identity. Sudanese tend to identify with their tribes rather than their nation. The country's borders do not follow the geographical divisions of its various tribes, which in many cases spill over into neighboring countries. Since independence, Muslims in the north have attempted to forge a national Sudanese identity based on Arabic culture and language, at the expense of southern cultures. This has angered many southerners and has proved more divisive than unifying. Within the south, however, the common fight against the north has served to bring together a number of different tribes.

Ethnic Relations. More than one hundred of Sudan's tribes coexist peacefully. However, relations between the north and the south have a history of animosity that dates to independence. The north is largely Arab, and the south has resented their movement to "Arabize" the country, replacing indigenous languages and culture with Arabic. This conflict has led to bloodshed and an ongoing civil war.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Only 25 percent of the population live in cities or towns; the remaining 75 percent are rural. Khartoum boasts beautiful, tree-lined streets and gardens. It is also home to a large number of immigrants from rural areas, who come looking for work and who have erected shantytowns on the city's fringes.

The biggest town in the south is Juba, near the borders with Uganda, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has wide, dusty streets and is surrounded by expanses of grassland. The town has a hospital, a day school, and a new university.

Other cities include Kassala, the country's largest market town, in the east; Nyala, in the west; Port Sudan, through which most international trade passes; Atbara, in the north; and Wad Medani in the central region, where the independence movement originated.

Architecture is varied, and reflects regional climatic and cultural differences. In the northern desert regions, houses are thick-walled mud structures with flat roofs and elaborately decorated doorways (reflecting Arabic influence). In much of the country, houses are made of baked bricks and are surrounded by courtyards. In the south, typical houses are round straw huts with conical roofs, called ghotiya. Nomads, who live throughout Sudan, sleep in tents. The style and material of the tents vary, depending on the tribe; the Rashiaida, for example, use goat hair, whereas the Hadendowa weave their homes from palm fiber.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The day usually begins with a cup of tea. Breakfast is eaten in the mid- to late morning, generally consisting of beans, salad, liver, and bread. Millet is the staple food, and is prepared as a porridge called asida or a flat bread called kisra. Vegetables are prepared in stews or salads. Ful, a dish of broad beans cooked in oil, is common, as are cassavas and sweet potatoes. Nomads in the north rely on dairy products and meat from camels. In general, meat is expensive and not often consumed. Sheep are killed for feasts or to honor a special guest. The intestines, lungs, and liver of the animal are prepared with chili pepper in a special dish called marara.

Cooking is done in the courtyards outside the house on a tin grill called a kanoon, which uses charcoal as fuel.

Tea and coffee are both popular drinks. Coffee beans are fried, then ground with cloves and spices. The liquid is strained through a grass sieve and served in tiny cups.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Great Sacrifice, it is customary to kill a sheep, and to give part of the meat to people who cannot afford it themselves. The Eid al-Fitr, or Breaking of the Ramadan Fast, is another joyous occasion, and involves a large family meal. The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad is primarily a children's holiday, celebrated with special desserts: pink sugar dolls and sticky sweets made from nuts and sesame seeds.

Basic Economy. Sudan is one of the twenty-five poorest countries in the world. It has been afflicted by drought and famine and by staggering foreign debt, which nearly caused the country to be expelled from the International Monetary Fund in 1990. Eighty percent of the labor force works in agriculture. Yields have suffered in recent years from decreased rainfall, desertification, and lack of sufficient irrigation systems; currently only 10 percent of arable land is cultivated. Major crops include millet, groundnuts, sesame seed, corn, wheat, and fruits (dates, mangoes, guavas, bananas, and citrus). In areas not conducive to farming, people (many of them nomads) support themselves by raising cattle, sheep, goats, or camels. Ten percent of the labor force is employed in industry and commerce, and 6 percent in the government. There is a shortage of skilled workers, many of whom emigrate to find better work elsewhere. There also is a 30 percent unemployment rate.

Land Tenure and Property. The government owns and operates the country's largest farm, a cotton plantation in the central El Gezira region. Otherwise, much of the land is owned by the different tribes. The various nomadic tribes do not make a claim to any particular territory. Other groups have their own systems for landownership. Among the Otoro in the east-central region, for example, land can be bought, inherited, or claimed by clearing a new area; among the Muslim Fur people in the west, land is administered jointly by kin groups.

Commercial Activities. Souks, or markets, are the centers of commercial activity in the cities and villages. One can buy agricultural products (fruits and vegetables, meat, millet) there, as well as handicrafts produced by local artisans.

Major Industries. Industries include cotton ginning, textiles, cement, edible oils, sugar, soap distilling, and petroleum refining.

Trade. Cotton is Sudan's primary export, accounting for more than a quarter of foreign currency that enters the country. However, production is vulnerable to climatic fluctuations, and the crop is often hurt by drought. Livestock, sesame, groundnuts, oil, and gum arabic also are exported. These products go to Saudi Arabia, Italy, Germany, Egypt, and France. Sudan imports large quantities of goods, including foodstuffs, petroleum products, textiles, machinery, vehicles, iron, and steel. These products come from China, France, Britain, Germany, and Japan.

Division of Labor. It is traditional for children to follow in the professions of their parents; for the majority of the population, this means continuing in the farming lifestyle; 80 percent of the workforce is in agriculture; 10 percent is in industry and commerce; 6 percent is in government; and 4 percent is unemployed (without a permanent job). In many tribes, political positions, as well as trades and livelihoods, also are hereditary. It is possible nowadays for children to choose professions different from their parents', but most people are constrained by financial considerations. There are facilities for training in a variety of professions, but Sudan still suffers from a shortage of skilled workers.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Northern Sudanese have more access to education and economic opportunities and generally are better off than southerners. In the south, many of the upper class and politically powerful are Christian and attended missionary schools. In many Sudanese tribes, class and social status are traditionally determined by birth, although in some cases it took a good deal of savvy by the upper classes to maintain their positions. Among the Fur group, ironworkers formed the lowest rung of the social ladder and were not allowed to intermarry with those of other classes.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Among some southern tribes, the number of cattle a family owns is a sign of wealth and status.

Western clothing is common in the cities. Muslim women in the north follow the tradition of covering their heads and entire bodies to the ankles. They wrap themselves in a tobe, a length of semi-transparent fabric which goes over other clothing. Men often wear a long white robe called a jallabiyah, with either a small cap or a turban as a head covering. In rural areas people wear little clothing, or even none at all.

Facial scarring is an ancient Sudanese custom. While it is becoming less common today, it still is practiced. Different tribes have different markings. It is a sign of bravery among men, and beauty in women. The Shilluk have a line of bumps along the forehead. The Nuer have six parallel lines on the forehead, and the Ja'aliin mark lines on their cheeks. In the south, women sometimes have their entire bodies scarred in patterns that reveal their marital status and the number of children they have had. In the north, women often have their lower lips tattooed.

Political Life

Government. Sudan has a transitional government, as it is supposedly moving from a military junta to a presidential system. The new constitution went into effect after being passed by a national referendum in June 1998. The president is both chief of state and head of government. He appoints a cabinet (which is currently dominated by members of the NIF). There is a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, which consists of 400 members: 275 elected by the populace, 125 chosen by an assembly of interests called the National Congress (also dominated by the NIF). However, on 12 December 1999, uneasy about recent reductions in his powers, President Bashir sent the military to take over the National Assembly.

The country is divided into twenty-six states, or wilayat. Each is administered by an appointed governor.

Leadership and Political Officials. Government officials are somewhat removed from the people; on the local level, governors are appointed rather than elected. A military coup in 1989 reinforced the general feeling of distance between the government and much of the populace. All political parties were banned by the military government. The new constitution legalized them, but this law is under review. The most powerful political organization is the NIF, which has a strong hand in government operations. In the south, the SPLA is the most visible political/military organization, with the goal of self-determination for the region.

Social Problems and Control. There is a twotiered legal system, of civil courts and religious courts. Previously, only Muslims were subject to religious rulings, but Bashir's fundamentalist government holds all citizens to its strict interpretation of Shari'a, or Islamic law. Separate courts handle offenses against the state. Political instability has resulted in high crime rates, and the country is unable to prosecute many of its criminals. The most common crimes are related to the ongoing civil war in the country. Religion and a sense of responsibility to the community are powerful informal social control mechanisms.

Military Activity. The military is composed of 92,000 troops: an army of 90,000, a navy of 1,700, and an air force of 300. The age of service is eighteen. A draft was instituted in 1990 to supply the government with soldiers for the civil war. It is estimated that Sudan spends 7.2 percent of its GNP on military expenses. The Sudanese government estimates that the civil war costs the country one million dollars a day.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government supports limited health and welfare programs. Health initiatives concentrate primarily on preventive medicine.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Various aid organizations have played a role in helping Sudan deal with its significant economic and social problems, including the World Food Program, Save the Children Fund, Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, and Doctors without Borders. The World Health Organization has been instrumental in eliminating smallpox and other diseases.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women take care of all domestic tasks and child rearing. In rural areas it is traditional for women to work in the fields as well. While a woman's life in town was traditionally more restricted, it is increasingly common to see females employed outside the home in urban areas. However, it is still the case that only 29 percent of the paid workforce is female.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Sudan is a patriarchal society, in which women are generally accorded a lesser status than men. However, after age forty, women's lives become less constrained. Men and women live largely separate lives, and tend to socialize primarily with members of their own sex. Men often meet in clubs to talk and play cards, while women usually gather in the home.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages are traditionally arranged by the parents of the couple. This is still the case today, even among wealthier and more educated Sudanese. Matches are often made between cousins, second cousins, or other family members, or if not, at least between members of the same tribe and social class. Parents conduct the negotiations, and it is common for a bride and groom not to have seen each other before the wedding. There is generally a significant age difference between husband and wife. A man must be economically self-sufficient and able to provide for a family before he can marry. He has to be able to furnish an acceptable bride-price of jewelry, clothes, furniture, and among some tribes, cattle. Among the middle class, women usually are married after they finish school, at age nineteen or twenty; in poorer families or in rural areas, the age is younger. Polygyny was a common practice in the past. Divorce, although still considered shameful, is more common today than it once was. Upon dissolution of a marriage, the bride-price is returned to the husband.

Domestic Unit. Extended families often live together under the same roof, or at least nearby. Husband and wife typically move in with the wife's family for at least a year after marriage, or until they have their first child, at which point they move out on their own (although usually to a house in close proximity to the wife's parents).

Inheritance. Islamic law has a provision for inheritance by the oldest male son. Other inheritance traditions vary from tribe to tribe. In the north, among the Arab population, property goes to the eldest son. Among the Azande, a man's property (which consisted primarily of agricultural goods) was generally destroyed upon his death to prevent the accumulation of wealth. Among the Fur, property is usually sold upon the death of its owner; land is owned jointly by kin groups and therefore not divided upon death.

Kin Groups. In different regions of Sudan, traditional clan structures function differently. In some regions, one clan holds all positions of leadership; in others, authority is delegated among various clans and subclans. Kinship ties are reckoned through connections on both the mother's and the father's side, although the paternal line is given stronger consideration.


Infant Care. There are several practices to protect newborn babies. For example, Muslims whisper Allah's name in the baby's ear, and Christians make the sign of the cross in water on his or her forehead. An indigenous tradition is to tie an amulet of a fish bone from the Nile around the child's neck or arm. Women carry their babies tied to their sides or backs with cloth. They often bring them along to work in the fields.

Child Rearing and Education. Boys and girls are raised fairly separately. Both are divided into age-specific groups. There are celebrations to mark a group's graduation from one stage to the next. For boys, the transition from childhood to manhood is marked by a circumcision ceremony.

The literacy rate is only 46 percent overall (58% for men and 36% for women), but the overall education level of the population has increased since independence. In the mid-1950s fewer than 150,000 children were enrolled in primary school, compared with more than 2 million today. However, the south still has fewer schools than the north. Most of the schools in the south were established by Christian missionaries during colonial times, but the government closed these schools in 1962. In villages, children usually attend Islamic schools known as khalwa. They learn to read and write, to memorize parts of the Qur'an, and to become members of an Islamic communityboys usually attend between ages five and nineteen, and girls generally stop attending after age ten. (Girls generally receive less education than boys, as families often consider it more valuable for their daughters to learn domestic skills and to work at home.) As payment at the khalwa, students or their parents contribute labor or gifts to the school. There also is a state-run school system, which includes six years of primary school, three years of secondary school, and either a three-year college preparatory program or four years of vocational training.

Higher Education. Early in the twentieth century, under Anglo-Egyptian rule, the only educational institution beyond the primary level was Grodon Memorial College, established in 1902 in Khartoum. The original buildings of this school are today part of the University of Khartoum, which was founded in 1956. The Kitchener School of Medicine, opened in 1924, the School of Law, and the Schools of Agriculture, Veterinary Science, and Engineering are all part of the university. The capital city alone has three universities. There also is one in Wad Medani and another in the southern city of Juba. The first teacher training school, Bakht er Ruda, opened in 1934, in the small town of Ed Dueim. In addition, a number of technical and vocational schools throughout the country offer training in nursing, agriculture, and other skilled professions. Ahfad University College, which opened in 1920 in Omdurman, as a girls' primary school, has done a great deal to promote women's education and currently enrolls about eighteen hundred students, all female.


Greetings and leave-takings are interactions with religious overtones; the common expressions all have references to Allah, which are taken not just metaphorically but also literally. "Insha Allah" ("if Allah wills") is often heard, as is "alhamdu lillah" ("may Allah be praised").

Food is an important part of many social interactions. Visits typically include tea, coffee, or soda, if not a full meal. It is customary to eat from a common serving bowl, using the right hand rather than utensils. In Muslim households, people sit on pillows around a low table. Before the meal, towels and a pitcher of water are passed around for hand washing.


Religious Beliefs. Seventy percent of the population are Sunni Muslim, 25 percent follow traditional indigenous beliefs, and 5 percent are Christian.

The word "Islam" means "submission to God." It shares certain prophets, traditions, and beliefs with Judaism and Christianity, the main difference being the Muslim belief that Muhammad is the final prophet and the embodiment of God, or Allah. The foundation of Islamic belief is called the Five Pillars. The first, Shahada, is profession of faith. The second is prayer, or Salat. Muslims pray five times a day; it is not necessary to go to the mosque, but the call to prayer echoes out over each city or town from the minarets of the holy buildings. The third pillar, Zakat, is the principle of almsgiving. The fourth is fasting, which is observed during the month of Ramadan each year, when Muslims abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours. The fifth Pillar is the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which every Muslim must make at some time in his or her life.

The indigenous religion is animist, ascribing spirits to natural objects such as trees, rivers, and rocks. Often an individual clan will have its own totem, which embodies the clan's first ancestor. The spirits of ancestors are worshiped and are believed to exercise an influence in everyday life. There are multiple gods who serve different purposes. Specific beliefs and practices vary widely from tribe to tribe and from region to region. Certain cattle-herding tribes in the south place great symbolic and spiritual value on cows, which sometimes are sacrificed in religious rituals.

Christianity is more common in the south than in the north, where Christian missionaries concentrated their efforts prior to independence. Most of the Christians are of the wealthier educated class, as much of the conversion is done through the schools. Many Sudanese, regardless of religion, hold certain superstitions, such as belief in the evil eye. It is common to wear an amulet or a charm as protection against its powers.

Religious Practitioners. There are no priests or clergy in Islam. Fakis and sheiks are holy men who dedicate themselves to the study and teaching of the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book. The Qur'an, rather than any religious leader, is considered to be the ultimate authority and to hold the answer to any question or dilemma one might have. Muezzins give the call to prayer and also are scholars of the Qur'an. In the indigenous religion of the Shilluk, kings are considered holy men and are thought to embody the spirit of the god Nyikang.

Rituals and Holy Places. The most important observation in the Islamic calendar is that of Ramadan. This month of fasting is followed by the joyous feast of Eid al Fitr, during which families visit and exchange gifts. Eid al-Adha commemorates the end of Muhammad's Hajj. Other celebrations include the return of a pilgrim from Mecca, and the circumcision of a child.

Weddings also involve important and elaborate rituals, including hundreds of guests and several days of celebration. The festivities begin with the henna night, at which the groom's hands and feet are dyed. This is followed the next day with the bride's preparation, in which all her body hair is removed, and she, too, is decorated with henna. She also takes a smoke bath to perfume her body. The religious ceremony is relatively simple; in fact, the bride and groom themselves are often not present, but are represented by male relatives who sign the marriage contract for them. Festivities continue for several days. On the third morning, the bride's and groom's hands are tied together with silk thread, signifying their union. Many of the indigenous ceremonies focus on agricultural events: two of the most important occasions are the rainmaking ceremony, to encourage a good growing season, and the harvest festival, after the crops are brought in.

The mosque is the Muslim house of worship. Outside the door there are washing facilities, as cleanliness is a necessary prerequisite to prayer, which demonstrates humility before God. One also must remove one's shoes before entering the mosque. According to Islamic tradition, women are not allowed inside. The interior has no altar; it is simply an open carpeted space. Because Muslims are supposed to pray facing Mecca, there is a small niche carved into the wall pointing out in which direction the city lies.

Among the Dinka and other Nilotic peoples, cattle sheds serve as shrines and gathering places.

Death and the Afterlife. In the Muslim tradition, death is followed by several days of mourning when friends, relatives, and neighbors pay their respects to the family. Female relatives of the deceased wear black for several months to up to a year or more after the death. Widows generally do not remarry, and often dress in mourning for the rest of their lives. Muslims do believe in the afterlife.

Medicine and Health Care

Technically, medical care is provided free of charge by the government, but in actuality few people have access to such care because of the shortage of doctors and other health care personnel. Most trained health workers are concentrated in Khartoum and other parts of the north. Health conditions in most of the country are extremely poor. Malnutrition is common, and increases people's vulnerability to diseases. It is especially pernicious in children. Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation also are problems, which allow disease to spread rapidly among the population. Malaria, dysentery, hepatitis, and bilharizia are widespread, particularly in poor and rural areas. Bilharzia is transmitted by bathing in water infected with bilharzia larvae. It causes fatigue and liver damage, but once detected can be treated. Schistosomiasis (snail fever) and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) affect significant numbers of people in the south. Other diseases include measles, whooping cough, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

AIDS is a growing problem in Sudan, particularly in the south, near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Khartoum also has a high infection rate, due in part to emigration from the south. The spread of the disease has been exacerbated by uninformed health care workers transmitting it through syringes and infected blood. The government currently has no policy for dealing with the problem.

Secular Celebrations

The principal secular celebrations are on 1 January, Independence Day, and 3 March, National Unity Day

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. There is a National Theater in Khartoum, which hosts plays and other performances. The College of Fine and Applied Arts, also in the capital, has produced a number of well-regarded graphic artists.

Literature. The indigenous Sudanese literary tradition is oral rather than written and includes a variety of stories, myths, and proverbs. The written tradition is based in the Arab north. Sudanese writers of this tradition are known throughout the Arab world.

The country's most popular writer, Tayeb Salih, is author of two novels, The Wedding of Zein and Season of Migration to the North, which have been translated into English. Contemporary Sudanese poetry blends African and Arab influences. The form's best-known practitioner is Muhammad al-Madhi al-Majdhub.

Graphic Arts. Northern Sudan, and Omdurman in particular, are known for silver work, ivory carvings, and leatherwork. In the south, artisans produce carved wooden figures. In the deserts in the eastern and western regions of the country, most of the artwork is also functional, including such weapons as swords and spears.

Among contemporary artists, the most popular media are printmaking, calligraphy, and photography. Ibrahim as-Salahi, one of Sudan's best-known artists, has attained recognition in all three forms.

Performance Arts. Music and dance are central to Sudanese culture and serve many purposes, both recreational and religious. In the north, music reveals strong Arabic influence, and often involves dramatic recitations of verses from the Qur'an. In the south, the indigenous music relies heavily on drums and complex rhythms.

One ritual in which music plays a large part is the zar, a ceremony intended to cure a woman of possession by spirits; it is a uniquely female ritual that can last up to seven days. A group of women play drums and rattles, to which the possessed woman dances, using a prop as an object associated with her particular spirit.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Because of its extreme poverty and political problems, Sudan cannot afford to allocate resources to programs in the physical and social sciences. The country does have several museums in Khartoum, including the National History Museum; the Ethnographical Museum; and the Sudanese National Museum, which houses a number of ancient artifacts.


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Johnson, Douglas H., ed. Sudan, 1998.

Jok, Jok Madut. Militarization, Gender, and Reproductive Health in Southern Sudan, 1998.

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Web Sites

"Sudan." CIA World Factbook 2000,

Eleanor Stanford

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Sudan. Former Anglo-Egyptian condominium. Britain became involved in the Sudan as a result of her occupation of Egypt in 1882. Formerly an Egyptian dependency, the Sudan was conquered by Muslim revivalist forces in 1885. Fearing that French colonial expansion in the region might threaten her control of the Red Sea route to India, Britain agreed to assist Egypt in reconquering the Sudan, which was achieved at the battle of Omdurman in 1898. Britain and Egypt then ruled the country as a condominium and Britain tried to expand the Sudan's limited economy by encouraging cotton-growing. Independence was granted in 1956.

Kenneth Ingham

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Native Sudanese include Arabs (an estimated 39 percent of the population); Nilotic or Negroid peoples, of whom the Dinka form the largest portion and constitute about 10 percent of the national population. In all, there are nearly 600 ethnic groups.

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SudanAbadan, Abidjan, Amman, Antoine, Arne, Aswan, Avon, Azerbaijan, Baltistan, Baluchistan, Bantustan, barn, Bhutan, Dagestan, darn, dewan, Farne, guan, Hahn, Hanuman, Hindustan, Huascarán, Iban, Iran, Isfahan, Juan, Kazakhstan, khan, Koran, Kurdistan, Kurgan, Kyrgyzstan, macédoine, Mahon, maidan, Marne, Michoacán, Oman, Pakistan, pan, Pathan, Qumran, Rajasthan, Shan, Siân, Sichuan, skarn, soutane, Sudan, Tai'an, t'ai chi ch'uan, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Taklimakan, tarn, Tatarstan, Tehran, Tenochtitlán, Turkestan, Turkmenistan, tzigane, Uzbekistan, Vientiane, yarn, Yinchuan, yuan, Yucatán •Autobahn • Lindisfarne •Bildungsroman • Nisan • Khoisan •Afghanistan • bhagwan • Karajan

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