Background on Sudan and Darfur

The Sudan, located in northeast Africa, is the largest country on the African continent. It occupies an area of about one million square miles and has a diverse population of about 28 million people, comprising 56 ethnic groups, which are subdivided into 597 tribes. Together, these tribes speak more than 400 different languages and dialects.

For over 21 years, Sudan was engulfed in a bitter and devastating civil war between its Northern and Southern regions. The civil war in Sudan cost of the lives of over two million people and displaced four million others and is currently undergoing reconstruction and struggling towards peace.




Sudan is a country in northeast Africa that was engulfed in a civil war between its northern and southern regions for 21 years. Sudan’s National Islamic Front (NIF) government, operating under the name of the National Congress Party, is an oppressive regime that has instigated violence against communities in the south of the country, populated largely by Christians and Animists.  Government-backed militias have engaged in systematic abuses of human rights against the population of the south, terrorizing its people with kidnapping, slave raids, torture, and massacres.  The government in Khartoum has facilitated and participated in these atrocities

A 1989 military coup by radical Islamic leader General Omar al-Bashir spurred a dramatic increase in slave raids, which continue today. Armed - but not paid - militiamen destroy villages and take their pay in human booty. Grown men are shot, but women and children - considered easily coercible - are the marauders' most prized reward. Forced labor without pay, severe beatings, acute hunger, forced religious and cultural conversion, rape, and ritual female genital mutilation are the grim reality for the tens of thousands of children and young mothers now in bondage.

The people of the South bitterly resisted this Northern assault by taking up arms to wage a war of resistance and liberation. However, in the warfare, which lasted until 2005, the South has lost over two million people (about eight percent of the country's population). Five million of its people were internally displaced, with another half million scattered in neighboring countries and abroad as refugees. Schools, health services and transportation systems are almost non-existent in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, thus rendering two generations of children in these regions uneducated and illiterate, as well as making the whole population vulnerable to numerous health hazards.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 put an end to the war, and required national elections within five years, and a referendum on independence for South Sudan within six years. In April 2010, Omar al-Bashir easily won national elections that were tainted by voter intimidation and poor infrastructure. Attention is now turned to the January 2011 referendum, which many believe will be successful, creating a new nation in Southern Sudan. However, many international observers fear that they do not have sufficient infrastructure to be an independent nation, and an oil revenue-sharing agreement has not been signed, resulting in a high possibility of a return to conflict.