Full name: Republic of Sudan
Head of State: Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
Population: 38. 6 Million (UN 2007)

Ethnic composition: Sudan has 597 tribes that speak over 400 different dialects. There are two distinct major cultures – Arabs with Nubian roots and non-Arab Africans – consisting of hundreds of ethnic and tribal divisions and language groups. The Arabs live primarily in the Northern States of Sudan. The 22 million Sudanese who live in this region are Arabic-speaking Muslims. Among these are several distinct tribal groups, including the camel raising Kababish of northern Kordofan; the Dongolawiyin (الدنقلاويين); the Ga’aliyin (الجعلين); the Rubatab (الرباطاب); the Manasir (المناصير); the Shaiqiyah (الشايقيّة); the Bideiria and the semi-nomadic Baggara of Kurdufan and Darfur.

In the southern region the majority of the population practices traditional indigenous beliefs, although some practice Christianity. The south also contains many tribal groups and many more languages are used than in the north. The Dinka, whose population is estimated at more than 1 million, are the largest of the many black African tribes of Sudan. Along with the Shilluk and the Nuer they are Nilotic tribes. The Azande, Bor, and Jo Luo are “Sudanic” tribes in the west, and the Acholi and Lotohu live in the extreme south, extending into Uganda.

Languages: According to the 2005 constitution the two official languages are Arabic and English. Sudanese Arabic is the most widely spoken language in the country, and is dominant in much of the north. Other languages in the north include Nubian Languages and Beja and Bedawi. Among the most spoken languages in southern Sudan, are Dinka and Nuer.

Major religions: Islam, Christianity

Who are Sudan’s Refugees?
Since independence in 1956 Sudan has been wracked by a series of civil wars, which have led to vast numbers of people being displaced. Refugees come from all over the Sudan, but the majority come from Southern Sudan, and more recently the western province of Darfur. The majority of refugees find shelter in neighbouring countries: Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia all have substantial Sudanese refugee populations. It is difficult to estimate the number of Sudanese refugees. In 2006 the UN estimated that 670,906 refugees fled the country. It is estimated that the conflicts since independence have displaced around 4 million people. The Darfur conflict has displaced an estimated 2 million people. Some of these have left Sudan, while others are ‘internal refugees’ forced to leave their homes and housed in camps in other areas of Sudan.

First Sudanese Civil War 1955-1972
In 1955, the year before independence, a civil war began between northern and southern Sudan. The southerners, anticipating independence, feared the new nation would be dominated by the north. Historically, the north of Sudan had closer ties with Egypt and was predominantly Arab and Muslim while the south was predominantly a mixture of Christianity and Animism. These divisions had been further emphasized by the British policy of ruling the north and south under separate administrations. In 1972, a cessation of the north-south conflict was agreed upon under the terms of the Addis Ababa, which gave the South considerable autonomy.

Second Sudanese Civil War 1983 - 2005
In 1983, the civil war was reignited following President Gafaar Nimeiri’s decision to attempt to create a federated Sudan including states in southern Sudan. The president also attempted to impose Islamic Sharia law throughout the country. The war involved government forces and the SPLA, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, led by John Garang.

A cease-fire was declared between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in July 2002. During peace talks, which continued through 2003, the government agreed to a power-sharing government for six years, to be followed by a referendum on self-determination for the south. Fighting on both sides continued throughout the peace negotiations.

The Nairobi Comprehensive Peace Agreement 9 January 2005, granting southern Sudan autonomy for six years, to be followed by a referendum about independence. It created a co-vice president position and allowed the north and south to split oil deposits equally, but also left both the north's and south's armies in place. John Garang, the south's peace agreement appointed co-vice president died in a helicopter crash on August 1, 2005, three weeks after being sworn in. This resulted in riots, but the peace was eventually able to continue.


As the long north-south civil war was reaching a resolution, tribal clashes occurred in the western region of Darfur. Rebel groups began attacking government targets, saying the region was being neglected by Khartoum. The rebels say the government is oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs. There are two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), although both groups have split, some along ethnic lines.

In retaliation, the government launched a military and police campaign in Darfur. Refugees spoke of government aircraft bombing villages, after which the Arab Janjaweed militia would ride in on camels and horses to slaughter, rape and steal. The refugees and some western observers said there was a deliberate attempt to drive black Africans out of Darfur. The government admits mobilising "self-defence militias", but denies links to the Janjaweed and says the problems have been exaggerated.

After strong international pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government promised to disarm the Janjaweed. But so far there is little evidence this has happened. Trials have been announced in Khartoum of some members of the security forces suspected of abuses - but this is viewed as part of a campaign against UN-backed attempts to get some 50 key suspects tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Millions have fled their destroyed villages, with some 2m in camps near Darfur's main towns. But there is not enough food, water or medicine. The Janjaweed patrol outside the camps and Darfuris say the men are killed and the women raped if they venture too far in search of firewood or water.

Some 200,000 have also sought safety in neighbouring Chad, but many of these are camped along a 600km stretch of the border and remain vulnerable to attacks from Sudan. The refugees are also threatened by the diplomatic fallout between Chad and Sudan as the neighbours accuse one another of supporting each other's rebel groups.

Timeline: Key Events (BBC)

1955 - British Equatorial Corps rebel, mutiny is suppressed but mutineers form core of Anya Nya Movement.
1956 - Sudan becomes independent.
1962 - Civil war begins in the south, led by the Anya Nya movement.
1972 – The South gets Autonomy. Under the Addis Ababa peace agreement between the government and the Anya Nya the south becomes a self-governing region.
1978 - Oil discovered in Bentiu in southern Sudan.
1983 - President Numayri declares the introduction of Sharia (Islamic law).
Civil war breaks out again in the south involving government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), led by John Garang.
1985 - After widespread popular unrest Numayri is deposed by a group of officers and a Transitional Military Council is set up to rule the country.
1986 - Coalition government formed after general elections, with Sadiq al-Mahdi as prime minister.
1989 - National Salvation Revolution takes over in military coup.
1993 - Revolution Command Council dissolved after Omar al-Bashir is appointed president.
1995 - Egyptian President Mubarak accuses Sudan of being involved in attempt to assassinate him in Addis Ababa.
1998 - US launches missile attack on a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, alleging that it was making materials for chemical weapons.
1998 - New constitution endorsed by over 96% of voters in referendum.
1999 - President Bashir dissolves the National Assembly and declares a state of emergency following a power struggle with parliamentary speaker, Hassan al-Turabi.
1999 - Sudan begins to export oil.
2000 - December - Bashir re-elected for another five years in elections boycotted by main opposition parties.
2001 - February - Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi arrested a day after his party, the Popular National Congress, signed a memorandum of understanding with the southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
2001 - April - SPLA rebels threaten to attack international oil workers brought in to help exploit vast new oil reserves. Government troops accused of trying to drive civilians and rebels from oilfields.
2001 - 25 May - Police use tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators at funeral of Ali Ahmed El-Bashir from opposition Islamist Popular National Congress party, who died from wounds sustained while being arrested.
2001 - July - Government says it accepts a Libyan/Egyptian initiative to end the civil war. The plan includes a national reconciliation conference and reforms.
2001 - September - UN lifts largely symbolic sanctions against Sudan. They were imposed in 1996 over accusations that Sudan harboured suspects who attempted to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
2001 - November - US extends unilateral sanctions against Sudan for another year, citing its record on terrorism and rights violations.
2002 - January - SPLA joins forces with rival militia group, Sudan People's Defence Force, to pool resources in campaign against government in Khartoum. Government and SPLA sign landmark ceasefire agreement providing for six-month renewable ceasefire in central Nuba Mountains - a key rebel stronghold.
2002 - After talks in Kenya, government and SPLA sign Machakos Protocol on ending 19-year civil war. Government accepts right of south to seek self-determination after six-year interim period. Southern rebels accept application of Shariah law in north.
2002 - October - Government and SPLA agree to ceasefire for duration of negotiations. Despite this, hostilities continue.
2003 - February - Rebels in western region of Darfur rise up against government, claiming the region is being neglected by Khartoum.
2003 - October - PNC leader Turabi released after nearly three years in detention and ban on his party is lifted.
2004 - January - Army moves to quell rebel uprising in western region of Darfur; hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to neighbouring Chad.
2004 - March - UN official says pro-government Arab "Janjaweed" militias are carrying out systematic killings of African villagers in Darfur.
2004 - May - Government and southern rebels agree on power-sharing protocols as part of a peace deal to end their long-running conflict. The deal follows earlier breakthroughs on the division of oil and non-oil wealth.
2004 - September - UN says Sudan has not met targets for disarming pro-government Darfur militias and must accept outside help to protect civilians.
2005 - January - Government and southern rebels sign a peace deal. The agreement includes a permanent ceasefire and accords on wealth and power sharing.
2005 - March - UN Security Council authorises sanctions against those who violate ceasefire in Darfur. Council also votes to refer those accused of war crimes in Darfur to International Criminal Court.
2005 - April - International donors pledge $4.5bn (£2.38bn) in recovery aid for southern Sudan.
2005 - June - Government and exiled opposition grouping - National Democratic Alliance (NDA) - sign reconciliation deal allowing NDA into power-sharing administration.
2005 - 9 July - Former southern rebel leader John Garang is sworn in as first vice president. A constitution which gives a large degree of autonomy to the south is signed.
2005 - 1 August - Vice president and former rebel leader John Garang is killed in a plane crash. He is succeeded by Salva Kiir. Garang's death sparks deadly clashes in the capital between southern Sudanese and northern Arabs.
2005 - September - Power-sharing government is formed in Khartoum.
2005 - October - Autonomous government is formed in the south, in line with the January 2005 peace deal. The administration is dominated by former rebels.
2006 - May - Khartoum government and the main rebel faction in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement, sign a peace accord. Two smaller rebel groups reject the deal. Fighting continues.
2006 - August - Sudan rejects a UN resolution calling for a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, saying it would compromise sovereignty.
2006 - November - African Union extends mandate of its peacekeeping force in Darfur for six months.
2007 - April - Sudan says it will accept a partial UN troop deployment to reinforce African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, but not a full 20,000-strong force.
2007 - May - International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for a minister and a janjaweed militia leader suspected of Darfur war crimes.
2007 - July - UN Security Council approves a resolution authorising a 26,000-strong force for Darfur. Sudan says it will co-operate with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
2008 - January - UN takes over Darfur peace force.
Within days Sudan apologises after its troops fired on a convoy of Unamid, the African Union-UN hybrid mission. Government planes bomb rebel positions in West Darfur, turning some areas into no-go zones for aid workers.
2008 - February - Commander of the UN-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, Balla Keita, says more troops needed urgently in west Darfur.

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