Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

Assessment for Southerners in Sudan

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Southerners in Sudan, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Sudan Facts
Area:    2,505,810 sq. km.
Capital:    Khartoum
Total Population:    28,900,000 (source: unknown, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

A final peace agreement was signed between the government of Sudan and the SPLM/A in 2004. As part of the agreement, John Garang was named a vice-president of Sudan, SPLM/A forces became part of Sudan's national forces with security responsibilities in Southern Sudan, revenues will be divided equally between the central government and Southern Sudan, and Southern Sudan is guaranteed widespread autonomy with the right to vote for secession after a six-year interim period. The peace agreement survived the death of Garang in a plane crash. If the peace accords continue to be implemented, the Southern Sudanese are unlikely to rebel, despite the continued presence of risk factors such as territorial concentration and group cohesion. However, the likelihood of rebellion given the failure of the government of Sudan to fully implement or respect the terms of the accord is quite high.

Analytic Summary

"Southern Sudanese" is an inclusive name given to the varied peoples who live in the southern area of Sudan, including Equatorians, Dinkas, Nuers, Anuaks, Shilluks, Latukas, Taposas, Turkans, Moru, Madi, and Azande. Black Africans who are primarily animist or Christian, they have resisted attempts by various regimes in Khartoum to Arabize and Islamicize the South. The country's history has been marked primarily by protracted civil wars. The 1972 Addis Ababa accord, which guaranteed the South substantial regional autonomy and settled a 17-year separatist struggle begun in 1956, was annulled when the Muslim northern government instituted Shari`a, or Islamic law, throughout Sudan in September 1983 (POLDIS03 = 4; ECDIS03 = 4). The Southerners in turn resumed their armed campaign against the government, leading the country into the latest cycle of deadly conflicts (REB85-REB03 = 7).

Represented primarily by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) (ORGCOH94 = 7), headed by John Garang, Southerners have pressed the government of Sudan (GoS) for a reinstatement of autonomy with widespread powers and a loosely governed bi-regional federal government. On occasion, Southerners have voiced preferences for outright independence, although such an outcome is not favored by the international community. (Southern Sudan contains much of the natural resources of Sudan as a whole, one reason it is targeted by Khartoum. International observers fear that if Southern Sudan secedes, Northern Sudan will be hard pressed economically.) Riek Machar, who headed a breakaway faction of the SPLM called the Sudan People's Democratic Front/Defense Forces (SPDF), signed a peace agreement with the GoS in 1996 and became head of the United Democratic Salvation Front (USDF) and Southern Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF). (The split between Garang and Machar is both a personal power struggle and an indication of ethnic tension between Southerners. Garang is Dinka, and Machar is Nuer.) Miechar reportedly defected from Khartoum in 1999 and resumed rebellion in the South with the remnants of his SPDF. The SPLM/A, under Garang, has made strategic alliances with other political opposition groups, including the Nuba, who like the Southern Sudanese are black Africans, and Northern, Arab political parties.

In 2002, a ceasefire was reached between the government of Sudan and the SPLA. A formal peace agreement was signed in 2004 after prolonged negotiations sponsored by the African Union's Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). As part of the agreement, John Garang was named a vice-president of Sudan, SPLM/A forces became part of Sudan's national forces with security responsibilities in Southern Sudan, revenues will be divided equally between the central government and Southern Sudan, and Southern Sudan is guaranteed widespread autonomy with the right to vote for secession after a six-year interim period.

Intracommunal warfare among Southern Sudanese has been as problematic as the North-South divide. Both intra-Nuer warfare (between SPLA and SPDF factions) and Nuer-Dinka clashes were common in 1998. However, in 1999, in the U.S.-sponsored Wunlit peace process, an agreement was signed between Dinka and Nuer to cease the fighting. In addition, a new political group, the South Sudan Liberation Movement, was founded early in 2000 with its primary goal the unification of the Dinka Bor, Nuer and Shuluk. No intracommunal (or intercommunal) violence was reported from 2001 to 2003 (INTRACON01-03 = 0; INTERCON01-03 = 0).

Although Southern Sudan is rich in natural resources, the people of Southern Sudan face periodic famine, mainly induced by the civil war. However, 1998 and 1999 saw drought in some regions, which resulted in even lower agricultural output. By 2000, harvest forecasts had become more favorable, which marginally alleviated famine conditions. Oil companies became active in South Sudan in the late 1990s, with some accusing them of facilitating the depopulation of strategic oil fields. Control of the oil fields have also been the focus of some intercommunal fighting among Southern Sudanese factions.

Southern Sudanese groups have been supported by Uganda and Ethiopia, which have provided (willingly or not) bases for the SPLA. Additionally, the United States has provided political support for the goals of the SPLA. Most of the SPLA's financial support, however, comes from private groups, in particular some Christian groups in South Africa who have been accused of providing weapons to the SPLA.


Africa Research Bulletin, 1994-1995.

Burr, Millard, 1993, "Quantifying Genocide in the Southern Sudan 1983-1993," U.S.Committee for Refugees, Washington., D.C.

Deng, Francis M., Winter 1994, "The Sudan" Stop the Carnage," The Brookings Review, (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institute)

Dgenhardt, Henry W. (ed), 1987, Revolutionary and dissident Movements: An International Guide, A Keesing's Reference Publication, (London: Longan)

Horn of Africa Bulletin, 1989 Vol.1 No.1 - 1995 Vol.7 No.6, (Uppsala: Life & Peace Institute)

Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1993: Events of 1992, 1993, (New York: Human Rights Watch- Africa Watch, Americas Watch, Asia Watch, Helsinki Watch, Middle East Watch, and Fund for Free Expression)

Keesing's Contemporary Archive, 1990-1993, Keesing's Record of World Events: Record of National and International Current Affairs with Continually Updated Indexes, Keesing's Publication, (London: Longman Group Ltd.)

Lee, Shin-wha, 1991, "Southerners in Sudan," Minorities at Risk Project chronology file (College Park: Center for International Development and Conflict Management)

Lee, Shin-wha, 1994, "Environmental Refugees in the Third World," Ph.D dissertation, Chapter 4, (College Park: Center for International Development and Conflict Management)

Meynell, Charles, The Sudan, 1984, Minority Right Group (MRG) Report N. 66 (London: Murray House)

Reuters News Reports, 1990-2003, through Lexus/Nexus system

Suliman, Mohamed, May/June 1993, "Civil War in the Sudan: From Ethnic to Ecological Conflict," The Ecologist, Vol 23, No.3,

Suliman, Mohamed Suliman, 1992, "Civil War in Sudan: The Impact of Ecological Degradation," Environment and Conflicts Project (ENCOP) Occasional Paper Nr. 4, (Zurich: Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology [ETH])

United States Institute of Peace (USIP), 1993, "Sudan Symposium Generates Momentum for Mediation," USIP Special report, (Washington, D.C.: USIP)

Wells, Victor C. and Samuel P. Dilla, December 1993, "Colonization, Arabization, Slavery, and War," Fourth World Bulletin, Vol.3, No.1

Search Refworld