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Identity Crisis and The Weak State: The Making of The Sudanese Civil War

Publisher WRITENET
Author Gérard Prunier
Publication Date 1 January 1996
Cite as WRITENET, Identity Crisis and The Weak State: The Making of The Sudanese Civil War, 1 January 1996, available at: [accessed 25 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.


The Sudanese civil war which has been raging with various degrees of intensity since even before the country's independence[1] is probably one of the most misunderstood conflicts of the whole continent. It is often described as a conflict between the "Arab" North[2] and the "Christian" South, two basically misleading concepts brought together by the convenient and lazy opinion that the war is basically a religious confrontation. We do not argue that purely - or at least mostly - religious conflicts do not exist. France and England in the sixteenth century, Buganda in the nineteenth and Northern Ireland during the last thirty years are cases in point. But they occurred as politico-religious conflicts within relatively homogeneous cultures torn by different communal histories of religious choices. The situation in the Sudan is totally different. What opposes the North and the South is not a matter of religious choice within a common culture, it is a matter of basic political, cultural and social choice for which religion acts as a kind of symbolic algebra.

Let us take a precise example, one which is at the very heart of the present war. The Southern rebels refuse to accept the notion that law in the Sudan should be based on the shari'a, the traditional fountain of legal creation in Muslim countries. And the Government in Khartoum keeps repeating - rightly so - that is has never applied shari'a to the southern provinces and has no intention of doing so. But in fact this is a very sophistic line of argumentation because shari'a mentions, inter alia, the impossibility for true believers to be ruled by kuffar (unbelievers, whether Christians, Animists or anything else), a provision which statutarily prevents a non-Muslim from ever reaching high office. Furthermore, there are now over three million non-Muslims in the North, who must either submit to culturally alien religious laws or move back to the southern part of the country. Thus one sees that the apparently innocuous argument of selfdetermination - "people have a right to choose their own laws, so shari'a is all right in the North while secular law will apply in the South" - in fact negates the very concept of citizenship, which presupposes equality in the eyes of the law and the right to live anywhere within the national territory regardless of religion, ethnic origin or sex.[3] So one can see that the rejection of shari'a is not religious per se, non-Muslim Southerners have no objection to Islam as a religion and to freedom of worship.[4] And the increasingly diffident western and eastern parts of the country are themselves Muslim.

What is at stake, in a country which is roughly divided into three, not two parts,[5] is the politico-cultural identity which will eventuelly be allowed to structure the largest country in Africa. Divided not between Islam and Christianity but between religiously sanctioned Arab cultural and political domination and an armed politico-cultural rejection of the same by the Black Africans, the country is an unwieldy political monster, permanently at war with itself in order to decide what it is and what it shall be, and whose very survival as a nation-state is now seriously endangered.


Sudan is alone among African countries in having borders which have been defined neither by the natives, as in the case of Ethiopia, nor by European imperialism as in the case of practically all the others. Sudan's present borders were slowly arrived at during the nineteenth century by a series of military conquests pursued by the indigenized Ottoman regime which ruled Egypt from the seizing of power by Muhamad Ali Pasha around 1801. Egypt, then largely independent vis-à-vis the Sublime Porte, launched itself into several military adventures both in the Middle East and in Africa, and these included the invasion of what was to become the Sudan in 1821. With varying fortunes, Cairo was to rule the area between 1821 and 1885, a period known to the Sudanese as the Turkiyya, "the time of the Turks".[6]

What the Turco-Egyptian invaders found was not a unified country but a juxtaposition of small tribal communities such as the Shaiqiyya or the Ja'aliyin, some trading city-states as in the case of Shendi or Atbara and two medium-sized native non-Arab sultanates, the Funj Sultanate of Sennar in the East and the Kayra Sultanate of Dar Fur in the West. These various communities covered what is now considered as the North,[7] the South being completely inaccessible until 1839. None of the entities met by the Turco-Egyptians during those years could even remotely be called the Sudan.[8] The only thing they had in common was the Islamic religion, often strongly interspersed with folkloric practices and beliefs.[9]

As for the South, it was a completely distinct part of the country which was not "opened" until the upriver voyages of Salim Qapudan in 1839-1840.[10] This opening immediately took the extremely unpleasant form of trading in slaves, the South being perceived by both the Turco-Egyptian overlords and their Arab Sudanese subjects as a giant reserve of servile manpower.[11] In that search for slaves, the boundaries of the Sudan were slowly pushed south, to what was to later to become Uganda, and southwest to the Mbomu and Uele valleys of what is now the Central African Republic. Part of the Zande country was taken over, the rest being occupied slightly later by the mercenaries of the Congo Free State. Within that amorphous Black African space grafted by conquest to the equally amorphous Muslim and superficially Arabized North, the memories of the slave trade were to remain as a burning feeling of pain and resentment to this very day.[12]

But in a sense the Turkiyya did create the first foundation for some sort of national feeling, at least in the Muslim Northern Sudan. The considerable variety of tribes, whether they were technically considered as Arabs (Shaiqiyya, Ja'aliyin, Danagla, Rufa'a) or as arabized (Rizzeyqat, Missiriya, Habbaniya, Hawazma) or even non-Arab (the various Beja groups in the East, the Nubians in the North), all became conscious of a certain similarity of destiny vis-à-vis the foreign Turco-Egyptian masters.[13] This was also true in the South, but there the general feeling was one of common fate vis-à-vis both the Turco-Egyptians and the Northern Arabs. In other words, while the Northerners resented one set of oppressors, the Southerners resented two, and they did not make much difference between those two: for the Black Africans of Southern Sudan, any pale-skinned person was dangerous and a potential slaver.[14] This difference was to have important consequences when the Northern Muslim tribes rose against their Turco-Egyptian masters.

3. THE PERIOD OF THE MAHDIYYA (1881/85 - 1898)[15]

In 1881 a young dongolawi fiki (religious man) by the name of Mohamed Ahmed, who had had problems with the Sammaniya Brotherhood into which he had been initiated, decided to start his own movement.[16] His teachings were religiously radical and politically revolutionary. He denounced in the same breath the Turco-Egyptians as bad Muslims and as foreign oppressors. The result was a tremendous uprising which took the form of a millenaristic Muslim revival combined with a proto-nationalist insurrection against the Cairo imperial regime.[17] The revolt succeeded in taking full control of the Northern Sudan in the space of four years (1881-1885).

But since the British had occupied Egypt right in the middle of the Sudanese insurrection (1882), the battle turned into one of Sudanese versus Anglo-Egyptian armies. This last point will be only of marginal concern here, in a study devoted to understanding the roots of the Sudanese identity crisis and its bearing upon the present civil war.[18] Nevertheless, one should remember that the first stirrings of a proto-national consciousness in the Sudan took the form of on the one hand an Islamic revival, and on the other a liberation war against both the Egyptians and the British. This was to have several vital consequences for the Sudanese political perceptions of what - if it existed - their nation was. First of all, Islam was intimately wrapped up in the very notion of national identity. It was in the name of pure Islam that the bad Islam of the Turks was denounced, and this religious mediation provided the ideological justification which alone could permit an effective fighting alliance between completely heterogeneous tribal groups. Of course the element of resentment against foreign oppression was there. But it is only through Islam that this latent grumbling could be turned into active military and political action, something which was to have a constant role in the subsequent self-perception of national identity.[19]

Then there was a secondary element within Northern Sudan. During their years of presence in the country the Turco-Egyptians had developed a very close relationship with one of the Muslim Brotherhoods, the Khatmiyya. Members of the Khatmiyya often sided with the Egyptians against their fellow Sudanese and the war sharply divided many important families in the North. As we shall see this resulted in an enduring division of Northern Sudanese politics between the followers of Mahdism (today's Umma Party) and those of the anti-Mahdist Khatmiyya (today's Unionist Party).[20]

If we look outside Northern Sudan per se, the picture is even more complex. Dar Fur, which had been occupied by the Turco-Egyptians for only eight years at the start of the Mahdist revolt, immediately mutinied against them. However, they did not permanently join the new theocratic state which the victorious ansar built upon the ruins of Egyptian domination.[21] Later when the British reoccupied the Sudan in 1898, Dar Fur broke away, remaining independent until 1916 when its alliance with Turkey duing World War I led to its annexation by the new colonial power.[22]

If Muslim Dar Fur could thus keep its distance from the national Mahdist movement, the situation was even more drastic in the South. Ransacked and looted both by the Turco-Egyptians and the Northern Sudanese for forty-two years, the South also revolted but against both its oppressors. The Egyptian authorities quickly lost control but the Mahdists never managed to regain it during the thirteen years of their rule and a sporadic conflict lasting throughout the period.[23]

Thus the Mahdiyya bequeathed to Sudan an extremely ambiguous legacy. While it was seen by the majority of Northern Arab-identified populations as a national epic,[24] it was regarded with various amounts of reserve by other Northern and Western groups and with utter distaste by the Southerners. Nevertheless it was a proto-nationalist movement, even if the Mahdi himself or his successor never looked at the movement as national.[25]

Thus from the very beginning nationalism in the Sudan was selective. All the Sudanese were equal in terms of theoretical citizenship but some were more equal than others in terms of practical citizenship. Those who belonged to the groups which had somehow acquired a monopoly of the symbolic representation of nationalism could later speak the words of official nationalism. But since, as the Sudanese themselves admit, their country is laham ras,[26] the groups which were excluded from the official symbolic expression of nationalism had to accept being citizens of a nation towards which they did not necessarily feel any attachment.

Does being a Sudanese imply that one is an Arab? This is the question which is at the centre of the whole process, including today's war. The Arab elite feels that the answer is yes (even if its members accept that they can less and less openly say so in Western circles). The non-Arab population of the North (and the ordinary Arab population) do not care so much for Arabism but require Islam as a prerequisite for real citizenship. And the Southerners can only conceive of a secular state if they are to be counted among its citizens. Thus one can see that the factors leading to the present conflict can be traced back to as early as the end of the last century.

4. THE COLONIAL PERIOD (1898-1955)[27]

4.1 Its Mildness and Political Conservatism

Here again the Sudan stands largely as an exception. Contrary to the majority of African countries where the colonial era was both a formative and a traumatic period, in Sudan it was neither. As we have already made clear, the Sudanese borders, artificial as they are, are not the product of European colonization but of the long defunct Turco-Egyptian imperialism. Sudanese cultures were only superficially affected by colonization, and economic change was not accompanied by massive social restructuring as in other areas of the continent. British colonialism was perceived as quite mild, respectful of Islam (or of native cultures in the South) and even at times as downright positive after the violent years of the late Turkiyya and Mahdiyya.[28]

Thus if Sudanese nationalism can be said to have been born in the nineteenth century (at a time when nationalism did not exist for obvious reasons in other parts of the continent), it was constructed positively around Islam and negatively against the Turks, but it was only directed against the British inasmuch as they were the Turks' allies.[29] Moreover, the British, who wanted to avoid creating problems and to keep down administrative costs, and who saw themselves as protectors rather than colonizers, largely worked in the Sudan through the principle of indirect administration. This system not only created a good and reasonably well-paid corps of Sudanese civil servants but also meant that the British from the beginning accepted that they would have to play politics with the two main political forces in northern Sudan, the Mahdists and the Khatmiyya. Thus, by treating the main Islamic political organizations as valid partners the British contributed to legitimize their claim to represent not only one section of the population but the Nation in its entirety. This politico-symbolical attitude was reinforced by an economic policy which concentrated 90 per cent of colonial investment in the northern part of the Sudan.[30]

4.2 The Southern Policy

The other domain in which colonial policy shaped the future destiny of the country was the so-called Southern Policy. Progressively put in place through a series of measures during the mid-1920s, the Southern Policy was intended by the British to give the Southern Sudanese protection against their Northern neighbours. Travel between North and South was restricted, Islamic proselytization was forbidden and so was the teaching of Arabic. In its preoccupation with "protecting the natives" the policy could reach extremes of absurdity such as when in 1930 District Commissioner D.J. Bethell decided to prohibit Southern tailors from making collarless shirts "because it was an Islamic design".[31] The philosophy behind the Southern Policy was that of the bon sauvage. Thus one colonial administrator could write: "what we need is to see the Southerners remaining happy, careless and contented, with few desires and few worries, singing in the grass with their cattle."[32] The whole thing led to what a young Southern intellectual was later, after decolonization, to call "a human zoo".[33]

In the North nationalist militants did not see this British policy as one of benign neglect and cultural respect. They perceived it rather as one of active and militant anti-Islamic action and support for Christian missionaries, pursued with the aim of separating the South from the North and uniting it with the British East African territories of Kenya and Uganda. Later the Southern Policy was singled out by Northerners as the main cause of the problems arising after independence between the two parts of the country.[34] To the Southerners, it was instead Northern high-handedness which led to violent confrontation.[35] Both lines of argumentation have their points, although belonging to different time frames and historical perspectives. One can argue (although this is not exactly the Northern line of thought) that in the long run had the British not come to the Sudan or had they not administratively cut off the South from the North for a quarter of a century, some sort of forced cultural assimilation of the African Southern cultures would have taken place. This is what we have argued ourselves in a detailed paper on the slave trade in the Sudan.[36] Of course such an assimilation, although quite conceivable, would definitely not have been either easy or consensual. But it might have resulted in a more homogeneous country by the mid-twentieth century. On the other hand, given the past history of the North-South relationship during the Turkiyya and the Mahdiyya and given the policy of extreme isolation of the South followed by the British up to 1947, it would have been advisable for the North which at independence inherited from the British most of the infrastructure and practically all the trained manpower in the country, to follow a prudent and open-minded policy towards the Black African part of Sudan. This was not to be the case because of the relationship between identity and political culture to which we now have to return.

4.3 The Structures of the Nationalist Movement and the Path to Independence

By the beginning of the 1950s, as British colonialism was seriously considering retreat from its most advanced (and usually militant) colonies, the Sudan was considered one of the more mature and hopeful elements of the Empire, ready for at least internal self-government and possibly for full independence.[37] The main problem which preoccupied the British Government at the time was not indeed the internal balance of political power, which was felt to be quite satisfactory, but the question of the possible external sovereignty of the Sudan. The main question was whether, as the British retreated, its Egyptian co-domini should be allowed (and by whom) to reoccupy its former colony. Using the slogan of "Unity of the Nile Valley", the Egyptian Government put in a strong bid to annex the Sudan upon Britain's departure, insisting upon the natural brotherhood between the two countries.[38] For the Foreign Office in London[39] the diplomatic game was to negotiate a continued presence for the British Army in the Suez Canal Zone without directly surrendering sovereignty over the Sudan to Cairo. And since Cairo wanted the Sudan to remain whole in case unification was proclaimed at a later date, the only way to give partial satisfaction to Egypt was to refuse any discussion of any border redefinition which could have led to a separation of the South.

The Sudanese nationalist movement which had developed towards the end of World War II, directly entered into this logic. Since it was far from united, but on the contrary deeply penetrated by the religious sectarianism which British colonial policy had never really attempted to check, there were various positions within its ranks as far as the relationship with Egypt was concerned.[40] Given their past histories, the ansar logically tended to be anti-Egyptian while the members of the Khatmiyya were closer to Cairo. The problem was that this whole debate occurred within extremely limited circles and that Southerners were not even asked for their opinion. When the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement paving the way for progressive British disengagement was signed in February 1953, the young Southern Sudanese politician Hillary Paul Logali wrote a memorandum of protest to denounce an agreement which was committing the future of the Black populations in the Sudan without any consultation of the interested party.[41] For the Northerners, this was not a problem: they represented the Sudan and their Southern brothers were only a colourful appendage to an essentially Arabo-Muslim society. It is interesting to read what an enlightened and liberal Northerner could write at the time:

Let us keep in mind that our Southern brothers have practically no taste for politics and political constitutions and that party and political propaganda, if practised in their country, would only lead to confusion and give chance to crooks to assume false leadership .... What they need is ... progressive work to improve their lot and bring them as quickly as possible to the intellectual standard of the North, with the least publicity .... They need an honest stern coaching with the agility and caution of a lion's trainer and a long-term plan of immigration to their country. Through this free and unrestricted mixture ... our mutual problems will dissolve so that within two or three generations there will be no Northerner or Southerner.[42]

We should keep in mind that this text was written by somebody who was in the context of the 1950s considered a liberal.

As for Prime Minister Isma'il al-Azhari he more directly threatened any Southerner entertaining ideas of creating a federal structure in post-independence Sudan with "use of the full force of steel".[43] By August 1955 steel had indeed come into play when soldiers from the Equatoria Corps mutinied against the new Arab officers sent to replace their departing British ones.[44] The mutiny was crushed (with British help) but many of the mutineers escaped to the bush to form the nucleus of the first guerrilla movement against the yet-to-be-born Khartoum Government.

Meanwhile the few Southern representatives in Khartoum hesitated to vote for independence, given the climate in which it was occurring. On 19 December 1955 Mubarak Zaruq, a People's Democratic Party MP,[45] introduced a motion "asking the Constituent Assembly to take into consideration the demand of the Southern delegates to obtain a federal status for their region". His motion was supported by Opposition Leader Mohamed Ahmed Mahgoub, and the Southern MPs, reassured by this show of support, voted together with the Northerners for independence. Later, the 19 December 1955 motion was simply discarded and never heard of again.[46]

5. THE WAR OF THE ANYA NYA (1956-1972)[47]

The 1955 mutiny was followed by years of relative tranquillity. 1955 had been the result of a shiver of fear on the part of the Southern troops and a manifestation of the disappointment and resentment of the educated elites. But the ordinary Southern population was willing to give the new government the benefit of the doubt - for some time. The problem was that once the limited violence caused by the mutineers-turned-guerrillas seemed to have been contained (the level of military operations between 1955 and 1963 was very low) the political attention of the power elite in the North turned away from the Southern problem, except to deal with it in the crudest assimilationist terms outlined above in the quotation we gave from Mohamed Ahmed Nigumi.

This had several reasons. The main one was that the dissensions between Mahdists and Khatmiyya adherents had reached such a level very soon after independence that they had led to a military coup by 1958. The new military regime, led by Marchal Abboud had very simplified political views. In the North it practised a policy of enlightened despotism, stressing political discipline and economic development. In the South it went for an all-out attempt at forcefully Islamizing the country. English teaching was abolished and Arabic was made compulsory, mosques were built and conversion to Islam became a prerequisite for administrative attention. The missionaries who had up to then provided the whole educational system in the South[48] were seen as enemies and expelled in February 1964, after being accused of supporting the insurgents and of endangering Sudan's territorial integrity.[49] In fact, the military government was at a loss about what to do in the South where its simple and violent policies led nowhere.

In February 1962 a group of exiled Southern Sudanese politicians had created the Sudan African National Union (SANU) in Leopoldville (Kinshasa). Under the leadership of SANU the guerrilla became better organized and turned into a military force to be reckoned with for the first time since independence. In October 1964 the military dictatorship of Marshal Abboud was overthrown and the new civilian regime tried to bring in reconciliation at the Khartoum Round Table Conference of March 1965. The result was failure. But SANU split, some of its members following founder William Deng into the creation of the Southern Front (SF), a party dedicated to furthering the Southern cause by legal means, while many others stayed with another founding member of SANU, Joseph Oduho, who kept the organization's name and returned to guerrilla fighting. The war dragged on during the late 1960s with increased fragmentation on the part of the guerrilla forces, which split into five or six different splinter groups, largely along tribal lines.

In October 1969, a young general who had served in the South, Jaafar al-Nimeiry, overthrew the now discredited civilian government[50] and created a new left-leaning regime (he had the backing of the Communist Party), which hinted that it had a solution for the Southern conflict. Nimeiry's man for the South was the Communist Party activist Joseph Garang who became special Minister for the South and who decided, as a good Marxist, that the problem was not cultural and religious but economic. He put the blame for the country's split on the underdevelopment bequeathed by the colonial regime and set about trying to redress it, albeit by rather authoritarian means.[51] His efforts came to nought when the Communists tried to overthrow their ally General Nimeiry in July 1971, an event which caused Garang to be hanged after the failure of the attempted coup.

This left the surviving regime without any clearly defined policy towards a Southern insurrection which, after its years of division and confusion, was uniting again. The process of reunification of the Southern guerrilla under the leadership of Joseph Lagu, a young officer who had deserted from the Sudanese Army, was due to Israeli intervention and was linked with a number of complex factors pertaining to the situation in Uganda at the time.[52] The result was that the Israeli decided to support young Joseph Lagu and that he became the main recepient of their military aid. His control over the flow of weapons enabled him to regroup the various factions behind him and to emerge as undisputed leader of the rebels.

The peace of Addis-Ababa in February 1972 was a product of this situation. In Khartoum, a young secularly-inclined military Head of State, President Nimeiry, had been betrayed by his erstwhile Communist allies. Because of the anti-Communist repression which followed the failed coup he was branded a traitor by Moscow, while still remaining blacklisted by the U.S. for his former association with the Eastern Bloc. As a result he could not get any more military supplies at all. In the South, the rebels were united under a single leader who had benefited from Israeli help. But due to the deterioration of the situation in Uganda it became harder and harder for his Israeli friends, who were to be expelled from Uganda only a short while later, to keep supplying him.[53] Thus both camps were exhausted and short of weapons, while new pragmatic leadership on both sides could look at the conflict with more reasonable eyes. The result was a short negotiation followed by a peace which surprised many analysts.[54]

Of course, this peace was too quick, too secretly prepared and too undernegotiated to be well thought out. But it was peace and even if it had many drawbacks, it offered hope.[55] The main hope was the creation of an autonomous government in the Southern Sudan with extended powers. But the provisions for the functioning of both the High Executive Council and the Southern Regional Assembly were vague enough to be laden with uncertainties for the future. And the absence of a real tax base in the South, which led to the continued dependence of the new authority on Khartoum for its financial needs, was potentially fraught with problems. However, at the symbolical level a fundamental change seemed to have occurred. As we tried to show at the beginning of this study, the problem for the Sudan was to develop a feeling of minimum citizenship in a radically heterogeneous polity. The February 1972 Addis-Ababa Agreement was of course no magic potion suddenly capable of creating such a feeling. But it was a giant step forward. For the first time since independence (and in fact since the late nineteenth century) the Southern populations had a feeling that even if all was not perfect at least the very special nature of their problematic relationship with the Northern Arabized culture was perceived by their fellow countrymen, and that this perception led to an effort at understanding and accommodation rather than the blunt policy of forced Islamization pursued during the 1960s.

6. THE YEARS OF UNEASY PEACE (1972-1983)[56]

6.1 Nimeiry's Honeymoon

The South experienced such relief at the end of the war that President Nimeiry was for several years a hero of the Black African population in the Sudan. This admiration was expressed in very concrete terms when several times (in 1973, 1975 and 1976) he was threatened by plots to topple him. The last one in July 1976 was particularly dangerous because it was led by the Mahdists who had rejected his ascent to power and were, like the other religious groups, on a war-footing with his regime ever since he had allied himself with the Communists. The South rallied solidly behind President Nimeiry and played an important role in his political survival.[57]

Although positive, this development was in itself dangerous. After the July 1976 attempt President Nimeiry was persuaded that the South was definitely his, and that he should turn his attention to the danger represented by the traditional religious groups, which were challenging him from their exile in Libya. He felt that in the complicated mosaic of ethnic identities and forces which made up the Sudan, he had gone too far towards the Black African people of the South and therefore alienated the Muslim forces. Thus, by 1977 he decided to open a dialogue with them in the hope of reintegrating them politically, a process which became know as the Policy of National Reconciliation.[58]

This was an unwise move. The various forces which joined in the Policy of National Reconciliation (the Umma Party, the Khatmiyya, the Muslim Brotherhood) were all politico-religious forces who felt that Islam had both a God-given and a culturally justified monopoly on political representation.[59] For them, the Addis-Ababa Agreement was wrong because it gave kuffar (unbelievers) an undue measure of political power. The 1974 secular constitution adopted by the Nimeiry regime was also wrong because it reduced the place of Islam to that of any other religion and denied it a special political role. The first demand put in the 1977 National Reconciliation process by Nimeiry's returning religious partners was for the creation of a committee to harmonize existing laws with the principles of the shari'a, with Hassan al-Turabi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, as its president. In fact this attitude was more political than religious: since Nimeiry had been the man of secularism, the opposition parties chose to challenge him on the safe field of religious piety to undermine him politically. The Southerners could only watch in dismay.

6.2 The Southern Political Confusion

If the Southerners could only watch in dismay and not counterattack, it was because the whole functioning of the High Executive Council (HEC) and the Regional Assembly in Juba was incredibly confused and inefficient. Corruption and tribalism were rife, regional and personal considerations dictated shifting alliances, which displayed very little concern for the real problems of social and economic development of the region and the government in Khartoum could usually get its way by bribing this or that political faction. For most of its life, the Regional Government in Juba looked like a rudderless ship manned by a permanently rebellious crew. This suited the political authorities in Khartoum, since it enabled them never to actually disburse the sums allocated to the Southern budgets[60] and to negotiate large economic projects with foreign companies directly, over the head of the Southern Regional Government, even when the projects were to primarily involve the South. They were also free to make any arrangements they might want with political forces in the North.

6.3 The Big Projects

There were essentially two large economic projects: oil exploration and the digging of a giant canal (330 km long) called the Jonglei Canal, whose purpose it was to drain the Nile marshes and recover water for irrigation purposes in the Northern Sudan and Egypt.[61] These two projects were to play an enormous role in the deterioration of the political relations between South and North in the Sudan during the late 1970s and early 1980s, basically due to political and cultural high-handedness.

Crude oil had been discovered in 1979 by the U.S. company Chevron near Bentiu in Southern Sudan. At first the Khartoum Government promised a refinery on the spot. Then it was decided that the refinery would be sited not in Bentiu but in Kosti, that is in the North. And then it was finally decided that there would be no refinery at all, just a pipeline which would run the crude oil directly to Port Sudan for export purposes. Furthermore, in what was perceived by Southerners as a calculated insult as well as an economic heist, the oil-production area was administratively detached from the South and incorporated in a new entity called Unity District, which was theoretically neither North nor South but which was in fact entirely run by the Khartoum administration. Thus it became perfectly clear to the Southerners that any economic benefits accruing from oil exploitation (jobs, royalties) would be totally monopolized by the Northern elite, in spite of the fact that the oil was physically located in the South.

The digging of the Jonglei Canal was carried out by the French construction company Grands Travaux de Marseille (GTM). The project, which could have had serious ecological consequences on the Southern Sudan's climate,[62] was to benefit to a degree Northern Sudan, mostly Egypt and not at all Southern Sudan. Nevertheless it was imposed on the South without any form of political agreement. This gave rise to violent irrational rumours, such as the existence of a plan to bring in, after the canal's completion, two million Egyptian peasant colonists to use the canal's water for irrigated agriculture. The result was riots in Juba and the creation of a climate of deep political mistrust. This was also fed by hard realities since all the supposed benefits for the South from the canal (medical attention, some irrigated lands, bridges enabling the pastoralists to cross with their cattle) were either deleted from the final project or considerably reduced. Thus, once more, the Southern population had the feeling that, as one Northern minister had said in the immediate post-independence years: "We need the resources of the South but we don't need the population". This feeling increased the political tension which had begun to climb steadily since the National Reconciliation exercise of 1977.

6.4 The Remaining Embers of Revolt

Although the 1972 Agreement had been adhered to by the majority of the Southern Sudanese, some of the leaders of the revolt such as Aggrey Jaden or Gordon Muortat Mayen had refused to join the process of reconciliation.[63] Given the political development their line of argumentation began to look increasingly relevant. There had been frequent small uprisings, often by former Anya Nya fighters (in 1975, 1976 and 1977) who were poorly paid and unhappy about the conditions under which they had been incorporated into the Sudan Army. Thus in early 1983 when the Khartoum Government decided to transfer a number of Southern soldiers to the North, mutiny broke out. In the short run the mutiny was caused by simple economic hardship: the men had large families and in the South their wives could grow food on plots near the military camps. In the North where they would have had no land, they would have been forced to depend on their (woefully inadequate) wages. And of course, the rebellious feeling was reinforced by the extremely negative broader political picture. After a period of confused negotiations the Government decided to use repression, which in return triggered a full-scale mutiny of many different military units all over the South.[64] A new war had started.


The mutineers converged towards Ethiopia where, given the tensions between U.S.-supported Khartoum and Moscow-supported Addis-Ababa, they were sure to find a modicum of support. During its first months of existence the new guerrilla force was far from unified. The newcomers who found their way into Western Ethiopia, just over the Sudan border in Eastern Upper Nile, encountered elements which had been fighting against the Khartoum Government for the past eighteen months. These were loose aggregates of guerrilla fighters from the Nuer tribe, who had been popularly dubbed Anya Nya II in memory of their predecessors in the first war. They had revolted against Khartoum on a limited scale for a variety of local reasons since early 1982. The fusion between the recently-mutinied government troops and the already fighting Nuer did not operate very smoothly because several of the newcomers had been used by Khartoum for the anti-Nuer repression of the previous few months. But the Ethiopian support was clearly on the side of the new group led by an articulate and educated young officer who had just deserted from the Government Army, Colonel John Garang.

During the next few months, the new group which had named itself the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), hunted down the former Anya Nya II guerrillas and destroyed them or forced them into cooperation. Those who survived and managed to avoid being marshalled into the SPLA were forced to take refuge with government garrisons and soon began to be turned into Army auxiliairies. This conflictual beginning was to leave durable traces of bitterness within the Southern movement which were to resurface later, when the fall of Colonel Mengistu's regime in Ethiopia would have weakened the SPLA.[65]

7.1 The Last Days of the Nimeiry Regime

There were differences between the Anya Nya insurrection of the 1960s and the new conflict. The mutineers were military men and they had a major power behind them. As a result the war was much more intense at the military level and much more relentless politically. The Southern politicians had been largely discredited during the eleven years of the Southern Regional Administration and they played practically no role in the new movement. Also, given the pro-communist alignment of the Ethiopian regime which sponsored the SPLA, Colonel Garang's organization was internationally considered as pro-Moscow, something which led to increased amounts of U.S. military and economic aid for the embattled Nimeiry government.[66]

Feeling that he had nothing more to lose, President Nimeiry went back on Article 2 of the Addis-Ababa Agreeement, disbanded the Regional Administration and redivided the South into three separate entities.[67] A month later, he introduced a new religiously based Criminal Code which was to soon be erroneously called the shari'a.[68]

Contrary to what has often been said this was not the cause of the rebellion since it had broken out four months before the passing of this legislation. But the so-called shari'a contributed to a worsening of the situation. Now the problem for any Northern government became enormous: if the rebels demanded a free and secular state as a prerequisite for any peace talks, the so-called shari'a would have to be abolished first. But, given the religious mystique surrounding the new laws, this would appear as defiance against the very word of God and an intolerable insult to the Arabo-Islamic identity which was supposed to be that of the Sudan. From a political fight the new law had turned the situation into a deeper crisis of identity which would have to be philosophically resolved before any political negotiations could actually happen. This had not been the case during the first war where a good measure of pragmatism had enabled the peace breakthrough of February 1972 in Addis-Ababa. And it seems reasonable to say that the repeated failure of all peace negotiations since 1989 can be traced back to the fact that the 1983 September Laws are at the same time completely unacceptable for the Southerners, whom they force into a sort of second-class citizenship, and absolutely non-negotiable for a government which has staked its very existence on the political philosophy which brought these laws about. We will return later to this subject which stands at the very heart of the present inextricable Sudanese conundrum.

President Nimeiry had resorted to a ready-made religious legislation because he was feeling more and more in danger of losing political power. His allies in the National Reconciliation exercise had managed to get most of the benefits of the rapprochement, while Nimeiry's single party, modelled on Nasser's Arab Socialist Union, was proving to be more and more of an empty shell. The billions of dollars of agricultural investment promised by the Saudi and other Gulf countries after the first oil shock had failed to materialize, now that the Iraq-Iran war was causing growing alarm in the Middle East, where diminishing oil royalties were used to buy armaments rather than to invest in the "breadbasket of the Arab world"[69] The Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating its members into all the various positions both of the Civil Service and of the professions and the President felt increasingly isolated, surrounded as he was by Hassan al-Turabi's discreetly efficient and quietly threatening "boys".[70] To top it all, by late 1983 drought had set in in the western provinces of Kordofan and Dar Fur, pushing ever growing numbers of refugees eastwards towards the capital. By late 1984, the situation was desperate.[71] The last straw came when President Nimeiry ordered the hanging of Mahmood Mohamed Taha, a mild and non-violent Islamic philosophical reformer who had criticized the President's Islamic legislation. In traditionally tolerant Sudan, the shock caused by the execution was enormous. In April 1985 a combination of popular riots in the streets and an Army uprising toppled the seventeen year old regime.

7.2 Democratization and the War

Jointly run by left-wing civilians with secular leanings and conservative army officers who sympathized with the various religious parties, the April 1985 intifada (uprising) was most ambiguous.[72] Many people expected the war to stop with the fall of Nimeiry as if the SPLA had been fighting only against his personal dictatorship. But out of the fifteen members of the Transitional Military Council (TMC), only two were Southern Black officers and they had no real power. The real strong men of the TMC, Brigadiers Swar ed-Dahab and Osman Abdallah were conservative Arabs. After a short moment of uncertainty it became obvious that Colonel Garang was not going to negotiate with a regime he considered to be a direct heir to Nimeiry's. But the break up of the dictatorship emboldened a variety of groups to try to reassert themselves.

After one year of provisional government, marked by frequent violence between the secular left (with its ethnic, i.e. non-Arab, allies) and the Muslim Brothers, the TMC kept its word and organized free and fair elections. These led to several developments.[73] First, given the continuing violence, voting was carried out in only half the Southern constituencies; thus with only about thirty seats out of sixty, the Southerners were heavily underrepresented in the new Parliament. Then, the traditional religious parties (Umma and DUP) won handsomely in the North with 101 and 63 seats respectively. Moreover the Muslim Brothers came a very surprising strong third with 51 seats, due to their having swept the Graduate constituency seats.[74] On the other hand the secular left and especially the Communist Party, which had not managed to unite, were severely mauled. And finally, the Southerners, underrepresented as they were, managed to organize a sizable voting bloc in Parliament by uniting with the non-Arab Northern MPs from the West, the Nuba Mountains and the East.[75]

But while this system was trying to structure itself in a democratic way, the war in the South was still going on; and it was turning more and more to the disadvantage of the government forces. Throughout 1986 and 1987 the regular Army suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the growing guerrilla movement, which in some cases like in the fighting around Rumbek appeared strong enough to undertake conventional warfare. By early 1988 the SPLA had become a major threat to the Government's survival and was looked upon by a growing number of people, even in the North, as a future contender for power. This growing kuffar (unbeliever) threat in turn pushed the NIF into growing opposition to Umma Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was accused by the Islamic radicals of being soft on the SPLA and of lacking the necessary resolve to win the war. Parliamentary politics grew increasingly more violent as the military operations spread.[76]

7.3 1988-1989: The Terrible Year

When the government of Sadiq al-Mahdi realized that it might very well lose the war militarily, it unleashed the militias. These came from various tribal backgrounds. Many were themselves Southern, such as the remnants of the Anya Nya II Nuer guerrillas or the Mundari or Toposa tribes who, after being very roughly treated by the advancing SPLA forces, chose to join the Government's camp for self-protection. But the worst excesses were to be committed by those militias which were built by using the Sudanese cultural divides, such as the Fertit Jesh as-Salam (Army of the Peace), the notorious killers of Wau, or the Baggara Murahaleen (Nomads), both of whom were used to "break the back" of the Dinka tribes in Bahr-el-Ghazal.[77] The violence was savage and hundreds of thousands of civilians died, mostly by starvation after the militia raids, in what has up to now remained the worst year of the civil war. Hundreds of thousands of others fled to Ethiopia where the camps grew massively in size.[78]

The militias acted through a mixture of cultural prejudice, cupidity (they were paid, in money and weapons) and hope of acquiring land. In Khartoum, a number of politicians began to agitate for a policy of al-Inkaz al-watani (National Salvation), aiming at legitimizing the role of the militias by voting laws making them auxiliary forces of the Army. Some democratic and Southern MPs fought furiously in Parliament to prevent such a legislative development and the issue became a key one between liberals on the ethnic issue and the radical religious right, which fought for the officialization of the killer groups.

But the massacre of the civilian population did not prevent the SPLA from winning an almost continuous string of victories during late 1988 and early 1989. By the spring of 1989 the Army was desperate and faced Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi with a direct ultimatum: either he would find abroad the financial and military means the Army needed to win the war or else he should negotiate. In case he would do neither, "the Army would consider itself free to take whatever measures would be necessary to preserve national integrity". The threat was clear, not only to Sadiq al-Mahdi but to other political forces as well, including the NIF.

The inability of the ruling Arab elite to keep by force its political dominance over the deeply culturally divided Sudanese polity meant that some kind of a new deal would have to be struck at some point. This inevitably would include a revision of the September 1983 Laws to remove the political challenge they posed to non-Arab Muslims, to secular Arabs and to non-Arabs. For the religious radicals such a prospect, which was the prerequisite for peace and which now seemed to have the support of the armed forces, was absolute anathema. Thus in fact it was the March 1989 Army ultimatum which started the process which was eventually to lead to the Muslim Brothers' coup.

In late 1988, feeling the exhaustion of the Army and wanting to improve its position vis-à-vis its rival Umma partner in the government coalition, DUP leader Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani had travelled to Addis-Ababa to meet with guerrilla leader John Garang. The result had been a diplomatically inconclusive but symbolically and politically highly-laden Declaration of Intent about the peace process. The NIF did not fail to notice that Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani's initiative met with immense popular approval, even in the North, well beyond the segment of opinion supporting the DUP as a political party. The basic reason for this approval was the economic quagmire into which the country was sinking. With an external debt of over US$ 12 billion which it could not service any more, Sudan had just been suspended from the IMF and cut out from any further borrowing.[79]

What the Army ultimatum did in March 1989 was to pick up where the DUP initiative had left off and give it support. To simplify things John Garang soon after declared a cease-fire in order to facilitate negotiations. By May 1989 peace looked increasingly like a possibility, largely because of exhaustion on the part of the North. By then the SPLA occupied almost 80 per cent of the South where the Government only controlled the provincial capitals of Wau, Malakal and Juba. The international community had just started a massive relief help effort globally known as Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) to try to mitigate the effects of the terrible preceding twelve months.[80] The meeting of the peace delegations in Addis-Ababa was scheduled for 4 July 1989. During the night of 30 June to 1 July, a small group of Army officers affiliated with the NIF staged a coup and took power. Sudan had entered a new and major chapter in its violent history.[81]


The National Islamic Front which came to power in July 1989 was the Sudanese embodiment of a Muslim world-wide phenomenon, the resurgence of radical political Islam.[82] But the Sudanese context of multiculturality and identity crisis was bound to give such a movement an unusual character in a country where the Arabo-Islamic dimension was in itself so problematic.[83] The decision by the National Islamic Front to take power was a radical move to try to prevent what was felt by many of its activists as a betrayal and dissolution of the true nature (i.e. Arabo-Islamic) of the Sudan. Shortly after the coup, its authors themselves gave an explanation of their motives:[84]

Sadiq al-Mahdi's government was on its way to make peace with the rebel movement and the Minister of Justice had prepared a project of legislation to abrogate the September Laws.[85] ... The government was going to announce through the Minister of Justice a set of lawsuits against the main Islamic banks in order to weaken the opposition.[86] After peace, the opposition was to be hit. The rebels had cleverly played on the contradictions between the political parties. The 'Big Houses' [in Arabic al biyutat, meaning the great Mahdist and Khatmiyya families] had chosen for tactical reasons to grant the rebels advantages they could never have dreamt of.

This text is essential because all the causes of the coup are frankly enumerated in it: the fear of abrogation of the September 1983 Laws, i.e. the symbol marking the Islamic monopoly on politics and legislation; defence of the Islamic banking system, i.e. the economic underpinning of the radical Islamic movement in the country; and betrayal of the Arab cause by the "Big Houses" who, in their rivalry for power, had forgotten the essential fight, i.e. the fight against African paganism challenging the Arab identity of the country.[87]

To understand Sudanese Islamism, one has to keep in mind that it was a minority coup d'état which brought it to power. There never existed in the Sudan a broad-based radical Muslim popular movement similar to those in Iran in the 1970s or Algeria in the 1990s. The membership of the NIF is small and rather elitist. This is a party of doctors, lawyers, civil servants and teachers. Although it took power through a military coup, it was only a minority group within the officer corps and its first preoccupation after seizing power was to actively purge the Army.[88] Indeed the whole operation was so marginal and fragile that the leaders of the movement were hidden (Hassan al-Turabi was even under arrest for several months even if he came out of jail at night for meetings), and the new regime heatedly denied that it was Islamist. For several months the ambiguity was cleverly cultivated and former President Nimeiry, in exile in Egypt, was told that the plotters might even reinstate him in power. This manipulation helped keep Cairo neutral at a time when the Egyptians could have had the potential to make a counter-coup through their friends in the Army.[89]


9.1 Its Political Structure and Functioning

The new government immediately suspended all democratic rights (press freedom, right of assembly) and institutions; political parties, trade unions and independent associations were forbidden and their leaders detained.[90] The planned peace negotiations due to open in Addis-Ababa on 4 July 1989 were cancelled and the Parliament was of course dissolved. But the organization of the new regime was very peculiar. A Cabinet was nominated but it quickly became apparent that this was not the Government and that the real power was in the hands of a shadowy group of Islamist militants, who met after hours and decided among themselves how the government was going to speak on the next day.[91] Although some people persisted in describing the new regime as a military regime, the Army was thoroughly purged and young new Islamist officers were quickly promoted after six months military training courses.[92]

A new, far-reaching and all encompassing Secret Service was created, using as a starting point the old Amm al-Jebha (Front Security) led by Nafi Ali Nafi. The new organization recruited experienced CIA-trained professionals such as al-Fatah Orwa or General Hashim Abu Said who had worked with former President Nimeiry and who were brought back from exile on favourable financial terms.[93] This new Secret Service was widely feared and played a key role in consolidating the power of the new government in the following months. Mass arrests and repression enabled the regime to quell any incipient resistance.[94]

NIF long time militant Yassin Omar al-Imam quickly created a network of locally-based Popular Committees (al-Lijan ash-Shabiya), which fulfilled the dual purpose of on the one hand acting as local antennas for the new regime in every neighbourhood in the country, and on the other rooting themselves in the socio-economic reality of the land by serving as conduits for the distribution of price-controlled basic necessity goods such as cooking oil, flour and sugar.

At the military level, debate of the law that would eventually legalize the militias was quickly concluded. All the militias were legalized under the umbrella authority of the Difaa esh-Shabiyi or Popular Defence Forces (PDF). Through massive recruitment the PDF was quickly boosted to a force of several hundred thousand, designed to become a politically-motivated army in competition with the regular forces.[95]

9.2 The Human Rights Situation in the North

Although this statement should be taken with extreme care to keep a proper and balanced perspective, one might say that the human rights situation in Northern Sudan is, if not much better, at least definitely not as bad as the one prevailing in the South. And one might add that this difference in the degree of violence in the persecution of perceived heterodox political or socio-cultural attitudes by the authorities tragically but logically derives from the differential perceptions of identities in the country. This is where we come back to the laham ras (sheep's head) analogy. In a country where Blacks are still commonly called abd (slave)[96] any Arab government is bound to treat them more harshly than its Arab opponents.

Violations of human rights started immediately after the 30 June 1989 Coup through massive arrests of political opponents and the radical restriction of basic civil liberties. In spite of a (very relative) relaxation of the repression after 1991, violations have followed right up to the present time.[97] In the North they belong to roughly ten categories:

1.         Arbitrary killings: they are rare and have become more so after 1992. Although the numbers are open to discussion, a figure of around thirty since July 1989 is probable.[98] It is in its reluctance to order outright killings in the North that the regime demonstrates the greatest difference in treatment between Arabs and Non-Arabs, since, as we will see, killings are commonplace in the South. In the North, beatings and torture of opponents, followed by release from detention, have happened relatively frequently.

2.         Arbitrary arrests / restrictions of freedom: there was a massive wave of arrests following the coup and many politically active people were kept in detention until late 1992. The situation then eased off somewhat. But arrests were often replaced by job deprivation, and a new form of restriction of physical freedom: politically suspect persons were asked to report to a police station in the morning and kept there under surveillance for the whole day before being sent home with an order to return the next morning. This procedure could be kept up for months without the person ever being charged with anything, or even spoken to apart from orders to sit down on a bench. Failure to turn up meant temporary arrest. As a result working and a normal social life soon became impossible.[99]

3.         Job deprivation: there were massive lay offs in the Civil Service and the Army in the months following the coup, with up to 30,000 people being dismissed from their jobs. In addition, pressure was put on employers in the private sector to stop employing undesirables. A few civil servants (around 1,000) were progressively hired back, usually because they held special qualifications deemed necessary by the Government. But they had to discharge their duties under constant surveillance. Women were often especially targeted in these lay offs.

4.         Suppression of the right of association: this covered of course political parties and trade unions which were all banned.[100] But the ban was extended to most organizations and the regime tried to control those it allowed, such as the Lawyers Association. In some cases the real organization was banned and a new one, subservient to the Government, was then set up.[101]

5.         Cruel and inhuman punishments: they come in a variety of forms and for a variety of reasons spelt out in the Islamic Penal Code enacted by the regime. Contrary to what journalists have at times written the violent huddud punishments[102] which were common in 1983-1984 during the late Nimeiry period did not return. But lashing for alcohol-related offences (drunkenness, selling and even simple possession) remains common. Apart from this legal violence, torture during arbitrary detention is commonplace, leading at times to serious injury or permanent physical disability.[103] Most of the torture is carried out in illegal and unregistered private houses rented by the Security in various locations. These are commonly called Ghost Houses in Sudan since the Government has repeatedly refused to acknowledge their existence.

6.         Absence of due process of law: this item is self-evident and needs no elaboration.

7.         Suppression of freedom of speech and of information: the very lively free press which had flourished after the April 1985 overthrow of the Nimeiry dictatorship was closed down overnight. The Government publishes three Arabic dailies (al-Inkaz al-Watani, as-Sudan al-Hadith and al-Quwwat al-Mussallaha), one English language tri-weekly (The New Horizon) and one English language monthly (Sudanow). All are closely controlled. Nevertheless, during 1995, a semi-independent daily (ar-Ray al-Akher) was tolerated for a while before being closed down in September.[104] Although the overt expression of free speech is curtailed, the population is anything but cowed and strong political criticism can easily be made, even in public. As long as it remains limited, security forces seldom resort to repression at this simple level.

8.         Forced population transfers: these have targeted the squatters of the so-called Three Towns.[105] The squatters are refugees, either from the famine in Western Sudan or from the war in the South. They have repeatedly been forcibly moved from squatter areas within walking distance of the menial jobs and basic services the capital offered them, to barren, often waterless locations from which they have to travel for hours to try to get some work.[106] NGOs working in these new locations to try to ease the hardships of the population have often been harassed.[107]

9.         Violations of property rights: the properties of political opponents have been "nationalized" i.e. given to supporters of the NIF.

10.       Personal harassment: this mostly affects women. They can be harassed for wearing the wrong type of clothes, for talking in the street with a man who is neither their husband nor a relative, for living in a household where no male relative is permanently living or simply for displaying "immodest" behaviour, which can mean just about anything.[108] There again, identity makes a lot of difference: Arab women will be reprimanded, verbally abused, materially harassed (loss of work, expulsion from a rented house) but very seldom arrested or physically harmed. Southern women who sell alcohol (often their only way of surviving without a husband) will be publicly whipped, often viciously. Accusations of prostitution which can carry heavy penalties are common and are usually made by security forces in order to trade the woman's release in exchange for sexual favours.

All in all the picture of human rights in the Sudan can appear very misleading. To the casual outside observer who arrives in Khartoum expecting to see veiled and heavily-garbed women, a cowed and silent population and armed guards at every street corner, the situation appears disconcertingly relaxed. But a longer stay and a moderately deeper probe will quickly reveal a society only half breathing and strenuously living from day to day without enjoyment of life, hope or feeling of security.

9.3 The Human Rights Situation in the South

The situation there is quite different and definitely less ambiguous and more violent.[109] The heart of the problem is that the Sudanese Army carries out a double repressive policy in the South. There is first one of counterinsurgency with no holds barred and at a high cost in civilian lives. And then there is a much bigger and broader policy of global cultural and even ethnic assimilation aimed at destroying the African cultures of the region in order to solve once and for all the identity problem which has prevented the Sudan from being a real nation state.

In order to carry out this policy which should probably be called one of ethnocide rather than genocide,[110] the Government is ready to resort to extreme compulsion or if necessary to violence. Massive killings of civilians, bombing of refugee camps, use of food retention as a weapon, forced population transfers, separation of families and forced conversions of children to Islam, forced labour of civilians, sexual abuses of women[111] and herding of populations into controlled areas to deprive the guerrilla of their support are common practices. The result of this violence is that out of a pre-war population of about seven million people over two million Southerners have gone North to flee the conflict,[112] another half million have fled abroad for the same reason,[113] while an estimated 500,000 have become Internally Displaced Persons.[114]

9.4 The Economic Situation

Sudan's economy is so poor as to be on the brink of a major disaster. After an ebullient period during the late 1970s and early 1980s which was linked to the real or expected petro-dollar Arab investments in Sudanese agriculture, the Sudanese economy has lived in a state of quasi structural crisis.[115] GNP has remained stagnant while the population kept growing, which resulted in a steady erosion of per capita income throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s.[116] Similarly, the financial drain caused by the war created a practically built-in budget deficit and a permanent deficit of the balance of trade. This trend had been evident throughout the democratic period of 1985-1989 and it has not changed since the coup in spite of the largely propagandistic declarations of the new regime. In addition, the financial crisis seriously worsened when remittances from migrant workers in the Gulf countries ceased after the pro-Baghdad stance of the Sudan during the 1990-1991 Gulf Crisis had put the regime diplomatically beyond the pale among conservative Arab petromonarchies.[117]

The recent budget announcement for 1996 has confirmed this tendency with a sizable planned fiscal deficit of US$ 2.35 billion and a planned balance of payments deficit of US$ 618 million.[118] The national debt has reached over US$ 13 billion and due to it not being serviced in any acceptable way, has led to Sudan's suspension from the IMF since the late 1980s. In spite of a vigorous quasi Structural Adjustment Programme carried out outside any World Bank intervention during the early 1990s by internationally-oriented Finance Minister Abd-er-Rahim Hamdi, the IMF has so far refused to reintegrate Sudan as a full-fledged member. A recent Fund mission to Sudan[119] finally concluded after a month-long study that Sudan should remain on probation for six months and pay at least US$ 7 million per month on its unserviced arrears before it could be reinstated to normal membership.[120] Failure to comply led the Fund to later decide on an even longer probation period.[121]

The result of this escalating financial crisis has been massive inflation and rapid erosion of the external value of the Sudanese Pound - 216 to the US$ in 1993, 530 in 1994, 760 in September 1995 and 1,000 in December 1995.[122]

Whatever is left of a normal economy in the Sudan is concentrated in the North. The Southern economy, which never amounted to much anyway[123] is completely in ruins and can only be studied as an analytical case of conflict anthropology.[124]


10.1 The Gulf War Crisis and the Arab World

Although Sudan was not a major player in the Gulf War crisis, its decision to side with Iraq had major consequences in diplomatic terms, with strong effects both on the civil war situation and on the economy. Sudan supported Baghdad according to what was then perceived as anti-American logic[125] but the alliance between an aggressively secular regime and an Islamist one begs further explanation. This is especially so since less than a week before the crisis erupted the Sudanese regime had arrested 46 members of the Sudanese Baas Party, closely linked with Baghdad, and been denounced in a Baas weekly as "a fascist junta".[126]

The explanation seems to lie with Sheikh Hassan al-Turabi's remarkable political instinct. During the crisis he told one member of his family who was expressing surprise at his support of the atheistic Iraqi regime that it was a tactical move which he explained thus:

The vast majority of international Arab public opinion supports Saddam against the Americans. Of course he is going to be defeated. And a lot of bitterness and resentment will remain. His secular politics will be marred by his defeat. And out of this humiliation we will benefit. People will turn towards us.[127]

In fact, this analysis was largely correct, as the later evolution of the international Islamist movement bore out. But the price to pay for this political gain was high. This was the start of a process which was eventually going to isolate Sudan from the mainstream of Arab diplomacy. Khartoum might very well have won the hearts and minds of many young political activists in the Muslim world, but only at the cost of rejection by the petromonarchies, Egypt and even those moderate states who, like Jordan, had gone a small way along with the Iraqi leadership only to reconsider later.

The immediate costs were deep financial cuts in aid from rich Arab League members, the turning off of free oil supplies, diplomatic sniping and a severe drop in foreign workers' remittances. This last development occurred both because many Sudanese were expelled from Gulf Cooperation Council countries and because those who managed to stay lost a lot of confidence in the regime and started using parallel financial channels to send money to their families.[128] Today, with the partial exception of Yemen, the Sudan is largely isolated from its Arab neighbours at a time when, as we will see, its African neighbours have often become frankly hostile. Recently, a Junior Cabinet Minister could even be bold enough to declare that "if the Americans were to attack us tomorrow, nobody would rise to our defense, even in the Arab world".[129]

10.2 Relations with Egypt

These constitute a special chapter of Sudan's diplomatic problems, given Egypt's position of former colonial power and given Cairo's unofficial but often stated objective to regain control of the totality of the Nile Valley.[130] The general attitude of Cairo towards the new Islamist regime in Sudan has been a very careful one, taking care not to offend people who were seen as capable of change for the better if a soft attitude was adopted towards them. Accordingly, for the first two or three years there were very few condemnations of human rights violations, and Sudanese refugees in Egypt had to keep a low profile.[131]

At the same time, however, many Sudanese opposition organizations were allowed in the country, even if their operations were often under heavy police scrutiny and could be curtailed if and when the Egyptian Government felt that they were going too far.[132] The relations between the two countries worsened progressively, first because of a border quarrel related to the so-called Halaib Triangle.[133] There was further deterioration after the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis-Ababa while he attended an OAU summit there (26 June 1995). President Mubarak immediately accused the Sudanese regime of being behind the attempt on his life, an accusation hotly denied by Sudanese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ghazi Salah ed-Din Attabani.[134] Relations between Khartoum and Cairo were not improved when a prompt and thorough inquiry by Ethiopian authorities later substantiated the Egyptian President's claim, showing that even if the assassination team was Egyptian it had benefited from the logistic support of the Sudanese authorities, including the Sudanese embassy in Addis-Ababa.[135] The situation was not helped when Sudanese Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan al-Turabi, while denying that his country had participated in the attempt, nevertheless warmly congratulated the terrorists for their "courage in fighting the Pharaoh".[136] As a result of this attempt Cairo's attitude to the Sudanese opposition forces based in Egypt moved towards more resolute support and its attitude towards the Khartoum regime within the forum of the Arab League became much more aggressive.

10.3 Relations with Ethiopia and Eritrea

These were excellent at first since the new Sudanese regime, in perfect continuation of the policies of both President Nimeiry and Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, had supported the Eritrean and Tigrean rebels fighting against the Communist regime of President Mengistu Haile Mariam. The cause of this enmity was of course the help given by the Ethiopian regime to the Sudanese SPLA.[137] Thus, the collapse of the Communist regime in April 1991 and the subsequent flight of SPLA cadres (and of the Sudanese refugees) from Ethiopia seemed to herald an era of peace between Addis-Ababa and Asmara on one side and Khartoum on the other.

This turned out to be very short-lived, however. As early as mid-1992 Ethiopian authorities were complaining about Sudanese support for real and potential Muslim dissidents in the country and even for the (largely Christian) Oromo Liberation Front.[138] By the spring of the following year the same complaints could be heard in Eritrea.[139] The Eritrean refugee problem had by then created discord between Khartoum and Asmara, with the Eritreans accusing the Sudanese of politically manipulating the mostly Muslim refugees.[140] The open break finally came after a number of Islamist guerrillas, who had infiltrated from Sudan into Eritrea in late December 1993, were killed in an exchange of fire.[141] In spite of denials by Sudanese Interior Minister Husein Abu Saleh,[142] the Eritrean authorities were extremely resentful since they felt nothing in their previous attitude had warranted such aggression. After about a year of rather unproductive diplomatic negotiations and further border clashes, President Issayas Afeworki declared very clearly: "We are out to see that this government [the present Sudanese regime] is not there any more .... We will give weapons to anyone committed to overthrowing them."[143] As we will see in the section devoted to Sudanese opposition forces, this stand was substantiated by strong support to Khartoum's enemies from mid-1995 onwards.

The situation was somewhat more subdued in the relations with Ethiopia although the problem was basically the same, as Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin made clear when he declared: "Ethiopia will be able to live in peace with the Sudan only inasmuch as this country will stop meddling in other countries' affairs."[144] The attempt on President Mubarak's life was the last straw and Ethiopian reactions to Sudanese denials were very strong.[145] Rather unconvincingly the Sudanese regime accused Ethiopia of having masterminded the September 1995 hunger riots in Khartoum.[146] During his October visit to the U.S. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi spent most of his time not discussing Ethiopian domestic problems but rather complaining about Sudanese interference.[147]

10.4 The Growing Rift with Uganda

Relations between President Yoweri Museveni's regime and Sudan as a power had not been very good in the mid-1980s, following the support given by Khartoum to the remnants of General Okello's military regime.[148] But things had quietly moved towards a more relaxed state during the late 1980s as the situation in northern Uganda progressively returned to normal.

It was the Sudanese Government's offensive in Equatoria of early 1994 which led to further problems. After the Sudanese Air Force started systematically bombing the Internally Displaced Persons' camps of the Ame/Atepi/Aswa zone and thousands of refugees began streaming into Uganda, the war came perilously close to the border.[149] Carried more by geopolitical considerations than by Islamic proselytizing, Khartoum started helping the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, giving them rear bases inside Sudan, close to the Uganda border.[150] In July 1994, the Ugandan Army intercepted heavily armed columns of LRA fighters coming down from the Sudan, a new development since the rebels had up to then been rather poorly equipped.[151] Tension grew as the Ugandan Government accused Khartoum of delivering weapons to the LRA.[152] Diplomatic relations were broken in April 1995.[153] By autumn, as commentators noted, Uganda's army had gone on a war footing.[154] On 25 October the SPLA went on the offensive apparently with the help of Ugandan artillery and communications advisers.[155] The present situation is one of undeclared war.


The Sudanese opposition movements are all grouped under the name of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). But the NDA is more of a coalition of heterogeneous forces than a real organization capable of coherent and concerted action.

One component is the Umma Party, the expression of the traditional Mahdist movement whose members are referred to as ansar. Founded at the end of World War II under the sponsorship of Sayed Abd-er-Rahman al-Mahdi, the son of the historical Mahdi, it is a traditional party with a mostly rural base in the west of Sudan and in the Gezira. Its leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, the historical Mahdi's great-grandson, won the 1986 elections and ruled Sudan up to the 1989 coup. But its years of government weakened the party rather than strengthened it because al-Mahdi adopted a very personal style of leadership, never convening the party's governing bodies and preferring to rule through a kitchen cabinet of relatives and devoted personal supporters.[156] Premier Sadiq al-Mahdi was detained after the 1989 coup and then prevented from leaving the country. The task of leading the Umma abroad fell to his cousin Mubarak al-Fadl al-Mahdi who had been a Minister in his uncle's cabinet.

Another coalition member is the Democratic Unionist Party led by the present head of the Khatmiyya Brotherhood, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani. This party is the direct inheritor of the traditionally anti-Mahdist and pro-Egyptian forces of the Khatmiyya, with a mostly urban and trading social base and a regional presence in Dongola and in Eastern Sudan, astride the Eritrean border. After a period of detention following the 1989 coup, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani was able to leave Sudan and is now based in Cairo, where among the various exile groups, his enjoys the strongest backing of the Egyptian authorities .

The Sudanese Communist Party is much smaller than the two previous parties. But its strong intellectual and militant tradition and the close links between its members or sympathizers gives it an influence vastly beyond its actual size.[157] It has often been the one force willing to do a lot of the tiring but necessary legwork for the NDA. Today, the partly is deeply divided between the traditionalist wing of Tijani al-Tayeb, the reformist wing of al-Khatim Adlan and the Social Democratic wing of Khalid al-Tom. Some of the reformists are seriously thinking of merging with other left wing forces to create a new secular party, able to compete both with the radical Islamists and possibly even more with the traditional religious parties Umma and DUP.[158]

This Secular Left could in fact be considered the Black Hole of Sudanese politics. For the past thirty years, under a variety of names, loose groups of professionals, intellectuals, trade unionists and non-Arab tribal elements have played a key political role[159] without ever being capable of coalescing into a coherent political party, partly because of the obstruction and delaying tactics of the Sudanese Communist Party and partly because of their own internal squabbles. Today they are represented within the NDA by such men and organizations as Amin Makki Medani and his Sudan Human Rights Organization (SHRO) or Faruk Abu Issa, President of the Association of Arab Lawyers.

Then we find the military, and first the Qiyada ash-Shar'iyah li'l Quwat al-Mussallaha (Legitimate Command of the Armed Forces) led by General Fathi Ahmed Ali, former Chief of Staff of the Sudan Armed Forces before the 1989 coup. The Legitimate Command is based in Egypt. But most of its capability in terms of opposition has been curtailed by the severe and well targeted army purges of 1989-1990, during which NIF officers and NCOs eliminated liberal and democratic colleagues. General Abd-el-Azziz Khalid Osman, formerly a member of the Legitimate Command, estimated that it was too passive an organization and moved to Eritrea in the spring of 1994 after the rift developed between Asmara and Khartoum, with the aim of starting military action. He created the so-called Alliance Forces which tried to adopt a more militant stance but have been hampered by a very limited membership, mostly made up of deserters from the Sudan Army. General Abd-el-Azziz would like to present himself as a military saviour in the present situation, and after the Asmara Conference of June 1995 (see below) he declared that his forces were "an armed organization at the service of the whole of the Sudanese people and not of any given organization", a declaration which was received with mixed feelings by his fellow NDA members.[160]

These various components making up the NDA have very little in common except their detestation of the NIF regime. But even their reasons for detesting it are quite different. The Left and the Communists detest it for being religious and conservative, something which neither the Umma nor the DUP object to. These two parties mostly detest the NIF because it has eliminated them and taken all the positions of power and cornered the best deals in the economy. As for the soldiers, their detestation of the Islamist regime is extremely varied as it encompasses a mixture of professional resentment (the development of the PDF at the expense of the Army), dislike of active involvement in politics when they feel the Army component of the Islamist movement has dragged the forces into the partisan political arena, and/or personal identification with some of the other political forces (ansar, DUP or Communist) because of family connections.

On the whole, the opposition is not felt to be either credible or capable of reforming the political scene after the major trauma caused by the excesses of the present regime.[161] Its eventual accession to power is viewed with some apprenhension, including by many people who are opposed to the present regime, because the same pattern (i.e. overthrow of a dictatorship by the traditional democratic forces) has already happened twice, in October 1964 and in April 1985, each time to be followed by utter confusion and a new coup bringing the Army back in power.

During the past two years, the opposition has managed one (limited) success in achieving a reasonably united stance and has had to face a major hurdle of political philosophy in its dealings with the problem of the possible self-determination of the South. Unity of a sort came with the Asmara Conference of June 1995. After its relations with the Sudanese Government had deteriorated beyond repair, the Eritrean Government organized a Sudanese Opposition Conference (14-24 June 1995) in its capital. It was attended by all forces belonging to the NDA, including the SPLA.[162] Nothing really new emerged from the conference. The importance of the event had to do rather with the fact that it could take place at all and the open support of the Eritrean authorities.[163]

The main hurdle for the Northerners attending the conference was the question of self-determination for the south. As we will se in the next section, this debate had a long history. What was new in Asmara was not agreeing on the principle (this had been done - and undone - many times before) but rather that for the first time there was a note of sincerity, when some of the most staid Northern participants admitted that the South had been treated shabbily ever since independence.[164] This might very well be too late to prevent a break-up of the country when the war ends, but at least it was a step in the right direction. Even that was too much for some opposition members and Legitimate Command's General al-Hadi Bushra decided to abandon his opposition stance and go back to Khartoum in protest at the conference's recognition of the right of self-determination.[165] To examine the essential question of self-determination we will now move to the section concerning the latest developments of the war.


12.1 Evolution of the Military Situation

At first, after it took power, the Islamist regime in Khartoum did not try to deal militarily with the South. Its main problem was - as we have seen - internal consolidation of power in the North. As a result the period 1989-1991 was almost one of peace, marked only by very limited local skirmishes.

Paradoxically, the events which restarted an active phase of the war did not occur in the Sudan itself but in Ethiopia, where the collapse of the Mengistu regime in May 1991 was a strong blow to the guerrilla.[166] The SPLA had to evacuate its bases in a hurry and over 400,000 refugees had to flee back to the Sudan in a state of utter confusion which caused heavy loss of life.[167]

An indirect but related development was the splitting up of the guerrilla into two rival branches. One was led by Colonel Garang and called either SPLA-Mainstream or SPLA-Torit from the name of its headquarters. The other was under the command of Commanders Lam Akol and Riak Machar and called the SPLA-Nasir, also by the name of its headquarters.[168] The fighting between the two branches of the guerrilla, which started almost immediately (with the SPLA-Nasir raid on Bor in October 1991) heralded a new era, one in which inter-tribal and even intra-tribal fighting[169] caused more deaths and displaced more civilians than the actions of the regular Army.

The Sudanese Government took advantage of these conflicts within the SPLA to launch new military operations. In late 1991-early 1992, large amounts of military equipment were bought in the People's Republic of China with funds provided by Iran, and a new offensive was undertaken.[170] Against a divided, disorganized and demoralized SPLA the Sudanese Army won rapid and important victories. Key towns such as Bor, Kapoeta and Torit fell back into the Government's hands. SPLA supply lines, already closed on the Ethiopian side, were almost severed on the Kenya border.

With the guerrilla reeling under the twin impact of its own internal divisions and its military defeats, the Khartoum regime agreed to attend peace negotiations in Abuja (26 May-4 June 1992) with the feeling that it would simply entail a measure of diplomatic tact in order to obtain a surrender of the guerrilla. The result was exactly the opposite and as an Arabic newspaper reported with some surprise: "The Southerners reunite in support of secession: Abuja talks in a dead end".[171] In a limited counter offensive designed mostly for morale-building the SPLA managed to attack Juba, the South's capital, and cause a lot of damage, thereby showing that the war was far from over.[172]

In early 1993 Khartoum undertook a new offensive, again with Iranian military and financial help.[173] Contrary to the offensive of the previous year, it petered out after a few initial successes, eventually leading the exhausted forces of the rebels and then of the Government into proclaiming a cease-fire.[174] The cease-fire was followed by new peace talks in Abuja which proved as inconclusive as those of the previous year, the Government insisting on a quasi-surrender of the guerrilla and refusing to discuss either autonomy for the South or a secular government for the whole country.[175]

Even while the common destiny of the South was being discussed in Abuja, extremely violent fighting between the SPLA-Mainstream and the SPLA-Nasir factions had restarted (March 1993). It lasted for three months and caused thousands of casualties, including many Internally Displaced Persons who starved to death until a precarious armistice between the two factions was reached in May.[176] While the armistice held in Upper Nile it was quickly broken in Equatoria where intra-SPLA fighting flared up in July. In spite of these internecine clashes, SPLA-Mainstream forces managed to inflict a severe defeat on government forces in the Nimule area.[177] 1993 ended with renewed military stalemate which, contrary to the 1989-1991 one, was marginally in favour of government forces, which now held the main towns and had managed to more or less clear the main roads. The only area still solidly in SPLA hands was Western Equatoria. But two results of this confused fighting were that the SPLA was greatly weakened and that the Sudanese Army was now very close to the Ugandan border at many points. This led to two new developments: the SPLA was no more able to act as a buffer on the Ugandan border and the Sudanese army could begin to carry out its programme of destabilization, prelude to the future spreading of Islam in the Great Lakes Area.[178]

As we have seen above (in the section on Regional Diplomatic Problems) the renewed fighting near the border caused thousands of refugees to cross into Uganda[179] and the Sudanese authorities to start supporting the Ugandan LRA rebels. This, occurring after years of painstaking efforts on the part of the government in Kampala to mend fences between North and South in the country and to pacify the North, amounted to an unspoken declaration of war on President Museveni. As we saw, tensions grew after the breaking off of diplomatic relations and the Sudan-Uganda border is now engulfed in war.

12.2 The Attempts at Peace Negotiations

After Abuja, the next attempts at peace negotiations were organized within the framework of the International Group Against Drought and for Development (IGADD), the East African diplomatic forum created in the mid-1980s. A first and inconclusive round of talks took place in Nairobi in January 1994, followed by another equally inconclusive one in March.[180] A new session took place again in July[181] and quickly ran into trouble as the Northern delegation refused to accept the so-called Declaration of Principles (DOP), which was supposed to be used as terms of reference for the negotiations. Since the DOP was the brainchild of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the IGADD Contact Group countries (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea) the atmosphere became very tense.[182] The DOP mentioned regional autonomy or secularism at the central level as possible options and the government delegation rejected both.[183] The fourth and last round took place again in Nairobi in September 1994. It aborted in twenty-four hours due to the head of the Khartoum delegation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ghazi Salah ed-Din Attabani, shouting at the Southern delegation and the IGADD diplomats that they "would get neither secularism nor independence" and that "the Sudan's mission was to Islamize Africa".[184]

It is in the light of this incident that the further efforts at peace should be viewed, for example the creation of the "Friends of IGADD", made up of European diplomats and various regional consultants[185]185, or former U.S. President Carter's ceasefire and peace initiative.[186] Friends of IGADD talked themselves into exhaustion and former President Carter ended up declaring himself disappointed by the result of his efforts after almost a year of trying. The reasons are fairly simple. There is absolutely no common language between the groups now in conflict, nor will there ever be one. The NIF regime sees itself as the defender of Islam, duty-bound to Islamize and Arabize (the distinction between the two concepts is unclear) the whole of the Sudan and even, as Minister Ghazi Salah ed-Din was shouting in the moment of honesty we just mentioned, "the whole of Africa". Concepts such as democracy and human rights in the Western sense are meaningless in the context of the ideology of the regime, because they represent an inherently heathen philosophy. For Islamists rightful government cannot be separated from God's Law i.e. shari'a. The Southerners' demands are seen as inherently godless and unacceptable, because the notion of separation of Church and State is conceived of as blasphemous.

Furthermore, in cruder realpolitik terms, since this government is ideologically based and since it is a minority one, if it stepped back and accepted compromise (supposing it could envision such a thing) it would quickly lose its grip on the internal political situation and probably lose power after a short time. Thus, fair-minded as they may be, peace initiatives seem unlikely to have any sort of success under the present circumstances, because the minimum leeway which is necessary to start negotiations does not exist.

12.3 The Question of Self-Determination

This issue is closely linked with the preceding point. Granted that there is no leeway to secularize the government institutions, at least one could conceive of a situation where the two parties would agree to disagree and set up separate entities, which would each be run according to different political philosophies. But this is where the confusion between Islamization and Arabization comes in. If the problem was only one of political philosophy, such a partition might be considered. The problem is the "heathen jungles of Africa", as Abd-el-Wahab al-Effendi was writing. The extreme wing of the Arab minority group, embodied by the NIF, feels that it is culturally entitled to rule, that its culture is superior to African culture, and that God Himself has sanctioned this superiority through Islam, which is both sacred and inseparable from a language, a culture and a political system. Admitting self-determination would thus be a blow not only to the ruling group's interests but to Islam itself, at least in the interpretation of the NIF.

But although this extreme interpretation is linked with the NIF Islamists, it is present in various diluted forms among all the traditional politico-religious groups in northern Sudan. Thus the distinguished Southern writer and journalist Bona Malwal, himself a former Minister of Culture and Information in the Nimeiry government, could reasonably ask himself after the abortive Abuja Conference had brought the issue of self-determination to the fore: "Will the debate for self-determination sound the death knell for the NDA?".[187] The question was not rhetorical, because there were sharp divisions within the NDA on whether the SPLA demands for self-determination could be accommodated. This objection was all the stronger for being vociferously supported by Arab opinion abroad. After the second round of IGADD talks during which self-determination was discussed, albeit in a desultory fashion, both the Egyptian Government[188] and the Arab League[189] expressed strong objections to what the League called "the plans aiming at breaking up the Sudanese national entity".

The situation was further complicated because both the Umma and the DUP wanted two contradictory things, on the one hand to avoid supporting self-determination and on the other to stay on good terms with the SPLA, which represented the only viable and resolute armed opposition to the regime. To make it worse, they were competing with each other with an eye on positioning themselves for future power, should the NIF government fall.

On 14 July 1994, the DUP signed an agreement on self-determination with the SPLA in Cairo, but stipulated that a referendum would be organized "only if equality of citizenship were to be violated". In fact the text went through complicated verbal contortions in order to mention self-determination while making it impossible in practice.[190]

Not to be left out, Umma signed its own self-determination agreement with the SPLA on 12 December 1994. But there were two differences. The signing took place at Chukudum, in Southern Sudan, in a SPLA-controlled area, which had a very different symbolical value from signing in Cairo, an Arab capital. And then the text was much clearer about the modalities of a referendum which was conceived of as a right for the South.[191]

The self-determination charade took on an added twist a few days later when both the DUP and the Umma signed a common declaration with the SPLA in Asmara (27 December 1994). A month later in Cairo on 28 January 1995, the DUP reneged on its own signature, denouncing the Chukudum Agreement as "an attack on the unity of the Sudan".[192]

All this is mentioned just to give an idea of how difficult it is for the representatives of the Arabs in the Sudan to admit that the Janubiyin (Southerners) can have their own views, desires and demands. Giving in to these demands is not simply a political matter, it is a matter of identity, a matter of the soul. According to the views held on secularism and/or self-determination, there will be a different answer for a Sudanese Arab to the essential question: "Who am I?" In a way, if the Northern Sudanese were really Arabs, the matter might be simpler. It would be a question of give and take, at the material level, not a question of flesh and blood, of profound self-questioning. This is why, when we come to the identity dimension of political questions, such as what are the reasons and aims of this war (which also means, what are the ways of making peace), what should the constitution be,[193] what kind of judicial system should be adopted, what should the relationship be between the various regions and the nation's capital, things then become so intractable.


Prey to a multiple crisis which is at the same time ecological, economic, political, social, military and cultural, Sudan, the largest of African nations, has been called "the biggest mess in the world".[194] In a way, this is true, but what lies at the heart of the matter is the question of identity. Sudan is a perfect example of the biblical notion of a house divided against itself. Not able to decide either what it is or what it should be, the Sudan has a de facto administrative existence combined with a strong grip on the mind of its inhabitants, much in the way an ailing child draws the attention of its family and has a massive physical presence. But it is not a real nation. This might not matter too much, as it does not matter all that much in other African countries which are not nations either but where politics, the state and conflicts themselves, when they do not pertain to the sphere of essentials, slowly create the conditions for the emergence of increasingly real nation-states.

In Sudan the situation is much more serious. The very existence of the country and the elementary well-being of its members are at stake in the civil war which has ravaged it for most of its independent life. Conflict in the Sudan can only be resolved in one of three ways, all radical and and all implying massive choices and consequences:

1.         A military victory of the Arab North, probably by attrition, followed by the Islamization and Arabization of the non-Arab non-Muslim populations.

2.         Some form of full-fledged regional autonomy for the South, possibly up to and including full independence.

3.         A fully secular government in Khartoum with a strong generalized federal system.

Anything short of these radical choices will only lead back to the confused political swamp where civil war germs breed with tiring and predictable regularity. But for these radical choices to be made by the political elites, who have been globally the bad shepherds of their people ever since independence,[195] massive cultural re-alignments have to occur in the civil society which underpins their existence. And democracy is no panacea, especially when the South is concerned,[196] something the Western friends of the Sudan will have to learn.


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The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of UNHCR.


[1] While Sudan only became independent on 1 January 1956 the opening shots of the civil war had been fired in Torit in August 1955 during the mutiny of the colonial Equatoria Corps, which was refusing to accept its new Arab officers. See Sudan, Commission of Inquiry into the Southern Sudan Disturbances of August 1955, Report (Khartoum: Government Printers, 1956). And while the period between February 1972 and May 1983 was generally considered one of peace, it was marked by frequent mutiny attempts and guerrilla skirmishes. See Gérard Prunier, From Peace to War: the Southern Sudan (1972-1984), Occasional Paper, No. 3 (Hull: University of Hull Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, 1986).

[2] For the sake of clarity, we will from now on avoid the quotation marks around the word Arab in the Sudanese context. But one should always mentally retain them. An Arab in the Sudan is somebody (around 30 per cent of the population) whose mother tongue is Arabic. But apart from the Rashaida tribe which migrated from Arabia during the last century, the Sudanese Arabs are Arabs by culture only. Ethnically they belong to the Cushitic stock, in common with their Habasha (Abyssinian) neighbours and the Somali. And when they go to the Gulf Countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, the Sudanese are often made painfully conscious of their dark skins by their Arab brothers. See Francis Deng, War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1995). For the vast majority of Sudanese, including many in the Muslim North (we will discuss that concept later), Arabic is a foreign language learnt in school, at the market or in the Army. See Catherine Miller and al-Amin Abu Manga, Language Change and National Integration: Rural Migrants in Khartoum (Khartoum: University of Khartoum IAAS, [1992]).

[3] None of these concepts is respected by the shari'a-based present legislation. In the capital, non-Arab migrants from both the South and the West are frequently deported in organized kasha (mass arrests and transfers), permits for church-building are systematically refused in the North, Christian NGOs and other organizations are constantly harassed, and unaccompanied females (usually non-Arabs) can be accused of prostitution and treated accordingly. See Gérard Prunier, "Les Frères Musulmans au Soudan: un Islamisme tacticien" in Marc Lavergne (ed.), Le Soudan Contemporain, (Paris: Karthala, 1989), pp. 359-380 and Gérard Prunier, "Les Frères et l'Armée", Les Cahiers de l'Orient, No. 27 (Third Trimester 1992), pp. 53-70.

[4] It is interesting to notice that those few Muslims who fight alongside Christians and Animists in the rebel forces are perfectly free to worship openly and do so without being the target of any social opprobrium (Author's field notes in 1991, 1992 and 1995).

[5] The Arabo-Muslim Centre, the non-Arab but Muslim West and East and the non-Arab non-Muslim South, each making up roughly about one third of the population. In fact the country is best understood from the angle of cultural geography. See K.M. Barbour, The Sudan: A Regional Geography (London: University of London Press, 1961) and Gérard Prunier, "Le Soudan entre deux mondes" in Alain Dubresson et al. (eds.), Les Afriques au Sud du Sahara (Paris: Belin, 1994), pp. 295-307.

[6] The standard study of this period is the book by Richard Hill, Egypt in the Sudan (1821-1881) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959).

[7] For descriptions of the North before the Turkiyya see Yusuf Fadl Hassan, The Arabs in the Sudan from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1973); R.S. O'Fahey and J.L. Spaulding, Kingdoms of the Sudan (London: Methuen, 1974); and John Lewis Burckardt, Travels in Nubia (London, 1819; reissued London: Darf Publishers, 1987). For the early days of the conquest refer to Georges Douin, Histoire du Soudan egyptien. Vol. 1: La pénétration (1820-1822) (Cairo: IFAO, 1944) and Richard Hill, On the Frontiers of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.

[8] The name of the country itself was and remains very vague. For medieval Arab geographers, beled as-sudan meant the whole belt of country inhabited by Blacks (sudaniyin) south of the Sahara from present-day Mauritania to the highlands of Habashiya (Abyssinia). Thus Sudan was just a chunk of that ill-defined and porous space stretching across the continent, and when the French occupied what is now called Mali they also named it le Soudan Français, something which to this day causes extreme confusion for librarians who keep labelling books dealing with Mali under the Sudan and vice-versa. As for the Turco-Egyptian colonizers, they gave the name Sudan to the totality of their African empire, including parts of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the whole Somali coast and chunks of Uganda and the Central African Republic.

[9] For the best general study of traditional Islam see J.S.Trimingham, Islam in the Sudan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949).

[10] See Richard Gray, A History of the Southern Sudan (1839-1889) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961). To put into perspective the North-South relationship in the Sudan, one can keep in mind that the Turco-Arabic Muslim groups penetrated the Southern Sudan nine years later than the French invasion of Algeria, and from an equally remote and alien cultural perspective.

[11] See Henri Dehérain, "Le Soudan egyptien de Mohamed Aly à Ismail Pacha" in Gabriel Hanoteaux (ed.), Histoire de la nation egyptienne. Vol. 4 (Paris: Plon, 1936), pp. 417-583; Abbas Ibrahim Muhammad Ali, The British, the Slave Trade and Slavery in the Sudan (1821-1881) (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1972); Gérard Prunier, "La traite soudanaise: structures et périodisation (1820-1885)" in Serge Daget (ed.), De la traite à l'esclavage (Paris: SFHOM, 1989), pp. 521-535.

[12] Author's field notes when travelling in the southern Sudan between 1982 and 1995. For a scholarly treatment of that syndrome, see Lazarus Leek Mawut, The Southern Sudan: Why Back to Arms? (Khartoum: Saint George Printing Press, 1986) and Deng Akol Ruay, The Politics of Two Sudans: North and South 1821-1969 (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1994)

[13] This feeling was much weaker, to the point of hardly existing at all, in the province of Dar Fur which had been incorporated into the Egyptian Sudan only in 1873. This caused Dar Fur to remain quite marginal among the various Muslim components of Northern Sudan to this very day, creating in Sudanese politics the phenomenon of the awlad al-gharb (the people from the West). See R.S. O'Fahey, State and Society in Dar Fur (London: Hurst, 1980) and Ulrich Braukämper, Migration und ethnischer Wandel: Untersuchungen aus der östlichen Sudanzone (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1992).

[14] This does not mean that there was no cooperation between some Southerners and the Northern traders/slavers. The Arabs were able to recruit large private armies and use these African mercenaries (Bazinger) for capturing other Blacks. Dehérain; Carlo Zaghi, La via del Nilo (Naples: Edizioni Cymba, 1971).

[15] The standard study on that period is the work of P.M. Holt, The Mahdist State in the Sudan (1881-1898) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958).

[16] This was a typically Sudanese gesture. Sudanese Islam is sufi and as such extremely prone to fissiparous tendencies. See Ali Saleh Karrar, The Sufi Brotherhoods in the Sudan (London: Hurst, 1992).

[17] Since Mohamed Ahmed had taken the title of Mahdi (The Expected One, a name borrowed from popular Islamic millenaristic folklore) the movement was called Mahdism. Its adepts called themselves ansar (helpers) the name given to the Prophet's close followers in Medina. The name is still commonly used by the followers of the modern Umma party in today's Sudan.

[18] Those interested in the complex events of the mid-1880s should read A.B. Wylde, '83 to '87 in the Sudan (London: Remington, 1888; reissued New York: Negro University Press, 1969) for the political aspects and B. Burleigh, Desert Warfare: A Chronicle of the Eastern Soudan Campaign (London: Chapman and Hall, 1884; reissued London: Trotman, 1988) for the military questions.

[19] For a discussion of this and its relation to modern Sudanese politics see Gérard Prunier "L'Islam en tant que système de légitimation du pouvoir politique au Soudan" in Françoise Le Guennec-Coppens and Jacques Mercier (eds.), Religion et politique en Afrique Orientale (fc.).

[20] For a history of the politico-religious interplay of the Khatmiyya, see John Voll, "A History of the Khatmiyya Tariqa in the Sudan", Harvard University, 1969. Unpublished PhD Thesis.

[21] For the details of Dar Fur's revolt and complex politics at the end of the Turkiyya see Romolo Gessi, Sette anni nel Sudan egiziano (Milan: Libreria Editrice Galli, 1891)

[22] For this episode which has nourished strong Dar Fur particularism to this day, see A.B. Theobald, Ali Dinar, Last Sultan of Darfur (1898-1916) (London: Longman, 1965).

[23] Details can be found in R.O. Collins, The Southern Sudan 1883-1898: A Struggle for Control (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962)

[24] See for example the pages concerning the Mahdi in the memoirs of former Sudanese Prime Minister Mohamed Ahmed Mahgoub, Democracy on Trial (London: Andre Deutsch, 1974), pp. 25-26

[25] The Mahdi died in 1885 a few months after his victory and was succeeded by the Khalifa Abdullahi who ruled until being vanquished and killed by the British in 1898. Both men had a traditional Muslim outlook and could only conceive of their movement within the context of the world-wide Umma (Community of Believers) created by the Prophet, not within national boundaries (which did not exist then anyway).

[26] Litarally "head meat". This term comes from a popular Sudanese dish, cooked sheep's head. All the parts are eaten, including the eyes, the brain, the cheeks and the tongue. All are so different from each other in texture, appearance and taste that they seem as if they come from different animals. Thus when in popular parlance Sudan is called laham ras, it means "made of many different parts".

[27] The standard study of the colonial period in the Sudan is the massive but excellent two-volume work by Martin Daly, Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1898-1934) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) and Imperial Sudan: The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1934-1956) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

[28] See for example Francis Deng and Martin Daly, Bonds of Silk: The Human Factor in the British Administration of the Sudan (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1989; and for an even more favourable view by a Sudanese see Mohamed Ahmed Nigumi, A Great Trusteeship (London: The Caravel Press, 1957).

[29] A frequently heard remark in the Sudan concerns the fact that after Karrari (the battle during which British forces crushed the Mahdist army and which in the West is called the Battle of Omdurman) the British had won and it was all right for them to rule. "But why did they have to bring with them those accursed Egyptians whom we had beaten thirteen years before?" This alludes of course to the fact that according to the 1899 Agreement with France after the Fashoda incident, it was agreed that Egypt would reoccupy the Sudan "under British guidance". Even if this fiction enabled the British to actually rule, many Sudanese resented the return of their former masters under British sponsorship.

[30] Daly, Empire on the Nile, Chapters 5 and 11

[31] Gérard Prunier, "Le Sud-Soudan depuis l'indépendance (1956-1989)" in Lavergne (ed.), p. 386

[32] H.L. Greenwood, "Escape in the Grass", Sudan Notes and Records, Vol. 29 (1941), p. 189

[33] Raphaël Koba Badal, Origins of the Underdevelopment of the Southern Sudan: British Administrative Neglect, Khartoum: University of Khartoum Institute of Development Studies, 1983

[34] See for example Mekki Abbas, The Sudan Question (1884-1951) (London: Faber and Faber, 1952), Appendix C, and Muddathir Abd-er-Rahim, The Development of British Policy in the Southern Sudan (1899-1947) (Khartoum: University of Khartoum School of Extra-Mural Studies, 1968).

[35] See Joseph Oduho and William Deng, The Problem of the Southern Sudan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963).

[36] Prunier, "La traite soudanaise"

[37] A reflection of this optimism can be found in some of the works produced by British civil servants during the late colonial period and the early years of independence, such as J.S.R. Duncan, The Sudan's Path to Independence (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1957) or slightly later K.D.D. Henderson, The Sudan Republic (London: Ernest Benn, 1965).

[38] On this see the memoirs of the last Civil Secretary in the Sudan, Sir James Robertson, Transition in Africa: From Direct Rule to Independence (London: Hurst, 1974). For a liberal Egyptian perspective see Hassan Zulfakar Sabry, Sovereignty for the Sudan (London: Ithaca Press, 1982). A member of the Egyptian negotiating team, Hassan Sabry sympathized with Sudanese aspirations for independence, a point of view which did not endear him to his fellow countrymen.

[39] Sudan was never a colony and was therefore not administered by the Colonial Office.

[40] See Afaf Abdel Majid Abu Hasabu, Factional Conflict in the Sudanese Nationalist Movement (1918-1948) (Khartoum: University of Khartoum, 1985).

[41] Henderson, pp. 201-2

[42] Nigumi, p. 134

[43] Sudan, Commission of Inquiry, p. 21. This threat was uttered on 18 August 1954, eight months after al-Azhari had been elected Prime Minister of the transitional self-government cabinet which was to lead the country to independence. Ten of the 22 Southern representatives to an Assembly of 97 seats were nominated traditional chiefs.

[44] This clash illustrates one of the basic problems of independence: out of 800 administrative posts to be transferred from British to Sudanese personnel, 794 went to Northerners. In the Army all the new officers were Northerners. In the words of a Southern Sudanese trader at the time: "It looks as if our northern brothers are out to colonize us for another one hundred years". R.O. Collins, Shadows in the Grass: Britain in the Southern Sudan (1918-1956) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), p. 455.

[45] The PDP was al-Azhari's party which had won the December 1953 self-government election.

[46] A commission was created to look into the question of federalism. In November 1956 it simply declared that it was a system not suited to the Sudan. Prunier, "Le Sud-Soudan depuis l'indépendance (1956-1989)", p. 389.

[47] At the military level one can refer to Cecil Eprile, War and Peace in the Sudan (1955-1972) (London: David and Charles, 1974) and Edgar O'Ballance, The Secret War in the Sudan (1955-1972) (London: Faber and Faber, 1977). There is no really comprehensive political history of the war. But to obtain a balanced view it is possible to read both the work of an open-minded Southerner, Dunstan Wai, The African-Arab Conflict in the Sudan (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1981) and that of a liberal Northern academic and political activist, Mohamed Omar Beshir, The Southern Sudan: Background to Conflict (London: Hurst, 1968).

[48] During the colonial period the British had never developed an independent secular school system in the South. For reasons of economy they preferred to leave teaching to the missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic. See Lilian and Neville Sanderson, Education, Religion and Politics in Southern Sudan (1899-1964) (London: Ithaca Press, 1981).

[49] Decree published in the Sudan Daily (28 February 1964 ). For a summary of the situation see the document produced by the Catholic Church, The Black Book of the Sudan: An Answer on the Expulsion of the Missionaries from Southern Sudan (Milan: Istituto Artigianelli, 1964).

[50] The discredit had of course mostly to do with the political and economic situation in the North. But in the South, the civilian regime had acted in even more brutal fashion than the preceding Abboud military dictatorship, being responsible in 1965 for the brutal Juba and Wau massacres. Wai, p. 109.

[51] The best analysis of this period can be found in Wai, pp. 144-149 and in Bona Malwal, People and Power in the Sudan (London: Ithaca Press, 1981).

[52] For an analysis of the interplay between the Southern Sudan rebellion and the situation in Uganda, see Gérard Prunier: "Le Sud-Soudan depuis l'indépendance (1956-1989)" and Rolf Steiner, Carré Rouge (Paris: Editions Rombaldi, 1978), pp. 340-368.

[53] David Martin, General Amin (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), Chapter 9: "Amin, Israel and Britain".

[54] The best description of the peace process can be found in Mohamed Omar Beshir, The Southern Sudan: From Conflict to Peace (London: Hurst, 1975).

[55] The text of the peace agreement can be found as an appendix in Beshir, The Southern Sudan: From Conflict to Peace. For a critical discussion of the meaning of the peace see Abu Baker al-Obeid, The Political Consequences of the Addis-Ababa Agreement (Stockholm: Liber Förlag, 1980) and Prunier, From Peace to War.

[56] For that period see Prunier, From Peace to War and Momkou Arou Nhial and B. Yongo Bure (eds.), North-South Relations in the Sudan since the Addis-Ababa Agreement (Khartoum: University of Khartoum IAAS, 1988).

[57] Prunier, "Le Sud-Soudan depuis l'indépendance (1956-1989)", p. 402

[58] Peter Woodward, Sudan (1898-1989): The Unstable State (London: Lester Crook, 1990), pp. 152-156.

[59] On this, see Gérard Prunier, "L'Islam en tant que système de légitimation du pouvoir politique au Soudan".

[60] In the early summer of 1983, as the war was re-starting, an economic conference was held in Juba to assess the 1977-1983 Six Year Development Plan. The picture was one of unmitigated disaster, with barely 30 per cent of the funds having ever been disbursed and then most of them misused (see African Business, July 1983 and Review of African Political Economy, No. 26 (July 1983), pp. 87-89).

[61] There is no published documentation on the oil exploration in Southern Sudan apart from a few articles of a technical nature in trade publications. But there is a rich literature on the Jonglei Canal. The two best books on the question are those of R.O. Collins, The Waters of the Nile: Hydropolitics and the Jonglei Canal (1900-1988) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) for the historical aspect, and Paul Howell et al. (eds.), The Jonglei Canal: Impact and Opportunity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988) for the economic, technical and ecological aspects.

[62] The ecological consequences had been very imperfectly studied. They could have come from the fact that the drainage of thousands of square km of swampland was apt to seriously affect the local climate on which the local pastoralists depended. John Garang, the future leader of the Southern rebellion, had written his PhD dissertation on the economic questions linked with the canal, although he seems to have personally been in favour of the project. John Garang de Mabior, "Identifying, Selecting and Implementing Rural Development Strategies for Socio-economic Development in the Jonglei Project Area", Iowa State University, 1981. Unpublished PhD Thesis.

[63] Gordon Muortat Mayen, The South Sudan Question: The Root Causes (London, 1984) (privately printed)

[64] The mutiny started with the 105th Battalion in the Bor garrison during April-May, but it soon spread to other towns. For a history of the early days of the revolt and of its military development till 1989, refer to Douglas Johnson and Gérard Prunier, "The Foundation and Expansion of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army" in Martin Daly and Ahmed Sikainga (eds.), Civil War in the Sudan (London: British Academic Press, 1993), pp. 117-141.

[65] For details refer to Gérard Prunier, "The SPLA crisis (1991-1995)" in Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Sudanese Studies. Special issue of Northeast African Studies (fc. 1996).

[66] For evidence of the SPLA's ideological ambiguity, see Sudan People's Liberation Movement, Manifesto, 31 July 1983 (no place, privately printed).

[67] For the text of the decrees and President Nimeiry's speech on the matter (5 June 1983) see Sudan, Ministry of Information, Perspective on the South (Khartoum: Sudanow Press, August 1983).

[68] There has been (and there still is) a great amount of ambiguity and misunderstanding around the true nature of the September 1983 laws. Considered as religiously based by the Muslim extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, they were seriously questioned for canonic content both by Sudanese and foreign experts in Islamic law. On this question see the thoughtful and well-documented book by Hervé Bleuchot, Les cultures contre l'homme: essai d'anthropologie historique du droit pénal soudanais (Aix-en-Provence: Presses Universitaires d'Aix-en-Provence, 1994). But beyond the reality of the legal and canonical contents of the texts, what mattered more was the symbolic impact, whether in terms of boosting Islamic extremism in the North or of reinforcing the determination of the Southern rebels.

[69] This had been the happy epithet of the Sudan in the years 1974 to 1977, the heyday of the Arab Agricultural Authority (AAA) with its seat in Khartoum and its multi-million dollar theoretical budget.

[70] For this process see Prunier,"Les Frères Musulmans soudanais". For the decline of Nimeiry's power in general refer to Woodward, Sudan (1898-1989), Chapter 5 and Tim Niblock, "The Background to the Change of Government in 1985" in Peter Woodward (ed.), Sudan after Nimeiry (London: Routledge, 1991), pp. 34-44.

[71] For a good analysis of that famine see Alex DeWaal, Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan 1984-1985 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). For a more long-term reflexion on the relations between agriculture and society which had led to the famine see Taisier Mohamed Ahmed Ali, The Cultivation of Hunger: State and Agriculture in the Sudan (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1989).

[72] Gérard Prunier, "La révolution ambigüe: l'après-nimeirisme au Soudan", Politique Africaine, No. 21 (March 1986).

[73] The most complete analysis of the April 1986 elections can be found in Revue de la Presse Egyptienne [Cairo], No. 22 (First Trimester 1986), pp. 8-134.

[74] The system of the Graduate Seats was inherited from the colonial days. It was designed to give extra electoral weight to educated people because only university graduates, high-ranking civil servants and Army officers above the rank of Lieutenant were allowed to vote. Thus the total electorate for these 28 seats equalled that of barely one single seat of the normal kind. The Muslim Brothers of the National Islamic Front (NIF) took 23 out of 28 such seats, some with as little as 150 votes in constituencies with a few hundred registered voters, while in populous suburban Sahafa a normal seat was worth 80,000 votes.

[75] On this original development, see Gérard Prunier, "Les partis politiques soudanais africains depuis la chute de Nimeiry", Maghreb-Machrek, No. 124 (April-June 1989).

[76] For an idea of the interplay between both sets of reality one should read in counterpoint Prunier, "Les Frères Musulmans Soudanais and Johnson and Prunier, "The Foundation and Expansion of the Sudan People's Liberation Army".

[77] The Dinka are the main tribe making up SPLA forces. For an account of the militias see Alex De Waal, "Some Comments on Militias in the Contemporary Sudan" in Daly and Sikainga (eds.), pp. 142-156. For an eyewitness report on the situation in northern Bahr-el-Ghazal at the time see John Ryle, "The Road to Abyei", Granta, No. 26 (Spring 1989), pp. 42-104.

[78] The Sudanese refugee population in Ethiopia went from 165,000 in late 1987 to 385,000 a year later (UNHCR figures).

[79] For a global evaluation of Sudan's financial crisis see Richard Brown, Public Debt and Private Wealth: Debt, Capital Flight and the IMF in the Sudan (London: MacMillan, 1992).

[80] For a history of Operation Lifeline Sudan and its subsequent implication in the Sudanese tragedy, see Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins, Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought and Disaster Relief on the Nile (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995).

[81] For a discussion of the relationship between the Army and the NIF, see Prunier, "Les Frères et l'Armée" and Hayder Taha, al-Ikhwaan wa'l Asker ([Cairo?]: Markaz al-Habara al-Arabiya li'l Elam wa'n Nashir, 1993).

[82] The literature on this subject is absolutely massive and at times somewhat confusing for the non-specialist, because the shock value of the subject in the West has led to a proliferation of mediocre and sensationalist books. The best work in many ways is that of Nazih Ayubi, Political Islam (London: Routledge, 1991), while John Esposito has provided the reader with two excellent anthologies of texts from radical Islamists, which provide the possibility of direct access to modern radical Muslim thought: John Esposito (ed.), Islam in Transition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982) and Voices of Resurgent Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983).

[83] The only serious study of the history of the NIF as a political and intellectual movement is Abd-el-Wahab al-Effendi, Turabi's Revolution: Islam and Power in the Sudan (London: Grey Seal Books, 1991). Revealingly, while the book devotes quite a lot of space to discussing the NIF's relations with other Islamist movements in the world, the whole issue of the African dimension of the Sudan and of identity problems is completely absent. The whole study is written as if the country was solidly Arab and Muslim.

[84] as-Sudan al-Hadith, 23 May 1990.

[85] The so-called shari'a enacted by President Nimeiry in 1983 and which was still considered by the Islamists as their main political identity symbol.

[86] Since September 1983 Islamic banks had been legal in the Sudan. Granted enormous fiscal and commercial privileges by Nimeiry which were maintained during the democratic period, they had been one of the main tools of NIF expansion during the 1980s. See El Fathih Shaaeldin and Richard Brown, "Towards an Understanding of Islamic Banking in the Sudan: The Case of Faisal Islamic Bank" in Tony Barnett and Abbas Abd-el-Karim (eds.), Sudan: State, Capital and Transformation (London: Croom Helm, 1988), pp 121-140.

[87] As an Islamist writer wrote candidly: "It was the citadel of Islamic culture that stood as a guarantee against the submersion of Sudan in the jungles of heathen Africa". al-Effendi, p. 35.

[88] Over 3,000 officers and NCOs were cashiered in the first six months following what had been described "a military coup". This eventually led to an Army rebellion which was crushed in April 1990 when 28 officers were summarily shot. Prunier, "Les Frères et l'Armée", p. 60.

[89] On this period of theatrical deceptions see the excellent article by Jean Gueyras, "La Junte masquée". (Le Monde, 23 July 1989).

[90] Le Monde, "Soudan: la Junte intensifie la chasse aux dirigeants politiques", 4 July 1989.

[91] This was the so-called Majlis al-Arbaïn (Council of Forty). For discussions on the concrete functioning of the new regime see Prunier, "Les Frères et l'Armée"; Hayder Ibrahim Ali, Azmat al-Islam as Siyasi: al-Jebha al-Islamiya al-Qaumiya fi's Sudan Namudhayan (Cairo: Markaz ad-Dirasat as-Sudaniya, 1991) and the November 1995 issue of Azza, a Sudanese opposition monthly published in Arabic in Paris.

[92] The speed of their promotion caused them to be jokingly called "test-tube babies" by more seasoned officers. Interview with Mudawi al-Turabi, cousin of Cheikh Hassan al-Turabi and member of the opposition. Cairo, December 1993.

[93] Interview with former Army Security Chief General al-Hadi Bushra. Alexandria, December 1993.

[94] Interview with Dr Faruk Abu Eissa, President of the Arab Lawyers' Association. Cairo, December 1993. See also the next two sections on the Human Rights Situation.

[95] Interview with former Army Chief of Staff, General Fathi Ahmed Ali. Alexandria, December 1993. In fact, the strength of the PDF is more theoretical than real because its members are trained on short-duration courses and then released. When they are asked to report for mobilization at a later date, many, even at times the majority, fail to turn up. Interview with Suleiman Ali Baldo, Human Rights Watch Africa Researcher. Washington D.C., December 1995.

[96] Author's personal observations in the Sudan. The topic is discussed in a scholarly way in Deng, War of Visions.

[97] The literature on the subject is abundant. For a global overview, one can refer to the following (in chronological order): Africa Watch, Political Detainees in Sudan (New York, January 1990); Africa Watch, Sudan: Threats to Women's Status from Fundamentalist Regime (New York, April 1990); Amnesty International: Sudan: The Military Government's First Year in Power: A Permanent Human Rights Crisis (London, July 1990); Africa Watch: Sudan: Suppression of Information: Curbs to the Press, Attacks on Journalists, Writers and Academics (New York, August 1990); Amnesty International, Sudan: Appeals on Behalf of Imprisoned Academics (London, November 1990); Africa Watch, Sudan: Inside al-Beshir's Prisons: Torture, Denial of Medical Attention and Poor Conditions (New York, February 1991); Africa Watch: Sudan: New Islamic Penal Code Violates Basic Human Rights (New York, April 1991); United States, Department of Justice, Sudan: Human Rights since the 1989 Coup (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1993); Sudan Human Rights Organization, Human Rights Situation in Sudan (London, February 1993); Amnesty International, Sudan: Patterns of Repression (London, February 1993); Article 19, Dismantling Civil Society: Suppression of Freedom of Association in Sudan (London, August 1993); United Nations, General Assembly, Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan New York, November 1993); Leah Leatherbee and Hibaaq Osman, "Sudan", Academic Freedom [Geneva], Vol. 3 (1993); Jürgen Adam, "Die Lage den Menschenrechte im Sudan 1985-1993", Wuqûf: Beiträge zur Entwicklung von Staat und Gesellschaft in Nordafrika [Hamburg], No. 7-8 (1993), pp. 101-123; United States, Department of State, Report Submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US Senate (Washington D.C.:U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1994), Chapter on "Sudan"; Human Rights Watch Africa, Sudan: "In the Name of God", Repression Continues in Norther Sudan (New York, November 1994); Amnesty International, The Tears of Orphans: No Future Without Human Rights (London, January 1995); Sudan Human Rights Organization, Violations of Human Rights and Freedoms in Sudan (Cairo, Summer 1995); Fund for Peace, Living on the Margin: The Struggles of Women and Minorities for Human Rights in Sudan (New York, July 1995); Peter Verney et al., Sudan: Conflict and Minorities (London: Minority Rights Group, August 1995); United Nations, General Assembly, Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan (New York, December 1995). In addition, it is possible to follow the human rights situation in the Sudan by reading the monthly Vigilance Soudan [Paris] and the quarterly Sudan Human Rights Voice [London]. In the following discussion on human rights violations in Northern Sudan references for our statements can be found throughout the documentary body quoted above, but we have not attached each statement to a distinct source for reasons of space.

[98] This concerns only civilians. At least 28 officers were shot in April 1990 together with an unidentified number of NCOs, possibly up to 200 (Interview with General Fathi Ahmed Ali, former Army Chief of Staff. Alexandria, December 1993).

[99] This has led some political opponents to leave the country after they found it impossible to lead normal lifes (Interview with the wife of a dissident. Khartoum, October 1994).

[100] Including the National Islamic Front, the party which had organized the coup. New structures of political organizations were created later but this initial ban enabled the minority Islamists to argue that they were not the controlling force behind the new regime. The move was designed to confuse the issues, gain time and prevent a counter-coup from within the armed forces. These tactics succeeded perfectly. See Prunier, "Les Frères et l'Armée" and Taha, al-Ikhwaan wa'l Asker.

[101] This was the case with human rights and the Sudan Human Rights Organization had to reform itself in England, while another one, which never found anything wrong with human rights in the country, was created in Khartoum by a Muslim Brother academic, Dr Muddathir Abd-er-Rahim.

[102] This includes amputations for thieves, stoning of adulterers and the lex talionis.

[103] As an example DUP leader and former Interior Minister Sid Ahmed al-Hussein, who has only one arm due to an accident and who is over sixty, was repeatedly hung from the ceiling by his remaining arm, hosed down with icy water and violently beaten while dangling (Private Interview. Khartoum, October 1994).

[104] Reuters [Khartoum], 20 September 1995. During a previous period in 1994, the newspaper as-Sudan ad-Dawlia had been tolerated for a few months and then closed down, its editor Mahjoub Orwa being jailed in spite of being the cousin of top security figure al-Fatah Orwa.

[105] Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North or Bahari. Together these three towns make up the capital area, often (and misleadingly) called Khartoum in short. For an official view of these deportations see Sharif ed-Din Ibrahim Bannaga, Unauthorized and Squatter Settlements in Khartoum (Khartoum: Ministry of Housing, [May 1992]. For a much more objective treatment of the problem see Mohamed Abu Sin and H.R.J. Davies (eds.) The Future of Sudan's Capital Region (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1991).

[106] For a recent account of this situation, see the declarations made by George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, after his visit to Khartoum. Agence France Presse, London, 11 October 1995.

[107] Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières staff. Khartoum, October 1993.

[108] Many interviews with Sudanese women in Khartoum, Cairo, Paris, London and Washington D.C. between 1990 and 1995.

[109] The literature on human rights in the South is less plentiful than the one on the North because most people and institutions writing on the South tend to devote their research to the war itself. But the flow of human rights work on the South has been steadily increasing during the last two years. See Gérard Prunier, "Soudan" in Médecins Sans Frontières (ed.), Populations en danger (Paris: Hachette, 1992), pp. 67-74; Amnesty International, Sudan: The ravages of War: Political Killings and Humanitarian Disaster (London, September 1993); Africa Watch, War in South Sudan: The Civilian Toll (New York, October 1993); Human Rights Watch Africa, Abuses by All Parties in the War in Southern Sudan (New York, June 1994) - this 279 page report is by far the best recent source on the South; Christian Solidarity International, "Draft Preliminary Report of a Visit to Sudan (19-25 January 1995)", unpublished; African Rights, Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan (London, July 1995); Human Rights Watch Africa, Children of Sudan: Slaves, Street Children and Child Soldiers (New York, September 1995).

[110] The aim of the regime in Khartoum is not to kill all the Black Africans in the Sudan, a daunting and probably impossible task, but rather to assimilate them into a Muslim Arabized culture. The case of the Nuba is a particularly good illustration of this point. They are located quite far north, do not have a large military capability and are partially Islamized, and consequently bear the full weight of this policy. See African Rights, Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan.

[111] Some of the sexual abuse is linked with the assimilation policy. Some Arab members of the paramilitary PDF have been promised a cash bonus for every Black African woman they will impregnate. (Interview with various civilians at Waat Hospital in Upper Nile, January 1995).

[112] It is interesting to note that the Southerners who fled to the North have usually not been harmed, except during the two great massacres of Ed Da'ien (in 1987) and El-Jebeleïn (in 1993). This has also to do with identity. The Janubi (Southerner) in the North is half-way towards assimilation. He often dresses in a jellabiya, at times converts to Islam, his children grow up speaking Arabic and social pressure puts him in his "proper" place, i.e. that of khaddam (servant) or menial labourer. He has then become a "good" African who should be allowed to live.

[113] There are now about 350,000 refugees in Uganda, 80,000 in Ethiopia and an unknown number in Zaire. Africa Analysis, 11 August 1995.

[114] Operation Lifeline Sudan (Southern Sector), 1994 Assessment (Nairobi, October 1994).

[115] Most of the general studies on the Sudanese economy date back to the 1970s when the country was seen, through the lens of petro-dollar investments, as the "future bread-basket of the Arab World". Since then there have been few global studies because the crisis of the economy was usually analysed from the perspective of either agriculture or international finance. For a grounding in the economic structures of the 1970s refer to International Labor Organization / United Nations Development Programme, Growth, Employment and Equity: A Comprehensive Strategy for the Sudan (Geneva: ILO, 1976) and F.C. Lee and H.C. Brooks, The Economic and Political Development of the Sudan (London: MacMillan, 1977). For the growing crisis of the 1980s see Michel Chatelus, "Espoirs et désillusions de l'économie soudanaise" in Lavergne (ed.), Le Soudan Contemporain, pp. 519-542 and Brown, Public Debt and Private Wealth for the financial aspect. Marc Lavergne, "L'économie soudanaise en désarroi" in Maghreb/Machrek, No. 124 (April-June 1989), pp. 41-61, gives a good picture of the situation just previously to the coup while Gérard Prunier, "Soudan: Dossier Pays No. 2" in Nord Sud Export, No. 213 (27 May 1991) provides the same picture for the early part of the Islamist period. It is possible to find an ongoing evaluation of the situation in the quarterly economic studies published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (London).

[116] The statistics from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning are roughly reliable till the coup, in spite of problems in the data gathering. Since the coup they have had to be taken with extreme care since they are treated as symbols of political values. Thus recent declarations by the Ministry of Finance that economic growth was of 4.9 per cent in 1995 and even more that it will reach 7 per cent in 1996 (Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 4 December 1995) should be taken with a certain amount of prudence.

[117] For the financial importance of migrant workers' remittances in the Sudanese balance of payments see Gilbert Beaugé, "L'émigration soudanaise vers les pays arabes producteurs de pétrole" in Lavergne (ed), Le Soudan Contemporain, pp. 543-571.

[118] Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 4 December 1995; Reuters [Khartoum], 4 December 1995

[119] Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 30 April 1995

[120] Reuters [Khartoum], 14 June 1995

[121] Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 8 August 1995

[122] Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 24 September 1995 and 25 November 1995. Author's interview with various Sudanese. Paris, December 1995 and January 1996. The National Institute of Statistics admits to a monthly inflation rate of 50 to 70 per cent.

[123] There are very few studies on the embryonic economic structures of the South. See L.R. Mills, Population and Manpower in the Southern Sudan (Juba: ILO, May 1977) and George Tombe Lako, Southern Sudan: The Foundation of a War Economy (Frankfurt-am-Main: Peter Lang Verlag, 1993).

[124] For such an approach, see Gérard Prunier, "L'économie de la guerre civile au Sud Soudan" in François Jean and Jean-Claude Rufin (eds.), Les Economies de Guerre dans les Conflits de Basse Intensité (Paris: Fondation Pour les Etudes de Défense, 1995), pp. 191-212.

[125] See Agence France Presse [Cairo], 4 August 1990, [Khartoum], 5 August 1990 and [Paris], 20 August 1990. Also Africa Analysis, 17 August 1990.

[126] al-Destur, 6 August 1990

[127] Interview with Mudawi al-Turabi, Sheikh Hassan's cousin. Paris, April 1992.

[128] Sudanese working abroad started then the now widespread practice of re-centering their economic and social lives outside the country. Relatives were sent not money but airplane tickets so that they could go abroad, usually to Egypt, to get medical care, socialize and shop. This practice cost Sudan hundreds of millions of dollars.

[129] al-Inkaz al-Watani, 24 April 1995.

[130] A high-ranking Egyptian Army officer once told this author that "the Sudanese are incapable of governing themselves. Sooner or later we will have to go back there and put the house in order". (Interview with General Hussein Mamish, Head of Army Security. Cairo, March 1989).

[131] Ordinary non-political refugees were not even allowed to have refugee status on the basis of a legal fiction: since Egypt was freely open to Sudanese, even without visa, no Sudanese could be a refugee in Egypt. Due to this fiction, UNHCR could not help Sudanese refugees in Egypt, many of whom lived in appalling conditions of poverty. This situation has at times lead to tragic consequences such as prostitution, sales of organs or petty crime. (Interview with Sudan Human Rights Organization President Amin Mekki Medani. Cairo, December 1993)

[132] See next section on The Opposition Forces.

[133] The Halaib Triangle is a region located either in southeastern Egypt or northeastern Sudan, according to Cairo or Khartoum. Historically, this desert area populated only by a few Ababda nomads was independent from both governments and devoted itself mainly to trade and contraband. When the British conquered the area, they decided that it was part of Egypt, but that it would be administered from Khartoum for reasons of administrative convenience. The problem worsened in 1994 when the Sudanese Government issued an oil research permit to the Canadian company International Petroleum Corporation. The Egyptian Government protested and sporadic armed clashes occurred until Egyptian troops finally occupied the area in June 1995 after the attempt on President Mubarak's life. The Washington Post, John Lancaster, "Egyptian and Sudanese Forces Exchange Fire at the Border", 28 June 1995; Libération, Christophe Ayad, "Accrochage à la frontière entre l'Egypte et le Soudan", 29 June 1995

[134] Libération, Christophe Ayad, "Moubarak échappe à un attentat", 27 June 1995; Reuters [Cairo and Khartoum], 26 June 1995

[135] Agence France Presse [Addis-Ababa], 27 August 1995; OAU special meeting on the assassination attempts reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10 September 1995, quoting Middle East News Agency [Cairo]; and Mutegi Njau's interview with the Ethiopian President, "Sudan Planned Mubarack Attack Asserts Zenawi", The East African (9-15 October 1995)

[136] Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 5 July 1995. The choice of the word Pharaoh has in this context a strong political connotation. It is the word commonly used by Egyptian radical Islamists to denote their Presidents, and after Lieutenant Issam al-Stambouli had just shot President Anwar as-Sadat, he shouted: "I have shot the Pharaoh". For a good symbolical analysis see Gilles Kepel, Le Prophète et le Pharaon: les mouvements islamistes dans l'Egypte contemporaine" (Paris: La Découverte, 1984), especially Chapter 7, "Assassiner le Pharaon".

[137] For a description of this classical diplomatic pattern of mutual hostility between Sudan and Ethiopia, which had started as early as 1965, see John Markakis, National and Class Conflict in the Horn of Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Madan Sauldie, Super Powers in the Horn of Africa (London: Oriental University Press, 1987; Paul Henze, The Horn of Africa from War to Peace (London: MacMillan, 1991).

[138] Author's interview with Ethiopian security personnel. Addis-Ababa, June 1992

[139] Author's field interviews with local administrators and security personnel in Barentu and Umm Hagger, April 1993

[140] Wolde Yesus Ammar, Eritrea: The Root Causes of War and Refugees (Bagdad: Sindbad, 1992); Tesfatsion Medhanie, Eritrea and its Neighbours in the New World Order: Geopolitics, Democracy and Islamic Fundamentalism (Hamburg: LIT Verlag, 1994)

[141] Agence France Presse [Nairobi], 1 January 1994

[142] Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 2 January 1994

[143] The Economist, "We won't take any more", 14 October 1995. See also an equally blunt statement aimed at the Arab world in an interview in the Yemen Times, 14-20 August 1995.

[144] ash-Sharq al-Awsat, 19 January 1994.

[145] BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1 September 1995, quoting Radio Ethiopia; Agence France Presse [Addis-Ababa], 1 September 1995

[146] as-Sudan al-Hadith, 13 September 1995

[147] Agence France Presse [New York], 23 October 1995; La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 28 October 1995; author's interviews with State Department officials. Washington D.C., December 1995

[148] Gérard Prunier, "La recherche de la normalisation (1979-1994)" in Gérard Prunier and Bernard Calas (eds.), L'Ouganda Contemporain (Paris: Karthala, 1994), pp. 131-158

[149] See various Agence France Presse dispatches from Khartoum and Nairobi in late February and early March 1994. See also Libération, Stephen Smith, "Khartoum assaille le Sud", 15 February 1994.

[150] Le Monde, Jean Hélène, "Les rebelles de l'Armée de Résistance du Seigneur refusent de se rendre", 5 March 1994. Often misleadingly described as a Christian fundamentalist group the LRA is in fact the bizarre offshoot of the messianic and syncretist sect of the "Prophetess" Alice Lakwena, who rose against the new regime in Uganda shortly after President Museveni's victory in 1986. Enjoying almost no popular support, it has repeatedly resorted to terrorist tactics such as murder of civilians, kidnapping of young people to use them as porters and/or as sexual slaves and mutilation of prisoners.

[151] Agence France Presse [Kampala], 27 July 1994

[152] Agence France Presse [Kampala], 11 January 1995; and The Economist, "Sudan and Uganda: Uncomfortable Neighbours", 11 February 1995

[153] Agence France Presse [Kampala], 23 April 1995; Reuters [Kampala], 23 April 1995

[154] Africa Analysis, 7 September 1995

[155] The accusation of Ugandan support was made by the Sudanese Government (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 26 October 1995, quoting Radio Omdurman) and denied by the Ugandan Government (Reuters [Kampala], 1 November 1995). But it was confirmed by independent sources (author's interview with U.S. Government officials. Washington D.C., December 1995).

[156] Gérard Prunier, "Le mouvement des Ansars au Soudan depuis la fin de l'Etat Mahdiste (1898-1987)", Islam et Sociétés au Sud du Sahara, No. 2 (1988), pp. 61-77, reprinted in J.L. Triaud (ed.), L'Islam en Afrique au Sud du Sahara (Paris: Karthala, fc. 1996)

[157] For studies of the Communist Party prior to the 1989 coup, see Gabriel Warburg, Islam, Nationalism and Communism in a Traditional Society: The Case of the Sudan (London: Frank Cass, 1978) and Didar Fawzy: "Le Parti communiste soudanais" in Lavergne (ed.), Le Soudan Contemporain, pp. 308-358.

[158] La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 25 November 1995

[159] They made up the core of the strike committee which brought down the Nimeiry regime during the April 1985 intifada. See Prunier, "Une révolution ambigüe".

[160] Azza, August 1995

[161] This feeling is all the stronger because it is expressed not only by foreign observers (author's interview with U.S. officials, Washington D.C., December 1995) but even by such a keen and perceptive observer of the Sudanese political scene as former Foreign Minister Mansour Khalid, himself a member of the opposition but who, in spite of being an Arab, has preferred to join the SPLA. See Mansour Khalid, an Nukhba as-Sudaniya wa Idman al-Fachel (Cairo: Dar al-amin li'l Nasir wa'l Tanziya, 1993).

[162] We have not included a discussion of the SPLA in this account of opposition forces since we will examine it in the next section, on the war. For evaluations of the conference itself see The Sudan Democratic Gazette, Bona Malwal, "The Spirit of Asmara: Eritrea Recognizes the Sudanese Opposition", July 1995 and La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 1 July 1995.

[163] Eritrean Foreign Minister Petros Solomon accused the Khartoum regime of trying to destabilize the whole of Eastern Africa. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 23 June 1995, quoting Radio Ethiopia .

[164] See for example the speech by Omar Nur ed-Daïm, Umma leader and former minister in Sadiq al-Mahdi's cabinet (mimeographed conference paper, Asmara, June 1995).

[165] La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 9 September 1995

[166] For an evaluation see Africa Confidential, "Sudan: A Regional Setback for the SPLA", Vol. 32, No. 12 (4 June 1991).

[167] For an idea of the problems posed by the return of the refugees see World Food Programme/Operation Lifeline Sudan (Southern Sector), Nor Deng Center for Sudanese Refugees in Nasir (Nairobi, August 1991) and Burr and Collins, pp. 296-303.

[168] For a detailed treatment of this split see Prunier, "The SPLA Crisis (1991-1995)".

[169] In the case of the Nuer (and sometimes the Dinka) fighting erupted inside the tribes themselves, either between various clans or between individuals who gave allegiance to rival warlords.

[170] Sudanese Communist Party, Central Committee, "The Risks Behind the Internationalization of the Civil War in the Sudan", Information Bulletin, No 25 (February 1992); The Sudan Democratic Gazette, Bona Malwal, "The 'Final Push' Dry Season Offensive Begins", March 1992; al-Hayat, 4 and 15 March 1992.

[171] al-Hayat, 2 June 1992. The reunification announcement was somewhat premature. But the fact that for the first time Garang's Mainstream SPLA had agreed to discuss the question of secession was true. This was because his SPLA-Nasir rivals were using the majority secessionist feelings of the Southern population to challenge Garang's unitary position.

[172] Sudan Update, 19 June 1992; Peter Moszynski, "The South Fights Back", The New African, July 1992

[173] La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 6 February 1993

[174] Le Monde, 20 and 23 March 1993; Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 20 March 1993; SPLM/SPLA Update, Vol. 2, No. 11 (21 March 1993)

[175] Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 15 and 22 May 1993; Le Monde, 20 May 1993; SPLM/SPLA Update, Vol. 2, No. 20, 23 May 1993

[176] Le Monde, Jean Hélène, "Le gouvernement tire parti des divisions des Sudistes", 29 April 1993; Peter Moszynski, "SPLA Bloodbath", The New African (May 1993); La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 5 June 1993

[177] SPLM/SPLA Update, Vol. 2, No. 28 (21 July 1993); La Lettre de l'Océan Indien, 31 July 1993; author's interviews with former Sudanese Army personnel, Wad Medani and Gedaref, October 1993

[178] It would be a mistake to think that Islamic proselytization is a figment of the West's imagination. In a 1994 speech (Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 8 June 1994) Hassan al-Turabi himself was saying that the only way to Da'wa (proselytization) is Jihad (Holy War). This author has often heard similar statements from the mouths of Islamist militants in the Sudan, including from people at government level. For a similar analysis see The Economist, "Jihad", 7 August 1993, and Peter Nyot Kok, "Die Jihad-Konzeption der sudanischen Armee", Wuqûf: Beiträge zur Entwicklung von Staat und Gesellschaft in Nordafrika [Hamburg], No. 7-8 (1993), pp. 167-188.

[179] According to UNHCR there are now about 350,000 Sudanese in the camps in northern Uganda.

[180] Agence France Presse [Nairobi], 7 January and 21 March 1994; SPLM/SPLA Update, Vol. 3, No. 10 (21 March 1994)

[181] SPLM/SPLA Update, Vol. 3, No. 27 (18 July 1994); Middle East International, 22 July 1994.

[182] Sudan's identity crisis came to the fore in ways hard to understand for the IGADD diplomats. The Northern delegation was led by Mohamed al-Amin Khalifa and Ali al-Haj, the former a Berti and the latter a Takrour, both Black, Western, non-Arab groups. They were greeted sarcastically by Colonel Garang who asked them in Arabic: "Hena al-Abid. Lakin fen al Jama'a?" (Here are the slaves. But where are the real ones?) Author's interview with a member of the SPLA delegation, Nairobi, July 1994.

[183] SPLM/SPLA Update, Vol. 3, No. 28 (27 July 1994)

[184] Agence France Presse [Nairobi], 6 September 1994; The Sudan Democratic Gazette, October 1994

[185] Africa Confidential, 31 March 1995

[186] Agence France Presse [Khartoum], 28 March 1995

[187] The Sudan Democratic Gazette, January 1994

[188] See the declaration by Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa, al-Hayat, 28 February 1994.

[189] Agence France Presse [Cairo], 28 March 1994

[190] The Sudan Democratic Gazette, August 1994

[191] SPLM/SPLA Update, Vol. 3, No. 48 (19 December 1994)

[192] The whole story is told in detail in The Sudan Democratic Gazette, March 1995.

[193] On this quasi-existential inability to produce a viable constitution after forty years of independence, see Peter Nyot Kok, "La transition permanente: analyse des constitutions et du système juridique soudanais depuis 1956" in Lavergne (ed.), Le Soudan Contemporain, pp. 435-467.

[194] The Economist, 1 August 1987

[195] For a brilliant and sarcastic insider's view of the Sudanese political class see Mansour Khalid, The Government they Deserve: The role of the Elite in Sudan's Political Evolution (London: Kegan Paul International, 1990).

[196] This is very well analysed in Abdoun Agaw Jok Nhial, "Tajribat as-Sudan al-Dimuqratiya min Manzurein Shamali wa Janubi" in Hayder Ibrahim (ed.), al-Dimuqratiya fi'l Sudan (Cairo: Markaz ad-Dirasat as-Sudan, 1993), pp. 316-336. The author, a distinguished Southern intellectual, compares the images of democracy as seen from the South and from the North.

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