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

Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2010 - Sudan

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 23 March 2011
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2010 - Sudan, 23 March 2011, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Quick facts
Number of IDPs4,500,000-5,200,000
Percentage of total population10.5-13.0%
Start of current displacement situation1983
Peak number of IDPs (Year)Darfur: 2,700,000 (2008); Southern Sudan: 4,000,000 (2004)
New displacement490,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, generalised violence
Human development index154

Sudan's numerous situations of internal displacement have been caused by deep-rooted tensions between the central and peripheral regions, a highly inequitable division of power and wealth, and a government unwilling to acknowledge the country's ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. Estimates of the numbers of IDPs have remained inexact. In December 2010, a total of between 4.5 and 5.2 million IDPs were believed to be displaced in areas where estimates had been made: in the western region of Darfur, in and around Khartoum, in the state of Southern Kordofan, and in Southern Sudan. In addition, there were unknown numbers of IDPs in the other northern and eastern states.

In 1995, the long-running grievances of people in the eastern region over their perceived exclusion and marginalisation fuelled an uprising by a coalition known as the Eastern Front. In October 2006, the Eastern Front and the government signed the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement; but its implementation has been extremely slow and the east remained relatively underdeveloped in 2010.

At the end of 2008 there were reportedly still up to 420,000 IDPs in the region, including 68,000 in the city of Kassala. However, restrictions on access have since made it impossible to determine the number of people still internally displaced. Although the access to the region of humanitarian organisations and particularly UN agencies improved in 2010, the government in Khartoum continued to impose severe restrictions on access to Red Sea State. Humanitarian assistance has also been limited and just over 50 per cent of camp-based IDPs were reported to be receiving food rations in September 2010.

Estimates of the number of IDPs in the greater Khartoum area varied in 2010 between 1.3 and 1.7 million; people were still displaced after fleeing from the south, from Darfur or from the east. Most IDPs in Khartoum lived outside officially-designated camps and resettlement areas, with some 300,000 to 400,000 living in camps where they had been allocated plots, and some squatting on private land.

Although Khartoum had enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years driven by the country's greatly increased income from oil, the impact of the growth had been uneven and areas with internally displaced populations generally offered poor living conditions and few sustainable livelihood opportunities or basic services.

Southern Sudan

In Southern Sudan, civil war resumed in 1983 after the Southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) took up arms against the Khartoum government in protest at the imposition of sha'ria law. The war ended in January 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The CPA set out detailed transitional arrangements concerning the sharing of power and wealth and the status of the "three areas" claimed by both the north and the south: Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. It also provided for nationwide elections, which finally took place in April 2010 after many delays, and a Southern Sudanese referendum on self-determination in January 2011.

A number of issues outlined in the CPA remained unresolved by Khartoum and the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) by 2010, including the demarcation of the shared border, including around the oil-rich area of Abyei, control of oil fields, water and grazing rights and the citizenship of southern residents in the north and northern residents in the south.

The total number of IDPs in Southern Sudan in 2010 was difficult to determine due to the large and complex population movements underway. More than 220,000 people were newly displaced in the first ten months of the year. Most of them were displaced in the states of Jonglei and Lakes by inter-tribal fighting, and in Western Equatoria by attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Inter-tribal violence decreased in 2010, primarily because good rains reduced disputes over water and grazing and led to a fall in the number of cattle raids. However, flooding caused the displacement of 50,000 people in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States in September and October. In the last two months of 2010, several air raids by Khartoum forces were reported along the border between South Darfur and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States.

Of the approximately four million IDPs displaced by the civil war, IOM estimated that over two million returned to Southern Sudan, Abyei and Southern Kordofan between the signing of the CPA in January 2005 and the end of 2009. However, the organisation estimated that ten per cent of these returnees were eventually displaced once more.

In November and December, 120,000 IDPs returned from Khartoum ahead of the referendum. The majority of these returnees were reportedly without formal or long-term employment in the north, although the southerners who had decided to remain in the north might have had more stable jobs. There were reportedly a significant number of unaccompanied children, and families headed by women and children, among the returnees.

The achievement of durable solutions by returnees remains difficult in a region still affected by insecurity and limited access to water, health care, education and livelihood opportunities. In addition to IDPs arriving from the north, large numbers of people have been living in protracted displacement for years and sometimes decades within Southern Sudan. The GoSS has exclusively promoted the return of all Southern Sudanese IDPs and refugees to their home villages; however, many returnees who have lived in Khartoum for years and have acquired urban livelihood skills are reportedly not planning to return to their villages but instead to settle in Juba and other urban settlements in Southern Sudan.

Many returning IDPs have not only developed new livelihoods, but they have also grown accustomed to urban life-styles, established new community affiliations, often changed their diets and become used to having access to education and medical services. Some face additional barriers to return, including a lack of access to the land, services or opportunities they need to establish their livelihoods. For this group, the only potentially durable settlement options are to integrate where they are or to resettle elsewhere, often in Southern Sudan's rapidly expanding towns.

The UNSC established the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in 2005, to support the implementation of the CPA. UNMIS has a Chapter VII mandate which authorises the use of force to protect civilians. Its mandate is set to expire in July 2011, the termination date of the CPA process, and its future remains unclear and will be subject to discussions between Khartoum, GoSS and the UNSC.

In April 2010 the UN formally introduced the cluster system to coordinate humanitarian activities in Southern Sudan. UNHCR and NRC have co-led the protection cluster since July 2010.


The Darfur conflict began in early 2003 when two loosely-allied rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), took up arms against the government in Khartoum. After protracted negotiations, and under pressure from the international community, the government in Khartoum and a faction of the SLM/A under the rebel leader Minni Minnawi signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in May 2006. However, the DPA failed to bring peace and stability, instead triggering new waves of violence and displacement as rebel groups splintered into many factions.

Following heavy fighting between JEM and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the government in Khartoum and JEM signed a joint commitment to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in January 2009. However, JEM pulled out in March 2009 following the International Criminal Court's issue of an arrest warrant for President el-Bashir and the subsequent government decision to expel 13 international NGOs and dissolve three national NGOs.

The number of IDPs in Darfur is estimated at between 1.9 million and 2.7 million. Almost 270,000 people were displaced in the first nine months of 2010 due to violent clashes between rebel factions and government troops, and conflicts between anti-government forces which were often triggered by inter-tribal rivalries.

In peace negotiations brokered by the government of Qatar, Darfuri representatives failed to adopt a common position, provoking tensions between internally displaced communities. From late July to September 2010 there was conflict among the 44,000 residents of the Hamediya camp in West Darfur and also among the 82,000 IDPs in the Kalma camp in South Darfur. After the outbreak of violence in Kalma camp, the government in Khartoum moved forward with its plan to close the camp. Observers warned that the closure of the camp and resettlement of IDPs might include some degree of forced movement.

The protracted nature and massive scale of displacement have meant that many IDP camps have developed into urban centres, dramatically accelerating the process of urbanisation across Darfur. Many IDPs would prefer to settle permanently in these camps. Other IDPs have spent prolonged periods in cities in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan, and many of them would choose to integrate in the place of displacement. However, a new strategy document released by the government in Khartoum in September 2010 focused solely on the return of IDPs to their original homes, without allowing for them to decide between settlement options.

UNAMID, a joint African Union/UN peacekeeping mission established in 2007, reports both to the UNSC and to the AU Peace and Security Council. UNAMID has currently been authorised until July 2011 to support the implementation of the DPA between the government in Khartoum and the faction of the SLM/A loyal to Minni Minnawi.

National and international responses

In January 2009, the government in Khartoum adopted a national IDP policy intended to cover all of Sudan, including the southern regions. However by the end of 2010 it had taken few steps to implement the policy.

Sudan has ratified the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in Africa's Great Lakes Region, including the Pact's protocols on the protection and assistance of IDPs and on the property rights of returnees. However, its implementation has remained stalled. Sudan has not yet signed the Kampala Convention.

In October 2010, the UN Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan. This was a crucial decision as no other mechanism provides a comprehensive overview of the human rights situation in Sudan.

The overall humanitarian operation in Sudan continues to be the largest in the world. The inter-agency 2010 Work Plan for Sudan was 64 per cent funded as of November 2010, with $1.1 billion of funds offered out of estimated needs totalling $1.84 billion.

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