Sudan & South Sudan



Join Active Minds for a discussion of Sudan.  After decades of civil war, Sudan split into two countries, only to have conflict arise within in the new country of South Sudan.  We will examine the origins and current status of the conflicts, including the role of colonialism, tribal ethnicity and religion.  We will also look at the history of genocide in Darfur and how the international response to war in Sudan impacts the prospects for long-term peace in the region.

Key Lecture Points

  • In ancient times, Sudan was dominated by the Egyptian civilization.  When Arab Muslims conquered Egypt in 650 CE, they also settled in northern Sudan.  In 1822 Egypt, then part of the Ottoman Empire conquered northern Sudan.  Britain, having occupied Egypt, moved into the region, and then moved further south, up the White Nile towards its headwaters.  Britain and Egypt maintained joint sovereignty over a broad territory in Sudan from 1899-1956, setting the stage for a country with borders that encompass wide religious and ethnic diversity.
  • From its independence in 1956 until 2004, two civil wars between Northern Sudan (Arab Muslim) and Southern Sudan (Black African Christians and animist) dominated the political landscape of the country.  An estimated 2.5 million people died in the civil wars, mainly civilians due to starvation and drought.   In 2004, the US helped broker a peace agreement, hinging upon a power sharing agreement signed by North Sudanese President Bashir and the South Sudanese leader John Garang.  Part of the peace agreement was a South Sudanese referendum on independence, scheduled for 2011.
  • In 2003, rebel groups in Darfur, in western Sudan, launched an uprising.   The conflict has resulted in the deaths of approximately 300,000 and displaced 2.7 million people. President Bashir was indicted for war crimes that included the unleashing of and support of the “janjaweed” militias which triggered the conflict.  The area still remains volatile and fighting continues to flare up between government forces and rebels despite the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.
  • In 2011, South Sudan voted to separate from Sudan and became the world’s newest nation.  North and South Sudan, however, continue to struggle to define borders and to agree upon oil revenue sharing.  When South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011, it took two-thirds of Sudanese oil production with it.  Although the oil is in South Sudan, Sudan controls the export pipelines, creating disputes over transit fees.  This led to South Sudan’s halting of oil production in 2012, causing major economic problems for both countries.
  • President Bashir of Sudan has remained in power for more than 24 years despite armed rebellions; US trade sanctions, an economic crisis and indictment for war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.  The most serious domestic unrest yet in Bashir’s long regime broke out September 2013 when government subsidies on fuel and wheat were cut.  Bashir quelled the unrest with a violent crackdown.
  • President Kiir of South Sudan came to power after the death of the charismatic leader John Garang in 2005 as president of the then autonomous state of South Sudan.  In 2013, he fired his cabinet in an apparent power struggle to remove his opponents before the 2015 elections.  Political conflict led to violence in December 2013, with Kiir’s supporters (predominantly from his Dinka ethnic group) battling those of his former Vice President Riek Machar (predominantly from his Nuer ethnic group).  By January 2014, over 10,000 people had been killed and nearly 1 million displaced by conflict that indicates that the world’s youngest country is in a state of civil war.

Exploration Questions

  • What were the events leading up to the creation of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan?  What are the major secession issues still confronting Sudan and South Sudan?
  • What are the current issues challenging Sudan?  South Sudan?

Reflective Questions

  • Many Sudanese received asylum in the US during the North-South Sudan war.  Have you or someone you know had any contact with anyone from Sudan?
  • The land of Sudan and South Sudan is remarkably diverse.  What images come to mind when you hear about Sudan?
  • What do you think will be the future of South Sudan?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Cheadle, Don, Prendergast, John. Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. Hyperion, 2007. 252 pages.  Shocked and enraged by the ongoing genocide in Darfur, actor Cheadle teamed up with leading activist Prendergast to focus the world's attention on the suffering and violence there and offer six strategies readers themselves can implement to help make a difference in the fate of a nation.
    Click here to order
  • Ajak, Benjamin, Benson Deng, Alephonsian Deng, Judy Bernstein. They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan. Public Affairs, 2006. 336 pages. The memoir of 3 boys driven from Sudan by war and how they found safety in the US.
    Click here to order
  • Lomong, Lopez, Mark Tabb.  Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2012. 229 pages.  The true story of Lomong’s life, from the Sudanese Civil War to the US Olympics team.
    Click here to order
  • Tong, Nynol Lueth.  There is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan. McSweeney’s Books, 2013. 96 pages. An anthology of fiction by South Sudanese writers.
    Click here to order