Sudan Army

Anya Nya, the Southern Sudan Army

Southern Peoples' Liberation Army




Various Darfuri armed groups









There have been two civil wars in Sudan. The first began soon after independence in 1957 when the southerners who had been administered separately from the northerners during the British period and who had been the victims of slave raids from the Arab north tried to gain independence from the Arabizing government. The southerners formed the Anyanya (scorpions) movement. Southern guerrilla groups were fighting against the imposition of Islamic law on the mainly non-Muslim inhabitants of the south. This war ended in agreement with former President Nimeiri in 1972. The southerners were given formal autonomy to run their own affairs.

The war began again in 1983 partly as result of attempts to move the northern boundary to incorporate the new oil fields at Bentiu. Another cause was the attempted introduction of Islamic Sharia law into areas where most were non-Muslim (Christian and Traditional religion). Some have argued that there is also an element of Class War in that some of the northerners, suffering from landlessness from the monopolization of land by a small group of merchants, have joined the war against the government. Southerners formed a Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Army (SPLA).

They started by attacking the oil installations, state mechanized farms and the Jonglei canal which they regarded as northern enterprises intended to reduce southern land to control by the northern elite. The war escalated when an extreme Islamic government seized power from a moderate democratic regime in 1989. The war is one of the more brutal activities in the world at present. Large numbers of southern refugees have fled their lands. Some are being used as slaves. Many have died on the trek. The South is no longer united and there are several southern factions fighting each other.

Some have argued that the war is a result of ecological troubles in the north where reductions in rain in the Sahel area have caused the drying up of the non-irrigated agriculture. This has been accompanied by inappropriate Western mechanized farming practices. Hence the northerners are trying to colonize the wetter South.

The war has also spilled over into Uganda where the Sudan government is believed to have assisted the Lords Resistance Army.

There is considerable famine in the war zone and the breakdown of all modern services.

A complication is that the southerners have split into two groups which are fighting each other. These may be based on the two main linguistic groups: Dinka and Shilluk.

An agreement in January 2004 may have brought the war to an end with a southern political autonomy.

In December 2007 there are worries that the war in the South may break out again.

However, another war has broken out (2003-) in the Darfur province, the southwestern part of the country bordering on Chad and the Central African Republic. The cause is not clear but this article suggests it is due to climate change. It may also be the latest of the oil wars. The northern (Arabic speaking) forces seem to be trying to remove the African people from their land, possibly because the government thinks there is oil there. In June 2005 oil contracts were signed for the area, suggesting that this hypothesis is correct. This war may be the first to be attributable to the arrival of Peak Oil production - when there will be increased competition between the main oil consuming countries for increasingly scarce supplies.

The war has already spread into Chad and Central African Republic.

The government seems to be backed by China, which hopes to gain access to the oil in Darfur, and cares little about the human rights of the people living there.

February 2010. An agreement between the government and one of the largest guerrilla forces has been announced. Will it end the war? Only time will tell.

In Mid-May 2011 fighting broke out in Abiye district, with the occupation of the oil rich area by northern forces. The peace agreement required a referendum in the area to decide whether it would go to north or south Sudan. The northÕs forces seem to have decided this question. But it may become the cause of renewed war between north and south.

April 2012
The border between the two new states was drawn mainly to give the North some part of the oil field, even though most of the people in Nubaland were supporters of the southern movement. Thus, the northern part of the South Sudan Liberation Army continues to fight. The North has responded by bombing the northern parts of the Southern state, and the revolting part of the North. Since independence the fighting shows signs of escalating. Salva Kiir, the northern president has said (in China) that the North has declared war. Will the Chinese see this as an attack on their own oil?

Lisa French Blaker-
Medecins sans Frontieres worker in Darfur

JulieFlint & Alex de Waal

Darfur: A New History of a Long War

Last revised 24/04/12


World Info


Return to the top

Since 16/08/11

eXTReMe Tracker