Sudan’s current president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, came to power through a military coup in 1989. However, the real ruler of the first decade after the coup was Islamist Hassan al-Turabi, who led the government’s support party, with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Sudan now became one of the world’s toughest dictatorships. Opposition politicians were imprisoned or deported. Sharia also came to apply to non-Muslims. The Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden was invited to Sudan and had his own training camps there from 1991-1996.
Hassan al-Turabi was competing against al-Bashir, but in 2000 the president decided the power struggle by excluding al-Turabi and his supporters from the ruling party and firing them from all political assemblies.
After the purges, the government took on a less Islamist appearance. The military’s influence increased again and Arab nationalism took on a greater role. The regime also sought to improve contact with the outside world, including condemning the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Sudan was praised for participating in the “war on terror”, but domestic repression persisted and the war on the south continued.
The leading opposition parties in the north formed an alliance with the southern SPLM and al-Turabi’s new party, the National People’s Congress (PNC), to oppose the regime. At that time, the SPLM contented itself with autonomy for southern Sudan, which allowed John Garang to cooperate with regime opponents in the north.
Controversy over oil
When Sudan began extracting oil in 1999, the civil war gained new momentum. The richest deposits were found in the disputed border areas between north and south. In the first phase, oil extraction led to the escalation of the war. The government used the new income to buy weapons. The guerrillas in the south responded by sabotaging oil pipelines and other installations.
To make room for foreign oil companies, the government army forcibly relocated local people from the areas closest to the oil wells. But with the American and European oil companies also came journalists and others who revealed what was going on. This led to protests against the oil companies’ cooperation with the government, which caused Western companies to withdraw from Sudan. Instead, Asian companies took over oil extraction.
The oil riches soon gave both sides good reasons to end the war. The government wanted to put an end to the sabotage against the oil industry and southern Sudan wanted to share in the revenues. Neighboring countries also wanted to end the war, which, among other things, gave rise to refugee flows.
In 2002, peace talks began in Kenya under the leadership of the regional organization Igad and with the support of, among others, the UN, the United States and the European Union.
After two years, the fighting between the army and the SPLA had almost ceased. On the other hand, local small wars flared up in the south with unclear connections to the larger conflict. The Dinka-dominated SPLA was also challenged by guerrilla forces from smaller ethnic groups.
After many rounds, the government and the SPLM / SPLA were finally able to sign a peace agreement in January 2005. Africa’s longest war was thus over.
The outcome of the war was terrible. Between 1.5 million and over two million people had died since 1983. More than four million South Sudanese had been forced to flee. Three million were in central Sudan, where many lived in refugee camps outside Khartoum. Maybe a million had gone to surrounding countries.
In the Nuba Mountains, an area in the north inhabited by Nilo-Saharan peoples with greater affiliation with those in the south, the residents had been forced into “strategic villages” during the war. The fate of the Nuba mountain was one of the issues raised in the future, as well as which side the oil-rich border area Abyei would belong to.
South Sudan’s economy was shattered. School buildings, hospitals, water and sewage pipes, roads and bridges were bombed. The few roads that still existed were mined.
The peace agreement is referred to as CPA (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement). According to it, during a six-year transition period, Sudan would be a federation between North and South. During this time, the people of the south would have to decide in a referendum whether they would form an independent state or stay in the federation.
Until then, the regions would take care of themselves and share the oil money. Their respective armies would be withdrawn to their own territory. Disputed border areas would be monitored by joint forces and before 2011 the exact demarcation would be established.