|Sudan Table of Contents
The three southern provinces of Al Istiwai, Bahr al Ghazal, and Aali an Nil were centers of opposition to Khartoum's authority since before independence. The first rebellion began in 1955 as a mutiny of southern troops who believed that the departure of the British would be followed by northern efforts to force arabization and Islamization on their region. The antigovernment movement gathered momentum after Sudan's independence in 1956 with the formation of opposition elements. The harsh treatment of southern civilians by northern armed forces and police caused a number of better educated southerners who served in government posts or were teachers to go into exile. Ultimately, in February 1962, many of these persons formed the Sudan Africa Closed Districts National Union. In April 1963, the group changed its name to the Sudan African National Union (SANU) and advocated outright independence for southern Sudan. Meanwhile, numerous less-educated southern males, many of whom had been junior civil servants or former members of the Equatoria Corps, sought refuge in the bush and formed guerrilla bands, the Anya Nya, which began activities in 1963. As the Anya Nya developed into an effective military force, it gradually succeeded in expelling central government officials from an increasing number of southern districts. In 1971, by which time Anya Nya controlled most rural areas, its military leaders formed a political organization, the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM).
The Nimeiri regime recognized that the escalating civil strife in the south was a debilitating drain on the country's resources and a serious impediment to Sudan's economic development. In 1971 Nimeiri agreed to negotiate a compromise with the SSLM. Several sessions of mediated discussions culminated in peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February and March 1972. Under the provisions of the Addis Ababa accords, the central government and the SSLM agreed to a ceasefire , and Khartoum recognized the regional autonomy of the three southern provinces. After signing the accord, Nimeiri issued a decree for the establishment of a Southern Regional Assembly. The assembly's members were elected in multiparty elections, the first of which was held in 1973, with a second election five years later. Throughout the 1970s, the Nimeiri government observed the Addis Ababa accords fairly faithfully, and the south's relative political freedom contrasted sharply with the authoritarian rule in the rest of the country.
The Addis Ababa accords eventually were undermined by the same factors that had fueled southern rebellion in the 1960s: fears that the north was determined to force arabization and Islamization upon the south. These fears were revived, beginning in the late 1970s, by the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood over central government policies. In 1981 Nimeiri virtually abrogated the Addis Ababa accords by dissolving the Southern Regional Assembly. In addition to these major political developments, the general economic stagnation of the south, which by the early 1980s was plagued with high inflation, lack of employment opportunities, and severe shortages of basic goods, tended to reinforce southern suspicions of Khartoum.
After Nimeiri appointed Muslim Brotherhood leader Turabi as attorney general in November 1981, southern confidence in the central government's motives eroded rapidly. A mutiny among about 1,000 southern troops in February 1983 stimulated attacks on government property and forces throughout the region. By August a former colonel in the Sudanese army, John Garang, had been instrumental in forming the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). When Nimeiri imposed the sharia on the whole country one month later, further inflaming attitudes among non-Muslims in the south, the SPLM rebellion, coordinated by its newly formed military arm, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) turned into a full-scale civil war. The intensification of fighting throughout 1984, and the SPLA's general success in expelling government forces from most rural districts and some towns were important factors contributing to Nimeiri's overthrow in 1985.
Unlike its predecessor, the SSLM, the SPLM sought, not secession from Sudan, but a solution based on a secular, democratic, and federal political system. Because one of the first acts of the transitional military government that overthrew Nimeiri was to suspend enforcement of the September Laws, Garang and other SPLM leaders initially were optimistic about resolving their grievances with Khartoum. The SPLM thus agreed to participate in negotiations with central government representatives and leaders of northern political parties. In 1986 SPLM leaders and several northern politicians met at Ethiopia's Koka Dam, where they signed an important declaration stating their common commitment to democracy. Nevertheless, the primary issue separating the SPLM from the northern parties--the role of the sharia--remained unresolved. Sadiq al Mahdi, whom Nimeiri had imprisoned for his criticism of the manner in which the 1983 laws had been implemented, as prime minister became reluctant to abrogate the sharia as the SPLM demanded.
Muhammad Uthman al Mirghani, head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and spiritual leader of the Khatmiyyah religious order, was one of the few northern politicians who recognized that ending the civil war and compromising on the issue of the sharia were inseparable. In November and December 1988, he met with Garang in Ethiopia and reached a tentative agreement that involved major government concessions with respect to the sharia. This agreement received the backing of many northern groups that wanted an end to the debilitating civil war. The NIF, however, strongly opposed the agreement and exerted considerable pressures on the Sadiq al Mahdi government to reject it.
Sadiq al Mahdi's temporizing on the Mirghani-Garang agreement sparked demonstrations in Khartoum by various labor unions and professional associations. Military officers who opposed continuation of the fighting in the south intervened in February 1989 to demand that the government seriously negotiate an end to the civil war. The military's memorandum to the cabinet provoked a political crisis that led Sadiq al Mahdi to form a new coalition government without NIF participation. This National Salvation government was dedicated to compromise with the SPLM on the basis of the Mirghani-Garang agreement. Accordingly, it set up a special committee of legal experts to draft legislation for the repeal of the September Laws.
The June 1989 coup made the Mirghani-Garang agreement a moot issue. Although the RCC-NS declared a unilateral cease-fire and announced its determination to settle the conflict in the south peacefully, its Islamic policies tended to alienate further, rather than to conciliate, the SPLM. Garang announced that the SPLA would continue the struggle but insisted that the SPLM was prepared to discuss a resolution of the civil war provided the government agreed not to enforce the sharia. Garang sent SPLM representatives to Ethiopia in August 1989 and to Kenya in December to discuss the war with RCC-NS representatives, but these meetings produced no results. The RCC-NS adopted the position that there could be no preconditions for peace talks. Consequently, the war continued, with the SPLA forces generally prevailing in military clashes with army contingents, especially in Al Istiwai, where support for the SPLM initially had been weak. In mid-1991 the government still held several important southern towns, including the largest cities of Juba and Yei in Al Istiwai, but they were besieged by the SPLA and could be resupplied only by air.
Regional resentment of Khartoum was not limited to the south, but was present to varying degrees in other areas of Sudan, especially the western state of Darfur. Although the ethnically diverse people of Darfur were predominantly Muslim, more than 40 percent were not Arabs and generally felt more affinity with related groups in neighboring Chad than with Khartoum. The civil strife in Chad during the 1980s inevitably spilled over into western Darfur, exacerbating historical tensions between the nonArab Fur and Zaghawa ethnic groups. The perception among many Fur that the RCC-NS encouraged and even armed militia among their enemies inspired guerrilla attacks on central government facilities and forces in Darfur. The general sense of antagonism toward the RCC-NS was reinforced by the drought and the near-famine conditions that have afflicted Darfur since 1984. Like its predecessors, the RCC-NS failed to cope with the social and economic consequences of the environmental disaster, a situation that increased alienation from the central government. By the early 1990s, much of Darfur was in a state of anarchy.
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Source: U.S. Library of Congress