Second Sudanese Civil War

Orfeas Katsoulis | Jun 11, 2024

Table of Content


The second civil war in Sudan, the war of the Arabs of Sudan against the non-Arab peoples of the South, lasted 22 years (1983-2005) and was accompanied by acts of genocide, massacres, expulsions and enslavement of civilians. In 2001, it was estimated that by that time some 2 million people had already died and 4 million were refugees. Civilian casualties were among the highest of any military conflict since World War II. Warfare and the killing of civilians also caused famine and epidemic diseases, accompanied by loss of life.

The war was fought between the Arab government of Sudan, based in the north, and the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army), an armed group representing non-Arab southerners. The war was triggered by the Islamization policy launched by the government of Sudan, led by Jafar Niemeyri, in 1983. The war was triggered by the tensions in the armed forces caused by the dispatch of units consisting of non-Arab southerners to the North. The hostilities were fought with mixed success. In 2002, the peace process began, culminating in January 2005 with the signing of the Naivasha Peace Agreement.

Causes and Nature of the War

The civil war in Sudan is often described as a struggle between the central government and the peoples on the periphery. In addition, the conflict has been described as inter-ethnic because the north of the country was Arab and the south was inhabited mainly by the Negro-Nilots. The war can also be described as sectarian, with the north being Islamic and the south being predominantly Christian and pagan.

The struggle over natural resources was also one of the reasons for the war. South Sudan had significant oil fields that the government wanted full control over, and the southerners tried to keep control of the resources for themselves. Seventy percent of Sudan's exports were oil sales. Also, the soil in the Nile Valley in the south is much more fertile than in the north.

Before the War

At the time when Sudan was a colony of the British Empire, the north and south of Sudan were administratively divided and had little in common. However, in 1946 the British abolished this division. Arabic became the official language throughout Sudan. The infringement of the rights of the Negro Anglophone population caused resentment in the south. After decolonization and independence, the interests of southerners were not taken into account. The northern Arab elite took the leading position in the country and riots erupted in the south.

In 1962 the situation in Sudan deteriorated, with the Islamic government banning Christian missionaries from entering the country and announcing the closure of Christian schools. This led to clashes in the south of the country between government troops and dissatisfied southerners. These clashes gradually escalated into a full-scale civil war. The first civil war ended in 1972 with the signing of a peace agreement in Addis Ababa. The treaty provided for broad religious and cultural autonomy for the South.

The internal policy of the Sudanese government (unsuccessful agrarian policy) led to the outbreak of large-scale clashes throughout Sudan. The civil war between the government and the rebels in the south of the country took place in parallel with other conflicts - the Darfur conflict, the clashes in the north and the war between the Dinka and the Nuer peoples.

Beginning of the war

The provisions of the Adiss Ababa Agreement were incorporated into the Sudanese Constitution. Eventually, the government's violation of these provisions led to the outbreak of a second civil war. Sudan's President Jafar Nimeiri tried to take control of the oil fields in the south of the country (by creating a separate Wahda state, of course included in Northern Sudan). Oil was discovered in Bantio in 1978, in southern Kordofan and Upper Blue Nile in 1979. The Adar field was discovered in 1981 and oil was found in Heglig in 1982. Access to the oil fields gave a significant economic effect to whoever controlled them.

Islamic fundamentalists in the north of the country were dissatisfied with the provisions of the Addis Ababa agreement, which provided religious freedom to Christians and pagans in the south. The position of the Islamists gradually strengthened, and in 1983 the president of Sudan announced that Sudan was becoming an Islamic republic and introduced Sharia law throughout the country.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army was founded in 1983 by a group of rebels to fight the government of Sudan to restore the autonomy of South Sudan. The group positioned itself as the defender of all the oppressed citizens of Sudan and advocated for a united Sudan. The leader of the NAOS, John Garang, criticized the government for its policies, which led to the disintegration of the country.

In September 1984, President Niemeyri announced the end of the state of emergency and the abolition of the emergency courts, but soon promulgated a new judicial act that continued the practice of emergency courts. Despite Nimeiri's public assurances that the rights of non-Muslims would be respected, Southerners and other non-Muslims were highly suspicious of these statements.


In early 1985, Khartoum was experiencing severe fuel and food shortages, a drought, famine and escalating conflict in the south of the country led to a grave internal political situation in Sudan. On April 6, 1985, General Abdel al-Rahman Swar al-Dagab and a group of senior officers staged a coup d'état. They did not approve of the attempted total Islamization of Sudan. The 1983 constitution was abolished, the ruling Sudanese Socialist Union party dissolved, former President Niemeiri went into exile, but Sharia law was not abolished. A transitional military council headed by Siwar al-Dagab was then established. This was followed by the formation of an interim civilian government headed by Al-Jazuli Daffallah. In April 1986 elections were held, after which a new government headed by Sadiq al-Mahdi of the Umma Party was formed. The government consisted of a coalition of the Umma Party, the Democratic Union, and the National Islamic Front of Hassan Turabi. This coalition was dissolved and changed several times over the years. Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and his party played a central role in Sudan during this time.

In May 1986, Sadiq al-Mahdi's government began peace negotiations with the NAOS, led by John Garang. Within a year, representatives of Sudan and the NAOS met in Ethiopia and agreed to abolish Sharia law and hold a constitutional conference as soon as possible. In 1988, the NAOS and the Democratic Union of Sudan agreed to a draft peace plan that included the abrogation of the military agreements with Egypt and Libya, the abolition of Sharia law, the lifting of the state of emergency, and a cease-fire.

However, due to the worsening situation in the country and the difficult economic situation in November 1988, Prime Minister al-Mahdi refused to approve the peace plan. The Democratic Union of Sudan then withdrew from the government, after which Islamic fundamentalists remained in the government.

In February 1989, under pressure from the army, al-Mahdi formed a new government, calling on members of the Democratic Union, and adopted a peace plan. A constitutional conference was scheduled for September 1989.

On June 30, 1989, a military coup took place in Sudan led by Colonel Omar al-Bashir. This was followed by the establishment of the "Council of the Revolutionary National Salvation Command," which was headed by al-Bashir. He also became Minister of Defense and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces. Omar al-Bashir dissolved the government, banned political parties, trade unions and other "non-religious" institutions, and eliminated the free press. Sudan has since resumed its policy of Islamization.

In March 1991, Sudan published a criminal law that provided penalties under Sharia law, including hand amputations. Initially these measures were hardly used in the south, but in 1993 the government began replacing non-Muslim judges in southern Sudan. In addition, a public order police was established to monitor Sharia law enforcement.

In the midst of war

The Sudan People's Liberation Army controlled parts of the equatorial territories, Bahr al-Ghazal and Upper Nile. Insurgent units were also active in southern Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile. Major towns in the south: Juba, Wau and Malakal were under the control of government forces.

In October 1989, after a truce, hostilities resumed. In July 1992, government forces took control of southern Sudan in a major offensive and seized the NAOS headquarters in Torit.

Under the pretext of counterinsurgency, the Sudanese government deployed large army and police forces in the southern parts of the country. However, these forces often attacked and raided villages in order to seize slaves and livestock. During these hostilities, it is estimated that some 200,000 South Sudanese women and children were captured and enslaved by Sudanese armed forces and irregular pro-government groups (the Popular Defense Army).

In August 1991, internal strife and power struggles began within the NAOS. Some of the rebels broke away from the Sudan Liberation Army. The leader of the NAOS, John Garang, was attempted to be overthrown as leader. All this led to the emergence of a second rebel faction (led by William Bani) in September 1992 and a third (led by Kerubino Boli) in February 1993. On April 5, 1993, in Nairobi, Kenya, the leaders of the breakaway rebel factions announced the formation of a coalition.

Between 1990 and 1991, Sudan supported Saddam Hussein's regime in the Gulf War. This changed U.S. attitudes toward official Khartoum. The Bill Clinton administration banned U.S. investment in the country and placed Sudan on the list of rogue countries. Since 1993, the leaders of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya have held conferences to try to bring peace to Sudan under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. In 1994 a declaration was drafted that sought to identify the essential elements necessary to achieve a just and comprehensive peace settlement and the right of self-determination for the south. After 1997 the government of Sudan was forced to sign the declaration.

In 1995, the opposition in the north joined forces with political forces in the south and formed a coalition of opposition parties called the National Democratic Alliance. It included the NAOS, the Democratic Union of Sudan, the Umma Party, and a number of smaller parties from northern ethnic groups. In the same year, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda stepped up their military assistance to the rebels. All this led to the fact that in 1997 the Sudanese government was forced to sign the Khartoum Agreement with a number of rebel groups led by General Riek Machar. Under its terms, the "South Sudan Defense Army," composed of former rebels, was established throughout South Sudan. They acted as militia in South Sudan, guarding Sudanese army garrisons and oil fields from possible attacks by irreconcilable rebels. Many rebel leaders began cooperating with Khartoum, joined joint government agencies, and conducted joint combat operations with the northerners.

The government of Sudan was also forced to sign a declaration on the cultural autonomy of the south and its right to self-determination. In 1999 President Omar al-Bashir offered the NAOS cultural autonomy within Sudan, but John Garang rejected the offer and the fighting continued.

The peace agreement

Between 2002 and 2004, negotiations for a cease-fire were held between representatives of the NAO and the government of Sudan, although armed clashes between rebels and government troops continued. Eventually, after lengthy negotiations, a peace agreement was signed in Nairobi on January 9, 2005, by Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mahammad Taha and SPLA leader John Garang.

The peace treaty specified a transitional period regarding the status of South Sudan, an immediate cease-fire, demobilization, the size of the armed forces, the distribution of oil revenues and other aspects of life in the country. The peace treaty granted the south autonomy for six years, after which a referendum on the independence of Southern Sudan was to take place. The oil revenues were divided equally between the Sudanese authorities and the southerners, and the Islamic Sharia law was abolished in the south.

John Garang became leader of the autonomous south and one of Sudan's two vice presidents.

International aid

In March 1989, the government of Sadiq al-Mahdi agreed with the UN on the details of a humanitarian aid plan called "Bridge of Life for Sudan. Under this operation, 100,000 tons of food were transferred to the warring parties. The second phase of the operation was approved by the government of Sudan and the NAOS in March 1990. In 1991, a drought caused food shortages throughout the country.

The U.S., the UN and many other countries have tried to support and coordinate international aid for northern and southern Sudan. However, due to Sudan's human rights abuses and the Sudanese government's policy toward the Gulf War, obtaining humanitarian aid for Sudan has been complicated.

During the second civil war in Sudan, between 1.5 and 2 million people were killed and killed as a result of fighting, ethnic cleansing, and starvation. Supposedly 4-5 million people became refugees, 20% of refugees left South Sudan.

The long and bloody conflict exhausted the country. The economic situation was grave, huge expenses were incurred in fighting, and there was a constant threat of starvation.

On October 11, 2007, the NAOS withdrew from the Sudanese government, accusing Khartoum of violating the terms of the peace agreement. By that time, more than 15,000 troops from North Sudan had not left the south. However, the NAOS also stated that it had no intention of returning to war.

On December 13, 2007, the NAOS returned to the government. After that, government seats were rotated between Juba and Khartoum every three months.

On January 8, 2008, Northern Sudanese troops finally withdrew from South Sudan.

On January 9-15, 2011, a planned referendum on independence was held in South Sudan. In the plebiscite, 98.8 percent voted for independence, which was proclaimed on July 9, 2011. Northern Sudan had recognized the south the day before. Difficulties in establishing the border between the two countries led to the outbreak of armed clashes in South Kordofan (2011) and a border conflict (2012) between Sudan and South Sudan.

Humanitarian implications

The protracted civil war forced about 4 million people to become refugees. Most fled to the major cities of southern Sudan, such as Juba, while others fled to northern Sudan or to neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Egypt. Many refugees were unable to feed themselves, and as a result, many died from malnutrition and starvation. Some 1.5 million people died during the 21 years of conflict. The devastation and lack of investment in the south led to the "lost generation.

The peace agreement signed in 2005 did not stop the bloodshed in Darfur, where the armed conflict continued.

Eastern Front

The Eastern Front was a coalition of rebel groups that operated in eastern Sudan near the border with Eritrea. The Eastern Front protested against inequality and sought a redistribution of oil revenues between local authorities and official Khartoum. The rebels threatened to cut off oil supplies from the fields in Port Sudan and to disrupt the construction of a second oil refinery in the city.

Initially the coalition of rebel groups was actively supported by Eritrea, but later Asmara became actively involved in the peace process. In 2006, the government of Sudan and the front leadership began negotiations and signed a peace agreement on 14 October 2006. The agreement provides for the sharing of oil revenues as well as the further integration of the three eastern states (Red Sea, Kassala and Gedaref) into one administrative unit.

Child Soldiers

The armies of both sides enlisted children in their ranks. The 2005 agreement required that child soldiers be discharged and go home. The NAOS claimed to have released 16,000 of its child soldiers between 2001 and 2004. However, international observers (UN and Global Report 2004) found demobilized children re-recruited by the NAOS. In 2004, there were between 2,500 and 5,000 children serving with the NAO. The rebels promised to demobilize all children by the end of 2010.

Foreign Arms Transfers

After Sudan's independence, Great Britain became the main supplier of weapons to the Sudanese army. However, in 1967, after the Six-Day War, Sudan's relations with Great Britain deteriorated sharply, as well as those with the United States and the FRG. From 1968 to 1972, the USSR and other CMEA member countries supplied large quantities of weapons to Sudan and also trained personnel for the Sudanese armed forces. A large number of tanks, planes and guns were supplied and they were the main armament of the army until the late 1980s. As a result of the 1972 coup d'état, relations between Sudan and the USSR cooled, but arms deliveries continued until 1977, and in the late 1970s China became the main supplier of arms to the Sudanese army. Also in the 1970s Egypt was an important partner for Sudan. Egypt supplied missiles, armored personnel carriers and other military equipment.

In the 1970s, arms shipments from the United States resumed. They reached their peak in 1982, when the value of the weapons purchased amounted to $101,000,000. After the outbreak of war, deliveries began to decline and finally ended in 1987. According to some reports in 1993, Iran financed the purchase by Sudan of 20 Chinese attack aircraft. The Iranian leadership also provided financial assistance to the Sudanese government.

In 1996, equipment from Belarus began to be supplied to Sudan in significant quantities. The first batch consisted of 9 T-55s and six Mi-24Vs. The next major purchase took place in 2001, when the government troops received 20 T-55Ms. In 2002, Sudan received 8 D-30 howitzers (122 mm) and 6 9P138 MLRS from Belarus. In 2003 government forces purchased 9 BMP-2, 39 BRDM-2, 16 D-30 (122 mm) howitzers, 10 2S1 (122 mm) self-propelled howitzers, 4 9P138 multiple launch rocket systems (122 mm) and 2 BM-21 multiple rocket launchers (122 mm). In 2004, 21 BRDM-2, 7 BTR-80, 10 BTR-70, and 1 BMP-1 were delivered.

The rebels in turn received weapons from Eritrea, Uganda and Ethiopia. The Israeli embassy in Kenya supplied anti-tank missiles to NAto units.


  1. Second Sudanese Civil War
  2. Вторая гражданская война в Судане
  3. ^ Iraqi support for Sudan during the war mostly consisted of weapons shipments;[9] according to the South Sudanese, however, at least one unit of Iraqi paratroopers fought alongside the SAF near Juba. About 200 Iraqi soldiers were allegedly killed, and the site of their remains became known as "Jebel Iraqi".[10] The International Institute for Strategic Studies also stated that Iraqi forces fought alongside Sudanese government troops.[11]
  4. ^ Although China was not officially involved in the war, it sent troops to the country in order to protect oil fields and thereby aid the Sudanese military. China also provided Sudan with weaponry.[11]
  5. Dixon, Jeffrey S., and Meredith Reid Sarkees. A Guide to Intra-state Wars an Examination of Civil, Regional, and Intercommunal Wars, 1816-2014, p. 392. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Reference, 2016.
  6. 1 2 Завоюет ли Беларусь позиции на глобальных рынках оружия  (неопр.). Дата обращения: 25 декабря 2020. Архивировано 20 января 2019 года.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Brian Raftopoulos and Karin Alexander. Peace in the balance: the crisis in the Sudan. — African Minds, 2006. — P. 12—13. (англ.)
  8. 1 2 Karl R. DeRouen and Uk Heo. Civil wars of the world: major conflicts since World War II. — ABC-CLIO. — P. 742. (англ.)
  9. 1 2 U.S. Committee for Refugees: Crisis in Sudan
  10. a b c d e f g Maciej Konarski: Sudan/ Najdłuższy konflikt w Afryce zmierza ku końcowi., 2005-01-09. [dostęp 2009-06-05].
  11. Kadhim, Abbas K. Governance in the Middle East and North Africa: A Handbook. London: Routledge, 2013, σ. 422
  12. "Military Support for Sudanese Opposition Forces." Sudan. Ανάκτηση 6 Ιανουαρίου 2016.
  13. Sudan: Nearly 2 million dead as a result of the world's longest running civil war, U.S. Committee for Refugees, 2001. Archived 10 December 2004 on the Internet Archive. Ανάκτηση 10 Απριλίου 2007.
  14. «Sudan at War With Itself» (PDF). The Washington Post. Αρχειοθετήθηκε από το πρωτότυπο (PDF) στις 11 Μαρτίου 2016. Ανακτήθηκε στις 21 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016. The war flared again in 1983 after then-President Jaafar Nimeri abrogated the peace accord and announced he would turn Sudan into a Muslim Arab state, where Islamic law, or sharia, would prevail, including in the southern provinces. Sharia can include amputation of limbs for theft, public flogging and stoning. The war, fought between the government and several rebel groups, continued for two decades.

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