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Simply - Sudan/Uganda

A History of Sudan

The conflict in Sudan is often portrayed as being between the prosperous Arab North and the impoverished and neglected Christian South. But this is too simplistic. Sudan is a country of great variety; many different ethnic groups exist side by side and alliances are formed for many different reasons.

But there is a difference between North and South which was exacerbated under British colonial rule. If the civil war is ever to end it will need a concerted effort on the part of the international community and the surrounding countries.

1821 Turco-Egyptian army conquers central and northern Sudan.
1885 the seige of Khartoum ends with the death of General Gordon, leading the Egyptian forces against the Mahdi, a religious leader. Mahdist state established.
1892 the Belgians capture Western Equatoria - including parts of northern Uganda.
1898 Anglo-Egyptian forces under General Kitchener defeat the Mahdist forces at Omdurman and establish an Anglo-Egyptian 'condominium' to run the country. The British recognize North and South as separate entities but fail to develop local Southern economic and administrative structures.
Between 1930 and 1940 nationalist politics develop rapidly in the North. Southern Sudan is less keen on independence, as people are unprepared and unconsulted. In 1955 the first civil war begins. In 1956 Sudan becomes independent. General Abboud takes over in 1958 and begins a programme of Islamization. In 1963 the Anyanya movement for Southern secession is formed.
1965 There is a civilian government. 1969 Colonel Jafar Mohammed Nimeiri takes power in a military coup, promising socialism, but he soon finds himself changing his aims to accomodate the powerful Islamic lobby.
The Addis Ababa agreement in 1972 ends the war in Sudan, promising development and autonomy in the South. There is peace for 10 years, though debt spirals and prices rise.
In 1983 Nimeiri introduces Islamic sharia law which is fiercely opposed by the South. Civil war resumes. The Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/SPLM) is formed with Colonel Dr John Garang at its head.
In 1984/5 there is famine in western and eastern parts of the country and widespread strikes and demonstrations. A popular uprising overthrows Nimeiri and General Suwar al Dahab is asked to take power.
In 1986 Elections result in a Government under Sadiq al-Mahdi. In 1987 al-Mahdi declares a state of emergency. In 1988 there is famine in the South and 250,000 people die.
Lt-General Hassan al-Bashir takes over in 1989, backed by the National Islamic Front (NIF) and bans all political parties. The cease-fire with the SPLA breaks down. The National Democratic Alliance, a coalition of Northern and Southern Sudanese opposition forces, is formed.
In August 1991 the SPLA splits. In September tens of thousands of people die from hunger-related diseases. In October the Khartoum army seals off the Nuba mountains and begins operations to drive out the Nuba and destroy SPLA strength in the area.
In March 1992 the Khartoum Government launches its largest-ever offensive against the SPLA - 100,000 people are displaced. There is fighting between different splinter groups in the South. The UN estimates the death toll in southern Sudan to have reached 1.3 million.
In March 1995 the Khartoum Government announces a cease-fire with the SPLA, which breaks down in August. Widespread arrests, detentions and torture by the Government continue. In April the Ugandan Government severs diplomatic relations with Khartoum. The Khartoum Government steps up aerial bombardments of the South.

Sources: MRG Report on Sudan, Amnesty Reports, World Refugee Surveys 1995 and 1996; UNHCR by numbers 1995, State of the World's Children 1995; The World Guide 1995/6.

Who's Who


Lt-General Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir took power in Sudan in a military coup in June 1989, and has run a military dictatorship with a programme of Islamization ever since.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/ Army
(SPLM/A) was formed in 1983 under the leadership of Dr John Garang, a Dinka, who had support from the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia until it fell in 1991. The SPLA controls large areas of the South and is fighting a running battle with Bashir's Government.

In August 1991 the SPLA split into SPLA Mainstream (led by Garang) and SPLA United (later renamed the Southern Sudan Independence Movement) led by Dr Riek Machar. Fighting between the two has led to many civilian deaths, and more splinter groups have broken off since then. Machar signed an agreement with the Government in June 1996, with a charter agreeing a referendum.

While the struggle has mainly been between North and South Sudan, another is taking place between the Northern Government and the Nuba people in the mountains in the centre of the country.


Idi Amin became President of Uganda in 1971 in a coup which overthrew the Government of Milton Obote. He is often known as 'the butcher of Kampala' as he headed a reign of terror in which Ugandan Asians were expelled from the country and many people murdered. He was deposed in 1979.

Milton Obote first became Prime Minister in 1962, the year that Uganda became independent. He returned from exile in Tanzania in 1980. Under his Presidency the Ugandans suffered more atrocities. He was deposed in a coup in 1985.

Yoweri Museveni
is President of Uganda, re-elected in May 1996. Museveni has been in power for 10 years and is widely credited with improvements in Uganda's economic, political and social life. Museveni led the National Resistance Movement and Army which opposed both the Amin and the Obote regimes.

Colonel Juma Oris
, formerly in Amin's Government, heads the West Bank Nile Front, an anti-Museveni rebel group which operates in northern Uganda. Joseph Kony heads the Lord's Resistance Army, a group set up in 1985 under the guidance of Alice Lakwena, who claimed to be receiving her orders from the spirit of an Italian who died during the First World War. The LRA now occupy an area of land between Kampala and northern Uganda. Museveni has vowed that he will not negotiate with them as they stand accused of many atrocities.

Crossing borders

Sudan - Uganda
War in Sudan in the 1960s started the first exodus of refugees from Sudan to Uganda. In 1962 there were 4,000. In 1966 after peace talks failed there were 44,000, and by 1969 there were 74,000 (with another 10,000 going to Ethiopia, Zaire and Central African Republic). Many returned home after the war ended in 1972.

Sudan - Uganda
In the 1990s, it was the turn of the southern Sudanese to flee to Uganda once again, as the Khartoum Government went on the offensive against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and carried out aerial bombardments of towns. Fighting between different splinter groups in the south made the situation of many people impossible, and thousands fled each year. Today there are some 333,000 refugees from Sudan in Uganda.

Uganda - Sudan
After Amin fell in 1979, about 130,000 Ugandans fled to Sudan. In the early 1980s Obote’s troops committed many atrocities against the northern Ugandans, forcing another mass exodus. By 1984 there were at least 300,000 registered Ugandan refugees in Sudan. Many of them stayed for several years.

©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996 [image, unknown] NI Home Page[image, unknown] Issue 283 Contents

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