History of the Conflict

Jump to: Early Civil Wars | South Sudan Independence

SPLA Soldiers and Military Police

Early Civil Wars

The first civil war, from 1955 to 1972, was between the Sudanese government and southern rebels who demanded greater autonomy for southern Sudan. The war ended with the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement, which granted significant regional autonomy to southern Sudan on internal issues.

NCP = National Congress Party
CPA = Comprehensive Peace Agreement
SPLM/A = Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army

The second civil war erupted in 1983 due to longstanding issues heightened by then President Jaafar Nimeiri’s decision to introduce Sharia law. Negotiations between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, or SPLM/A of southern Sudan took place in 1988 and 1989, but were abandoned when General Omar al-Bashir took power in the 1989 military coup. Bashir remains president of Sudan today.

Fighting over resources, southern self-determination, and the role of religion in the state raged between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A for over two decades. The war left two and a half million people dead and four million people displaced.

International mediators, led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, and supported by intense U.S. diplomacy, helped broker peace between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A in 2005.

Read more in Enough 101: "Independence through Civil Wars, 1956-2005."

South Sudan Independence

In January 2005 the National Congress Party, or NCP, and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, or SPLM/A, signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA . The CPA established a six-year Interim Period, when a number of provisions were to be implemented to test the viability of a unified Sudan and to ensure that peace endured in the country. During the Interim Period, southern Sudan enjoyed a high degree of autonomy within a united Sudan. At the conclusion of the Interim Period, the people of southern Sudan voted in a referendum determining whether southern Sudan would secede from Sudan.

In April 2010, Sudan held elections meant to pave the way toward democratic transformation. However, instead of encouraging power sharing between the NCP and the SPLM/A, the elections further divided them and there was evidence of fraud on both sides.

In accordance with the provisions of the CPA, the people of southern Sudan voted for their independence in the Southern Sudan Referendum on January 9, 2011. Six months later, on July 9, 2011, the six-year Interim Period came to an end and South Sudan became the world’s newest country.

The CPA also provided the residents of the Abyei Area with the right to vote in their own referendum to determine whether the contested border region would remain in Sudan or become part of South Sudan.

The people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile—many of whom fought with the SPLM against the Sudanese government during Sudan’s successive civil wars—were to participate in a popular consultation process, which was supposed to determine how the states could be autonomous within Sudan.

Security in South Sudan remains a challenge for its government and army, with the proliferation of militias, inter-communal violence, and the army itself continuing to threaten the civilian population.

Read more in Enough 101: "Comprehensive Peace Agreement and South Sudan Independence."

Despite South Sudan’s successful secession, critical aspects of the CPA remain unimplemented, including those providing for the Abyei Area Referendum and the popular consultation processes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Both Sudan and South Sudan continue to face immense challenges.

Read Enough's coverage of the lead-up to South Sudan's independence in the "Sudan Peace Watch 2010."

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