Developments in Sudan

Updated: 5 October 2015

The potential for development in Sudan is good thanks to large resources of oil, but corruption, lack of democracy and military conflicts has put obstacles in the way.

Sudan is Africa's second largest country, more than four times the size of Sweden. The relations with Egypt are of central importance, not least because both countries are dependent on water from the river Nile.

In 1989, a military force led by Colonel Omar Hassan al-Bashir took power and has since ruled the country. The first ten years of al-Bashir’s rule was characterized of a radical Islamist ideology, but after the turn of the century, Islamism was downplayed in favour of Arab nationalism. However, there has been no democratic development despite this.

In the presidential election in 2015 Omar al-Bashir got 94.05 per cent of the votes and his NCP received 323 of the Parliament's 426 seats. The main opposition parties boycotted the election. EU foreign chief Federica Mogherini noted that the conditions for a credible election results was lacking. The United States also criticized the lack of democracy in Sudan.

Human rights

Sudan was during the 1990’s one of the world's worst dictatorships. Several coup attempts were suppressed and many of the country's opposition leaders were periodically jailed.

The suppression of media has varied over the years. In the Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, Sudan is among the worst countries in the world.

The Sudanese judiciary is formally independent, but is under strong pressure from the regime. The administration of justice is mainly based on Islamic law, Sharia. Prison is sometimes replaced by death or mutilation. Sudan imposes more capital punishment than any other country in Africa.

During the civil war in the South, bot the army and the Southern Sudanese guerrilla groups forcibly recruited minors for military service.

The war in Darfur

Darfur is an area as large as Sweden, with seven million inhabitants. Since 2003, there has been a rebellion against the central government, which has claimed at least 300 000 lives and forced almost three million people to flee. As a result of the war in Darfur, President al-Bashir, became in 2010 the first sitting head of state, wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC) for genocide.

The partition of Sudan

After more than 20 years of civil war between North and South Sudan a peace agreement was signed in 2005. The agreement led to a partition of the country in July 2011, with South Sudan becoming an independent country. This also marked the end of the longest war in Africa.

Historically, there has been no clearly marked border between Northern and Southern Sudan. The peace agreement left the question open as to which side of the border the areas of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile State and the oil-rich area of ​​Abyei should belong. This has led to new conflicts.

Business and Economy

Two of three Sudanese lives on of small-scale agriculture and animal husbandry. With the exception of the oil industry, the industrial sector is small. In large parts of the country, especially in the east and in Darfur in the west, poverty remains a huge problem.

The division of Sudan means that three quarters of the oil wells ended up in the new state of South Sudan, which resulted in falling GDP in Sudan.

Corruption is among the highest in the world and the members of the regime have strong private business interest through secret companies.

Since the beginning of this century, China has been Sudan's main political supporter and biggest trading partner. China extracts and buys Sudanese oil, but is also constructing industries.

Social Development

The civil wars in Sudan have made millions of people refugees within their own country (IDP’s). Wars, along with periods of drought, have caused famines.

In recent years, however, many Sudanese living in the more peaceful parts of the country has experienced improvements in their living standards.

In Sudan arranged marriages are common, and many girls have children at a very young age. Most Sudanese women are genitally mutilated. The most radical form, the Pharaonic circumcision, is common. In Darfur and other war zones, rape has been used as a weapon of war.

Page owner: Department for Africa

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