In 1983, for the second time in less than half a decade, a brutal civil war began in Sudan 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 (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.
The Sudanese government used force to convert people in the south to Islam, as they wanted Sudan to be identified as an Arab State with Islam as the only recognized (and permitted) religion. The people living in the south were Christians and traditionalists who rejected Sharia law, and they wanted Sudan to be identified as an African State where people were free to practice the religion of their choice.
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. In the more than thirty years that have ensued, over 2.5 million people have been killed and 4.5 million people have been displaced or sold into slavery. The 2005 Peace Agreement gave the people living in southern Sudan the freedom to decide whether to remain part of Sudan or be a separate and free country. When the time came 98.8 % of the people of South Sudan voted for independence. Sadly, even with this agreement war escalated when the government of Sudan slaughtered African tribes living in Dafur.
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan realized its struggles for independence and became a sovereign country. The Republic of South Sudan became the 54th state of Africa and 193rd member of the United Nations. Its independence will be remembered as one of the most significant events in the history of Africa.
The people of South Sudan are now free to elect their own leaders, have legal right to freedom of religion, and once again, they own and manage their own land.
South Sudan is blessed with a wealth of resources including large oil reserves and some of the richest and agriculturally most fertile lands in Africa. Oil was discovered in the Abeyi, Nuba Mountains, and Blue State, which motivates on-going attacks. Thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring countries and as of 2016 a humanitarian crisis remains.
UPDATE: June, 2016
South Sudan is currently facing an enormous and extremely urgent humanitarian crisis, and assistance from the international community is imperative. Please see here for the latest information: https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/south-sudan/quick-facts-what-you-need-know-about-south-sudan-crisis
Works Cited and Further Reading