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Sudan is Africa’s largest country, bordering Egypt, Chad, Libya, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the breakaway State of South Sudan. Purporting to be a democratic republic, Sudan is in fact a highly authoritarian State ruled by Omar al-Bashir, where effective political opposition is heavily restricted. Human rights abuses are widespread, particularly in areas affected by the country’s successive internal conflicts. In addition, the rights of women and girls are also poorly implemented, with high rates of female genital mutilation and child marriage.
The Republic of Sudan is the largest country in Africa and the tenth largest in the world. It is located in East Africa and is bordered by nine countries: Egypt in the north, Libya in the north-west, Chad in the west, the Central African Republic, the Republic of South Sudan in the south, Ethiopia and Eritrea in the east.
Following a referendum on the independence of South Sudan held in January 2011, South Sudan the Republic of South Sudan seceded from the north and became the world’s newest nation July 2011.
Population and language
Based on the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey, the population of the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan was estimated at 40 million, of which half are children. Sudan is rich with linguistic, religious and ethnic differences.
Arabic and English are the official languages, although more than 100 languages and dialects are believed to be spoken by over 300 tribes across the country. The Dinka language predominates in the south.
The modern politics of Sudan are inextricably linked to the country's colonial past. Britain and Egypt made a deal following the military defeat of the Mahdists - rulers of Sudan in the late 19th century – by the British in 1899, making Sudan an Anglo-Egyptian protectorate. In reality, however, Sudan was ruled as a British Colony (with the north and the south administered separately). Sudan's centuries of association with Egypt formally ended in 1956, when joint British-Egyptian rule over the country ended. Independence was rapidly overshadowed by unresolved constitutional tensions with the south, which flared up into full-scale civil war. The conflict was temporarily settled in 1972 before it resumed and escalated in 1983. The civil war lasted for over two decades until the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 granting greater autonomy to the South. As a result of these 22 years of civil war an estimated two million people have died and four million others displaced.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement expired on 9 July 2011. After the people of the south voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in the January 2011 referendum, the government of Sudan accepted the creation of an independent South Sudan in July 2011.
However, since 2003, another war has been raging in Darfur, a region located in the west of Sudan which, according to humanitarian organisations, has already killed over 20,000 and displaced thousands. Omar Bashir, the current president of Sudan who came to power after a military coup in 1989, faces an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur.
One of the most notable consequences of the wars in Sudan has been on its economy. In the 1980s, the country was ravaged by famine and Sudan was one of the poorest countries in Africa. However, the discovery of oil in 1999 significantly boosted the economy, with a growth of over 10 per cent at its peak in 2007. It should nevertheless be noted that the lack of infrastructure, the war in Darfur and the reliance of much of the population on subsistence agriculture, have limited the impact of oil revenue on the people's standard of living, creating major disparities between rural and urban areas. Sudan's annual GDP per head in 2009 was around $2,200. Although oil production constitutes an important proportion of Sudan's export, 80 per cent of the labour force is engaged in agriculture. The main agricultural products are cotton, sorghum and sugar. Sudan's main trading partners are China, Japan and Indonesia.
Media and civil society
Sudanese media is highly restricted. State-run radio and TV reflect government policy. A military censor ensures that the news reflects official views.
The operational freedom of human rights organisations in Sudan has been severely limited by the enactment of the Organisation of Humanitarian Voluntary Work Act on 20 February 2006. This legislation places stringent registration requirements on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and effectively gives the authorities the power arbitrarily to deny or cancel an NGO’s registration.
The space available to political activists and human rights defenders has drastically diminished following the decision of the International Criminal Court on 4 March 2009 to issue an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir.
Sudan has ratified the Convention on the rights of the child (3 August 1990), the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict on (26 July 2005) and accessed the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (2 November 2004). However children have been the most affected by the conflict in South Sudan and in Darfur, and the Sudanese authorities have so far failed to implement any legislation aiming to protect those children. An estimated 10,000 children remain associated with armed forces and groups. 36 per cent of girls marry before the age of 18, while female genital mutilation and cutting affects 68 per cent of women and girls - mostly in the north of Sudan. Only 39 per cent of children have their births registered.
- UNDP Sudan Country Profile
- BBC: Sudan Country Profile
- Frontline Defenders Sudan Country Profile
- UNICEF: Sudan Country Profile
- World Bank Sudan Country Profile
- UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Sudan page
- Population: 35,048,500 (UNDP, 2012)
- Population under 18: 20,660,000 (UNICEF, 2011)
- Number of internet users: 6,499,275 (19% of the population) (Internet World Stats, 2012)
- Human Development Index ranking: 171 (UNDP, 2012)
- Happy Planet Index ranking: 101 (Happy Planet Countries: Sudan, 2012)