Sudan was, until recently, the largest country in Africa and the Sudanese people are characterised by rich diversity. This diversity is manifested in the geological, ecological and environmental composition of the land as well as the languages, religions and tribal diversification that carry with them diverse traditions, customs, cultures, mythologies, social codes and ways of life.
One year before Sudanese independence in 1956, the country entered into a civil war that lasted for 17 years until the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 brought a period of relative calm. Civil war broke out again in 1983 between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in the south and the national government of Sudan in the north. In 2002, peace talks took place in Machakos, Kenya, leading to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005 where the two parties formally agreed to end the civil war.
The CPA included provisions on power and wealth sharing and also allowed for a referendum for unity or separation between north and south Sudan. The border areas between the north and south were generally believed to be amongst the most complex, particularly the Abyei region as well as the two provinces of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. The Three Areas Protocol under the CPA was designed to address specific issues related to dynamics within these three areas, including those of governance as well as provision of a referendum for the people of Abyei to vote on whether to become part of northern or southern Sudan.
Whilst peace talks and agreements were being made between the north and south of Sudan, conflict broke out in 2003 in the western region of Darfur. A number of peace talks have taken place in recent years. In 2006 in eastern Sudan, the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement was signed.
As outlined by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, general elections took place in 2010 and the referendum in January 2011 saw the Southern Sudanese vote in favour of independence from the north. On 9 July 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest state. Since the official separation, negotiations have continued between the two countries to decide on outstanding issues from the CPA, including debt relief, citizenship rights, border issues and joint oil exploration. The new Republic of Sudan currently faces a number of challenges, with the continuation of the fighting in Darfur to the recently documented conflicts in Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile along the new international border zone.