Surrounded by countries in conflict, Sudan is often simplified into the dichotomy of an "Arab" and Muslim north and an "African" and Christian/Animist south, but in reality is much more complex, with a large variety of ethnic groups and competing political parties. Since gaining independence from the UK in 1956, the persistent domination of the capital Khartoum over the marginalised peripheries has caused tension. The political elites from the North have constantly competed for power, leading to unstable parliamentary governments and military regimes. President al-Bashir gained control in 1989 after a military coup and has ruled since, being re-elected in 2015 in controversial elections, and has been indicted by the ICC. Plagued by rebellions, the government of Sudan has a history of arming militias, who are infamous for their gross violations of human rights, as a response to conflict. Further contributing to the complexities of the intrastate conflicts is the support of rebels by foreign powers: Uganda, Eritrea, Chad and Libya have all been indicated in their support of rebellions.

One of the longest conflicts began in 1983 when the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) rebelled, fighting until a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was concluded in 2005.

Conflict over governmental power continued, however, with several other rebellions, and while the majority of the fighting initially took place in the southern part of Sudan, after 2003 the fighting has mostly been located in the Darfur region in the west. The fighting between the government and several alliances of rebel groups in Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan originates from grievances within the affected regions but can also be seen as a proxy war between Sudan and South Sudan (which gained independence after a referendum in 2011). The situation in Darfur has been viewed as one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world with debates over the term ‘genocide’ being discussed. In 2015, attacks were carried out on peacekeepers in the The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and the UN has criticised the government for providing “limited cooperation”.

Peace attempts

Sudan has suffered almost constant conflict, with different rebel groups consistently fighting against a volatile government, and while there have been a number of peace agreements, most have been broken or splinter groups have emerged to continue fighting.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and SPLM/A was three years in the making and set the 2011 referendum for southern independence. However, peace talks between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-North) and the government in Khartoum over autonomy of the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have recently failed and the violence is at war level.

Several other partial peace agreements have been made over the years between the government and opposition groups, including the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Minni Minnawi’s SLM/MM group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), later the splinter JEM Bashar group, and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), most with very limited success.

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