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Basic Information

Area: 2,505,813 sq km (967,500 sq miles)
Capital City:
Major political parties:
Head of State:
First Vice-President and President of Southern Sudan:
Vice President:
Foreign Minister:
Membership of international groups/organisations:

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Sudan entered the Twentieth Century ruled as an Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, a unique constitutional status dating from 1899. After the First World War, Sudanese nationalist sentiment grew drawing inspiration from Egyptian nationalism. However, it was only much later, following the 1952 July Revolution in Egypt, that Sudan gained independence. The 1953 Anglo-Egyptian Agreement provided for a three-year transitional period before self-rule.

A new independent Sudan was born on 1 January 1956, but political infighting and economic incompetence soon extinguished popular optimism. In November 1958, Major-General Ibrahim Abboud led the army to power in a bloodless coup, determined to end the short, flawed rule of the politicians. Six years later faced with popular disillusionment, Abboud's regime collapsed and new parliamentary elections were held in 1965. Once more, parliamentary democracy brought weak, unstable governance and, in 1969, Colonel Jaafar Nimeiri seized power.

Meanwhile, southern Sudan was suffering from escalating conflict between Government forces and rebels. In 1972 Nimeiri signed a peace agreement with the southern rebels (South Sudan Liberation Movement). During the 1970s, the regime's pledges gradually unravelled and by 1983, when Nimeiri proclaimed the application of Islamic law (Shari'a) throughout the country, southern resistance forces were re-mobilising into what became the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).

Nimeiri was little more popular in the North, but challenges to his rule were met with bloody purges. Widening anger eventually sparked a military take-over in April 1985 and the following year elections were held. Parliamentary rule was to last less than four years, a period in which five governments were formed, each under the premiership of veteran politician Sadiq al-Mahdi. Peace talks with southerners and the poor state of the economy strengthened dissent.

On 30 June 1989, the army overthrew the democratically elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi and installed a Revolutionary Command Council, chaired by General Omar al-Bashir. Bashir ruled by decree at the head of the Revolutionary Command Council and banned all political parties except his own National Islamic Front (NIF) (renamed the National Congress Party in 1998). In 1996 Bashir was elected President and a National Assembly was elected in a flawed election which was boycotted by the opposition. Bashir was re-elected (with 86% of the vote) in 2000. Again a number of key opposition parties boycotted the election, claiming it was flawed and unfair.

BBC News Country Timeline: Sudan (

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Sudan is the largest country in Africa (almost as large as the European Union). Dominated by the Nile and its tributaries, it borders Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Sudan has over 800km of coastline along its north-eastern border, providing access to the Red Sea. Sudan has a tropical south and arid desert in the north. It is generally flat, with mountains to the east and west.

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Last Updated: February 2012

Sudan Main Page Country Profiles Main Page


Updated: February 2012


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