About Sudan
Sudan From A-Z Part Three
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Feb 26, 2009 - 8:01:13 AM



The administration of justice traditionally was regarded by arabized Sudanese and a number of southern ethnic groups as the most important function of government. In precolonial times supervision of justice was solely in the hands of the ruler. In the north, most cases were actually tried by an Islamic judge (qadi) who was trained in one of the Sunni  Islamic legal schools. Crimes against the government, however, were heard by the ruler and decided by him with the advice of the grand mufti, an expert in the sharia, who served as his legal adviser.

Although the Muslim influence on Sudanese law remained important, the long years of British colonial rule left the country with a legal system derived from a variety of sources. Personal law pertaining to such matters as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, and family disputes was adjudicated in the sharia courts in the predominantly Muslim areas. Customary law, modified in varying degrees by the impact of the sharia and the concepts introduced by the British, governed matters of personal law in other areas of the country. Laymen, generally a chief or group of elders, presided over local courts. In addition to personal law, these courts, which numbered more than 1,000, heard cases involving land titles, grazing rights, and other disputes between clans and tribes.

The primary legal influence remained British, because of the weight given to British legal precedents and because most of the lawyers and judges were British-trained. After independence in 1956, much discussion took place on the need to reform or abrogate the system inherited from the British. A commission was preparing a revision of the legal system when Nimeiri and the Free Officers' Movement carried out the 1969 military coup against the elected civilian government . The Nimeiri regime, which looked to Gamal Abdul Nasser's government in Egypt as a model, dissolved this commission and formed a new one dominated by twelve Egyptian jurists. In 1970 this commission unveiled a new civil code of 917 sections, copied in large part from the Egyptian civil code of 1949, with slight modifications based on the civil codes of other Arab countries. The next year draft commercial and penal codes were published.

This major change in Sudan's legal system was controversial because it disregarded existing laws and customs, introduced many new legal terms and concepts from Egyptian law without source material necessary to interpret the codes, and presented serious problems for legal education and training. The legal profession objected that the Sudanese penal code, which was well established and buttressed by a strong body of case law, was being replaced by the Egyptian code, which was largely transplanted from a French legal system entirely alien to Sudan. Following a 1971 abortive coup attempt against the Nimeiri government and increasing political disillusionment with Egypt, the minister of justice formed a committee of Sudanese lawyers to reexamine the Egyptian-based codes. In 1973 the government repealed these codes, returning the country's legal system to its pre-1970 common-law basis.

Following the suppression of a coup attempt in late 1976, Nimeiri embarked on a political course of "national reconciliation" with the religious parties. He agreed to a principal Muslim Brotherhood demand that the country's laws be based on Islam and in 1977 formed a special committee charged with revising Sudan's laws to bring them into conformity with the sharia. He appointed Hassan Abd Allah at Turabi, secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood, as chairman of the committee. Non-Muslims viewed the committee with suspicion, and two southern politicians who had agreed to serve on the commission rarely participated in its work. Turabi's committee drafted a total of seven bills, which it sent to the People's Assembly for enactment. One of the proposed laws, the Liquor Prohibition Bill, prohibited the sale, manufacture, advertising, and public consumption of alcohol among Muslims. Another was the Zakat Fund Legislative Bill, which made mandatory the collection of a tax from Muslims for a social welfare fund administered separately from government accounts. The Sources of Judicial Decisions Bill called for repealing the section of the existing civil procedure code that permitted judges to apply the concept of "equality and good conscience" in the absence of a provision of law and provided that this be replaced by the Quran or the standards of conduct based on the words and practice of the Prophet Muhammad. The Turabi committee also called for the imposition of hudud and for bans on the payment of interest on loans.

During the next six years, only one of the Turabi committee's proposals, the law on zakat, was actually enacted. Following Turabi's appointment as attorney general in November 1981, however, Islamizing the legal system proceeded in earnest. This process culminated in the summer of 1983 with the establishment of a three-member committee that revised Turabi's earlier proposals. In September 1983, Nimeiri issued several decrees, known as the September Laws, that made the sharia the law of the land. In November the People's Assembly approved without debate legislation to facilitate the implementation of the sharia. These bills included the Sources of Judicial Decisions Bill, mentioned above, and a new penal code based on hudud.

The imposition of Islamic law was bitterly resented by secularized Muslims and the predominantly non-Muslim southerners. The enforcement of hudud punishments aroused widespread opposition to the Nimeiri government. Several judges who refused to apply the sharia were summarily dismissed. Their replacements, men with little or no legal training but possessing excessive zeal for the strict application of hudud, contributed to a virtual reign of terror in the court system that alienated many devout Muslims, including Sadiq al Mahdi, great-grandson of the religious ruler who defeated the British in 1885 . By early 1985, even Turabi believed it was time to disassociate the Muslim Brotherhood from Nimeiri's vision of Islamic law. He resigned as attorney general and was promptly arrested.

Following Nimeiri's overthrow in April 1985, imposition of the harshest punishments was stopped. Nevertheless, none of the successor governments abolished Islamic law. Both the transitional military government of General Siwar adh Dhahab and the democratic government of Sadiq al Mahdi expressed support for the sharia but criticized its method of implementation by Nimeiri. The complete abolition of the 1983 September Laws, however, remained a primary goal of the SPLM, which refused to end hostilities in the south until its demand was met. By early 1989, a reluctant Sadiq al Mahdi indicated his willingness to consider abrogation of the controversial laws. This process prompted his coalition partner, the NIF, organized by Turabi after Nimeiri's overthrow, to resign from the government in protest. Subsequently, Sadiq al Mahdi announced that the cabinet would consider on July 1, 1989, draft legislation repealing the September Laws and would meet with SPLM leaders to resolve peacefully the country's civil war.

The military coup of June 1989 occurred only twenty-four hours before the Sadiq al Mahdi government was scheduled to vote on rescinding the September Laws. Although the Bashir government initially retained the official freeze on implementation of those laws, it unofficially advised judges to apply the sharia in preference to secular codes. Turabi, who in 1983 had played an influential role in drafting the September Laws, was enlisted to help prepare new laws based on Islamic principles. In January 1991, Bashir decreed that Islamic law would be applied in courts throughout the north, but not in the three southern provinces

The Courts

Prior to Nimeiri's consolidation of the court system in 1980, the judiciary consisted of two separate divisions: the Civil Division headed by the chief justice and the sharia Division headed by the chief qadi. The civil courts considered all criminal and most civil cases. The sharia courts, comprising religious judges trained in Islamic law, adjudicated for Muslims matters of personal status, such as inheritance, marriage, divorce, and family relations. The 1980 executive order consolidating civil and sharia courts created a single High Court of Appeal to replace both the former Supreme Court and the Office of Chief Qadi. Initially, judges were required to apply civil and sharia law as if they were a single code of law. Since 1983, however, the High Court of Appeal, as well as all lower courts, were required to apply Islamic law exclusively. Following the overthrow of Nimeiri in 1985, courts suspended the application of the harsher hudud punishments in criminal cases. Each province or district had its own appeal, major, and magistrates' courts. Serious crimes were tried by major courts convened by specific order of the provincial judge and consisted of a bench of three magistrates. Magistrates were of first, second, or third class and had corresponding gradations of criminal jurisdictions. Local magistrates generally advised the police on whether to prepare for a prosecution, determined whether a case should go to trial (and on what charges and at what level), and often acted in practice as legal advisers to defendants.

In theory the judiciary was independent in the performance of its duties, but since 1958 the country's various military governments have routinely interfered with the judicial process. For example, in July 1989 the RCC-NS issued Decree Number 3, which gave the president the power to appoint and dismiss all judges. Under the authority of this decree, Bashir dismissed scores of judges, reportedly because they were insufficiently committed to applying the sharia in their decisions, and replaced them with supporters of the NIF. One of the most extensive judicial firings occurred during September 1990, when more than seventy judges were dismissed. The effect of these actions was to make the judiciary responsible to the president.

In November 1989, the RCC-NS established special courts to investigate and try a wide range of violations, including particularly security offenses and corruption. The special security courts handled cases that dealt primarily with violations of the emergency laws issued by the RCC-NS. The special corruption courts initially investigated charges that the state brought against officials of the Sadiq al Mahdi government, but since 1990 they have dealt with cases of embezzlement, foreign-currency smuggling, and black market profiteering. Critics charged that there was a lack of due process in the special courts and that the regime used them as a means of silencing political opponents. Judges sitting in the special courts included both civilians and military officers.

Human Rights

International human rights organizations and foreign governments, including the United States, have reported that since the Bashir government came to power in 1989, it systematically engaged in a range of human rights abuses against persons suspected of dissident political activity . The Sudanese Human Rights Organization was forcibly dissolved in July 1989, and scores of politicians, lawyers, judges, and teachers were arrested. According to a February 1991 report by Amnesty International, arbitrary arrest continued to be frequent, at least 40 political prisoners with serious health conditions were not receiving medical treatment, more than 200 political prisoners had been detained for more than a year without charges, torture was routine, and some political prisoners were summarily executed after trials in which the accused were not afforded opportunities to present any defense.


Southern Sudan

The three southern provinces of Al Istiwai, Bahr al Ghazal, and Aali an Nil were centers of opposition to Khartoum's authority since before independence. The first rebellion began in 1955 as a mutiny of southern troops who believed that the departure of the British would be followed by northern efforts to force arabization and Islamization on their region. The antigovernment movement gathered momentum after Sudan's independence in 1956 with the formation of opposition elements. The harsh treatment of southern civilians by northern armed forces and police caused a number of better educated southerners who served in government posts or were teachers to go into exile. Ultimately, in February 1962, many of these persons formed the Sudan Africa Closed Districts National Union. In April 1963, the group changed its name to the Sudan African National Union (SANU) and advocated outright independence for southern Sudan. Meanwhile, numerous less-educated southern males, many of whom had been junior civil servants or former members of the Equatoria Corps, sought refuge in the bush and formed guerrilla bands, the Anya Nya, which began activities in 1963. As the Anya Nya developed into an effective military force, it gradually succeeded in expelling central government officials from an increasing number of southern districts. In 1971, by which time Anya Nya controlled most rural areas, its military leaders formed a political organization, the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM).

The Nimeiri regime recognized that the escalating civil strife in the south was a debilitating drain on the country's resources and a serious impediment to Sudan's economic development. In 1971 Nimeiri agreed to negotiate a compromise with the SSLM. Several sessions of mediated discussions culminated in peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February and March 1972. Under the provisions of the Addis Ababa accords, the central government and the SSLM agreed to a ceasefire , and Khartoum recognized the regional autonomy of the three southern provinces. After signing the accord, Nimeiri issued a decree for the establishment of a Southern Regional Assembly. The assembly's members were elected in multiparty elections, the first of which was held in 1973, with a second election five years later. Throughout the 1970s, the Nimeiri government observed the Addis Ababa accords fairly faithfully, and the south's relative political freedom contrasted sharply with the authoritarian rule in the rest of the country.

The Addis Ababa accords eventually were undermined by the same factors that had fueled southern rebellion in the 1960s: fears that the north was determined to force arabization and Islamization upon the south. These fears were revived, beginning in the late 1970s, by the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood over central government policies. In 1981 Nimeiri virtually abrogated the Addis Ababa accords by dissolving the Southern Regional Assembly. In addition to these major political developments, the general economic stagnation of the south, which by the early 1980s was plagued with high inflation, lack of employment opportunities, and severe shortages of basic goods, tended to reinforce southern suspicions of Khartoum.

After Nimeiri appointed Muslim Brotherhood leader Turabi as attorney general in November 1981, southern confidence in the central government's motives eroded rapidly. A mutiny among about 1,000 southern troops in February 1983 stimulated attacks on government property and forces throughout the region. By August a former colonel in the Sudanese army, John Garang, had been instrumental in forming the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). When Nimeiri imposed the sharia on the whole country one month later, further inflaming attitudes among non-Muslims in the south, the SPLM rebellion, coordinated by its newly formed military arm, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) turned into a full-scale civil war . The intensification of fighting throughout 1984, and the SPLA's general success in expelling government forces from most rural districts and some towns were important factors contributing to Nimeiri's overthrow in 1985.

Unlike its predecessor, the SSLM, the SPLM sought, not secession from Sudan, but a solution based on a secular, democratic, and federal political system. Because one of the first acts of the transitional military government that overthrew Nimeiri was to suspend enforcement of the September Laws, Garang and other SPLM leaders initially were optimistic about resolving their grievances with Khartoum. The SPLM thus agreed to participate in negotiations with central government representatives and leaders of northern political parties. In 1986 SPLM leaders and several northern politicians met at Ethiopia's Koka Dam, where they signed an important declaration stating their common commitment to democracy. Nevertheless, the primary issue separating the SPLM from the northern parties--the role of the sharia--remained unresolved. Sadiq al Mahdi, whom Nimeiri had imprisoned for his criticism of the manner in which the 1983 laws had been implemented, as prime minister became reluctant to abrogate the sharia as the SPLM demanded.

Muhammad Uthman al Mirghani, head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and spiritual leader of the Khatmiyyah religious order, was one of the few northern politicians who recognized that ending the civil war and compromising on the issue of the sharia were inseparable. In November and December 1988, he met with Garang in Ethiopia and reached a tentative agreement that involved major government concessions with respect to the sharia. This agreement received the backing of many northern groups that wanted an end to the debilitating civil war. The NIF, however, strongly opposed the agreement and exerted considerable pressures on the Sadiq al Mahdi government to reject it.

Sadiq al Mahdi's temporizing on the Mirghani-Garang agreement sparked demonstrations in Khartoum by various labor unions and professional associations. Military officers who opposed continuation of the fighting in the south intervened in February 1989 to demand that the government seriously negotiate an end to the civil war. The military's memorandum to the cabinet provoked a political crisis that led Sadiq al Mahdi to form a new coalition government without NIF participation. This National Salvation government was dedicated to compromise with the SPLM on the basis of the Mirghani-Garang agreement. Accordingly, it set up a special committee of legal experts to draft legislation for the repeal of the September Laws.

The June 1989 coup made the Mirghani-Garang agreement a moot issue. Although the RCC-NS declared a unilateral cease-fire and announced its determination to settle the conflict in the south peacefully, its Islamic policies tended to alienate further, rather than to conciliate, the SPLM. Garang announced that the SPLA would continue the struggle but insisted that the SPLM was prepared to discuss a resolution of the civil war provided the government agreed not to enforce the sharia. Garang sent SPLM representatives to Ethiopia in August 1989 and to Kenya in December to discuss the war with RCC-NS representatives, but these meetings produced no results. The RCC-NS adopted the position that there could be no preconditions for peace talks. Consequently, the war continued, with the SPLA forces generally prevailing in military clashes with army contingents, especially in Al Istiwai, where support for the SPLM initially had been weak. In mid-1991 the government still held several important southern towns, including the largest cities of Juba and Yei in Al Istiwai, but they were besieged by the SPLA and could be resupplied only by air.

Western Sudan

Regional resentment of Khartoum was not limited to the south, but was present to varying degrees in other areas of Sudan, especially the western state of Darfur. Although the ethnically diverse people of Darfur were predominantly Muslim, more than 40 percent were not Arabs and generally felt more affinity with related groups in neighboring Chad than with Khartoum. The civil strife in Chad during the 1980s inevitably spilled over into western Darfur, exacerbating historical tensions between the nonArab Fur and Zaghawa ethnic groups . The perception among many Fur that the RCC-NS encouraged and even armed militia among their enemies inspired guerrilla attacks on central government facilities and forces in Darfur. The general sense of antagonism toward the RCC-NS was reinforced by the drought and the near-famine conditions that have afflicted Darfur since 1984. Like its predecessors, the RCC-NS failed to cope with the social and economic consequences of the environmental disaster, a situation that increased alienation from the central government. By the early 1990s, much of Darfur was in a state of anarchy.


The RCC-NS banned all political parties following the 1989 coup and arrested several political leaders including the deposed prime minister, Sadiq al Mahdi. Nevertheless, all northern parties that existed at the time of the coup maintained their party structures outside the country or in southern areas controlled by antigovernment forces. Some banned political parties actually operated fairly openly in Khartoum and other urban centers. The National Islamic Front, whose leaders were considered to have close relations with several RCC-NS members, was particularly open. Both supporters and opponents of the regime asserted that in the past most government decisions were made by a secretive council of forty men whose members included both top military leaders and prominent figures in the NIF, a coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, several cabinet ministers belonged to the NIF. With the exception of the NIF, however, the precoup parties generally did not cooperate with the military government and were committed to its overthrow.

The RCC-NS attempted to broaden its legitimacy by meeting with members of the various opposition parties. Its first effort to reach out to the banned parties was to invite them to send representatives to a National Dialogue Conference, held in Khartoum in the autumn of 1989. Most of the parties sent delegates, but the SPLM was conspicuously absent. The substantive results of the National Dialogue Conference were meager because the RCC-NS controlled the agenda and did not permit any criticism of its rule. Various meetings in 1990 and 1991 appeared to be aimed at coopting individuals rather than engaging in serious discussions about the country's government. The state-controlled media covered these meetings, but the participants rarely were prominent party leaders. In fact, Sadiq al Mahdi's Umma Party disassociated itself from contacts with the RCC-NS by announcing through its publications that the person with whom the RCC-NS met was not connected with the party. The DUP expelled two members for unauthorized contact with the government.

After the 1989 coup, the banned parties gradually coordinated a common opposition strategy. Northern political leaders initiated a dialogue with the SPLM that resulted in early 1990 in a formal alliance among the SPLM, the Umma Party, and the DUP. This grouping, known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an organization in exile, most of whose leaders lived in Cairo, provided the Umma and other parties with access to valuable radio transmitting facilities in SPLM-controlled areas. The NDA was further strengthened when several high-ranking military officers whom the RCC-NS had dismissed from service in 1989 established informal contacts with it. The most prominent of these officers was Lieutenant General Fathi Ahmad Ali, who had served as armed forces commander in chief prior to Bashir's coup. In January 1991, the NDA proposed to establish a government in exile for the purpose of overthrowing the Bashir regime. General Ali was named head of the government, and Garang his deputy. In March 1991, the NDA met in Ethiopia with representatives of military officers, professional associations, trade unions, and the Sudanese Communist Party to discuss ideas for organizing a national government.

Although all political parties remained officially banned in 1991, many precoup parties continued to operate underground or in exile. All the major Sudanese political parties in the north were affiliated with Islamic groups, a situation that has prevailed since before independence in 1956. Among the important religious organizations that sponsored political parties were the Ansar, the Khatmiyyah, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Although several secular parties had been set up between 1986 and 1989, except for the long-established Sudanese Communist Party and the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party, none of these had effective organizations after the coup.

Umma Party

During the last period of parliamentary democracy, the Umma Party was the largest in the country, and its leader, Sadiq al Mahdi served as prime minister in all coalition governments between 1986 and 1989. Originally founded in 1945, the Umma was the political organization of the Islamic Ansar movement. Its supporters followed the strict teachings of the Mahdi, who ruled Sudan in the 1880s. Although the Ansar were found throughout Sudan, most lived in rural areas of western Darfur and Kurdufan. Since Sudan became independent in 1956, the Umma Party has experienced alternating periods of political prominence and persecution. Sadiq al Mahdi became head of the Umma and spiritual leader of the Ansar in 1970, following clashes with the Nimeiri government, during which about 3,000 Ansar were killed. Following a brief reconciliation with Nimeiri in the mid-1970s, Sadiq al Mahdi was imprisoned for his opposition to the government's foreign and domestic policies, including his 1983 denunciation of the September Laws as being un-Islamic.

Despite Sadiq al Mahdi's criticisms of Nimeiri's efforts to exploit religious sentiments, the Umma was an Islamic party dedicated to achieving its own Muslim political agenda for Sudan. Sadiq al Mahdi had never objected to the sharia becoming the law of the land, but rather to the "un-Islamic" manner Nimeiri had used to implement the sharia through the September Laws. Thus, when Sadiq al Mahdi became prime minister in 1986, he was loath to become the leader who abolished the sharia in Sudan. Failing to appreciate the reasons for non-Muslim antipathy toward the sharia, Sadiq al Mahdi cooperated with his brother-in-law, NIF leader Turabi, to draft Islamic legal codes for the country. By the time Sadiq al Mahdi realized that ending the civil war and retaining the sharia were incompatible political goals, public confidence in his government had dissipated, setting the stage for military intervention. Following the June 1989 coup, Sadiq al Mahdi was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for several months. He was not released from prison until early 1991. Sadiq al Mahdi indicated approval of political positions adopted by the Umma Party during his detention, including joining with the SPLM and northern political parties in the National Democratic Alliance opposition grouping.

Democratic Unionist Party

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was similarly based on a religious order, the Khatmiyyah organization. Ever since the Khatmiyyah opposed the Mahdist movement in the 1880s, it has been a rival of the Ansar. Although the Khatmiyyah was more broadly based than the Ansar, it was generally less effective politically. Historically, the DUP and its predecessors were plagued by factionalism, stemming largely from the differing perspectives of secular-minded professionals in the party and the more traditional religious values of their Khatmiyyah supporters. The DUP leader and hereditary Khatmiyyah spiritual guide since 1968, Muhammad Uthman al Mirghani, tried to keep these tensions in check by avoiding firm stances on controversial political issues. In particular, he refrained from public criticism of Nimeiri's September Laws so as not to alienate Khatmiyyah followers who approved of implementing the sharia. In the 1986 parliamentary elections, the DUP won the second largest number of seats and agreed to participate in Sadiq al Mahdi's coalition government. Like Sadiq al Mahdi, Mirghani felt uneasy about abrogating the sharia, as demanded by the SPLM, and supported the idea that the September Laws could be revised to expunge the "unIslamic " content added by Nimeiri.

By late 1988, however, other DUP leaders had persuaded Mirghani that the Islamic law issue was the main obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the civil war. Mirghani himself became convinced that the war posed a more serious danger to Sudan than did any compromise over the sharia. It was this attitude that prompted him to meet with Garang in Ethiopia where he negotiated a cease-fire agreement based on a commitment to abolish the September Laws. During the next six months leading up to the June 1989 coup, Mirghani worked to build support for the agreement, and in the process emerged as the most important Muslim religious figure to advocate concessions on the implementation of the sharia. Following the coup, Mirghani fled into exile and he has remained in Egypt. Since 1989, the RCC-NS has attempted to exploit DUP factionalism by coopting party officials who contested Mirghani's leadership, but these efforts failed to weaken the DUP as an opposition group.

The Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in Egypt, has been active in Sudan since its formation there in 1949. It emerged from Muslim student groups that first began organizing in the universities during the 1940s, and its main support base has remained the college educated. The Muslim Brotherhood's objective in Sudan has been to institutionalize Islamic law throughout the country. Hassan Abd Allah at Turabi, former dean of the School of Law at the University of Khartoum, had been the Muslim Brotherhood's secretary general since 1964. He began working with Nimeiri in the mid-1970s, and, as his attorney general in 1983, played a key role in the controversial introduction of the sharia. After the overthrow of Nimeiri, Turabi was instrumental in setting up the NIF, a Brotherhood-dominated organization that included several other small Islamic parties. Following the 1989 coup, the RCC-NS arrested Turabi, as well as the leaders of other political parties, and held him in solitary confinement for several months. Nevertheless, this action failed to dispel a pervasive belief in Sudan that Turabi and the NIF actively collaborated with the RCC-NS. NIF influence within the government was evident in its policies and in the presence of several NIF members in the cabinet.


The Republican Brothers

A small but influential religious party in the early 1980s was the Republican Brothers. A Sufi shaykh, Mahmud Muhammad Taha, founded the Republican Brothers in the 1950s as an Islamic reform movement stressing the qualities of tolerance, justice, and mercy. Taha came to prominence in 1983 when he opposed Nimeiri's implementation of the sharia as being contrary to the essence of Islam. He was arrested and subsequently executed for heresy in January 1985. The execution of such a widely revered religious figure--Taha was seventy-six--aroused considerable revulsion in Sudan and was one of the factors that helped precipitate the coup against Nimeiri. Although the Republican Brothers survived the loss of its leader and participated in the political process during the parliamentary period, it has not been politically active since 1989.

Secular Political Parties

The two most important secular political parties in the north were the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) and the Baath. The SCP was formed in 1944 and early established a strong support base in universities and labor unions. Although relatively small, the SCP had become one of the country's best organized political parties by 1956 when Sudan obtained its independence. The SCP also was one of the few parties that recruited members in the south. The various religiously affiliated parties opposed the SCP, and, consequently, the progression of civilian and military governments alternately banned and courted the party until 1971, when Nimeiri accused the SCP of complicity in an abortive military coup. Nimeiri ordered the arrest of hundreds of SCP members, and several leaders, including the secretary general, were convicted of treason in hastily arranged trials and summarily executed. These harsh measures effectively crippled the SCP for many years.

Following Nimeiri's overthrow, the SCP began reorganizing, and it won three seats in the 1986 parliamentary elections. Since the June 1989 coup, the SCP has emerged as one of the Bashir government's most effective internal opponents, largely through fairly regular publication and circulation of its underground newspaper, Al Midan. In November 1990, Babikr at Tijani at Tayib, secretary general of the banned SCP, managed to escape from house arrest and flee to Ethiopia.

The Baath Party of Sudan was relatively small and sided with the Baath Party of Iraq in the major schism that divided this pan-Arab party into pro-Iraqi and pro-Syrian factions. The Baath remained committed to unifying Sudan with either Egypt or Libya as an initial step in the creation of a single nation encompassing all Arabic-speaking countries; however, the Baath's ideological reservations about the existing regimes in those two countries precluded active political support for this goal. The Nimeiri and Bashir governments alternately tolerated and persecuted the Baath. The RCC-NS, for example, arrested more than forty-five Baathists during the summer of 1990. Restrictions against the Baath were eased at the end of year, presumably because Sudan supported Iraq during the Persian Gulf War.

Sudanese People's Liberation Movement

Although based almost exclusively in the three predominantly non-Arab southern states, the SPLM was the most important opposition force in Sudan . Most of its early members were ethnic Dinka, and until the late 1980s most recruits into its SPLA were of Dinka origin. The SPLM was strongest where the largest number of Dinka resided, that is, in Aali an Nil and Bahr al Ghazal. Both Nimeiri and Sadiq al Mahdi had tried to exploit historical ethnic tensions between the Dinka and other groups, such as the Nuer and Azande, as part of the effort to contain the spread of the civil war. The RCC-NS, however, tended to view all non-Muslims in the south as the same, and indiscriminately bombed non-Dinka towns and armed the Arab militias that massacred civilians. The human rights group, Africa Watch, reported in 1990 that the kidnapping, hostage-taking, and other activities by militias in the south approached a reemergence of slavery. The effect of RCC-NS policies was to strengthen the appeal of the SPLM in non-Dinka areas, particularly the Azande territory of western Al Istiwai. By 1991 almost one-half of the SPLA forces were non-Dinka, although most of the higher-ranking officers remained Dinka.


Since independence the mass media have served as channels for the dissemination of information supporting various political parties (during of parliamentary periods) or official government views (during the the years of military rule). Radio, an important medium of mass communication in the country's vast territory, has remained virtually a government monopoly, and television broadcasting been a complete monopoly. The official Sudan News Agency (SUNA), first established in 1971, distributed news about the country in Arabic, English, and French to foreign and domestic services.


Before the 1989 coup, Sudan had a lively press, with most political parties publishing a variety of periodicals. In Khartoum, twenty-two daily papers were published, nineteen in Arabic and three in English. Altogether, the country had fiftyfive daily or weekly newspapers and magazines. The RCC-NS banned all these papers and dismissed more than 1,000 journalists. At least fifteen journalists, including the director of the Sudan News Agency and the editor of the monthly Sudanow, were arrested after the coup. Since coming to power, the RCC-NS has authorized the publication of only a few papers and periodicals, all of which were published by the military or government agencies and edited by official censors. The leading daily in 1991 was Al Inqadh al Watani (National Salvation).

Radio and Television

Radio and television broadcasting were operated by the government. In 1990 there were an estimated 250,000 television sets in the country and about 6 million radio receivers. Sudan Television operated three stations located in Omdurman, Al Jazirah, and Atbarah. The major radio station of the Sudan National Broadcasting Corporation was in Omdurman, with a regional station in Juba for the south. Following the 1989 coup, the RCC-NS dismissed several broadcasters from Sudan Television because their loyalty to the new government and its policies was considered suspect.

In opposition to the official broadcast network, the SPLM operated its own clandestine radio station, Radio SPLA, from secret transmitters within the country and facilities in Ethiopia. Radio SPLA broadcasts were in Arabic, English, and various languages of the south. In 1990 the National Democratic Alliance began broadcasts on Radio SPLA's frequencies.

The 1989 coup accelerated the trend in Sudan's foreign policy of turning away from traditional allies, such as Egypt and the United States. This trend had begun following the overthrow of Nimeiri's government in 1985. As prime minister, one of Sadiq al Mahdi's foreign policy objectives was to ease the strain that had characterized relations with Ethiopia, Libya, and the Soviet Union during the latter years of Nimeiri's rule. Nevertheless, the country's need for foreign economic assistance to deal with the consequences of drought and civil war generally curtailed the extent to which foreign relations could be realigned.

The Persian Gulf crisis and subsequent war in 1991 caught Sudan in an awkward position. Although Khartoum's officially stated position was one of neutrality, the unofficial government position was one of sympathy for Iraq, stemming largely from a sense of appreciation for the military assistance Baghdad had provided since 1989. Sudan's failure to join the anti-Iraq coalition infuriated Saudi Arabia, which retaliated by suspending much-needed economic assistance, and Egypt, which responded by providing aid to opponents of the Bashir regime. After the RCC-NS sent the deputy leader of the NIF to the Islamic Conference in Baghdad that Iraqi President Saddam Husayn organized in January 1991, Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Khartoum. The RCC-NS's efforts to maintain close relations with Iraq resulted in Sudan's regional isolation.


In 1991 Sudan's relations with its most important neighbor were strained. This was partially a legacy of Cairo's close support of Nimeiri prior to 1985. Sudan was one of the few Arab countries that backed Egypt in 1979 after Anwar as Sadat signed a separate peace agreement with Israel, and Nimeiri had taken a leading role in the early 1980s to help rehabilitate Egypt's position with the rest of the Arab world. Nimeiri was in Egypt en route home from a trip to the United States when his government was overthrown. Egyptian president Husni Mubarak granted Nimeiri political asylum and rejected Sudan's subsequent calls for his extradition. Beginning in 1986, relations gradually improved and they were relatively normal by the time the Bashir coup occurred.

Relations with Egypt deteriorated steadily after the RCC-NS came to power. The Bashir regime was convinced that Egypt supported opposition politicians, several of whom, including Mirghani, were granted political asylum; the NDA was also allowed to operate in Egypt. Mirghani and other leaders, including Nimeiri, issued regular criticisms of the government from the relative safe haven of Cairo. The RCC-NS responded by providing asylum to Egyptian Islamic activists against whom were pending various criminal charges and by encouraging NIF supporters residing in Egypt physically to assault the organization's opponents. Relations were further strained early in 1990 when the Egyptian government invited a high-ranking SPLM delegation to Cairo. Even before the Persian Gulf crisis erupted in August, Mubarak accused Sudan of stationing Iraqi missiles on its soil and aiming them at the Aswan High Dam, a charge strongly denied by the RCC-NS. Relations only worsened after Sudan refused to join the Arab coalition against Iraq. As of mid-1991, Egypt had not returned its ambassador to Khartoum and was openly providing financial support to the DUP, the SPLM, and other opposition groups.


Sudan's relations with Libya, its neighbor on the northwest, alternated between extreme hostility and cordiality throughout the 1980s. Nimeiri and Libyan leader Muammar al Qadhafi were especially antagonistic toward each other. Nimeiri permitted the Libyan National Salvation Front to broadcast anti-Qadhafi diatribes from radio transmitters located in Sudan. The Libyan government responded by training anti-Nimeiri opposition forces in Libya and providing financial and material support to the SPLM. Repairing relations with Libya has been a goal of the transitional, parliamentary, and military governments since 1985. The Sadiq al Mahdi government permitted Libya to station some of its military forces in Darfur, from whence they assisted Chadian rebels in carrying out raids against government forces in Chad. The expanding relations between Sudan and Libya were not viewed favorably in Cairo, and in 1988, apparently in response to pressures from Egypt and the United States, the Sudanese government requested a withdrawal of the Libyan forces.

Relations with Libya expanded again after the June 1989 coup. Khartoum and Tripoli both expressed interest in an eventual unification of their nations. In July 1990, the Libyan-Sudanese joint General Peoples' Committee held its first meeting, and the Councils of Ministers of the two countries met in a combined session. Although a unity agreement was negotiated in 1990, the chief result of these meetings was not political union but greater economic cooperation. Libya and Sudan signed a trade and development protocol that provided, among other things, for Libyan investment in agricultural projects in exchange for guaranteed access to Sudanese food supplies. The two countries also agreed to form a working committee to draft plans for easing travel restrictions between Darfur and the Al Khalij area on the Libyan side of the border. Later in 1990, Qadhafi made an official state visit to Khartoum. Although the Libyan leader expressed satisfaction with the progress made in relations between the two countries, he also lectured the RCC-NS on the inappropriateness of its close ties to the NIF.


Throughout the 1980s, relations with Chad, Sudan's neighbor on the west, were affected both by the civil strife in that country, which often spilled over into Darfur, and relations with Libya, which intervened in Chad's internal conflicts. At the time of the Bashir coup in June 1989, western Darfur was being used as a battleground by troops loyal to the Chadian government of Hissein Habré and rebels organized by Idris Deby and supported by Libya. Deby was from the Zaghawa ethnic group that lived on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border, and the Zaghawa of Darfur provided him support and sanctuary. Hundreds of Zaghawa from Chad had also fled into Sudan to seek refuge from the fighting. The RCC-NS was not prepared for a confrontation with Chad, which was already providing assistance to the SPLM, and thus tended to turn a blind eye when Chadian forces crossed into Darfur in pursuit of the rebels.

In May 1990, Chadian soldiers invaded the provincial capital of Al Fashir, where they rescued wounded comrades being held at a local hospital. During the summer, Chadian forces burned eighteen Sudanese villages and abducted 100 civilians. Deby's Patriotic Movement for Salvation (Mouvement Patriotique du Salut) provided arms to Sudanese Zaghawa and Arab militias, ostensibly so that they could protect themselves from Chadian forces. The militias, however, used the weapons against their own rivals, principally the ethnic Fur, and several hundred civilians were killed in civil strife during 1990. The government was relieved when Deby finally defeated Habré in December 1990. The new government in N'Djamena signaled its willingness for good relations with Sudan by closing down the SPLM office. Early in 1991, Bashir visited Chad for official talks with Deby on bilateral ties.

Relations with Other African States

Since 1983, Sudan's relations with its other African neighbors, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Zaire, have been affected by the civil war in the south. These five countries hosted thousands of Sudanese refugees who had fled the fighting and provided various forms of assistance and/or sanctuary to the SPLM and SPLA. As of mid-1991, most of the border area with Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda, and Zaire was under SPLM control. The governments of Kenya and Uganda openly supported the SPLM's humanitarian organizations and facilitated the movement of international relief personnel and supplies into southern Sudan. The SPLM's most important foreign supporter, however, was the government of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia. The Mengistu regime had provided military assistance, including facilities for training, to the SPLA and extensive political backing to the SPLM. In retaliation, Khartoum had allowed Ethiopian rebels to maintain facilities in Sudan, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front at Port Sudan, and the Tigray People's Liberation Front at Al Qadarif. As of mid-1991, it was not clear how the overthrow of the Mengistu regime would affect Ethiopia's relations with the SPLM and the Bashir government.

Relations with Other Arab States

Other than Egypt and Libya, Sudan's most important relations with Arab countries were with the oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf, in particular Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. After 1974 these three countries became important sources of foreign economic assistance and private investments. During the economic crises of the 1980s, Saudi Arabia provided Sudan with military aid, concessionary loans, outright financial grants, and oil at prices well below the cost of petroleum in the international market. By 1990 foreign capital transfers had become the Sudanese government's most important source of revenue.

Despite its economic dependence, the Bashir regime refused to support the Saudi position during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990-91. Other than the receipt of a small quantity of Iraqi military supplies, which the Bashir government used in its prosecution of the war in the south, its motive for its pro-Iraq stance remained obscure. In fact, relations between Baghdad and Khartoum, while correct, were limited in 1990. In the spring of that year, the Iraqi government had ignored official protests from Bashir and met with representatives of the banned Sudanese Baath Party and other opposition groups. The decision to side with Iraq adversely affected Sudan's relations with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies. Riyadh retaliated by suspending all grants, project loans, and concessionary oil sales, measures that had a devastating impact on Sudan's budget and economy. After Iraq was defeated, Bashir and other RCC-NS members tried to repair the damaged relations with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but as of mid1991 , these countries had not resumed their former largesse to Sudan.

United States

Sudan and the United States enjoyed generally close relations during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, then Vice President George Bush had paid an official visit to Khartoum only one month before Nimeiri's overthrow in April 1985, and Nimeiri himself was in Washington trying to obtain more United States aid when the mass demonstrations that culminated in his downfall erupted. Both the transitional military government and the parliamentary government viewed past United States support for Nimeiri suspiciously, and were determined to end the de facto alliance that had developed after 1979. Because the most visible symbol of this alliance was Operation Bright Star, the biennial joint military exercises that had taken place partly on Sudanese territory, one of the first policy decisions was to terminate Sudan's participation in Operation Bright Star. Nevertheless, relations with the United States remained important while Sadiq al Mahdi was prime minister because Washington continued to be a significant donor of foreign aid.

This situation changed following the 1989 military coup. Washington terminated all economic assistance to Sudan in accordance with the provisions of a foreign assistance appropriations law that barred all United States assistance to a country whose democratically elected government had been overthrown by the military. Although this legislation included mechanisms for the Department of State to waive this provision, the Bush administration chose not to do so. The RCC-NS viewed the aid cut-off as an unfriendly gesture. Subsequently, when the United States continued to provide humanitarian assistance for the thousands of Sudanese being displaced by drought and civil war, administering this relief aid directly through the United States Agency for International Development, the RCC-NS accused Washington of interfering in the country's internal affairs. Khartoum's reluctance to cooperate with the humanitarian program prompted United States officials in early 1990 to criticize publicly the Bashir government for impeding the distribution of emergency aid and even confiscating relief supplies. These charges, which were echoed by the British, the French, and several international relief agencies, further antagonized the RCC-NS.

In this atmosphere, it was perhaps inevitable that Bashir would mistrust the motives of the United States when it proposed a peace initiative to end the civil war. In May 1990, after temporizing for several weeks, the RCC-NS rejected the United States proposals for a cease-fire. Khartoum's support for Iraq during the Persian Gulf war further strained relations between the two governments. Finally, in February 1991, the United States withdrew all its diplomatic personnel from Sudan and closed its embassy in Khartoum.

Relations with Other Countries

In 1991 Sudan was a member of several international organizations including the United Nations and its specialized agencies, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of African Unity.

The policies of the RCC-NS, however, alienated all the European countries that traditionally had provided economic and humanitarian assistance to Sudan. Britain suspended several million dollars of grants and loans for development projects in January 1991 after the government released from prison five Palestinians who had been convicted of the 1988 terrorist murder of five Britons at a Khartoum hotel. Subsequently, London broke diplomatic relations as well. The twelve-member European Community issued a statement in February 1991 expressing its collective "shock and dismay" at Khartoum's failure to cooperate with nations and international organizations trying to assist Sudanese victims of drought and civil strife. The RCC-NS tried to counterbalance these deteriorating relations with expanded ties to such countries as China, Iran, Nigeria, and Pakistan. None of these countries, however, had the resources to replace the significant and needed aid that had dried up in the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, and North America.


Several excellent studies exist of Sudan's politics since independence in 1956 and up to the overthrow of the Nimeiri regime in 1985. There is a paucity, however, of published sources for the more recent years. The best overviews of pre-1985 political history are Peter Bechtold's Politics in the Sudan since Independence, Tim Niblock's Class and Power in Sudan, and Peter Woodward's Sudan, 1898-1989: The Unstable State. An excellent analysis of the movement to establish the sharia as the basis for Sudan's law is Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban's Islamic Law and Society in the Sudan.

SUDAN OCCUPIES A STRATEGICALLY SENSITIVE AREA of the African continent, and the nation's military establishment, developed during the period of British colonial administration, has remained influential in independent Sudan. Problems of domestic origin have, however, been the paramount sources of national security concern.

Sudan has experienced civil war during three-quarters of its existence as an independent nation. Historical divisions between the Arab-dominated north and the predominantly Black African, non-Muslim south spawned civil strife that was settled only in 1972, after about seventeen years. Open conflict broke out again in 1983 after President Jafaar an Nimeiri abrogated the peace accord by abolishing the Southern Regional Assembly, redividing the south into three regions, and imposing the sharia, or Islamic law, on the entire country. Since that time, the southern rebel forces, known as the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), have gradually expanded the fighting, leaving the government forces in control of only a few key garrison towns of the south. Essentially a revolt among the Dinka and Nuer peoples, the largest groups in the south, the conflict has spread beyond the southern region to southern Darfur, southern Kurdufan, and southern Al Awsat states. The struggle has been complicated by the government policy of arming militias in communities opposed to the SPLA. As a result, local intercommunal conflicts have been exacerbated, and the civilian population has been victimized by violence and atrocities. Millions have been forced to flee their homes in the south to escape the fighting and avert starvation.

In spite of the pressures it faced in the south, the Sudanese military constituted the most stable institution in a nation beset by upheaval and economic crisis. Initially having a reputation for nonpartisanship, the armed forces were generally accepted as the guardians of the state when confidence in elected leaders faltered. Nimeiri, who came to power in a military coup d'état in 1969, was himself deposed by a group of officers in 1985. After a three-year period of civilian parliamentary government from 1986 to 1989, a group of middle-ranking officers again intervened to impose military rule. Aligned with the National Islamic Front (NIF), an Islamist (Muslim activist, also seen as fundamentalist) party, the new military clique purged the armed forces of potential dissenters, arrested suspected opponents, and introduced harsh internal security controls. A politico-military militia, the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), was organized as an urban security force dedicated to the goals of the Islamist movement.

Its economy in a crippled condition, Sudan has been almost entirely dependent on help from other countries to equip its armed forces. After severing military ties with the Soviet Union in 1977, Sudan turned to Egypt, China, the West European countries, and the United States for arms. In most cases, these purchases were financed by Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states. The reluctance of Western nations to supply weapons and munitions that could be used to support military operations in the south and the new military leaders' alienation from other Middle Eastern countries have made it increasingly difficult to procure arms and matériel.

The Sudanese armed forces, numbering about 71,000 in the early 1990s, were responsible for both internal and external security. Most troops were deployed to defend against SPLA attacks and contain the southern insurgency. Their effectiveness was impaired by poor morale and shortages of functioning weapons and essential supplies. Most of the armored vehicles, artillery, and aircraft from the Soviet Union were more than twenty years old and no longer serviceable as a result of lack of maintenance and spare parts.

In addition to the questionable effectiveness of its armed forces, Sudan faced other security problems. Sudan had on its borders two states equipped with Soviet arms: Ethiopia on the east and Libya on the northwest. Although each of these states constituted a potential threat, it was the seemingly unwinnable war in the south and the growing unpopularity of a military leadership fueled by strong Islamism that were the dominant national security issues.

Relations with Other Countries

The warrior tradition has played an important part in the history of Sudanese society, and military involvement in government has continued in modern Sudan. Although Sudan inherited a parliamentary government structure from the British, the Sudanese people were accustomed to a British colonial administration that was inherently military in nature. British officers held high administrative positions in both the provincial and central governments. At independence Sudan faced difficult problems that few believed could be solved by untested parliamentary rule in a country fragmented by competing ethnic, religious, and regional interests. It seemed natural to turn to a national institution like the army that could address these problems through a system of centralized enforcement and control.


Development of the Armed Forces

The military force that eventually became the Sudanese army was established in 1898, when six battalions of black soldiers from southern Sudan were recruited to serve with Britain's General Herbert Kitchener in his campaign to retake Sudan . In the succeeding thirty years, no fewer than 170 military expeditions were sent to establish order, halt intertribal warfare, and restrain occasional messianic leaders, mostly in Darfur in the west.

During the period of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium (1899- 1955), participation of southerners in northern units of the Sudanese armed forces was all but eliminated. The British had developed a policy of administrative separation of the Muslimdominated northern Sudan and the mostly non-Muslim south, where the separate Equatoria Corps commanded by British officers was maintained . Sudanese troops in the north were commanded largely by Egyptian and British commissioned officers until an anti-British mutiny in 1924, apparently incited by Egyptian officers, caused Egyptian troops and units to be sent home. In 1925 local forces were designated the Sudan Defence Force (SDF), and the Sudanese assumed an increasing share of responsibility for its command.

After 1900 the British sought to develop an indigenous officer class among educated Sudanese, mostly from influential northern families. Consequently, the SDF came to be viewed as a national organization rather than as an instrument of foreign control. The prestige of the 20,000-man SDF was enhanced by its outstanding performance in World War II against numerically superior Italian forces that operated from Ethiopia. In the decade between the end of World War II and Sudan's independence, the SDF did not grow significantly in size, but Sudanese assumed increasingly important posts as British officers were reassigned or retired. Sudanese officer candidates were screened and selected, but Sudanization of the armed forces in practice meant their arabization. The underdeveloped education system in the south produced few qualified candidates, and most lacked fluency in Arabic, the lingua franca of the armed services. The British had hoped to use the recruitment of southerners into the army after World War II to spur their integration into Sudanese national life.

On the eve of independence, in 1955 the SDF's Equatoria Corps--made up almost entirely of southern enlisted men but increasingly commanded by northerners as the British withdrew-- mutinied because of resentment over northern control of national politics and institutions. Northern troops were sent to quell the rebellion, and the Equatoria Corps was disbanded after most of its men went into hiding and began what became a seventeen-year struggle to achieve autonomy for the south.

At independence in 1956, Sudan's 5,000-man army was regarded as a highly trained, competent, and apolitical force, but its character changed in succeeding years. To deal with the southern insurgency, the army expanded steadily to 12,000 personnel in 1959 and it leveled off at about 50,000 in 1972. After independence, the military--particularly the educated officer corps--lost much of its former apolitical attitude; soldiers associated themselves with parties and movements across the political spectrum.

Role in Government

On four occasions since independence, the Sudanese armed forces have stepped in to overthrow civilian political institutions and impose a period of military rule. In some instances, the military leadership introduced a measure of stability and renewal. The military enjoyed an advantage because they were accepted by the people as a balancing element against domination by one of the major social, political, or religious groupings that contested for civilian political power. The view of the military as an institution free from specific ethnic or religious identification raised expectations that the armed forces could achieve what civilian politicians could not. Almost invariably, however, the military leaders found themselves unskilled in dealing with the country's chronic economic problems and the chaotic conditions caused by civil war. Accustomed to wielding authority, the military regimes tended to become increasingly authoritarian. Major government initiatives foundered because they were imposed inflexibly with little regard for practical possibilities and the interests affected.

The military's first intervention in Sudanese politics occurred in November 1958, nearly three years after independence. Civilian politicians appeared unable to cope with economic distress and the insurrection in the south. Major General Ibrahim Abbud, the armed forces commander, led the coup. Although the action was apparently planned in concert with leading politicians who envisaged a short military rule, Abbud remained in power until 1964. Initially popular in comparison to the fractious, stalemated rivalry of the first civilian governments, Abbud was forced to step down when antiregime demonstrations rocked Khartoum. In spite of increasingly dictatorial methods, Abbud had been unable to impose economic order or bring an end to the fighting in the south. The army remained a pillar of support for the civilian regime that followed, and senior military officers continued to serve in political appointments . A number of field-grade officers, however, some of whom had been linked to Abbud's ouster, had little loyalty to the political system and were impatient with the consensus-oriented civilian government. Disgruntled over the stalemate in the civil war, the intractable economic situation, and official repression of leftist and pan-Arab organizations, a small group calling itself the Free Officers' Movement took control in 1969. At its head was Jafaar an Nimeiri, then a colonel.

From 1969 until 1971, a military government--the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), composed of nine young officers and one civilian--exercised authority over a largely civilian cabinet. The RCC represented only a faction within the military establishment. Initially, it followed radical policies in cooperation with the Sudanese communists, carrying out nationalizations, escalating the war in the south, violently repressing the Ansar politico-religious sect, and suppressing democratic institutions. More than 300 high-ranking officers who had been influential in previous governments were arrested or removed from the army when they refused to support the policies of Nimeiri and the RCC. Only one general officer was retained. Later, differences within the RCC between those officers with nationalist sympathies and leftist-oriented officers guided by the well-organized Sudanese Communist Party precipitated a communist-led coup attempt in 1971. Officers heading loyal units resisted the leftist takeover, enabling Nimeiri to survive and regain control.

After the RCC was dissolved in late 1971, the country was technically no longer ruled by a military government. Nimeiri's mounting prestige forged him a broader base of support than he had achieved during the RCC years. Over the next decade, the military establishment remained Nimeiri's major constituency and source of power and was, accordingly, well represented in the government. Military men were appointed to head important ministries, to undertake major domestic and international missions, and to assist in the founding and staffing of the country's sole political party, the Sudan Socialist Union (SSU). Defense ministers (who were general officers) served concurrently as secretaries general of the SSU. The National Security Council, whose members were generally military officers, served as an important arena for framing political and economic policies. Eighteen seats in the largely powerless People's Assembly were reserved for armed forces personnel. Nimeiri justified the predominance of military personnel in the upper echelons of government by pointing out that they represented the most disciplined organization in Sudan and that, in a country riven by partisanship, the military as an institution was motivated by nationalist convictions.

Although military officers remained prominent in the government, by the early 1980s Nimeiri increasingly acted as if the armed forces were an instrument of his personal political dictates rather than the source of his political power. The armed forces gave the support necessary for Nimeiri to survive numerous coup attempts (some by dissatisfied military elements), but the special relationship between Nimeiri and his high command seriously eroded. In an extraordinary move in 1982, Nimeiri retired General Abd al Majid Hamid Khalil--vice president, minister of defense, commander in chief of the armed forces, secretary general of the SSU, and generally regarded as the heir apparent--along with twenty-two other top-ranking officers.

Following the purge, Nimeiri assumed personal command of the armed forces and for a time held the defense portfolio in the cabinet. In 1983 large numbers of southern troops mutinied, and civil war broke out again after Nimeiri's centralist and Islamist policies had increased southern alienation. Nimeiri's increasingly arbitrary actions also drove away his traditional sources of support, and the armed forces were of little help as resistance to his policies mounted in the form of massive demonstrations and strikes.

While Nimeiri was en route home from a visit to Washington in 1985, he was deposed in a bloodless coup led by Minister of Defense Lieutenant General Abd ar Rahman Siwar adh Dhahab. The new leadership formed a Transitional Military Council of fifteen officers to govern the country for a one-year period until civil authority could be restored. The council fulfilled its purpose when elections were held in April 1986 and a civilian government took office.

Coalition governments in the established pattern of Sudanese politics ruled from 1986 to 1989 under Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi. The government forces were unable to bring the southern insurrection under control, and Sadiq al Mahdi's relations with the military were often stormy. In September 1986, the commander in chief of the armed forces and the chief of the general staff were forcibly retired along with about twenty other officers. In February 1989, the army leadership presented Sadiq al Mahdi with an ultimatum, demanding that he make the coalition government more representative and that he bring the civil war to an end. In June 1989, Sadiq al Mahdi's government was overthrown in a coup led by Colonel Umar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir, a paratroop officer stationed in the south. Bashir headed a ruling Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC-NS) of fifteen officers, mostly of middle rank . The RCC-NS justified its action by citing the neglect of the armed forces by the Sadiq al Mahdi government and its failure to reverse the deteriorating economic situation and reestablish security in the south. Bashir was head of state, prime minister, commander in chief of the armed forces, and minister of defense. The vice chairman of the RCC-NS, a major general, was named deputy prime minister. Other officers held the key domestic security portfolios of minister of interior, minister of justice, and attorney general.

Like preceding military regimes, Bashir's government was initially welcomed as bringing an end to a period of political turbulence and paralysis of action. It was soon revealed, however, to be linked to the more orthodox Muslim elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Islamic Front (NIF) political party. Its violent suppression of political expression and cruel treatment of suspected opponents had a disillusioning effect. It dismissed or retired the army commander and 27 other generals composing the senior leadership, and up to 500 other officers. In April 1990, the RCC-NS executed twenty-eight officers, including senior officers removed by the junta, to put down a threatened coup against the regime. The RCC-NS's ruthless action had the effect of intimidating potential opposition.

The harshness displayed by the Bashir military government and its incompetence in dealing with Sudan's economic difficulties had by the close of 1990 alienated nearly all governments to which it could turn for help. The Bashir junta justified its intervention as the only alternative to civilian mismanagement. Unlike other military governments, however, it followed policies that were highly partisan, bearing the distinct ideological imprint of the NIF and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Armed Forces in Sudanese Society

When the British attempted to forge an indigenous officer class before World War II, most Sudanese officers came from upper and middle-class urban families that enjoyed inherited wealth and prestige. After that time, greater numbers were drawn from the emerging class of merchants and civil servants inhabiting urban areas where formal elementary and secondary education was more easily obtainable. Officer cadets, who had to possess a fourthyear secondary school certificate, were chosen on the basis of performance in a series of written and oral competitive examinations. A requirement that cadets possess a good knowledge of Arabic had long eliminated many southerners educated in English who otherwise might have qualified. It was estimated that only 5 to 10 percent of all Sudanese officer cadets in 1981 were southerners.

The quality of incoming officers, extremely high during the preindependence period, was thought to have been lowered by the increased size of the army--particularly during the 1968-72 surge in personnel strength. The Sudanese Communist Party, which had become entrenched in the universities and trade unions during the 1960s, contributed to the emergence of a generation of officers that was predominantly anti-Western. Many officers received their initial training from Soviet advisers. After the revolt against Nimeiri in 1971, in which some communist officers were implicated, retribution fell on many of the officers with leftist leanings. The officer corps became increasingly conservative at a time when Nimeiri himself was stressing nationalism for Sudan. The military faction that deposed Nimeiri in 1985 was not distinguished by any particular political orientation, although as individuals its members maintained links with all the important social, religious, and ethnic groups.

In spite of the linkage of the Bashir junta to the NIF and Nimeiri's earlier Islamization program, it was generally believed that among career officers no more than 5 percent were dedicated to Muslim activism. Most officers were modern in outlook, of middle-class and urban backgrounds, and inclined to be nonsectarian.

In the armed forces as a whole, the political and ethnic makeup was influenced by historical factors. From the time of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, many nomadic peoples of northeastern Sudan had served in the military, as had members of the Khatmiyyah politico-religious sect. By the 1980s, however, Sudanese from the northeast and the Nile Valley were estimated to constitute no more than 20 percent of the military, although they continued to be well represented in the officer corps. Many officers had ties to the Khatmiyyah group and to the Mirghani family and were supporters of the Democratic Unionist Party. Under the Bashir government, northerners continued to dominate the senior leadership, although numerous sensitive positions were held by officers with origins in the south. A general who was a Dinka led one of the brigades active in the fighting against the Dinka-led SPLA.

In the early 1980s, it was estimated that members of the Ansar politico-religious group and other Sudanese from Darfur and Kurdufan provinces accounted for approximately 60 percent of the army's enlisted manpower. The Ansar and other western Sudanese might have been even more numerous in the uniformed services had not recruitment restrictions been imposed during the Nimeiri regime, when these groups were perceived to be among the major sources of opposition to the national leadership.

The presence in the armed forces of non-Muslim black southerners has been a source of contention in Sudan since the condominium period. Until after World War II, southerners were recruited for service only in the Equatoria Corps and rarely served alongside northern Sudanese. Recruitment was suspended after the 1955 mutiny in the south, and when it was resumed the following year, southern volunteers were required to serve in the north under northern officers. The rebellion in the south discouraged southerners from joining the armed forces until the 1972 settlement.

As part of the Addis Ababa accords ending the civil war, 6,000 of the former Anya Nya (named after a tribal poison) guerrillas were to be integrated gradually into the national army's Southern Command to serve with 6,000 northerners. By including southern officers in the top echelon of the Southern Command, the two forces appeared to have meshed successfully. In 1982 it was estimated that southerners outnumbered northerners 7,000 to 5,000 in the Southern Command, but there were relatively few southerners stationed in the north, and none held important positions. Nimeiri's decision the following year to transfer southern troops to the north because of his doubts over their loyalty to the central government was resisted by the southerners and was one of a number of factors that triggered the renewal of the civil war.


The largest nation in Africa, Sudan has a common frontier with eight other countries. It occupies a strategic location on the continent. Its capital, Khartoum, is situated at the junction of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Via its port on the Red Sea, Port Sudan, the nation is linked to the Arab countries of the Middle East. To the south, it is adjacent to the tropical lake country of central Africa. In the west, it is exposed to recurrent conflict among Chadian factions and potential contention with Libya. Even under stable conditions, it would be impracticable for Sudan to devote sufficient military force to ensuring the security of its entire periphery. Fortunately, few problems have arisen necessitating a strong military presence along the boundaries with Egypt, Kenya, Central African Republic, and Zaire. Threats to the stability of the border area have generally been confined to Chad on the west, Ethiopia on the east, and, to a lesser degree, Uganda in the south.

Relations between Sudan and Egypt have varied but in general in the 1970s and 1980s were characterized by differences over such matters as use of the Nile waters. Egypt subscribed to a stable, militarily viable Sudan because it regarded Sudanese territory as providing depth to its own strategic defenses, buffering it from potential threats emanating from sub-Saharan Africa. The border between Egypt and Sudan was unguarded except for minimal policing to discourage smuggling and drug trafficking.

Sudan's Darfur Province contiguous with Chad was unstable during most of the 1980s. This resulted from the combination of Chadian combatants operating from bases on Sudanese territory, Libyan troops and Libyan-supported units of the Islamic Legion crossing the border in search of rebels, and fighting among Arab and non-Arab ethnic groups . Arms were easily available in the border zone. Conceivable, Libya might desist from further interference in Darfur following the victory of the Chadian rebels under Idris Deby with Libyan help in December 1990.

The 1,600-kilometer border between Ethiopia and Sudan was disturbed because both nations provided each other's insurgents with military assistance and sanctuary. In the northeast, the Sudanese government supported the Eritrean People's Liberation Front that operated from Sudanese territory at Port Sudan. The Tigray People's Liberation Front were also given facilities at Al Qadarif. Ethiopia retaliated by providing the SPLA insurgents in the south with supplies and bases. Sudan periodically accused Ethiopia of carrying out bombing raids against the estimated 100,000 Eritrean refugees living in camps and villages in eastern Sudan.

A comparable situation prevailed on Sudan's border with Uganda. In 1986 and 1987, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, accused Sudan of allowing its territory to be used as a haven in cross-border attacks by 3,000 members of the former Ugandan army loyal to the deposed dictator, Idi Amin Dada. Sudan, in turn, charged that SPLA units were receiving aid from Uganda. In mid-1990, the Sudanese government announced that an agreement had been reached providing for the establishment of border security posts and that each country would prohibit its territory from being used for hostile attacks against the other.


Except for a period of tenuous peace between 1972 and 1983, Sudan has been the scene of armed rebellion in the south since before the nation became independent in 1956. The second stage of the Sudanese civil war entered its ninth year in 1991. The protracted struggle pitting the mostly Muslim north against the adherenys of indigenous faiths and of Christianity in the south has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths--mostly noncombatants--and has forced millions to flee the south in search of food and to escape the violence. The rebel forces controlled most of the rural areas of the south as of mid-1991, besieging the government troops holding the major towns. Both sides were guilty of violence against civilians, but the government's policy since 1985 of arming undisciplined tribal militia bands was responsible for the most flagrant cruelties.

First Civil War, 1955-72

In August 1955, five months before independence, southern troops of the Equatoria Corps, together with police, mutinied in Torit and other towns. The mutinies were suppressed although some of the rebels were able to escape to rural areas. There they formed guerrilla bands but, being poorly armed and organized, presented no extensive threat to security. The later emergence of a secessionist movement in the south led to the formation of the Anya Nya guerrilla army, composed of remnants of the 1955 mutineers and recruits among southern students. Active at first only in Al Istiwai, Anya Nya carried its rebellion to all three southern provinces between 1963 and 1969. In 1971 a former army lieutenant, Joseph Lagu, united the ethnically fragmented guerrilla bands in support of a new political movement, the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM). The war ended in March 1972 with an agreement between Nimeiri and Lagu that conceded to the south a single regional government with defined powers.

Renewed Civil Warfare, 1983-

Under the terms of the 1972 peace settlement, most of the Anya Nya fighters were absorbed into the national army, although a number of units unhappy with the agreement defected and went into the bush or took refuge in Ethiopia. Angry over Sudan's support for Eritrean dissidents, Ethiopia began to provide help to Sudan's independent rebel bands. The rebel forces gathered more recruits among the Dinka and Nuer people, the largest groups in the south, and eventually adopted the name of Anya Nya II.

Those original Anya Nya who had been absorbed into the army after the 1972 peace accord were called upon to keep the guerrillas in check and at first fought vigorously on behalf of the national government. But when in 1983 Nimeiri adopted policies of redividing the south and imposing Islamic law, the loyalty of southern soldiers began to waver. Uncertain of their dependability, Nimeiri introduced more northern troops into the south and attempted to transfer the ex-guerrillas to the north. In February 1983, army units in Bor, Pibor Post, and Pochala mutinied. Desertions and mutinies in other southern garrisons soon followed.

In mid-1983 representatives of Anya Nya II and of the mutinous army units meeting in Ethiopia formed the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA). John Garang, a Dinka Sudanese, was named its commander and also head of the political wing, the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). The southern forces in rebellion failed to achieve full unity under Garang, and, in a struggle for power, the dissident units composed of elements of Anya Nya II were routed by Garang's forces. The defeated remnants, still calling themselves Anya Nya II, began to cooperate with the national army against the SPLA.

Still scarcely an effective fighting force, the SPLA relied at first on ambushes of military vehicles and assaults on police stations and small army posts, mainly in the Nuer and Dinka areas of Aali an Nil Province and northern and eastern Bahr al Ghazal Province. An SPLA attempt to invade eastern Al Istiwai in early 1985 was met with stiff resistance by the army and government militias. But by 1986 the SPLA was strong enough to hold the important town of Rumbek in southern Bahr al Ghazal for several months and was also able to press an attack against Waw, the provincial capital. During 1987, the SPLA took Pibor Post and Tonga in Aali an Nil, and by the beginning of 1988, it had captured a number of towns on the Ethiopian border and near the White Nile. Advancing northward into Al Awsat Province, it held Kurmuk and Qaysan for a time in late 1987.

The SPLA was opposed by many communities in Al Istiwai Province where the Dinka and Nuer were not popular. The national army was assisted by a militia of the Mundari people, but the SPLA was gradually able to consolidate its position in eastern Al Istiwai. By 1988 the SPLA controlled the countryside around Juba, the major southern city, besieging at least 10,000 government troops, who were virtually cut off from supplies except for what could be delivered by air. During a general offensive in early 1989, the SPLA captured Torit and other strategic towns of eastern Al Istiwai. From May to October 1989, an informal truce prevailed. After the conflict resumed, the areas being contested were principally in western and central Al Istiwai, focusing on the government garrisons at Juba and Yei . The fighting often consisted of ambushes by the more lightly armed but mobile guerrillas against government convoys moving supplies from the north. With captured weapons and arms imported from Ethiopia and other African countries, the SPLA was increasingly capable of conducting orthodox warfare employing artillery and even armored vehicles, although its forces still avoided conventional engagements against government units.

Anya Nya II began to crumble in 1987, many units and their commanders deserting to the SPLA. But since 1985, the government had been encouraging the formation of militia forces in areas where opposition to the Dinka- and Nuer-dominated SPLA was strongest. These militias were soon playing a major role in the fighting and were partly responsible for the ravages that the civilian population has been forced to endure. The arming of tribal groups inflamed existing intercommunal conflicts and resulted in the deliberate killing of tens of thousands of noncombatants and a vast displacement of civilians.

Millions of villagers were forced from their homes as a consequence of the fighting and the depredations of militias, the SPLA, and Anya Nya II. Devastation of northern Bahr al Ghazal by the roving murahalin (Arab militias) forced large numbers of destitute people to evacuate the war zone in 1986 and 1987, many of them making their way to northern Sudan to escape starvation. Raiding decreased in 1988 and diminished further in 1989 as a result of depopulation of the land and a stronger SPLA presence in northern Bahr al Ghazal. Nevertheless, the migrations continued because of the severe food shortage. Almost 1 million southerners were believed to have reached Khartoum in 1989, and hundreds of thousands had appeared in other towns and cities. About 350,000 Sudanese refugees were registered in Ethiopia in 1989, at least 100,000 were in Juba, and 28,000 crossed into Uganda to escape the fighting in southern Al Istiwai.


The armed forces of the national government, known as the Sudanese People's Armed Forces (SPAF), were believed to have a total personnel strength of about 71,500 in 1991. The army numbered about 65,000 officers and enlisted men. The navy had perhaps 500, and the air force and air defense command each had a complement of about 3,000.

General Bashir, the chairman of the RCC-NS and head of state since the coup of June 1989, was also supreme commander of the armed forces and minister of defense. A colonel at the time of the coup, Bashir subsequently assumed the rank of lieutenant general. The SPAF chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ishaq Ibrahim Umar, was in immediate command of the armed forces. The general staff included deputy chiefs of staff for operations, administration, and logistics, who also held the rank of lieutenant general. The commander of the air force, the commander of air defense command, division commanders, and most military governors held the rank of major general. A retired major general was appointed minister of state for defense affairs to serve as Bashir's deputy in the Ministry of Defence . The actual responsibilities and influence of senior officers depended greatly on their political status, ethnic affiliation, and other factors in addition to their positions in the chain of command.

The army was basically a light infantry force in 1991, supported by specialized elements. Operational control extended from the headquarters of the general staff in Khartoum to the six regional commands (central, eastern, western, northern, southern, and Khartoum). Each regional command was organized along divisional lines. Thus, the Fifth Division was at Al Ubayyid in Kurdufan (Central Command), the Second Division was at Khashm al Qirbah (Eastern Command), the Sixth Division was assigned to Al Fashir in Darfur (Western Command), the First Division was at Juba (Southern Command), and the Seventh Armored Division was at Ash Shajarah near Khartoum (Khartoum Command). The Airborne Division was based at Khartoum International Airport. The Third Division was located in the north, although no major troop units were assigned to it. Each division had a liaison officer attached to general headquarters in Khartoum to facilitate the division's communication with various command elements.

This organizational structure did not provide an accurate picture of actual troop deployments. All of the divisions were understrength. The Sixth Division in Darfur was a reorganized brigade with only 2,500 personnel. Unit strengths varied widely. Most brigades were composed of 1,000 to 1,500 troops. Each battalion varied in size from 500 to 900 men, and a company might have as few as 150 and as many as 500. In the south, the First Division was supplemented by a number of independent brigades that could be shifted as the requirements of the conflict dictated. According to The Military Balance, 1991-1992, the main army units were two armored brigades, one mechanized infantry brigade, seventeen infantry brigades, one paratroop brigade, one air assault brigade, one reconnaissance brigade, three artillery regiments, two antiaircraft artillery brigades, one engineering regiment, and one special forces battalion.

The army did not have its own general headquarters but functioned under the immediate control of the deputy chief of staff for operations. Headquarters and training facilities were maintained in or near the national capital area for most of its specialized corps. These included the armored, artillery, signal, and medical service administrations; the transportation and supply corps; and the engineering branch. Among other support elements were the military police and the border guards.

The Sudanese army's inventory of armaments and equipment was extremely varied, reflecting its shifting military relations with other nations in a position to supply arms. At different times, Britain, the Soviet Union, China, the United States, Libya, and Egypt have been important sources of weaponry . Much of the equipment delivered to Sudan, particularly from the Soviet Union, was obsolescent and maintenance has been seriously deficient. Because Sudan had been deprived of support from a number of countries and was unable to afford foreign exchange to pay for needed spare parts, much of the existing stock of arms was believed to be inoperable. The army was virtually immobilized at times for lack of fuel and ammunition.

During the 1970s, the bulk of the army's armored strength consisted of T-54 and T-55 medium tanks delivered by the Soviet Union early in the decade. About seventy Chinese Type 62 light tanks were also delivered in 1972. During the early 1980s, this equipment was supplemented by M-41, M-47, and M-60A3 tanks produced in the United States. Most of the Soviet tanks were believed to be unserviceable, and only the M-60A3 tanks were considered to be up-to-date. The Sudanese army also had a mixed collection of armored personnel carriers (APCs), armored reconnaissance vehicles, and other wheeled fighting vehicles. The most modern of these were 36 M-113 APCs and 100 Commando-type armored cars from the United States, and 120 Walid APCs from Egypt Artillery pieces included a number of guns and howitzers mostly of United States and Soviet origin. All of the artillery was towed with the exception of 155mm self-propelled howitzers acquired from France in 1981. The army's modest antitank capability was based on the jeep-mounted Swingfire guided-wire missile, manufactured in Egypt under British license.

Air Force

The air force has been largely dependent on foreign assistance since its inception in 1957, when four primary trainer aircraft were delivered by Egypt. The British provided most aircraft and training (some in Sudan and some in Britain) before 1967. After that time, Soviet and Chinese advisers and technicians assumed a supportive role, and their equipment became the foundation for the Sudanese air force in the 1970s. These aircraft included Soviet-built MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighter-bombers and Chinese-built J-5 (essentially the same as the MiG-17) and J6 (practically identical to the Soviet MiG-19) fighter-bombers. Seven Northrop F-5Es and two F-5Fs were delivered by the United States beginning in 1981, but plans to acquire additional F-5s never materialized because funds were not available. Libya transferred five Soviet MiG-23s in 1987.

As of 1990, combat aircraft were organized into two fighterground attack squadrons (one with the nine F-5s and the other with ten J-5s), and one fighter squadron with J-6s. A second fighter squadron of MiG-21s and MiG-23s was listed, although it was believed that as of 1991 all of the MiGs were nonoperational with the exception of one MiG-23. The combat squadrons were armed with Soviet Atoll and American Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Sudan had no bomber force. In 1986 it was reported that Libyan Tu-22 bombers had been used against rebel positions in the south. Other bombing attacks were carried out by transport planes .

The actual state of readiness of the combat arm of the air force was uncertain, but it was believed that much of the equipment was not in serviceable condition owing to a shortage of parts and inadequate maintenance. Pilot proficiency training was limited by fuel shortages that kept aircraft grounded. A small contingent of Chinese technicians assisted with maintenance and pilot training. A few training aircraft were also supplied by the Chinese. The air force had been of little value in providing air cover for ground operations in the south. The SPLA boasted that its shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) had brought down many aircraft, claiming that several jet fighters had been destroyed, as well as a number of helicopters and transports.

The transport arm of the air force was of central importance in maintaining supply links with beleaguered southern garrisons. The single transport squadron received six C-130H Hercules transports from the United States in 1978 and 1979. Although one was damaged by an SPLA missile in 1987, the five aircraft still operational in 1991 provided airlift capability essential to government garrisons in the south. The air force also had two Canadian-built DHC-5D Buffalo transports and two Soviet An-12 heavy cargo transports, as well as four smaller Casa C-212 Aviocars from Brazil.

The air force had a number of unarmed helicopters available for ground support operations against the southern rebels, although it was estimated that as many as 50 percent were not in flying condition. The newest helicopter models were Frenchdesigned SA-330 Pumas assembled in Romania and Agusta/Bell 212s manufactured in Italy.

The two main bases of the air force were at Khartoum International Airport and Wadi Sayyidna Air Base north of Omdurman. The air force also had facilities at civilian airports, including those at Atbarah, Al Fashir, Juba, Malakal, Al Ubayyid, Port Sudan, and Wad Madani.

Air Defense Command

The air defense command maintained its headquarters at Port Sudan and was commanded by a major general. A secondary command post was at Omdurman. One of its two brigades was equipped with antiaircraft guns and the other was armed with SAMs. The three battalions of SAMs had been introduced to provide high- and medium-altitude air defense for Port Sudan, Wadi Sayyidna, and Khartoum. In the absence of Soviet technicians who had serviced the missiles and associated radar during the 1970s, the SA-2 systems were considered to be nonoperational.

The second air defense brigade was deployed to provide tactical air defense in the Western Command and Southern Command. In addition to Vulcan 20mm self-propelled guns supplied by the United States, it was equipped with a variety of weapons whose operational status was uncertain. Fire control and acquisition radar for the Vulcan and other systems was provided by the United States, Egypt, and France. The vulnerability of Sudanese air defenses was exposed in 1984 when a Libyan Tu-22 bomber was able to overfly much of the country in daylight, dropping bombs in the vicinity of the national radio station at Omdurman at a time of tension between Nimeiri and Qadhafi.


The navy, formed in 1962, was the smallest branch of the country's military establishment. Its personnel strength was uncertain but was estimated at 500 officers and men. Headed by a brigadier general from headquarters in Port Sudan, the service was responsible for coastal and riverine defense and for deterring smuggling along the Red Sea coast. A Nile River patrol unit was based at Khartoum.

The navy was formed originally around a nucleus of four armed coastal patrol boats provided by Yugoslavia. Subsequently, river patrol boats, landing craft, and auxiliary vessels were also obtained from Yugoslavia, and a Yugoslav training staff was on hand until 1972. In 1975 the Yugoslav patrol boats were replaced by two seventy-ton patrol craft and four ten-ton patrol craft transferred from Iran and armed with machine guns. In 1989 four new 19.5-ton riverine fast patrol craft armed with 20mm and 7.62mm machine guns were delivered by Yugoslavia for operations on the White Nile. The purpose of the new craft was to protect river convoys of supplies and troops to the south. The operational status of the two large patrol craft was regarded as uncertain in 1990. The general standard of efficiency of the navy was considered to be inadequate as a consequence of a lack of maintenance and spare parts. Most auxiliary vessels had drifted into a state of total disrepair .

The navy was assigned two Casa C-212 aircraft, operated by air force crews, which had a limited capacity to carry out maritime reconnaissance over the Red Sea. The airplanes were unarmed.


The Sudanese armed forces have not been the source of any strain on the nation's manpower resources. In 1990, there were an estimated 5,600,000 males between the ages of 15 and 49, of whom 3,400,000 were fit for military service. The number reaching the military age of eighteen annually was approximately 273,000. The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) estimated that, as of 1989, only 2.5 persons per 1,000 of population were in the armed forces. Among Sudan's neighbors, corresponding figures were Egypt 8.7 per 1,000, Ethiopia 5.0 per 1,000, and Libya 21.0 per 1,000.

In the first years after independence, recruitment notices reportedly attracted ten applicants for each vacancy. Poorer Sudanese, particularly westerners and southerners, were attracted to the armed forces in great numbers. Not all could be accommodated, so that selection of enlisted men was fairly strict, based on physical condition, education, and character of the applicant. Although the adult literacy rate in Sudan was then estimated to be no more than 20 percent, enlisted personnel were required to have some ability to read and write. The recruit enlisted for three years, and if his record remained good, he could reenlist for further three-year periods until he had served a total of twenty years, at which time he was retired with the highest rank he had attained. Soldiers who received technical training could be obliged to sign an understanding that they would remain on active duty for nine years.

There were reports as of the late 1980s that the morale of the army had suffered because soldiers from other areas of Sudan disliked assignment to the south, where they faced an interminable war in which they had no personal interest and in which a military victory seemed unattainable. Newer recruits, many from the west, felt isolated and threatened in the besieged garrison towns. Large numbers of government troops whose homes were in the south had reportedly deserted to the SPLA, their motivation for continuing the struggle against the insurgency drained by food shortages and lack of needed supplies. Both under the Sadiq al Mahdi government and immediately after the June 1989 coup, the leadership announced that conscription would be introduced to permit an expansion of the government's efforts in the south, but the rate of enlistments had apparently remained high enough so that it had not been necessary to impose a draft. It was possible that, in the light of widespread economic distress, the army was still regarded as a means of escape from poverty.

Pay rates of both officers and noncommissioned officers generally have been equal to or better than those of civilians of comparable status. Base pay was extremely low by United States standards; a colonel received the equivalent of about US$150 a month in 1990. Military personnel were, however, entitled to extensive additional benefits. Housing was provided for senior personnel commensurate with their office and rank, and generous housing allowances were provided for others. Free medical care was provided to all armed forces personnel and their families. Although the country was suffering from a food scarcity, essential goods were available at commissaries at subsidized prices. Items severely rationed in the civilian economy, such as tea, coffee, sugar, and soap, as well as bread produced by military bakeries, could be purchased at low prices and resold at a considerable profit. This trade offered a welcome supplement to the incomes of the junior ranks. Officers outside Khartoum usually held second jobs. Enlisted personnel were likely to set themselves up as small farmers or traders with profits from the resale of rationed goods. Officers of field grade and above could purchase imported automobiles free of duty; higher-ranking officers were assigned full-time cars and drivers. Gasoline was also available at low prices. In addition, senior officers had numerous opportunities to travel abroad at government expense. Retirement income was virtually as high as the active duty salary, and most of the privileges of military service continued.

The behavior of government soldiers in the south and in the areas where the SPLA was active was the subject of critical reports by Amnesty International, Africa Watch, and other international human rights groups. Amnesty International described numerous incidents in which the army was responsible for the deliberate killing or mistreatment of civilians from ethnic groups suspected of supporting the SPLA. Very few SPLA prisoners of war were held by the government; many cases were documented of captured SPLA fighters, including wounded, being executed without trial.

Few if any prosecutions resulted in connection with the alleged violations. The United States Department of State has confirmed Amnesty International's conclusion that the Sadiq al Mahdi government appeared to condone human rights abuses by the military, citing the cases of generals who received promotions after service in areas where atrocities occurred. There was limited evidence of a shift in attitude by the Bashir government after it assumed power in 1989. Two of the implicated generals were forced to retire from government service, and some soldiers were relieved, although not disciplined, after a series of revenge killings and other violations against civilians in Waw.

Although the Bashir government had announced its intention of purging the armed services of women after it came to power in 1989, large-scale dismissals did not take place. As of 1991, it was reported that about 2,000 women were in uniform, 200 of them officers through the rank of lieutenant colonel. The women were assigned to a range of military duties in the medical service as nurses, dietitians, and physical therapists, and in administration, translation, military intelligence, communications, and public affairs.


The SPAF established numerous institutions for training its military personnel. Foreign military observers believed that the training offered was of a professional caliber within the limitations of available resources. The Military College at Wadi Sayyidna, near Omdurman, had been Sudan's primary source of officer training since it opened in 1948. A two-year program, emphasizing study in political and military science and physical training, led to a commission as a second lieutenant in the SPAF. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an average of 120 to 150 officers were graduated from the academy each year. In the late 1950s, roughly 60 graduated each year, peaking to more than 500 in early 1972 as a result of mobilization brought on by the first southern rebellion. Students from other Arab and African countries were also trained at the Military College, and in 1982 sixty Ugandans were graduated as part of a Sudanese contribution to rebuilding the Ugandan army after Amin's removal from power. It was announced in 1990 that 600 members of the National Islamic Front's associated militia, the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), had been selected to attend the Military College to help fill the ranks of the officer corps depleted by resignations or dismissals

The Military College's course of study, while rigorous, was reportedly weak in scientific and technical instruction. Junior officers were, however, given opportunities to continue their education at the University of Khartoum. Many officers also studied abroad. It was estimated that at least 50 percent had received some schooling in Egypt. Others were sent to the United States, Britain (pilots and mechanics), Germany (helicopter pilots), and Middle Eastern countries. Most high naval officers had been trained at the Yugoslav naval academy; other naval officers were detailed for training in the states of the Persian Gulf. Opportunities for training abroad were greatly curtailed, however, as a result of international disapproval of the policies of the Bashir government.

Since the early 1970s, the Staff College in Omdurman has graduated fifty-five to sixty majors and lieutenant colonels annually with masters' degrees in military science. Officers from other Arab countries--Jordan, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates--attended, as well as some Palestinians. Since 1981 the High Military Academy in Omdurman, a war college designed to prepare colonels and brigadier generals for more senior positions, offered a six-month course on national security issues. The academy was commissioned to produce strategic analyses for consideration by the Bashir government.

In addition to the academies, the SPAF also operated a variety of technical schools for junior and noncommissioned officers, including infantry, artillery, communications, ordnance, engineering, and armored schools, all in the vicinity of Khartoum. An air force training center at Wadi Sayyidna Air Base was constructed with Chinese help to train technicians in aircraft maintenance, ground control, and other skills. In the army, recruitment and basic training of enlisted men were not centralized but were the responsibility of each division and regional command.

Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia

Before 1970 the highest officer grade in the rank structure was that of fariq (equivalent to a lieutenant general), but new grades were added when Nimeiri became a general and, later, a field marshal. As of 1991, however, there were no officers higher than lieutenant general, and only five, including Bashir, at that rank

The army service uniform was dark green, with insignia of rank displayed in gold on shoulder boards. It differed only slightly from police officer uniforms, which were another shade of green with black shoulder boards. A green beret was standard in the army except for airborne units, which wore red berets. The police wore black berets. Officers of field grade and above frequently wore service caps. The air force uniform was blue, although the insignia of rank were the same as for the army. The standard naval uniform was white with blue shoulder boards.

Defense Costs

The civil war in the south had a devastating impact. Not only were military operations in the south a great expense, but the economy was disrupted by the fighting, and perhaps 3 million persons were displaced from or within the war zones. Because of secrecy restrictions dating from the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, no substantial information on the defense budget was released publicly or provided to the People's Assembly, which however, had been suspended in 1989. Various official and unofficial estimates of the size of defense expenditures and the burden imposed on the economy by the military establishment have differed widely. The United States government agency estimated the defense budget at US$610 million in 1989, representing 7.2 percent of gross national product . The Sudanese government has estimated the cost of conducting the war at about US$1 million a day.

Although the specific components of military spending were not available, it was known that the principal category of the defense budget was personnel-related costs. Most large purchases of arms had been financed with credits from the supplying countries. Financial assistance from other countries, principally the Arab oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf, had made these credit purchases possible. Arms imports had fallen since the resumption of the civil war in 1983, as a result of the unwillingness of Western countries to supply weapons that could be used in the hostilities, and of subsequent cutbacks in financial aid from the Middle East. The total amount of funds for military procurements that was available through loans, grants, direct purchases, and barter arrangements was not made public.


Various militia groups, supplied and supported by the government, have served as important adjuncts to the armed forces in the fighting in the south. Beginning in 1983, when the first militias were formed under Nimeiri, the government increasingly relied on the militias to oppose the SPLA. The militias were given arms and ammunition but usually operated independently of the army. No reliable data were available on the size of militia forces, although it has been roughly estimated that 20,000 men participated in militia activities at one time or another.

The Anya Nya II group, formed among southern mutineers from the army (after first splitting off from the rebel movement and obtaining weapons and training from the SPAF), was a major factor in the war between 1984 and 1987. Predominantly from the Nuer, the second largest ethnic group in the south, Anya Nya II fought in rural areas of Aali an Nil on behalf of the government. Anya Nya II emerged as a significant factor in the war in that province, disrupting SPLA operations and interfering with the movement of SPLA recruits to the Ethiopian border area for training. Anya Nya II units were structured with military ranks and were based near various army garrisons. The government assisted the group in establishing a headquarters in Khartoum as part of regime efforts to promote Anya Nya II as an alternative southern political movement in opposition to the SPLA. Eventually, however, SPLA military success led to a decline in morale within Anya Nya II and induced major units, along with their commanders, to defect to the SPLA beginning in late 1987. By mid-1989, only one Anya Nya II faction remained loyal to the government; it continued its close relations with the government after the Bashir coup and retained its political base in Khartoum.

Some of the most devastating raids and acts of banditry against the civilian population were perpetrated by the militias known as murahalin, formed among the Rizeiqat, Rufaa al Huj, Misiriyah, and other groups, all members of the cattleraising Baqqara Arab nomad tribes in Darfur and Kurdufan. These Arab communities traditionally competed for pasture land with the Dinka of northern Bahr al Ghazal and southern Kurdufan. Raiding by the murahalin between 1985 and 1988 precipitated a vast displacement of Dinka civilians from Bahr al Ghazal. Although already armed, the murahalin were given arms and ammunition and some covert training by the SPAF. Some joint counterinsurgency operations also took place in conjunction with government forces. According to Amnesty International, the raids carried out by the murahalin were accompanied by the deliberate killing of tens of thousands of civilians; the abduction of women and children, who were forced into slavery; the looting of cattle and other livestock; and the burning of houses and grain supplies. By late 1988, the growing presence of the SPLA reduced the threat of the murahalin against villages and cattle camps. Moreover, the devastation was so severe that little was left to plunder. Dinka refugees moving north to escape famine were still exposed to militia attacks, however.

The Rizeiqat murahalin were responsible for one of the worst atrocities of the war when, in retaliation for losses suffered in an engagement with the SPLA, more than 1,000 unarmed Dinka were massacred at the rail junction of Ad Duayn, most of them burned to death. The tactics of the Misiriyah murahalin were similar to those of the Rizeiqat; their ambushes of refugees and attacks on villagers in northeastern Bahr al Ghazal were among the most murderous and destructive of any perpetrated by the militia groups. The government armed the Rufaa al Huj as a militia in 1986, after the SPLA appeared in southern Al Awsat Province to recruit followers among the nonArab peoples of the area. In the early months of 1987, combined operations by the SPAF and the Rufaa al Huj militia against nonArab populations in retaliation for the SPLA offensive resulted in many atrocities.

The government also armed as militias a number of southern non-Arab tribes opposed to the SPLA. In 1985 members of the Mundari in Al Istiwai, who were hostile to the Dinka because of their ruthless behavior, were recruited to help counter the growing SPLA threat in that province. Most of the Mundari dissociated themselves from the militia, however, as the presence of the SPLA strengthened in Al Istiwai. In Bahr al Ghazal, the government formed a militia concentrated around Waw, and established a training base for it there. Hostile relations with the Dinka in the area spawned considerable violence, culminating in massacres in August and September 1987 among Dinka who had taken refuge in Waw.

In February 1989, Sadiq al Mahdi proposed that the murahalin militias be institutionalized into popular defense committees. Although the armed forces apparently went ahead with the formation of some such committees, the proposals were strongly opposed by other political groups in Khartoum, who feared that the murahalin would become a factional fighting unit loyal to Sadiq al Mahdi's Umma Party.

In October 1989, the Bashir government promulgated the Popular Defence Act, whose original purpose seemed to be to proceed with the plan of the previous government to give legitimacy to the militias as auxiliaries of the SPAF. The government established a new paramilitary body, the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), to promote the political objectives of the government and the NIF. This action did not, however, result in the disappearance of the existing militias. The PDF was under the command of a brigadier general of the army, and its recruits were armed with AK-47 assault rifles. According to the government, the weapons would be stored in army depots and distributed only when needed.

Both men and women ostensibly were enrolled on a voluntary basis, although some coercion was reported. Military officers and civil servants at all levels were also recruited, particularly those wishing to demonstrate their loyalty to the Islamic activist movement. Membership in the PDF was required for admission to a university and for most significant positions in northern society.

The original period of training was to be for up to three months, and refresher training could last up to fifteen days a year. In June 1990, the government held a graduation for the second PDF training class, numbering 1,287 persons. According to the chief of the PDF, more than ten PDF camps would be located in various parts of the country; each camp would be capable of training three groups of 5,000 a year. The government's target was a PDF personnel of 150,000, but independent observers doubted that this could be achieved with available resources or that the PDF would assume more than a marginal role in maintaining internal security.


Sudan lacked a reliable source of military matériel as of mid-1991, even though the country faced a severe shortage of equipment and of support items. Most of its weaponry of Soviet design was more than twenty years old and could be kept operational only with the limited help provided by Libya and China. As a result, most of the Soviet tanks, artillery, missiles, and aircraft were not in serviceable condition. Western suppliers were unwilling to provide arms for use against the southern insurgents. Military credits previously available from Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Persian Gulf had been cut off as a reaction to Sudan's continued support of Iraq, following Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Egypt, normally an important source of both equipment and training, had severely curtailed its cooperation with the Bashir government. Some assistance, particularly in the form of munitions, had been provided by Iraq, but this help had ended in August 1990. Although Libya and China continued to provide some military items, the supply from China was limited by the strict financial terms imposed by the Beijing authorities.

Except for a production line for small caliber ammunition, Sudan has never had an arms industry. Consequently, foreign sources for weapons, equipment, ammunition, and technical training have been indispensable. After independence British advisers helped train the Sudanese army and air force, and British equipment predominated in the ground forces. Relations between the government in Khartoum and London were periodically strained, however, and after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, diplomatic and military ties were severed. Military links with the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) were also broken for a time.

The breach with the Western nations was followed by a period of close military cooperation with the Soviet Union between 1968 and 1971. Sudan benefited from the Soviet Union's first significant military assistance program in a sub-Saharan Africa country. By 1970 it was estimated that there were 2,000 Soviet and East European technical advisers in the country. About 350 Sudanese received training in the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Soviet assistance corresponded with a dramatic growth in the Sudanese armed forces from 18,000 in 1966 to nearly 50,000 by 1972. The bulk of the equipment used by the ground and air forces throughout the 1970s and until the early 1980s was of Soviet origin, including tanks, artillery, and MiG combat aircraft.

Vulnerabilities resulting from overreliance on one arms supplier became obvious when relations with the Soviet Union cooled considerably following the coup attempt against Nimeiri in 1971. Soviet and East European military advisers were expelled from Sudan for a year. After relations were repaired, previously arranged deliveries of tanks were completed and a new purchase of combat aircraft was negotiated. Military agreements with the Soviet Union remained in force until 1977, but Sudan began to pursue a policy of diversifying its arms sources. When Moscow promised extensive military aid to the revolutionary regime in neighboring Ethiopia, the Sudanese government expelled all ninety Soviet military advisers and ordered the military section of the Soviet embassy in Khartoum closed.

After its relations with the Soviet Union chilled again, Sudan turned to China, which supplied the SPAF initially with light weapons and later delivered fighter aircraft and light tanks. As of the mid-1980s, about fifty Chinese advisers provided maintenance support for tanks and aircraft, including Soviet equipment previously supplied, and trained Sudanese pilots and aircraft mechanics.

Military cooperation with Britain resumed in 1973, although it was confined mainly to training and instruction at the Military College and the armored, infantry, and signals schools. Yugoslavia assisted in founding the Sudanese navy; for more than a decade it provided all of the vessels and the bulk of officer and technical training. The Yugoslav naval support program was not renewed in 1972, however, because of frustrations the Yugoslavs encountered in accomplishing their mission. In 1989 four more river craft were acquired from Yugoslavia, and subsequently a Yugoslav delegation was reported to have visited Khartoum to discuss a revival of training assistance.

The purchase of weapons from Western countries was financed largely by oil-rich Arab states that were pleased to see Soviet influence in Sudan ended. Arab financial assistance, especially from Saudi Arabia, was instrumental in the purchase in 1977 of six C-130 Hercules transport aircraft from the United States, estimated to cost US$74 million, and two Buffalo transports from Canada. Saudi assistance was also credited for Sudan's acquisition of ten light helicopters and as many as 4,000 vehicles from West Germany. In addition, Saudi Arabia in 1980 supplied the SPAF with seventy used American-built M-41 and M-47 tanks from its reserve inventory.

Until 1985 Sudan maintained its closest military ties with Egypt. Under a twenty-five-year defense agreement signed in 1976, the two countries established a joint defense council, a joint general staff organization, and a permanent military committee to implement decisions of the joint council and the staff organization. Since 1986 Egypt has provided Egyptian-manufactured Swingfire antitank missiles, Walid armored personnel carriers, ammunition, and other equipment to Sudan. Although Sadiq al Mahdi declared his intention to abrogate the defense pact in order to meet a key SPLA condition for peace, Bashir reaffirmed the pact after his takeover in 1989. The internal repressions of the new government and Sudan's refusal to condemn the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, however, produced discord between the two nations, and Egypt rejected appeals from Sudanese leaders for additional military aid.

Until 1976 United States military aid to Sudan was negligible, consisting primarily of training in the United States for a small number of Sudanese officers. Soon after officially agreeing in November 1976 to provide Sudan with selected arms, the United States sold Sudan transport aircraft financed by Saudi Arabia, followed several years later by F-5 combat airplanes. Believing that Sudan was threatened by neighboring Ethiopian and Libyan forces heavily armed by the Soviet Union, Washington adopted a growing role in Sudan's security. Between fiscal year 1979 and FY 1982, military sales credits rose from US$5 million to US$100 million. Subsequent aid was extended on a grant basis. In addition to aircraft, United States aid consisted of APCs, M-60 tanks, artillery, and Commando armored cars. United States grant aid reached a peak of US$101 million in FY 1982; at the time, this constituted two-thirds of all United States military assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. Between the inception of the program in 1976 and its virtual termination in 1986, military grants and sales credits to Sudan totaled US$154 million and US$161 million, respectively. Sudan granted the United States naval port facilities at Port Sudan and agreed to some airport prepositioning rights for military equipment for contingent use by the United States Central Command. Sudanese and United States forces participated in joint maneuvers designated Operation Bright Star in 1981 and 1983.

When civil war again erupted in the south in 1983, military grants and credits from the United States dropped abruptly and in 1985 Sudan terminated Operation Bright Star. After FY 1987, no assistance was extended with the exception of less than US$1 million annually for advanced training for Sudanese officers and training in the maintenance of previously supplied equipment. Military aid was formally suspended in 1989 under a provision of the United States Foreign Assistance Act prohibiting assistance to countries in arrears on interest payments on previous loans. In March 1990, the United States also invoked a provision of the act barring assistance to regimes overthrowing a democratic government.

According to a survey by ACDA of sources of arms imported by Sudan, Sudan obtained about US$350 million in military arms and equipment between 1983 and 1988. The United States was the largest supplier, accounting for US$120 million. China and France each provided US$30 million and Britain US$10 million. About US$160 million came from unidentified sources, probably largely from Egypt and Libya, and as purchases from other Western suppliers financed by Arab countries.


The SPLA was formed in 1983 when Lieutenant Colonel John Garang of the SPAF was sent to quell a mutiny in Bor of 500 southern troops who were resisting orders to be rotated to the north. Instead of ending the mutiny, Garang encouraged mutinies in other garrisons and set himself at the head of the rebellion against the Khartoum government. Garang, a Dinka born into a Christian family, had studied at Grinnell College, Iowa, and later returned to the United States to take a company commanders' course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and again to earn advanced economics degrees at Iowa State University.

By 1986 the SPLA was estimated to have 12,500 adherents organized into twelve battalions and equipped with small arms and a few mortars. Recruits were trained across the border in Ethiopia, probably with the help of Ethiopian army officers. By 1989 the SPLA's strength had reached 20,000 to 30,000; by 1991 it was estimated at 50,000 to 60,000. Many members of the SPLA continued their civilian occupations, serving in individual campaigns when called upon. At least forty battalions had been formed, bearing such names as Tiger, Crocodile, Fire, Nile, Kalishnikov, Bee, Eagle, and Hippo.

In addition to Garang, who as commander in chief adopted the rank of colonel, other senior officers included a field commander, a chief of staff, and a chief of staff for administration and logistics. Most of these officers, as well as zonal commanders, held the rank of lieutenant colonel, while battalion commanders were majors or captains. Promotion was based on seniority and the number of battles fought. Consequently, most of the senior leadership and field commanders were members of the Dinka group. Others were from the Nuer and Shilluk groups. Members of some other groups from Al Istiwai were given commands to help win over members of their groups.

The SPLA claimed that its arms came from captured government stocks or were brought by troops deserting from the SPAF. It admitted to having received a considerable amount of support and matériel from Libya before 1985 because of Libya's hostility toward Nimeiri and its desire to see him overthrown. It denied receiving arms from Ethiopia, although it operated from bases in Ethiopia, and outside observers believed that that country furnished the bulk of the SPLA's weaponry. The government's claims that the SPLA had Israeli advisers and received equipment from Israel were generally discounted. Its small arms included Soviet, United States, and German assault rifles. According to The Military Balance, 1991-92, the SPLA also had 60mm mortars, 14.5mm antiaircraft guns, and Soviet SA-7 shoulder-fired SAMs. Other sources claimed that the SPLA had captured or otherwise acquired howitzers, heavier mortars, BM-21 truckmounted rocket launchers, jeep-mounted 106mm antitank recoilless rifles, and about twenty armored vehicles. It had a supply of land mines that were widely used.

Amnesty International and Africa Watch have cited deliberate killings by the SPLA of SPAF and militia prisoners captured in combat, and of civilians believed to be informers or opposed to the insurgency movement. Although about 300 government troops were being held by the SPLA as of mid-1989, there were reports that after the capture of Bor, surrendering soldiers, possibly numbering in the hundreds, were shot. Indiscriminate SPLA rocket and mortar attacks on government-held towns resulted in many civilian casualties.


A population divided among nearly 600 ethnic groups and tribal units and a conspicuous split between a largely Arab population in the north and black, non-Muslim southerners meant that Sudan's government had a high potential for instability. Political movements based on these regional, tribal, religious, and socioeconomic divisions have been responsible for numerous breakdowns of authority. Nimeiri's autonomy solution for the south in 1972 ended the first civil war. His decision in 1981 to abolish the Southern Regional Assembly and the later redivision of the south into three regions, however, revived southern opposition and helped to reignite the southern insurgency. Dissatisfaction with Nimeiri's rule also grew in the north as economic distress became more acute. The 1985 military coup that ousted Nimeiri was preceded by massive demonstrations in Khartoum triggered by price increases of food staples. The traditional political parties that dominated civilian politics reemerged in 1986 after a year of transitional military rule. Most parties continued to reflect sectarian loyalties rather than to promote national interests. Unable to function effectively through shifting political coalitions and unable to end the war in the south, civilian authority was again overturned, to be replaced by the authoritarian rule of Bashir on June 30, 1989.

The new military government immediately invoked emergency legislation banning strikes and other work stoppages as well as unauthorized political meetings. Political parties and trade unions were dissolved and their property frozen or seized. Leading members of the main political parties were arrested, as were senior members of the Sudan Bar Association and other prominent figures thought to be unfriendly to the new regime. More than 100 trade unionists were detained, while others were dismissed from the civil service, the army, and the police.

Although some political prisoners had been released by early 1990, evidence of continued opposition to the military government brought harsh repressive measures. In December 1989, a prominent physician was sentenced to death (later commuted to imprisonment) for organizing a doctors' strike. Another doctor was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. In March 1990, the government announced that it had crushed a coup conspiracy, arresting prominent members of the Umma Party and military officers. Less than a month later, the regime alleged that it had discovered another coup plot among the military and executed twenty-eight high-ranking officers whom it claimed were implicated.

Although the military government was widely unpopular, its ruthless suppression of any manifestation of discontent appeared to have frightened the internal opposition into silence. A number of exiled politicians active in the previous Sadiq al Mahdi government announced the formation of an opposition organization, the National Democratic Alliance, in early 1990. The SPLA radio station in Ethiopia allotted broadcasting time to the alliance, but the group, brought together by political expediency, had difficulty organizing effective opposition to the Bashir regime. Former armed forces chief of staff, Lieutenant General Fathi Ahmad Ali, was among the exiled dissidents and became head of the National Democratic Alliance. Military purges, however, had left the majority of active officers silent for fear of dismissal and loss of their commands. Infiltration of informers into the SPAF made any form of dissident activity risky. Curfews were imposed, and detachments of troops guarding bridges and other key points minimized the possibility of military action to topple the regime. At the Khartoum International Airport, the Airborne Division, which was considered loyal to the government was available at short notice to help repel a coup attempt.

The presence of as many as 1 million refugees from southern Sudan in the vicinity of Khartoum was potentially destabilizing, but the refugees were weak and too divided into ethnic and regional groups to be a political threat. Student groups had in the past been involved in demonstrations that contributed to the downfall of unpopular governments, but the loyalty of the majority of students was uncertain.

The small communist movement, with considerable support among educated Sudanese and involvement in student and union organizations, was among the opposition elements to the Bashir government. The Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) played an important role in the first years of Nimeiri's rule but was harshly suppressed and forced underground after participation in the unsuccessful coup against Nimeiri in 1971. Although Nimeiri's campaign of reconciliation with his political opponents in 1977 enabled some prominent SCP members to resurface, communists arrested for organizing strikes and demonstrations comprised the largest single group of political prisoners. The SCP's role in the urban demonstrations of 1985 contributed to Nimeiri's overthrow. The SCP became active in parliamentary politics in 1986 but was among the political groups banned by the Bashir regime. It joined with other parties in underground opposition to the military government. Several communists were rounded up and detained without charge after the 1989 coup, allegedly for instigating a protest against the government among students at the University of Khartoum.


Apart from in the south, domestic order in Sudan was a shared responsibility of the military, the national police force, and security organs of the Ministry of Interior. Martial law was in effect in government-controlled areas of the south and in some northern areas as well.


The Sudan Police Force

The Sudan Police Force (SPF) had its beginnings in 1898 when a British army captain was placed in the central administration for police duties, and thirty British army officers directly responsible to him were detailed to organize provincial police establishments. The arrangement proved overly centralized, however, and complete decentralization of police control was introduced in 1901. As great differences arose in the standards and performance of the police in the various provinces, a modified form of administrative control by the central authorities was decreed in 1908, with the provincial governors retaining operational control of the forces. The SPF was officially established by the British in 1908 and was absorbed by the Sudanese government on independence in 1956.

It was technically and economically impractical for the police to cover the entire area of Sudan; therefore, a system of communal security was retained for more than seventy years. The central government gave tribal leaders authority to keep order among their people. They were allowed to hire a limited number of "retainers" to assist them in law enforcement duties. This system was finally abolished by the Nimeiri government in the early 1970s.

Under Nimeiri, command and administration of the SPF was modified several times. The police were responsible to the minister of interior until 1979, when the post of minister of interior was abolished and various ministers were made responsible for different areas of police work. This arrangement proved unwieldy, however, and the Police Act of 1979 instituted a unified command in which the head of the force reported directly to the president. After Nimeiri's fall, the cabinet position of minister of interior was restored, and the director general of police was made responsible to him.

Central police headquarters in Khartoum was organized into divisions, each commanded by a police major general. The divisions were responsible for criminal investigations, administration, training, public affairs, passport control, immigration, and security affairs. The main operational elements were the traffic police and the riot police. The 1979 legislation brought specialized police units, such as that of the Sudan Railways, under the authority of the SPF headquarters. The Khartoum headquarters maintained liaison and cooperation with the International Criminal Police Organization, Interpol, and with agencies involved in combating international drug traffic.

The government's new system of administration delegated many powers to the regional level, but law enforcement outside major urban areas remained provincially oriented. Thus, the national police establishment was subdivided into provincial commands, which were organized according to the same divisions found in the national headquarters. Local police directors were responsible to provincial police commissioners, who in turn were responsible to the SPF director general in Khartoum. Each provincial command had its own budget.

The SPF expanded from roughly 7,500 officers and men at independence in 1956 to approximately 18,000 in 1970 and 30,000 by the mid-1980s. Except for the south where internal security in government-held areas was the responsibility of military and security organs, the police establishment was distributed roughly in proportion to population density but was reinforced in areas where there was a likelihood of trouble. In some places, the police were too thinly scattered to provide any real security. It was reported that there were no police stations along the Nile from the town of Wadi Halfa on the Egyptian border south to Dunqulah, a distance of about 300 kilometers. Elsewhere in the north, police posts could be staffed by as few as two police with insufficient transport or communications equipment to patrol their district. Efforts to control smuggling were apparently the responsibility of the armed forces and the security authorities.

Police officer cadets usually received two years of training at the Sudan Police College near Khartoum. The institution was equipped to provide theoretical and practical instruction; it also served as a training school for military personnel who required police skills in their assignments. In addition to recruit training, the college offered instruction in aspects of criminal law, general police duties, fingerprinting, clerical work, photography, and the use of small arms. Enlisted recruits usually underwent four months of training at provincial headquarters. Although not numerous, women served in the SPF in limited capacities. They were generally assigned to administrative sections, to juvenile delinquency matters, or to criminal cases in which female Sudanese were witnesses or defendants. The Bashir government announced plans to remove women from the police, but, according to one report, a number of women were actually promoted to higher positions because of the mass firing of senior male police officers.

Provincial police had traditionally enjoyed good relations with the community, but during the Nimeiri regime many people regarded them more as the object of fear than as a source of security. The police were said to have acted appropriately-- firmly but with restraint--during civil demonstrations in the first half of the 1980s. Since the resumption of civil war in 1983, serious abuses of human rights have not generally been attributed to the police, as they have been to the armed forces, government militias, and security organizations. Police treatment of persons under arrest could be harsh. Police patrols in Khartoum have harassed or beaten people occasionally without apparent motive. Public order campaigns in Khartoum, often targeting southern refugees, could result in roundups of thousands charged with illegal street vending or loitering. In urban areas police reportedly often acted against refugees, stealing from them and beating them for minor infractions. Refugees seldom had recourse to the legal system when attacked by the police. The police were known to have inflicted floggings summarily for drinking alcohol or for curfew violations. Brutality increased after the 1989 coup, but roundups and floggings declined somewhat after officials of the Bashir government promised closer supervision of the police.

Security Organizations

The Sudanese internal security and intelligence apparatus evolved into a feared and hated institution after Nimeiri came to power in 1969. During the period of Revolutionary Command Council rule (1969-71), the military intelligence organization was expanded to investigate domestic opposition groups. After the council was abolished, the organization's responsibilities focused on evaluating and countering threats to the regime from the military. It also provided a 400-man Presidential Guard.

The Office of State Security was established by decree in 1971 within the Ministry of Interior. The new agency was charged with evaluating information gathered by the police and military intelligence; it was also responsible for prison administration and passport control. The sensitive central security file and certain other intelligence functions were, however, maintained under the president's control. In 1978 the presidential and Ministry of Interior groups were merged to form the State Security Organisation (SSO). Under the direction of Minister of State Security Umar Muhammad at Tayyib, a retired army major general and close confidant of the president, the SSO became a prominent feature of the Nimeiri regime, employing about 45,000 persons and rivaling the armed forces in size. This apparatus was dismantled in 1985.

According to the United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1990, government surveillance, which was previously rare, became intense after the 1989 coup. Efforts were made to prevent contact between Sudanese and foreigners. Civilians, especially suspected dissidents, were harassed, church services were monitored, and activities of journalists were closely supervised. Neighborhood "popular committees" used their control over the rationing system to monitor households.

The Bashir government created a new security body. Generally referred to as "Islamic Security" or "Security of the Revolution," it was under the direct control of a member of the RCC-NS. Its purpose was to protect the Bashir regime against internal plots and to act as a watchdog over other security forces and the military. It quickly became notorious for indiscriminate arrests of suspected opponents of the regime and for torturing them in its own safe houses before turning them over to prison authorities for further detention. A similar organization, Youth for Reconstruction, mobilized younger Islamic activists.


The Sudanese criminal code embodied elements of British law, the penal code of British colonial India, and the Egyptian civil code . In 1977 Nimeiri formed a committee, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, to revise the legal code according to the sharia (Islamic law). In September 1983, the Nimeiri government introduced a version of the sharia prescribing harsh corporal punishments for such crimes as murder, theft, drinking alcohol, prostitution, and adultery. These "September Laws," sometimes known as hudud (sing., hadd, penalty prescribed by Islamic law) provided for execution, flogging, amputation, and stoning as modes of punishment for both Muslims and non-Muslims. During the final twenty months of Nimeiri's rule, at least ninety persons convicted of theft had their hands amputated. The military and civil governments succeeding Nimeiri between 1985 and 1989 suspended the September Laws. Progress on a new Islamic penal code to replace the September Laws was delayed by the legislature pending a constitutional assembly that would include the SPLA. Although flogging, consisting normally of forty lashes, was limited to offenses involving sex or alcohol, it was often inflicted summarily. In 1989 the RCC-NS extended flogging as a punishment for a much wider range of offenses. Extreme hudud sentences such as amputations were not handed down, however, and many hudud sentences imposed under the Sadiq al Mahdi government were converted to jail terms and fines.

In the regular criminal court system, extensive guarantees of due process were prescribed for accused persons. These courts consisted of a panel of three judges. The judicial process involved a police or magistrate's investigation and an arrest warrant preceding the arrest. Trials were held in public except when the accused requested a closed trial. The accused had to be brought before a court within forty-eight hours of arrest, informed of the charges, and provided with access to an attorney of the accused's choice. There were legal aid services for the poor, but, because resources were limited, legal aid was apportioned to those facing serious charges and those most in need. Bail was permitted except in some capital cases. Defendants had the right to speak, to present evidence on their own behalf, and to appeal judgments through a series of courts from the magistrate level to the High Court of Appeal.

Under the state of emergency imposed by the Sadiq al Mahdi regime in 1987, the government had wide powers in areas declared to be emergency zones to arrest and preventively detain for an indefinite period anyone suspected of contravening emergency regulations. Military personnel could not be arrested by civilian authorities, nor was there provision for judicial review of actions by the armed forces. The Sadiq al Mahdi government declared emergency zones in the southern and western areas of the country and used the detention powers on people suspected of sympathy with the rebellion.

On seizing power in 1989, the RCC-NS declared a state of emergency for the whole of Sudan and granted itself broad powers. The government initially detained more than 300 people without warrants, including many prominent political and academic figures, journalists, alleged leftists, and trade unionists. About sixty judges who petitioned against the government's action were also detained. Many of the original detainees were released within several months, but they were replaced by others. There were an estimated 300 to 500 detainees at the close of 1990; some reports claimed as many as 1,000 detainees.

After the 1989 coup, the regular civilian courts continued to handle ordinary criminal offenses, including theft and some capital crimes, although the court system was seriously backlogged and the judiciary was less independent of the executive than previously. After experimenting with various forms of special courts, the RCC-NS established special security courts in November 1989. These courts were formed by the military governors of the regions and the commissioner of the national capital. The courts had three-member panels of both military and civilian judges. They tried persons accused of violating constitutional decrees, emergency regulations, and some portions of the criminal code, notably drug crimes and currency violations. The new security courts did not extend normal protections to the accused. Attorneys were permitted to sit with defendants but were not permitted to address the courts. Sentences imposed by the courts were to be carried out immediately, with the exception that death penalties were to be reviewed by the chief justice and the head of state. The special security courts gained a reputation for harsh sentences. Two defendants convicted of illegal possession of foreign currency and another convicted of drug smuggling were executed and others were sentenced to death for similar crimes, although the sentences were not carried out.

In areas of the south affected by the war, normal judicial procedures could not be applied and civil authorities were made redundant by the application of the state of emergency. Units of the armed forces and militias ruled by force of arms, and in many cases the accused were summarily tried and punished, especially for offenses against public order. In war-torn southern Kurdufan the government authorized a system of justice administered by village elders, and a similar system was reportedly in effect in areas controlled by the SPLA.

Incidence of Crime

The widespread instability and clashes between ethnic groups arising from the civil war were accompanied by breakdowns of law and order in many parts of the country. Killings, rapes, and thefts of personal possessions, food, and livestock were committed by various militia groups and frequently by the SPLA and the government armed forces as well. Large areas of Sudan became depopulated as a result of the fighting and migrations in search of safety. The availability of weapons contributed to the prevalence of banditry, especially along the Chad, Zaire, and Uganda borders. In the western province of Darfur, the police wielded little authority, and lawlessness prevailed. Smuggling was also common, particularly along the Ethiopian border.

The collapse of security in many areas was not fully reflected in available statistics on crime, although some indications of the pattern of criminality did emerge. According to the most recent data reported by Sudan to Interpol covering the year 1986, more than 135,000 criminal offenses were recorded, reflecting a rate of 650 crimes per 100,000 of population. More than 1,000 homicides occurred and 3,300 sex offenses were registered, including 600 rapes. There were 7,300 serious assaults. The more than 100,000 thefts of various kinds constituted by far the most common category of crime. They included armed robbery (33,000 cases), breaking and entering (22,500), theft under aggravated circumstances (1,900), and automobile theft (1,500). There were 15,000 cases of fraud and 3,600 drug infractions.

Sudan was not a major international narcotics marketplace. Most narcotics consumed in Sudan consisted of marijuana grown in the eastern part of the country. Penalties for narcotics use were similar to those for alcohol and could include flogging. In nearly all categories except narcotics violations, Sudan reported more offenses than Egypt, a country with more than twice the population. This discrepancy may be accounted for by more accurate police records on the extent of criminal activity or by different definitions of the offenses reported to Interpol.

Sudanese authorities claimed to have solved more than 70 percent of most forms of robbery and theft and 53 percent of all crimes reported. Only 25 percent of homicides, 40 percent of general sex offenses, and 32 percent of rape cases were recorded as solved.


The Prison System

General supervision of the Sudan Prison Service was carried out by the director general of prisons, who was responsible for the country's central prisons and reformatories. Provincial authorities managed detention centers and jails in their administrative jurisdictions. The central prisons were Kober in Khartoum North, Shalla in Al Fashir, Darfur State, and Port Sudan on the Red Sea. It was reported that there were about 140 local prisons and detention centers in the early 1990s.

Prison conditions were generally poor. Treatment of prisoners varied widely, however. Some were restricted by shackles, while others were allowed to return home at night. There were persistent reports of beatings and other forms of mistreatment, including torture, of detainees and other political prisoners in the central penal institutions, although these were apparently inflicted by security officials and not regular prison guards. After reports appeared that detainees of the Bashir government were being subjected to torture, Amnesty International was allowed to visit a select group of prisoners at Kober, where prison conditions were reputed to be the best in Sudan. Facilities at the large prison at Port Sudan were spartan. Although treatment was not brutal, extreme heat contributed to the harsh living conditions. The most primitive conditions were said to be at Shalla. In general, political prisoners welcomed transfer to prison to escape physical abuse from security personnel.

Although conditions at prison hospitals were described as fair, a number of political prisoners complained of being denied treatment for medical problems. Trade unionists arrested after the 1989 coup and held at Kober Prison submitted a protest alleging the denial of family visits and of adequate medical treatment, while challenging the legal grounds for their arrests. In retaliation, the government transferred many of them to Shalla Prison, 600 kilometers from Khartoum.


Details on military units and equipment are available from The Military Balance published annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Further information on the sources of Sudan's arms can be found in Forecast International/DMS Market Intelligence Report: Middle East and Africa. Reports by two international human rights organizations give accounts of the conflict in the south, the role of various militia groups, and the abuses committed by all of the fighting units, especially against the civilian population. These are Amnesty International's Sudan: Human Rights Violations in the Context of Civil War, published in 1989, and Africa Watch's Denying "The Honor of Living:" Sudan, A Human Rights Disaster, published in 1990.

The Southern Sudan by Douglas H. Johnson provides a concise account of the fighting in the south through 1988. The section on Sudan by Gwynne Dyer in World Armies includes an abbreviated history of the Sudanese armed forces until 1983. Articles by John O. Voll in Current History in 1986 and 1990 discuss the record of military regimes in Sudan as alternatives to civilian government.

by Douglas H. Johnson provides a concise account of the fighting in the south through 1988. The section on Sudan by Gwynne Dyer in World Armies includes an abbreviated history of the Sudanese armed forces until 1983. Articles by John O. Voll in Current History in 1986 and 1990 discuss the record of military regimes in Sudan as alternatives to civilian government.

United States-Sudanese military relations are recounted in Jeffrey A. Lefebvre's "Globalism and Regionalism: U.S. Arms Transfers to Sudan" in Armed Forces and Society. Information on the criminal courts system and the record of the Bashir government with respect to judicial processes and human rights can be found in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices published by the United States Department of State.

Glossary -- Sudan

fiscal year (FY) An annual period established for accounting purposes. The Sudanese fiscal year extends from July 1 to the following June 30.

GDP--(gross domestic product) A value measure of the flow of domestic goods and services produced by an economy over a period of time, such as a year. Only output values of goods for final consumption and intermediate production are assumed to be included in the final prices. GDP is sometimes aggregated and shown at market prices, meaning that indirect taxes and subsidies are included; when these indirect taxes and subsidies have been eliminated, the result is GDP at factor cost. The word gross indicates that deductions for depreciation of physical assets have not been made. Income arising from investments and possessions owned abroad is not included, only domestic production. Hence, the use of the word domestic to distinguish GDP from gross national product (q.v.).

GNP--gross national product The gross domestic product (q.v.) plus net income or loss stemming from transactions with foreign countries including income received from abroad by residents and subtracting payments remitted abroad to nonresidents. GNP is the broadest measurement of the output of goods and services by an economy. It can be calculated at market prices, which include indirect taxes and subsidies. Because indirect taxes and subsidies are only transfer payments, GNP is often calculated at factor cost by removing indirect taxes and subsidies.

hadith Tradition based on the precedent of Prophet Muhammad's words and deeds that serves as one of the sources of Islamic law.

hafr (pl., hafri) An excavated water reservoir fed by rainfall.

imam A word used in several senses. In general use and lower- cased, it means the leader of congregational prayers; as such it implies no ordination or special spiritual powers beyond sufficient education to carry out this function. It is also used figuratively by many Sunni (q.v.) Muslims to mean the leader of the Islamic community. Among Shia (q.v.) Muslims, the word takes on many complex and controversial meanings; in general, however, it indicates that particular descendant of the House of Ali who is believed to have been God's designated repository of the spiritual authority inherent in that line. The identity of this individual and the means of ascertaining his identity have been the major issues causing divisions among Shia.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Established along with the World Bank (q.v.) in 1945, the IMF is a specialized agency affiliated with the United Nations and is responsible for stabilizing international exchange rates and payments. The main business of the IMF is the provision of loans to its members (including industrialized and developing countries) when they experience balance of payments difficulties. These loans frequently carry conditions that require substantial internal economic adjustments by the recipients, most of which are developing countries.

jazirah Peninsula or island; with upper case, term refers to the cultivated lands south of Khartoum between the Blue Nile and the White Nile.

jizzu Located in the area of latitude 16o in northwest Darfur and in Chad; region beyond the semidesert where the late rains produce a combination of grass and herbaceous plants in winter such that camels and sheep can graze without additional water supply.

khalwa Small Islamic rural school that stressed memorization of the Quran and provided some instruction in the reading and writing of Arabic.

naziriyah Formerly, among nomadic and seminomadic Arab groups, an administrative and local court under a nazir, comprising several umudiyat (q.v.). A naziriyah included either an entire tribe or a section of a large tribe.

qoz General term used for sand dunes.

Sahel A narrow band of land bordering the southern Sahara, stretching across Africa. It is characterized by an average annual rainfall of between 150 and 500 millimeters and is mainly suited to pastoralism.

sharia Traditional code of Islamic law, both civil and criminal, based in part on the Quran (q.v.). Also drawn from the hadith (q.v.); the consensus of Islamic belief (ijma; i.e., consensus of the authorities on a legal question); and analogy (qiyas; i.e., an elaboration of the intent of law).

shaykh Leader or chief. Word of Arabic origin used to mean either a political or a learned religious leader. Also used as an honorific.

Shia(s) (or Shüte, from Shiat Ali, the Party of Ali) A member of the smaller of the two great divisions of Islam. The Shia supported the claims of Ali and his line to presumptive right to the caliphate and leadership of the Muslim community, and on this issue they divided from he Sunni (q.v.) in the first great schism within Islam. Later schisms have produced further divisions among the Shia over the identity and number of Imams (q.v.). Shia revere Twelve Imams, the last of whom is believed to be in hiding.

sudd Barrier or obstruction; with lower case the term designates clumps of aquatic vegetation that block the Nile channel; with upper case, the term is used loosely for the entire White Nile swamps.

Sunni From sunna meaning "custom," giving connotation of orthodoxy in theory and practice. A member of the larger of the two great divisions of Islam. The Sunnis supported the traditional method of election to the caliphate and accepted the Umayyad line. On this issue they divided from the Shia (q.v.) in the first great schism within Islam.

Three Towns Sudanese reference to the cities of Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman. Located in close proximity to the juncture of the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers, they form a single metropolitan area.

transhumant Transhumance is the seasonal movement of livestock along well-established routes by herders or by an ethnic group as a whole.

umudiyah (pl., umudiyat) Formerly a political division under an umda, encompassing a number of villages in the case of sedentary peoples or a section of a tribe in the case of nomadic peoples. Among nomadic or seminomadic peoples several such divisions constituted a naziriyah (q.v.).



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