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About Sudan Last Updated: Dec 20, 2009 - 3:34:53 PM

Sudan From A-Z Part Two

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                                                                         Part Two




Population information for Sudan has been limited, but in 1990 it was clear that the country was experiencing a high birth rate and a high, but declining, death rate. Infant mortality was high, but Sudan was expected to continue its rapid population growth, with a large percentage of its people under fifteen years of age, for some time to come. The trends indicated an overall low population density. However, with famine affecting much of the country, internal migration by hundreds of thousands of people was on the increase. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that in early 1991, approximately 1,800,000 people were displaced in the northern states, of whom it was estimated that 750,000 were in Al Khartum State, 30,000 each in Kurdufan and Al Awsat states, 300,000 each in Darfur and Ash Sharqi states, and 150,000 in Ash Shamali State. Efforts were underway to provide permanent sites for about 800,000 of these displaced people. The civil war and famine in the south was estimated to have displaced up to 3.5 million southern Sudanese by early 1990.

In addition to uncertainties concerning the number of refugees, population estimates were complicated by census difficulties. Since independence there have been three national censuses, in 1955-56, 1973, and 1983. The first was inadequately prepared and executed. The second was not officially recognized by the government, and thus its complete findings have never been released. The third census was of better quality, but some of the data has never been analyzed because of inadequate resources.

The 1983 census put the total population at 21.6 million with a growth rate between 1956 and 1983 of 2.8 percent per year . In 1990, the National Population Committee and the Department of Statistics put Sudan's birthrate at 50 births per 1,000 and the death rate at 19 per 1,000, for a rate of increase of 31 per 1,000 or 3.1 percent per year. This is a staggering increase; compared with the world average of 1.8 percent per year and the average for developing countries of 2.1 percent per annum, this percentage made Sudan one of the world's fastest growing countries. The 1983 population estimate was thought to be too low, but even accepting it and the pre-1983 growth rate of 2.8 percent, Sudan's population in 1990 would have been well over 25 million. At the estimated 1990 growth rate of 3.1 percent, the population would double in twenty-two years. Even if the lower estimated rate were sustained, the population would reach 38.6 million in 2003 and 50.9 million by 2013.

Both within Sudan and among the international community, it was commonly thought that with an average population density of nine persons per square kilometer, population density was not a major problem. This assumption, however, failed to take into account that much of Sudan was uninhabitable and its people were unevenly distributed, with about 33 percent of the nation's population occupying 7 percent of the land and concentrated around Khartoum and in Al Awsat. In fact, 66 percent of the population lived within 300 kilometers of Khartoum . In 1990 the population of the Three Towns (Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North) was unknown because of the constant influx of refugees, but estimates of 3 million, well over half the urban dwellers in Sudan, may not have been unrealistic. Nevertheless, only 20 percent of Sudanese lived in towns and cities; 80 percent still lived in rural areas.

The birthrate between the 1973 census and the 1987 National Population Conference appeared to have remained constant at from 48 to 50 births per 1,000 population. The fertility rate (the average number of children per woman) was estimated at 6.9 in 1983. Knowledge of family planning remained minimal. During the period, the annual death rate fell from 23 to 19 per 1,000, and the estimated life expectancy rose from 43.5 years to 47 years.

For more than a decade the gross domestic product   of Sudan had not kept pace with the increasing population, a trend indicating that Sudan would have difficulty in providing adequate services for its people. Moreover, half the population were under eighteen years of age and therefore were primarily consumers not producers. Internal migration caused by civil war and famine created major shifts in population distribution, producing overpopulation in areas that could provide neither services nor employment. Furthermore, Sudan has suffered a continuous "brain drain" as its finest professionals and most skilled laborers emigrated, while simultaneously there has been an influx of more than 1 million refugees, who not only lacked skills but required massive relief. Droughts in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s have undermined Sudan's food production, and the country would have to double its production to feed its expected population within the next generation. In the absence of a national population policy to deal with these problems, they were expected to worsen.

Moreover, throughout Sudan continuous environmental degradation accompanied the dearth of rainfall. Experts estimated that desertification caused by deforestation and drought had allowed the Sahara to advance southward at the rate of ten kilometers per year. About 7.8 million Sudanese were estimated to be at risk from famine in early 1991, according to the United Nations World Food Program and other agencies. The Save the Children Fund estimated that the famine in Darfur would cost the lives of "tens of thousands" of people in the early 1990s. Analysts believed that the lack of rainfall combined with the ravages of war would result in massive numbers of deaths from starvation in the 1990s


Sudan's ethnic and linguistic diversity remained one of the most complex in the world in 1991. Its nearly 600 ethnic groups spoke more than 400 languages and dialects, many of them intelligible to only a small number of individuals. In the 1980s and 1990s some of these small groups became absorbed by larger groups, while migration often caused individuals reared in one tongue to converse only in the dominant language of the new area. Such was the case with migrants to the Three Towns. There Arabic was the lingua franca despite the use of English by many of the elite. Some linguistic groups had been absorbed by accommodation, others by conflict. Most Sudanese were, of necessity, multilingual. Choice of language played a political role in the ethnic and religious cleavage between the northern and southern Sudanese. English was associated with being non-Muslim, as Arabic was associated with Islam. Thus language was a political instrument and a symbol of identity.


Language differences have served as a partial basis for ethnic classification and as symbols of ethnic identity. Such differences have been obstacles to the flow of communication in a state as linguistically fragmented as Sudan. These barriers have been overcome in part by the emergence of some languages as lingua francas and by a considerable degree of multilingualism in some areas.

Most languages spoken in Africa fall into four language superstocks. Three of them-- Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Kurdufanian, and Nilo-Saharan--are represented in Sudan. Each is divided into groups that are in turn subdivided into sets of closely related languages. Two or more major groups of each superstock are represented in Sudan, which has been historically both a northsouth and an east-west migration crossroad.

The most widely spoken language in the Sudan is Arabic, a member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Cushitic, another major division of the Afro-Asiatic language, is represented by Bedawiye (with several dialects), spoken by the largely nomadic Beja. Chadic, a third division, is represented by its most important single language, Hausa, a West African tongue used by the Hausa themselves and employed by many other West Africans in Sudan as a lingua franca.

Niger-Kurdufanian is first divided into Niger-Congo and Kurdufanian. The widespread Niger-Congo language group includes many divisions and subdivisions of languages. Represented in Sudan are Azande and several other tongues of the Adamawa-Eastern language division, and Fulani of the West Atlantic division. The Kurdufanian stock comprises only thirty to forty languages spoken in a limited area of Sudan, the Nuba Mountains and their environs.

The designation of a Nilo-Saharan superstock has not been fully accepted by linguists, and its constituent groups and subgroups are not firmly fixed, in part because many of the languages have not been well studied. Assuming the validity of the category and its internal divisions, however, eight of its nine major divisions and many of their subdivisions are well represented in Sudan, where roughly seventy-five languages, well over half of those named in the 1955-56 census, could be identified as Nilo-Saharan. Many of these languages are used only by small groups of people. Only six or seven of them were spoken by 1 percent or more of Sudan's 1956 population. Perhaps another dozen were the home languages of 0.5 to 1 percent. Many other languages were used by a few thousand or even a few hundred people.

The number of languages and dialects in Sudan is assumed to be about 400, including languages spoken by an insignificant number of people. Moreover, languages of smaller ethnic groups tended to disappear when the groups assimilated with more dominant ethnic units.

Several lingua francas have emerged and many peoples have become genuinely multilingual, fluent in a native language spoken at home, a lingua franca, and perhaps other languages. Arabic is the primary lingua franca in Sudan, given its status as the country's official language and as the language of Islam. Arabic, however, has several different forms, and not all who master one are able to use another. Among the varieties noted by scholars are classical Arabic, the language of the Quran (although generally not a spoken language and only used for printed work and by the educated in conversation); Modern Standard Arabic, derived from classical Arabic; and at least two kinds of colloquial Arabic in the Sudan--that spoken in roughly the eastern half of the country and called Sudanese colloquial Arabic and that spoken in western Sudan, closely akin to the colloquial Arabic spoken in Chad. There are other colloquial forms. A pidgin called Juba Arabic is peculiar to southern Sudan. Although some Muslims might become acquainted with classical Arabic in the course of rudimentary religious schooling, very few except the most educated know it except by rote.

Modern Standard Arabic is in principle the same everywhere in the Arab world and presumably permits communication among educated persons whose mother tongue is one or another form of colloquial Arabic. Despite its international character, however, Modern Standard Arabic varies from country to country. It has been, however, the language used in Sudan's central government, the press, and Radio Omdurman. The latter also broadcast in classical Arabic. One observer, writing in the early 1970s, noted that Arabic speakers (and others who had acquired the language informally) in western Sudan found it easier to understand the Chadian colloquial Arabic used by Chad Radio than the Modern Standard Arabic used by Radio Omdurman. This might also be the case elsewhere in rural Sudan where villagers and nomads speak a local dialect of Arabic.

Despite Arabic's status as the official national language, English was acknowledged as the principal language in southern Sudan in the late 1980s. It was also the chief language at the University of Khartoum and was the language of secondary schools even in the north before 1969. The new policy for higher education announced by the Sudanese government in 1990 indicated the language of instruction in all institutions of higher learning would be Arabic.

Nevertheless, in the south, the first two years of primary school were taught in the local language. Thereafter, through secondary school, either Arabic or English could become the medium of instruction (English and Arabic were regarded as of equal importance); the language not used as a medium was taught as a subject. In the early 1970s, when this option was established, roughly half the general secondary classes (equivalent to grades seven through nine) were conducted in Arabic and half in English in Bahr al Ghazal and Al Istiwai provinces. In early 1991, with about 90 percent of the southern third of the country controlled by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the use of Arabic as a medium of instruction in southern schools remained a political issue, with many southerners regarding Arabic as an element in northern cultural domination.

Juba (or pidgin) Arabic, developed and learned informally, had been used in southern towns, particularly in Al Istiwai, for some time and had spread slowly but steadily throughout the south, but not always at the expense of English. The Juba Arabic used in the marketplace and even by political figures addressing ethnically mixed urban audiences could not be understood by northern Sudanese.

Ethnic Groups

The definition and boundaries of ethnic groups depend on how people perceive themselves and others. Language, cultural characteristics, and common ancestry may be used as markers of ethnic identity or difference, but they do not always define groups of people. Thus, the people called Atuot and the much larger group called Nuer spoke essentially the same language, shared many cultural characteristics, and acknowledged a common ancestry, but each group defined itself and the other as different. Identifying ethnic groups in Sudan was made more complicated by the multifaceted character of internal divisions among Arabic-speaking Muslims, the largest population that might be considered a single ethnic group.

The distinction between Sudan's Muslim and non-Muslim people has been of considerable importance in the country's history and provides a preliminary ordering of the ethnic groups. It does not, however, correspond in any simple way to distinctions based on linguistic, cultural, or racial criteria nor to social or political solidarity. Ethnic group names commonly used in Sudan and by foreign analysts are not always used by the people themselves. That is particularly true for non-Arabs known by names coined by Arabs or by the British, who based the names on terms used by Arabs or others not of the group itself. Thus, the Dinka and the Nuer, the largest groups in southern Sudan, call themselves, respectively, Jieng and Naath.

The Muslim Peoples


In the early 1990s, the largest single category among the Muslim peoples consisted of those speaking some form of Arabic. Excluded were a small number of Arabic speakers originating in Egypt and professing Coptic Christianity. In 1983 the people identified as Arabs constituted nearly 40 percent of the total Sudanese population and nearly 55 percent of the population of the northern provinces. In some of these provinces (Al Khartum, Ash Shamali, Al Awsat), they were overwhelmingly dominant. In others (Kurdufan, Darfur), they were less so but made up a majority. By 1990 Ash Sharqi State was probably largely Arab. It should be emphasized, however, that the acquisition of Arabic as a second language did not necessarily lead to the assumption of Arab identity.

Despite common language, religion, and self-identification, Arabs did not constitute a cohesive group. They were highly differentiated in their modes of livelihood and ways of life. Besides the major distinction dividing Arabs into sedentary and nomadic, there was an old tradition that assigned them to tribes, each said to have a common ancestor.

The two largest of the supratribal categories in the early 1990s were the Juhayna and the Jaali (or Jaalayin). The Juhayna category consisted of tribes considered nomadic, although many had become fully settled. The Jaali encompassed the riverine, sedentary peoples from Dunqulah to just north of Khartoum and members of this group who had moved elsewhere. Some of its groups had become sedentary only in the twentieth century. Sudanese saw the Jaali as primarily indigenous peoples who were gradually arabized. Sudanese thought the Juhayna were less mixed, although some Juhayna groups had become more diverse by absorbing indigenous peoples. The Baqqara, for example, who moved south and west and encountered the Negroid peoples of those areas were scarcely to be distinguished from them.

A third supratribal division of some importance was the Kawahla, consisting of thirteen tribes of varying size. Of these, eight tribes and segments of the other five were found north and west of Khartoum. There people were more heavily dependent on pastoralism than were the segments of the other five tribes, who lived on either side of the White Nile from south of Khartoum to north of Kusti. This cluster of five groups (for practical purposes independent tribes) exhibited a considerable degree of self-awareness and cohesion in some circumstances, although that had not precluded intertribal competition for local power and status.

The ashraf (sing., sharif), who claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad, were found in small groups (lineages) scattered among other Arabs. Most of these lineages had been founded by religious teachers or their descendants. A very small group of descendants of the Funj Dynasty also claimed descent from the Ummayyads, an early dynasty of caliphs based in present- day Syria. That claim had little foundation, but it served to separate from other Arabs a small group living on or between the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The term ashraf was also applied in Sudan to the family of Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, known as the Mahdi .

The division into Jaali and Juhayna did not appear to have significant effect on the ways in which individuals and groups regarded each other. Conflicts between tribes generally arose from competition for good grazing land, or from the competing demands of nomadic and sedentary tribes on the environment. Among nomadic and recently sedentary Arabs, tribes and subtribes competed for local power .

Membership in tribal and subtribal units is generally by birth, but individuals and groups may also join these units by adoption, clientship, or a decision to live and behave in a certain way. For example, when a sedentary Fur becomes a cattle nomad, he is perceived as a Baqqara. Eventually the descendants of such newcomers are regarded as belonging to the group by birth.

Tribal and subtribal units divide the Arab ethnic category vertically, but other distinctions cut across Arab society and its tribal and subtribal components horizontally by differences of social status and power. Still another division is that of religious associations


In the early 1990s, the Nubians were the second most significant Muslim group in Sudan, their homeland being the Nile River valley in far northern Sudan and southern Egypt. Other, much smaller groups speaking a related language and claiming a link with the Nile Nubians have been given local names, such as the Birqid and the Meidab in Darfur State. Almost all Nile Nubians speak Arabic as a second language; some near Dunqulah have been largely arabized and are referred to as Dunqulah.

In the mid-1960s, in anticipation of the flooding of their lands after the construction of the Aswan High Dam, 35,000 to 50,000 Nile Nubians resettled at Khashm al Qirbah on the Atbarah River in what was then Kassala Province. It is not clear how many Nubians remained in the Nile Valley. Even before the resettlement, many had left the valley for varying lengths of time to work in the towns, although most sought to maintain a link with their traditional homeland. In the 1955-56 census, more Nile Nubians were counted in Al Khartum Province than in the Nubian country to the north. A similar pattern of work in the towns was apparently followed by those resettled at Khashm al Qirbah. Many Nubians there retained their tenancies, having kin oversee the land and hiring non-Nubians to work it. The Nubians, often with their families, worked in Khartoum, the town of Kassala, and Port Sudan in jobs ranging from domestic service and semi-skilled labor to teaching and civil service, which required literacy. Despite their knowledge of Arabic and their devotion to Islam, Nubians retained a considerable self-consciousness and tended to maintain tightly knit communities of their own in the towns.


The Beja probably have lived in the Red Sea Hills since ancient times. Arab influence was not significant until a millennium or so ago, but it has since led the Beja to adopt Islam and genealogies that link them to Arab ancestors, to arabize their names, and to include many Arabic terms in their language. Although some Arabs figure in the ancestry of the Beja, the group is mostly descended from an indigenous population, and they have not become generally arabized. Their language (Bedawiye) links them to Cushitic-speaking peoples farther south.

In the 1990s, most Beja belonged to one of four groups--the Bisharin, the Amarar, the Hadendowa, and the Bani Amir. The largest group was the Hadendowa, but the Bisharin had the most territory, with settled tribes living on the Atbarah River in the far south of the Beja range and nomads living in the north. A good number of the Hadendowa were also settled and engaged in agriculture, particularly in the coastal region near Tawkar, but many remained nomads. The Amarar, living in the central part of the Beja range, seemed to be largely nomads, as were the second largest group, the Bani Amir, who lived along the border with northern Ethiopia. The precise proportion of nomads in the Beja population in the early 1990s was not known, but it was far greater relatively than the nomadic component of the Arab population. The Beja were characterized as conservative, proud, and aloof even toward other Beja and very reticent in relations with strangers. They were long reluctant to accept the authority of central governments.


The Fur, ruled until 1916 by an independent sultanate and oriented politically and culturally to peoples in Chad, were a sedentary, cultivating group long settled on and around the Jabal Marrah. Although the ruling dynasty and the peoples of the area had long been Muslims, they have not been arabized. Livestock has played a small part in the subsistence of most Fur. Those who acquired a substantial herd of cattle could maintain it only by living like the neighboring Baqqara Arabs, and those who persisted in this pattern eventually came to be thought of as Baqqara.


Living on the plateau north of the Fur were the seminomadic people calling themselves Beri and known to the Arabs as Zaghawa. Large numbers of the group lived in Chad. Herders of cattle, camels, sheep, and goats, the Zaghawa also gained a substantial part of their livelihood by gathering wild grains and other products. Cultivation had become increasingly important but remained risky, and the people reverted to gathering in times of drought. Converted to Islam, the Zaghawa nevertheless retain much of their traditional religious orientation.

Masalit, Daju, and Berti

Of other peoples living in Darfur in the 1990s who spoke Nilo-Saharan languages and were at least nominally Muslim, the most important were the Masalit, Daju, and Berti. All were primarily cultivators living in permanent villages, but they practiced animal husbandry in varying degrees. The Masalit, living on the Sudan-Chad border, were the largest group. Historically under a minor sultanate, they were positioned between the two dominant sultanates of the area, Darfur and Wadai (in Chad). A part of the territory they occupied had been formerly controlled by the Fur, but the Masalit gradually encroached on it in the first half of the twentieth century in a series of local skirmishes carried out by villages on both sides, rather than the sultanates. In 1990-91 much of Darfur was in a state of anarchy, with many villages being attacked. There were many instances in which Masalit militias attacked Fur and other villages .

The Berti consisted of two groups. One lived northeast of Al Fashir; the other had migrated to eastern Darfur and western Kurdufan provinces in the nineteenth century. The two Berti groups did not seem to share a sense of common identity and interest. Members of the western group, in addition to cultivating subsistence crops and practicing animal husbandry, gathered gum arabic for sale in local markets. The Berti tongue had largely given way to Arabic as a home language.

The term Daju was a linguistic designation that was applied to a number of groups scattered from western Kurdufan and southwestern Darfur states to eastern Chad. These groups called themselves by different names and exhibited no sense of common identity.

West Africans

Living in Sudan in 1990 were nearly a million people of West African origin. Together, West Africans who have become Sudanese nationals and resident nonnationals from West Africa made up 6.5 percent of the Sudanese population. In the mid-1970s, West Africans had been estimated at more than 10 percent of the population of the northern provinces. Some were descendants of persons who had arrived five generations or more earlier; others were recent immigrants. Some had come in self-imposed exile, unable to accommodate to the colonial power in their homeland. Others had been pilgrims to Mecca, settling either en route or on their return. Many came over decades in the course of the great dispersion of the nomadic Fulani; others arrived, particularly after World War II, as rural and urban laborers or to take up land as peasant cultivators.

Nearly 60 percent of people included in the West African category were said to be of Nigerian origin (locally called Borno after the Nigerian emirate that was their homeland). Given Hausa dominance in northern Nigeria and the widespread use of their language there and elsewhere, some non-Hausa might also be called Hausa and describe themselves as such. But the Hausa themselves, particularly those long in Sudan , preferred to be called Takari. The Fulani, even more widely dispersed throughout West Africa, may have originated in states other than Nigeria. Typically, the term applied to the Fulani in Sudan was Fallata, but Sudanese also used that term for other West Africans.

The Fulani nomads were found in many parts of central Sudan from Darfur to the Blue Nile, and they occasionally competed with indigenous populations for pasturage. In Darfur groups of Fulani origin adapted in various ways to the presence of the Baqqara tribes. Some retained all aspects of their culture and language. A few had become much like Baqqara in language and in other respects, although they tended to retain their own breeds of cattle and ways of handling them. Some of the Fulani groups in the eastern states were sedentary, descendants of sedentary Fulani of the ruling group in northern Nigeria.

Non-Muslim Peoples

In the 1990s, most of Sudan's diverse non-Muslim peoples lived in southern Sudan, but a number of small groups resided in the hilly areas south of the Blue Nile on or near the border with Ethiopia. Another cluster of peoples commonly called the Nuba, but socially and culturally diverse, lived in the Nuba Mountains of southern Kurdufan State.


Nilote is a common name for many of the peoples living on or near the Bahr al Jabal and its tributaries. The term refers to people speaking languages of one section of the Nilotic subbranch of the Eastern Sudanic branch of Nilo-Saharan and sharing a myth of common origin. They are marked by physical similarity and many common cultural features. Many had a long tradition of cattlekeeping, including some for whom cattle were no longer of practical importance. Because of their adaptation to different climates and their encounters, peaceful and otherwise, with other peoples, there was also some diversity among the Nilotes.

Despite the civil war and famine, the Nilotes still constituted more than three-fifths of the population of southern Sudan in 1990. One group--the Dinka--made up roughly two-thirds of the total category, 40 percent or more of the population of the area and more than 10 percent of Sudan's population. The Dinka were widely distributed over the northern portion of the southern region, particularly in Aali an Nil and Bahr al Ghazal. The next largest group, only one-fourth to one-third the size of the Dinka, were the Nuer. The Shilluk, the third largest group, had only about one-fourth as many people as the Nuer, and the remaining Nilotic groups were much smaller.

The larger and more dispersed the group, however, the more internally varied it had become. The Dinka and Nuer, for example, did not develop a centralized government encompassing all or any large part of their groups. The Dinka are considered to have as many as twenty-five tribal groups. The Nuer have nine or ten separately named groups.

Armed conflict between and within ethnic groups continued well into the twentieth century. Sections of the Dinka fought sections of the Nuer and each other. Other southern groups also expanded and contracted in the search for cattle and pasturage. The Nuer absorbed some of the Dinka, and some present-day sections of the Nuer have significant Dinka components.

Relations among various southern groups were affected in the nineteenth century by the intrusion of Ottomans, Arabs, and eventually the British. Some ethnic groups made their accommodation with the intruders and others did not, in effect pitting one southern ethnic group against another in the context of foreign rule. For example, some sections of the Dinka were more accommodating to British rule than were the Nuer. These Dinka treated the resisting Nuer as hostile, and hostility developed between the two groups as result of their differing relationships to the British. The granting of Sudanese independence in 1956, and the adoption of certain aspects of Islamic law or the sharia, by the central government in 1983 greatly influenced the nature of relations among these groups in modern times.

The next largest group of Nilotes, the Shilluk (self-named Collo), were not dispersed like the Dinka and the Nuer, but settled mainly in a limited, uninterrupted area along the west bank of the Bahr al Jabal, just north of the point where it becomes the White Nile proper. A few lived on the eastern bank. With easy access to fairly good land along the Nile, they relied much more heavily on cultivation and fishing than the Dinka and the Nuer did, and had fewer cattle. The Shilluk had truly permanent settlements and did not move regularly between cultivating and cattle camps.

Unlike the larger groups, the Shilluk, in the Upper Nile, were traditionally ruled by a single politico-religious head (reth), believed to become at the time of his investiture as king the representative, if not the reincarnation, of the mythical hero Nyiking, putative founder of the Shilluk. The administrative and political powers of the reth have been the subject of some debate, but his ritual status was clear enough: his health was believed to be closely related to the material and spiritual welfare of the Shilluk. It is likely that the territorial unity of the Shilluk and the permanence of their settlements contributed to the centralization of their political and ritual structures. In the late 1980s, the activities against the SPLA by the armed militias supported by the government seriously alienated the Shilluk in Malakal.

Bari , Kuku, Kakwa, and Mandari

Several peoples living mainly to the south and east of the Nilotes spoke languages of another section of the Nilotic subbranch of Eastern Sudanic. Primary among them were the Bari and the closely related Kuku, Kakwa, and Mandari. The Bari and Mandari who lived near the Nilotes had been influenced by them and had sometimes been in conflict with them in the past. The more southerly Kuku and Kakwa lived in the highlands, where cultivation was more rewarding than cattle-keeping or where cattle diseases precluded herding.

Murle, Didinga, and Others

Two other tribes, the Murle and the Didinga, spoke Eastern Sudanic languages of subbranches other than Nilotic. The Murle had dwelt in southern Ethiopia in the nineteenth century and some were still there in the 1990s. Others had moved west and had driven out the local Nilotes, whom they reportedly regarded with contempt, and acquired a reputation as warriors. Under environmental pressure, the Murle raided other groups in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Along the mountainous border with Ethiopia in Al Awsat State lived several small heterogeneous groups. Some, like the Uduk, spoke languages of the Koman division of Nilo-Saharan and were believed to have been in the area since antiquity. Others, like the Ingessana, were refugees driven into the hills by the expansion of other groups. Most of these peoples straddling the Sudan-Ethiopia border had experienced strife with later-arriving neighbors and slave-raiding by the Arabs. All adapted by learning the languages of more dominant groups.


In western Al Istiwai and Bahr al Ghazal states lived a number of small, sometimes fragmented groups. The largest of these groups were the Azande, who comprised 7 to 8 percent of the population of southern Sudan and were the dominant group in western Al Istiwai.

The Azande had emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when groups of hunters, divided into aristocrats and commoners, entered the northeastern past of present-day Zaire (and later southwestern Sudan) and conquered the peoples already there. Although the aristocrats provided ruling kings and nobles, they did not establish an inclusive, centralized state. The means of succession to kingship, however, encouraged Azande expansion. A man succeeded to his father's throne only when he had vanquished those of his brothers who chose to compete for it. The brothers--princes without land or people but with followers looking for the fruits of conquest--would find and rule hitherto unconquered groups. Thus, the Azande became a heterogeneous people.

Their earlier military and political successes notwithstanding, the Azande in the twentieth century were poor, largely dependent on cultivation (hunting was no longer a feasible source of food), and afflicted by sleeping sickness. The British colonial authorities instituted a project, known as the Azande Scheme, involving cotton growing and resettlement in an effort to deal with these problems. The program failed, however, for a variety of reasons, including an inadequate understanding of Azande society, economy, and values on the part of the colonial planners. Azande society deteriorated still further, a deterioration reflected in a declining birthrate. Azande support of the Anya Nya guerrilla groups, as well as conflicts with the Dinka, also served to worsen the Azande's situation. In the early 1980s, there was talk of resurrecting a revised Azande project but the resumption of the civil war in 1983 prevented progress.

Bviri and Ndogo

Several other groups of cultivators in southwestern Sudan spoke languages closely akin to that of the Azande but lacked a dominant group. The most important seemed to be the Bviri. They and a smaller group called Ndogo spoke a language named after the latter; other, smaller communities spoke dialects of that tongue. These communities did not share a sense of common ethnic identity, however.


The other groups in southwestern Sudan spoke languages of the central branch of Nilo-Saharan and were scattered from the western Bahr al Ghazal (the Kreish) to central Al Istiwai (the Moru and the Avukaya) to eastern Al Istiwai (the Madi). In between, in Al Istiwai, were such peoples as the Bongo and the Baka. The languages of Moru and Madi were so close, as were aspects of their cultures, that they were sometimes lumped together. The same was true of the Bongo and the Baka, but there was no indication that either pair constituted a self-conscious ethnic group.


Living in the Nuba Mountains of southern Kurdufan State were perhaps three dozen small groups collectively called the Nuba but varying considerably in their culture and social organization. For example, some were patrilineally organized, others adhered to matrilineal patterns, and a very few--the southeastern Nuba--had both patrilineal and matrilineal groupings in the same community. The Kurdufanian languages these people spoke were not generally mutually intelligible except for those of some adjacent communities.

Despite the arabization of the people around them, only small numbers of Nuba had adopted Arabic as a home language, and even fewer had been converted to Islam. Some had, however, served in the armed forces and police. Most remained cultivators; animal husbandry played only a small part in their economy.


One of the most important and complicating factors in defining ethnicity is the dramatic increase in the internal migration of Sudanese within the past twenty years. It has been estimated that in 1973 alone well over 10 percent of the population moved away from their ethnic groups to mingle with other Sudanese in the big agricultural projects or to work in other provinces. Most of the migrants sought employment in the large urban areas, particularly in the Three Towns, which attracted 30 percent of all internal migrants. The migrants were usually young; 60 percent were between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Of that number, 46 percent were females. The number of migrants escalated greatly in the latter 1980s because of drought and famine, the civil war in the south, and Chadian raiders in the west. Thus, as in the past, the migrants left their ethnic groups for economic, social, and psychological reasons, but now with the added factor of personal survival.

Another ethnic group involved in migration was that of the Falashas, who were Ethiopian Jews. In January 1985 it was revealed that the Sudanese government had cooperated with Ethiopia, Israel, and the United States in transporting several thousand Falashas through Sudan to Israel. Their departure occurred initially on a small scale in 1979 and 1982 and in larger numbers between 1983 and 1985. In Sudan, the Falashas had been placed in temporary refugee settlements and reception centers organized by the Sudanese government.

In addition to the problems of employment, housing, and services that internal migration created, it had an enormous impact on ethnicity. Although migrants tended to cluster with their kinsfolk in their new environments, the daily interaction with Sudanese from many other ethnic groups rapidly eroded traditional values learned in the villages. In the best of circumstances, this erosion might lead to a new sense of national identity as Sudanese, but the new communities often lacked effective absorptive mechanisms and were weak economically. Ethnic divisions were thus reinforced and at the same time social anomie was perpetuated.

Refugees from other countries, like internal migrants, were a factor that further complicated ethnic patterns. In 1991 Sudan was host to about 763,000 refugees from neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia (including about 175,000 soldiers, most of whom fled following the overthrow of the Ethiopian government in May 1991) and Chad. Approximately 426,000 Sudanese had fled their country, becoming refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia. Many of them began returning to Sudan in June 1991. Incoming refugees were at first hospitably received but they gradually came to be regarded as unwelcome visitors. The refugees required many social services, a need only partially met by international humanitarian agencies, which also had to care for Sudanese famine victims. The presence of foreign refugees, with little prospect of returning to their own countries, thus created not only social but also political instability.

Regionalism and Ethnicity

The long war in Sudan had a profound effect not only on ethnic groups but also on political action and attitudes. With the exception of a fragile peace established by negotiations between southern Sudanese insurgents (the Anya Nya) and the Sudan government at Addis Ababa in 1972, and lasting until the resumption of the conflict in 1983, southern Sudan has been a battlefield. The conflict has deeply eroded traditional ethnic patterns in the region, and it has extended northward, spreading incalculable political and economic disruption. It has, moreover, caused the dislocation and often the obliteration of the smaller, less resistant ethnic groups.

The north-south distinction and the hostility between the two regions were grounded in religious conflict as well as a conflict between peoples of differing culture and language. The language and culture of the north were based on Arabic and the Islamic faith, whereas the south had its own diverse, mostly non-Arabic languages and cultures. It was with few exceptions non-Muslim, and its religious character was indigenous (traditional or Christian). Adequate contemporary data were lacking, but in the early 1990s possibly no more than 10 percent of southern Sudan's population was Christian. Nevertheless, given the missions' role in providing education in the south, most educated persons in the area, including the political elite, were nominally Christians (or at least had Christian names). Several African Roman Catholic priests figured in southern leadership, and the churches played a significant role in bringing the south's plight to world attention in the civil war period . Sudan's Muslim Arab rulers thus considered Christian mission activity to be an obstacle to the full arabization and Islamization of the south.

Occasionally, the distinction between north and south has been framed in racial terms. The indigenous peoples of the south are blacks, whereas those of the north are of Semitic stock. Northern populations fully arabized in language and culture, such as the Baqqara, however, could not be distinguished physically from some of the southern and western groups. Many sedentary Arabs descended from the pre-Islamic peoples of that area who were black, as were the Muslim but nonarabized Nubians and the Islamized peoples of Darfur.

It is not easy to generalize about the importance of physical attributes in one group's perceptions of another. But physical appearance often has been taken as an indicator of cultural, religious, and linguistic status or orientation. Arabs were also likely to see southerners as members of the population from which they once took slaves and to use the word for slave, abd, as a pejorative in referring to southerners.

North-south hostilities predate the colonial era. In the nineteenth century and earlier, Arabs saw the south as a source of slaves and considered its peoples inferior by virtue of their paganism if not their color. Organized slave raiding ended in the late nineteenth century, but the residue of bitterness remained among southerners, and the Arab view of southerners as pagans persisted.

During British rule, whatever limited accommodation there may have been between Arabs and Africans was neither widespread nor deep enough to counteract a longer history of conflict between these peoples. At the same time, for their own reasons, the colonial authorities discouraged integration of the ethnically different north and south .

Neither Arab attitudes of superiority nor British dominance in the south led to loss of self-esteem among southerners. A number of observers have remarked that southern peoples, particularly Nilotes, such as the Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk, naturally object to the assumption by the country's Arab rulers that the southern peoples ought to be prepared to give up their religious orientation and values.

Interethnic tensions also have occurred in the north. Disaffection in Darfur with the Arab-dominated Khartoum government led in the late 1980s to Darfur becoming a virtually autonomous province. There has also been a history of regionallybased political movements in the area. The frustrations of a budding elite among the Fur, the region's largest ethnic group, and Fur-Arab competition may account for that disaffection and for Darfur regionalism. After World War II, many educated Fur made a point of mastering Arabic in the hope that they could make their way in the Arab-dominated political, bureaucratic, and economic world; they did not succeed in their quest. Further, by the late 1960s, as cash crops were introduced, land and labor were becoming objects of commercial transactions. As this happened, the Arabs and the Fur competed for scarce resources and, given their greater prominence and power, the Arabs were regarded by the Fur as exploiters. The discovery of oil in the late 1970s (not appreciably exploited by 1991 because of the civil war leading to the departure of Chevron Overseas Petroleum Corporation personnel) added another resource and further potential for conflict. Opposition to the imposition by Nimeiri of the sharia in 1983, and the later attempts at Islamization of the country in the late 1980s, as well as the government's poor handling of the devastating famine of 1990 deeply alienated the Fur from the national government.

There were other tensions in northern Sudan generated not by traditional antipathies but by competition for scarce resources. For example, there was a conflict between the Rufaa al Huj, a group of Arab pastoralists living in the area between the Blue Nile and the White Nile, and Fallata (Fulani) herders. The movements of the Fallata intersected with the seasonal migrations of the Rufaa al Huj. Here ethnic differences aggravated but did not cause competition.

The reluctance of southern groups to accept Arab domination did not imply southern solidarity. The opportunities for power and wealth in the new politics and bureaucracy in southern Sudan were limited; some groups felt deprived of their shares by an ethnic group in power. Moreover, ethnic groups at one time or another competed for more traditional resources, contributing to a heritage of hostility toward one another.

In the early 1990s, one of the main sources of ethnic conflict in the south was the extent to which the Dinka dominated southern politics and controlled the allocation of rewards, whether of government posts or of other opportunities. In the 1955-56 census, the Dinka constituted a little more than 40 percent of the total population of the three provinces that in 1990 constituted southern Sudan: Bahr al Ghazal, Aali an Nil, and Al Istiwai. Because no other group approached their number, if their proportion of the regional total had not changed appreciably, the Dinka would be expected to play a large part in the new politics of southern Sudan. Some of the leading figures in the south, such as Abel Alier, head of southern Sudan's government until 1981, and SPLA leader John Garang, were Dinka (although the SPLA made an effort to shed its Dinka image by cultivating supporters in other groups). It is not known whether the twenty-five Dinka tribal groups were equally represented in the alleged Dinka predominance. Some groups, such as the Nuer, a comparable Nilotic people, and traditional rivals of the Dinka, had been deprived of leadership opportunities in colonial times, because they were considered intractable, were then not numerous, and lived in inaccessible areas (various small groups in Bahr al Ghazal and northern Aali an Nil provinces). In contrast, some small groups in Al Istiwai Province had easier access to education and hence to political participation because of nearby missions. The first graduating class of the university in Juba, for example, had many more Azande students from Al Istiwai Province than from Bahr al Ghazal and Aali an Nil.


Local ethnic communities remained in the early 1990s the fundamental societies in rural Sudan, whether they were fully settled, semisedentary, or nomadic. Varying in size but never very large, such communities formerly interacted with others of their kind in hostile or symbiotic fashion, raiding for cattle, women, and slaves or exchanging products and sometimes intermarrying. In many cases, particularly in the north, local communities were incorporated into larger political systems, paying taxes to the central authority and adapting their local political arrangements to the needs of the central government. Even if they were not incorporated into major tribes or groups, many people considered themselves part of larger groupings, such as the Juhayna, the Jaali, or the Dinka, which figured in a people's system of ideas and myths but not their daily lives. In the north the Muslim religious orders were important. They brought religion to the people, and their leaders acted as mediators between local communities. Despite these connections, however, the local village or nomadic community was the point of reference for most individuals.

Most of these communities were based on descent, although occupation of a common territory became increasingly important in long-settled communities. Descent groups varied in hierarchical arrangement. In some, the people were essentially equal. In others, various lineages held political power, with their members filling certain offices. Lineage groups might also control religious ritual in the community. On the one hand, people who held ritual or political offices often had privileged access to economic resources. On the other hand, many communities granted formal or informal authority to those who were already wealthy and who used their wealth generously and with tactical skill.

Theoretically, descent-group societies are cohesive units whose members act according to group interests. In practice, however, individuals often had their own interests, and these interests sometimes became paramount. An individual might, however, use the ideal of descent-group solidarity to justify his behavior, and an ambitious person might use the descent-group framework to organize support for himself. Sudanese communities always have experienced a good deal of change, either because of forces like the Muslim orders, or as a result of dynamics within the groups themselves, like the expansion of Nuer communities.

The Anglo-Egyptian condominium (1899-1955) weakened the role of hitherto autonomous communities and created a more stable social order. Warfare and raiding between communities largely ended. Leadership in raids was no longer a way to acquire wealth and status. Although many local communities remained subsistence oriented, they became more aware of the world economy. Their members were introduced to new resources and opportunities, however scarce, that reoriented their notions of power, status, and wealth and of the ways they were acquired. If one invested in a truck rather than in a camel and engaged in trading rather than herding, one's relationship to kin and community changed.

The central authorities--links with the world economy and with services like education and communications--were located in the cities and large towns. Urban centers therefore became the sources of change in the condominium era, and it was there that new occupations emerged. These new occupations had not yet changed the social strata, however.

In rural areas several large-scale development projects were introduced, resulting in major rearrangements of communities and authority structures. The most significant example was the Gezira Scheme, located between the Blue Nile and the White Nile, and considered the world's largest single-management farming enterprise (about 790 hectares were covered by the project). The scheme involved small-scale farmer tenants producing cotton under the administration of the Sudan Gezira Board, a state subsidiary.

Northern Arabized Communities

Distinctions may be drawn among long-settled arabized communities, those settled in the past half century, and those-- the minority--that remained nomadic. Recently settled groups might still participate in nomadic life or have close connections with nomadic kin.

Formerly, where long-settled and nomadic or beduin communities came in contact with each other, relations were hostile or cool, reflecting earlier competition for resources. More recently, a degree of mutual dependency had developed, usually involving exchanges of foodstuffs.

Along the White Nile and between the White Nile and Blue Nile, sections of nomadic tribes had become sedentary. This transition occurred either because of the opportunities for profitable cultivation or because nomads had lost their animals and turned to cultivation until they could recoup their fortunes and return to nomadic life. Having settled, some communities found sedentary life more materially rewarding. Sometimes nomads lacking livestock worked for sedentary Arabs, and where employer and employee were of the same or similar tribes, the relationship could be close. It was understood that when such a laborer acquired enough livestock, he would return to nomadic life. In other cases, a fully settled former nomad with profitable holdings allowed his poorer kin to maintain his livestock, both parties gaining from the transaction.

Arab nomads in Sudan in the early 1990s were generally camel or cattle herders. They might own sheep and goats also for economic reasons, but these animals were not otherwise valued. Typically, camel herders migrated to the more arid north, whereas cattle herders traveled farther south where camel herding was not feasible.

The ancestors of the Baqqara tribes began as nomadic camel herders. When they moved south to raid for slaves, they found camel travel inappropriate, and took cattle as well as people from the southerners. They have been cattle herders since the eighteenth century. Their environment permitted cultivation also, and most Baqqara grew some of their food. Camel herders, in contrast, rarely sowed a crop, although they might gather wild grain and obtain grains from local cultivators.

In the 1990s, the communities of arabized nomads were similar. In principle, all units from the smallest to the largest were based on patrilineal descent. The largest entity was the tribe. A tribe was divided into sections, and each of these, into smaller units. If a tribe were small, it became a naziriyah (administrative unit--see Glossary); if large, its major sections became naziriyat. The sections below the naziriyah became umudiyat . Below that were lineages, often headed by a shaykh, which had no formal position in the administrative hierarchy. The smallest unit, which the Baqqara called usrah, was likely to consist of a man, his sons, their sons, and any daughters who had not yet married. (Patrilineal cousins were preferred marriage partners.) The usrah and the women who married into it constituted an extended family.

All divisions had rights to all tribal territory for grazing purposes as long as they stayed clear of cultivated land; however, through frequent use, tribal sections acquired rights to specific areas for gardens. Members of an usrah, for example, returned year after year to the same land, which they regarded as their home.

The constant subdividing of lineages gave fluidity to nomadic society. Tribal sections seceded, moved away, and joined with others for various reasons. The composition and size of even the smallest social units varied according to the season of the year and the natural environment. Individuals, families, and larger units usually moved in search of a more favorable social environment, but also because of quarrels, crowding, or personal attachments. The size and composition of various groups, and ultimately of the tribe itself, depended on the amount of grazing land available and on the policies and personalities of the leaders.

Traditionally, a man rich in cattle always had been sure to attract followers. The industry, thrift, and hardiness needed to build a large herd have been considered highly desirable qualities. At the same time, a rich man would be expected to be generous. If he lived up to that expectation, his fame would spread, and he would attract more followers. But wealth alone did not gain a nomad power beyond the level of a camp or several related camps. Ambition, ability to manipulate, hardheaded shrewdness, and attention to such matters as the marriage of his daughters to possible allies were also required.

In the precondominium era, leaders of various sections of a tribe had prestige but relatively little authority, in part because those who did not like them could leave. The colonial authorities stabilized the floating power positions in the traditional system. For purposes of taxation, justice, and public order, the new government needed representative authorities over identifiable groups. Locality could not serve as a basis in a nomadic society, so the government settled on the leaders of patrilineal descent groups and gave them a formal power they had previously lacked.

Among the nomadic Kababish camel herders (a loose confederation of tribes fluctuating in size, composition, and location), the definition of the tribe as a single unit by the colonial authorities and the appointment of an ambitious and capable individual as nazir led to a major change in social structure. Tribal sections and subsections were gradually eroded, leaving the individual household as the basic unit, ruled by the nazir and his primitive bureaucracy. The ruling lineage developed a concept of aristocracy, became very wealthy, and in effect spoke for its people in all contexts.

The administrative structure of the naziriyah and umudiyah ended shortly after the establishment of President Jaafar an Nimeiri's government in 1969, but the families of those who had held formal authority retained a good deal of local power. This authority or administrative structure was officially revived in 1986 by the coalition government of Sadiq al Mahdi.

Of continuing importance in economic and domestic matters and often in organizing political factions were minimal lineages, each comprehending three (at best four) generations. The social status of these lineages depended on whether they stemmed from old settler families or from newer ones. In villages composed of families or lineages of several tribes, marriage would likely take place within the tribe.

A class structure existed within villages. Large holdings were apt to be in the hands of merchants or leaders of religious brotherhoods, whose connections were wider and who did not necessarily live in the villages near their land. Although no longer nomadic, the ordinary villager preferred not to cultivate the land himself, however. Before the abolition of slavery, slaves did much of the work. Even after emancipation some ex- slaves or descendants of slaves remained as servants of their former masters or their descendants. Some villagers hired West Africans to do their work. Ex-slaves and seminomads or gypsies (halabi, usually smiths) living near the village were looked down on, and marriage with them by members of other classes was out of the question. A descendant of slaves could acquire education and respect, but villagers did not consider him a suitable partner for their daughters. Slave women had formerly been taken as concubines by villagers, but it was not clear that they were acceptable as wives.

Landholders in government-sponsored projects did not own the property but were tenants of the government. The tenants might be displaced Nubians, settled non-Arab nomads--as in Khashm al Qirbah--settled or nomadic Arabs, or West Africans. Many of these people used hired labor, either West Africans or nomads temporarily without livestock. In many instances, the original tenant remained a working farmer even if he used wage labor. In others, however, the original tenant might leave management in the hands of a kinsman and either live as a nomad or work and live in a city, a lifestyle typical of Nubians.

Although all settled communities were linked to the government, the projects involved a much closer relation between officials and villagers, because officials managed the people as well as the enterprise. In effect, however, officials were outsiders, dominating the community but not part of it. They identified with the civil service rather than the community.

West Africans working in Arab settled communities formed cohesive communities of their own, and their relations with Arab tenants appeared to be restricted to their work agreements, even though both groups were Muslims. Cotton cultivation, practiced on most of the farms, was labor intensive, and because available labor was often scarce, particularly during the picking season, the West African laborers could command good wages. Their wages were set by agreements between the tenants who held the land and the headmen of the West African communities, and these agreements tended to set the wage scale for Arab laborers as well.

In the White Nile area, more recently settled by nomadic groups, aspects of nomadic social organization persisted through the condominium era. As among the nomads, leadership went to those who used their wealth generously and judiciously to gain the support of their lineages. In this case, however, wealth often took the form of grain rather than livestock. Most major lineages had such leaders, and those that did not were considered at a disadvantage. In addition to the wealthy, religious leaders (shaykhs) also had influence in these communities, particularly as mediators, in contrast to secular leaders who were often authoritarian.

The establishment of the naziriyah and umudiyah system tended to fix leadership in particular families, but there were often conflicts over which members should hold office. In the case of the Kawahla tribes of the White Nile, the ruling family tended to settle these differences in order to maintain its monopoly of important positions, and it took on the characteristics of a ruling lineage. Other lineages, however, tended to decline in importance as the system of which they had been a part changed. The ruling lineage made a point of educating its sons, so that they could find positions in business or in government. Although the Nimeiri government abolished the older system of local government, it appears that the former ruling lineage continued to play a leading role in the area.

Southern Communities

In preindependence Sudan, most southern communities were small, except for the large conglomerate of Nilotes, Dinka, and Nuer who dominated the Bahr al Ghazal and the Aali an Nil provinces and the Azande people of Al Istiwai Province. During the condominium, the colonial administration imposed stronger local authority on the communities. It made local leaders chiefs or headmen and gave them executive and judicial powers--tempered by local councils, usually of elders--to administer their people, under the scrutiny of a British district commissioner. As in the north, the relatively fluid relationships and boundaries among southern Sudanese became more stabilized.

There is no systematic record of how independence, civil war, and famine have affected the social order of southern peoples. The gradual incorporation of southerners into the national system--if only as migrant laborers and as local craftpeople--and increased opportunities for education have, however, affected social arrangements, ideas of status, and political views.

An educated elite had emerged in the south, and in 1991, some members of this elite were important politicians and administrators at the regional and national levels; however, other members had emigrated to escape northern discrimination. How the newer elite was linked to the older one was not clear. Secular chieftainships had been mostly gifts of the colonial authorities, but the sons of chiefs took advantage of their positions to get a Western education and to create family ties among local and regional elites.

Southern Sudan's development of an elite based on education and government office was facilitated by the absence of an indigenous trading and entrepreneurial class, who might have challenged the educated elite. Southern merchants were mostly Arabs or others of nonsouthern origin. In addition, the south lacked the equivalent of the northern Muslim leaders of religious orders, who also might have claimed a share of influence. Instead of several elites owing their status and power to varied sources and constituencies, the south developed an elite that looked for its support to persons of its own ethnic background and to those who identified with the south's African heritage. It was difficult to assess in the early 1990s, however, whether the civil war still allowed any elite southerners to gain much advantage.

In traditional Nilotic society clans were of two kinds. One kind, a minority but a large one, consisted of clans whose members had religious functions and furnished the priests of subtribes, sections, and sometimes of tribes. These priests have been called chiefs or masters of the fishing spear, a reference to the ritual importance of that instrument. Clans of the other kind were warrior groupings. The difference was one of function rather than rank. A spearmaster prayed for his people going to war or in other difficult situations and mediated between quarreling groups. He could function as a leader, but his powers lay in persuasion, not coercion. A spearmaster with a considerable reputation for spiritual power was deferred to on many issues. In rare cases--the most important was that of the Shilluk--one of the ritual offices gained influence over an entire people, and its holder was assigned the attributes of a divine king.

A special religious figure--commonly called a prophet--has arisen among some of the Nilotic peoples from time to time. Such prophets, thought to be possessed by a sky spirit, often had much wider influence than the ritual officeholders, who were confined to specific territorial segments. They gained substantial reputations as healers and used those reputations to rally their people against other ethnic groups and sometimes against the Arabs and the Europeans. The condominium authorities considered prophets subversive even when their message did not apparently oppose authority, and suppressed them.

Another social pattern common to the Nilotes was the age-set system. Traditionally, males were periodically initiated into sets according to age; with the set, they moved through a series of stages, assuming and shedding rights and responsibilities as the group advanced in age. The system was closely linked to warfare and raiding, which diminished during the condominium. In modern times the civil war and famine further undermined the system, and its remnants seemed likely to fade as formal education became more accessible.

Historically, the Dinka have been the most populous Nilotic people, so numerous that social and political patterns varied from one tribal group to another. Among the Dinka, the tribal group was composed of a set of independent tribes that settled in a continuous area. The tribe, which ranged in size from 1,000 to 25,000 persons, traditionally had only two political functions. First, it controlled and defended the dry season pastures of its constituent subtribes; second, if a member of the tribe killed another member, the issue would be resolved peacefully. Homicide committed by someone outside the tribe was avenged, but not by the tribe as a whole. The colonial administration, seeking equitable access to adequate pasturage for all tribes, introduced a different system and thus eliminated one of the tribe's two responsibilities. In postindependence Sudan, the handling of homicide as a crime against the state made the tribe's second function also irrelevant. The utilization and politicization of ethnic groups as units of local government have supported the continuation of tribal structures into the 1990s; however, the tribal chiefs lacked any traditional functions, except as sage advisers to their people in personal and family matters. In the contemporary period, some attempts have been made to transform these ethnic tribal structures in order to produce a national or at least a greater subnational identity. For instance, in the early formation of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), one of the main ideological tenets was the need to produce a new nonnorthern riverine area solidarity based on the mobilization of diverse ethnic groups in deprived areas. Although its success has been limited, to achieve this new sense of solidarity it has attempted to recruit not only southerners, but also the Fur, Funj, Nuba, and Beja communities.

The subtribes were the largest significant political segments, and they were converted into subchiefdoms by the colonial government. Although the subchiefs were stripped of most of their administrative authority during the Nimeiri regime (1969-85) and replaced by loyal members of the Sudan Socialist Union, the advice of subchiefs was sought on local matters. Thus, a three-tiered system was created: the traditional authorities, the Sudanese civil service, and the political bureaucrats from Khartoum. During the 1980s, this confused system of administration dissolved into virtual anarchy as a result of the replacement of one regime by another, civil war, and famine. In the south, however, the SPLM created new local administrative structures in areas under its control. In general, thus, although severely damaged, the traditional structure of Nilotic society remained relatively unchanged. Loyalties to one's rural ethnic community were deeply rooted and were not forgotten even by those who fled for refuge to northern urban centers.

Urban and National Elites

In this regionally and ethnically differentiated country, peoples and communities have been identified as Sudanese only by virtue of orientation to and control by a common government. They seemed not to share significant elements of a common value system, and economic ties among them were tenuous. If a national society and elites were emerging, it was in the Three Towns constituting the national capital area. It was in Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman that the national politicians, highlevel bureaucrats, senior military, educated professionals, and wealthy merchants and entrepreneurs lived, worked, and socialized. Even those who had residences elsewhere maintained second homes in Omdurman.

These elites had long recognized the usefulness of maintaining a presence in the capital area, invariably living in Omdurman, a much more Arab city than Khartoum. The other, truly urban elites also tended to live in Omdurman, but the concentration of northern Sudan's varied elites in one city did not necessarily engender a common social life. As in many Arab and African cities, much of Omdurman's population lived in separate if not wholly isolated quarters.

Two components of the elite structure were not dominantly urban, however, although they were represented in the cities. These were the heads of important religious groups, whose constituencies and sources of power and wealth were largely rural, and what may be termed tribal elites, who carried some weight on the national level by virtue of their representing regional or sectional interests.

To the extent that the elites were Muslim and Arab--most were both--they shared a religion and language, but they were otherwise marked by differences in interest and outlook. Even more divergent were the southerners. Most elite southerners were non-Muslims, few spoke Arabic fluently, and they were regarded - and saw themselves, not primarily as a professional or bureaucratic elite, but as a regional one. Many were said to prefer a career in the south to a post in Khartoum. These southern elites exercised political power directly or gave significant support to those who did. But so diverse and sometimes conflicting were their interests and outlooks that they did not constitute a cohesive class.

Changing Sudanese society had not developed a consensus on what kinds of work, talents, possessions, and background were more worthy than others and therefore conferred higher status. There had long been merchants, entrepreneurs, and religious leaders in Sudan. The latter had a special status, but wealth and the influence and power it generated had come to carry greater status in the Sudan of 1991 than did religious position. The educated secular elite was a newer phenomenon, and some deference was given its members by other elites. In the Muslim north, the educated ranged from devotees of Islamic activism to Islamic reformers and a few avowed secularists. Despite the respect generally given the educated, those at either extreme were likely to make members of other elites uncomfortable.

The younger, larger generation of the educated elite were not all offspring of the older, smaller educated elite. Many were sons (and sometimes daughters) of businessmen, wealthy landowners, and the tribal elite. It had not been established where the interests of first-generation educated persons lay, whether with a growing educated elite or with their families of very different backgrounds. A peculiar feature of the educated Sudanese was the fact that large numbers lived outside Sudan for years at a time, working in Middle Eastern oil-producing states, Europe, or North America. Some of their earnings came back to Sudan, but it was not clear that they had much to do with the formation or characteristics of a specifically Sudanese elite.

Tribal and ethnic elites carried weight in specific localities and might be significant if the states were to achieve substantial autonomy; however, their importance on the national scene was questionable.

Socializing and intermarriage among members of the different elites would have been significant in establishing a cohesive upper class. But that had not happened yet, and movement in that direction had suffered a severe blow when the government of Colonel Umar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir that came to power on June 30, 1989 imprisoned and executed leaders of the elite. Until the Bashir government displaced it in favor of Islamists, the elite regarded itself as the arbiter of social acceptance into the company of those riverine Arab families who had long lived in the Omdurman-Khartoum area, had substantial income from landholding, and had participated in the higher reaches of government during the condominium or engaged in the professions of medicine, law, and the university. Men from these families were well educated. Few engaged in business, which tended to be in the hands of families of at least partial Egyptian ancestry.

Beginning in the late 1960s, northern Muslims of non-Egyptian background began to acquire substantial wealth as businessmen, often as importers and exporters. By the early 1980s, perhaps twenty of them were millionaires. These men had been relatively young when they began their entrepreneurial activity, and unlike members of the older elite families, they were not well educated. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, many of these businessmen had started sending their children to Britain or the United States for their education. Reflecting trends in other societies, whereas the sons of the older elite had been educated mainly for government careers, by the 1980s business education was increasingly emphasized. In contrast to the more secular elites in the professions, the civil service, and the military, however, many members of these newer economic elites gravitated toward religion and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Typically, the older elite intermarried and excluded those whose backgrounds they did not know, even if the families were wealthy and successful in business, religion, or education. Gradually, after independence, Arabic speakers of other sedentary families acquired higher education, entered the bureaucracy or founded lucrative businesses, and began to participate to a limited degree in the social circle of the older families. The emphasis on "good family" persisted, however, in most marriages. Sedentary Arabs were acceptable, as were some persons of an older mixture of Arab and Nile Nubian ancestry, for example, the people around Dunqulah. But southern and western Sudanese--even if Muslims--and members of nomadic groups (particularly the darker Baqqara Arabs) were not. A southern Sudanese man might be esteemed for his achievements and other qualities, but he was not considered an eligible husband for a woman of a sedentary Arab family. There were some exceptions, as there had been decades ago, but they were generally perceived as such.

Women and the Family

In Sudan, the extended family provided social services. Traditionally, the family was responsible for the old, the sick, and the mentally ill, although many of these responsibilities had been eroded by urbanization. Whether in rural or urban society, however, the burden of these social services fell upon the women.

Except for a small number of liberated, educated young women from families of the elite, girls remained within the household and were segregated at all festivities, eating after the men. This was particularly the case with Muslim households. Men entertained in their own quarters, and males of an extended family ate together. In a small family, the husband ate alone or, more frequently, took his bowl to join his male neighbors.

A young university couple might live much as in the West, in a house without relatives, and might live, eat, and entertain together. Nevertheless, traditional patterns were deeply rooted, and the husband would often be away visiting his male friends in the market and cafés. At home a servant helped with the children. Although the educated young married or unmarried woman had greater mobility because of her job, she was not exempt from the traditional restrictions and the supremacy of the Muslim husband. She was aware that her education and job were not a license to trespass upon male-dominated social norms.

In some respects, the uneducated woman had greater freedom so long as it was with her peers; but even among well-to-do families, a young woman was restricted to her household and female friends until transferred to similar seclusion in the house of her husband. Paradoxically, this segregation could create a spirit of independence, particularly among educated women, for there were a host of aunts, cousins, and grandmothers to look after the children and allow the mothers to work outside the home. Nevertheless, social traditions governed the way of life of Sudanese women. The segregation and subordination of women in Sudanese society should not obscure the fact that women dominated the household just as their men commanded public life. The home and the rearing of children were their domains--so long as they upheld male-oriented social norms.

Two traditional customs among Sudanese women had an enormous impact upon their private and social relationships--the zar cult and female "circumcision." Zar was the name given to the ceremony conducted only by women practitioners required to pacify evil spirits and to cleanse women of afflictions caused by demons or jinn. Zar cults were numerous throughout Muslim Africa. Illnesses, including depression, infertility, and other organic and psychological disorders, were attributed to possession by hostile spirits. Although zar ceremonies varied widely, they not only freed the one possessed but were great social occasions where women could communicate together as men did within male circles.

Female circumcision, or infibulation (excising the external genitalia and sewing the vagina shut) was widely practiced throughout Muslim Africa, and especially among Sudan's northern Arab population. Enormous pressure was put on the twelve-year-old or younger girl, as well as older women and their families, to observe these ceremonies and practices.

The issue of female circumcision was controversial, however, because of the physical and psychological problems they caused women. Midwives performed the operations, which often led to shock, hemorrhage, and septicemia. They created innumerable obstetrical problems before and after childbirth and throughout life. Despite international conferences, legislation, and efforts to eradicate these practices, however, in the early 1990s they appeared to be on the increase, not only in Sudan but in Africa, generally. At the same time, the adoption of Western medicine by growing educated classes was increasingly promoting awareness of the harmful effects of infibulation on women; the spread of Islam, however, inhibited the eradication of this practice.

In southern Sudan, the role of women differed dramatically from that in the north. Although women were subordinate to men, they enjoyed much greater freedom within southern Sudan's societies. Female circumcision was not practiced and no zar cult existed, although the spirits were regularly consulted about private and public affairs through practitioners. Women had greater freedom of movement, and indeed participated to a limited degree in the councils of lineage. Husbands consulted their wives on matters pertaining to public affairs. Many women also played important roles in the mediation of disputes


Somewhat more than half Sudan's population was Muslim in the early 1990s. Most Muslims, perhaps 90 percent, lived in the north, where they constituted 75 percent or more of the population. Data on Christians was less reliable; estimates ranged from 4 to 10 percent of the population. At least one-third of the Sudanese were still attached to the indigenous religions of their forebears. Most Christian Sudanese and adherents of local religious systems lived in southern Sudan. Islam had made inroads into the south, but more through the need to know Arabic than a profound belief in the tenets of the Quran. The SPLM, which in 1991 controlled most of southern Sudan, opposed the imposition of the sharia (Islamic law).

Islam: Tenets and Practice

Sudanese Muslims are adherents of the Sunni branch of Islam, sometimes called orthodox, by far the larger of the two major branches; the other is Shia, which is not represented in Sudan. Sunni Islam in Sudan is not marked by a uniform body of belief and practice, however. Some Muslims opposed aspects of Sunni orthodoxy, and rites having a non-Islamic origin were widespread, being accepted as if they were integral to Islam, or sometimes being recognized as separate. Moreover, Sunni Islam in Sudan (as in much of Africa) has been characterized by the formation of religious orders or brotherhoods, each of which made special demands on its adherents.

Sunni Islam requires of the faithful five fundamental obligations that constitute the five pillars of Islam. The first pillar, the shahada or profession of faith is the affirmation "There is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammad is his prophet." It is the first step in becoming a Muslim and a significant part of prayer. The second obligation is prayer at five specified times of the day. The third enjoins almsgiving. The fourth requires fasting during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan. The fifth requires a pilgrimage to Mecca for those able to perform it, to participate in the special rites that occur during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar.

Most Sudanese Muslims who are born to the faith meet the first requirement. Conformity to the second requirement is more variable. Many males in the cities and larger towns manage to pray five times a day--at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sundown, and evening. Only one of these prayer times occurs during the usual working day of an urban dweller. A cultivator or pastoralist may find it more difficult to meet the requirements. Regular prayer is considered the mark of a true Muslim; it is usually accomplished individually or in small groups. Congregational prayer takes place at the Friday mosque when Muslims (usually men, but occasionally women separately located) gather, not only for the noon prayer, but to hear readings and a sermon by the local imam's . Muslims fast during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, the time during which the first revelations to Muhammad occurred. It is a period during which most Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity during the daylight hours. The well-to-do perform little work during this period, and many businesses close or operate on reduced schedules. Because the months of the lunar calendar revolve through the solar year, Ramadan occurs during various seasons over a period of a decade or so. In the early 1990s, observance appeared to be widespread, especially in urban areas and among sedentary Sudanese Muslims.

Historically, in the Muslim world almsgiving meant both a special tax for the benefit of the poor and voluntary giving to the needy, but its voluntary aspect alone survives. Alms may be given at any time, but there are specific occasions in the Islamic year or in the life of the donor when they are more commonly dispensed. Gifts, whether of money or food, may be made on such occasions as the feasts that end Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca, or in penance for some misdeed. These offerings and others are typically distributed to poor kin and neighbors.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is less costly and arduous for the Sudanese than it is for many Muslims. Nevertheless, it takes time (or money if travel is by air), and the ordinary Sudanese Muslim has generally found it difficult to accomplish, rarely undertaking it before middle age. Some have joined pilgrimage societies into which members pay a small amount monthly and choose one of their number when sufficient funds have accumulated to send someone on the pilgrimage. A returned pilgrim is entitled to use the honorific title hajj or hajjih for a woman.

Another ceremony commonly observed is the great feast Id al Adha (also known as Id al Kabir), representing the sacrifice made during the last days of the pilgrimage. The centerpiece of the day is the slaughter of a sheep, which is distributed to the poor, kin, neighbors, and friends, as well as the immediate family.

Islam imposes a standard of conduct encouraging generosity, fairness, and honesty. Sudanese Arabs, especially those who are wealthy, are expected by their coreligionists to be generous.

In accordance with Islamic law most Sudanese Muslims do not eat pork or shellfish. Conformity to the prohibitions on gambling and alcohol is less widespread. Usury is also forbidden by Islamic law, but Islamic banks have developed other ways of making money available to the public

Sunni Islam insists on observance of the sharia, which governs not only religious activity narrowly conceived but also daily personal and social relationships. In principle, the sharia stems not from legislative enactment or judicial decision but from the Quran and thehadith--the accepted sayings of Muhammad. That principle has given rise to the conventional understanding, advocated by Islamists, that there is no distinction between the religious and the secular in a truly Islamic society. In Sudan (until 1983) modern criminal and civil, including commercial, law generally prevailed. In the north, however, the sharia , was expected to govern what is usually called family and personal law, i.e., matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. In the towns and in some sedentary communities sharia was accepted, but in other sedentary communities and among nomads local custom was likely to prevail--particularly with respect to inheritance 

In September 1983, Nimeiri imposed the sharia throughout the land, eliminating the civil and penal codes by which the country had been governed in the twentieth century. Traditional Islamic punishments were imposed for theft, adultery, homicide, and other crimes. The zealousness with which these punishments were carried out contributed to the fall of Nimeiri. Nevertheless, no successor government, including that of Bashir, has shown inclination to abandon the sharia.

Islam is monotheistic and insists that there can be no intercessors between an individual and God. Nevertheless, Sudanese Islam includes a belief in spirits as sources of illness or other afflictions and in magical ways of dealing with them. The imam's of a mosque is a prayer leader and preacher of sermons. He may also be a teacher and in smaller communities combines both functions. In the latter role, he is called a faqih (pl., fuqaha), although a faqih need not be an imam's . In addition to teaching in the local Quranic school khalwa , the fagih is expected to write texts (from the Quran) or magical verses to be used as amulets and cures. His blessing may be asked at births, marriages, deaths, and other important occasions, and he may participate in wholly non-Islamic harvest rites in some remote places. All of these functions and capacities make the faqih the most important figure in popular Islam. But he is not a priest. His religious authority is based on his putative knowledge of the Quran, the sharia, and techniques for dealing with occult threats to health and well- being. The notion that the words of the Quran will protect against the actions of evil spirits or the evil eye is deeply embedded in popular Islam, and the amulets prepared by the faqih are intended to protect their wearers against these dangers.

In Sudan as in much of African Islam, the cult of the saint is of considerable importance, although some Muslims would reject it. The development of the cult is closely related to the presence of the religious orders; many who came to be considered saints on their deaths were founders or leaders of religious orders who in their lifetimes were thought to have baraka, a state of blessedness implying an indwelling spiritual power inherent in the religious office. Baraka intensifies after death as the deceased becomes a wali (literally friend of God, but in this context translated as saint). The tomb and other places associated with the saintly being become the loci of the person's baraka, and in some views he or she becomes the guardian spirit of the locality. The intercession of the wali is sought on a variety of occasions, particularly by those seeking cures or by barren women desiring children. A saint's annual holy day is the occasion of a local festival that may attract a large gathering.

Better-educated Muslims in Sudan may participate in prayer at a saint's tomb but argue that prayer is directed only to God. Many others, however, see the saint not merely as an intercessor with and an agent of God, but also as a nearly autonomous source of blessing and power, thereby approaching "popular" as opposed to orthodox Islam.

Islamic Movements and Religious Orders

Islam made its deepest and longest lasting impact in Sudan through the activity of the Islamic religious brotherhoods or orders. These orders emerged in the Middle East in the twelfth century in connection with the development of Sufism, a mystical current reacting to the strongly legalistic orientation of orthodox Islam. The orders first came to Sudan in the sixteenth century and became significant in the eighteenth. Sufism seeks for its adherents a closer personal relationship with God through special spiritual disciplines. The exercises (dhikr) include reciting prayers and passages of the Quran and repeating the names, or attributes, of God while performing physical movements according to the formula established by the founder of the particular order. Singing and dancing may be introduced. The outcome of an exercise, which lasts much longer than the usual daily prayer, is often a state of ecstatic abandon.

A mystical or devotional way (sing., tariqa; pl., turuq) is the basis for the formation of particular orders, each of which is also called a tariqa. The specialists in religious law and learning initially looked askance at Sufism and the Sufi orders, but the leaders of Sufi orders in Sudan have won acceptance by acknowledging the significance of the sharia and not claiming that Sufism replaces it.

The principal turuq vary considerably in their practice and internal organization. Some orders are tightly organized in hierarchical fashion; others have allowed their local branches considerable autonomy. There may be as many as a dozen turuq in Sudan. Some are restricted to that country; others are widespread in Africa or the Middle East. Several turuq, for all practical purposes independent, are offshoots of older orders and were established by men who altered in major or minor ways the tariqa of the orders to which they had formerly been attached.

The oldest and most widespread of the turuq is the Qadiriyah founded by Abd al Qadir al Jilani in Baghdad in the twelfth century and introduced into Sudan in the sixteenth. The Qadiriyah's principal rival and the largest tariqa in the western part of the country was the Tijaniyah, a sect begun by Ahmad at Tijani in Morocco, which eventually penetrated Sudan in about 1810 via the western Sahel . Many Tijani became influential in Darfur, and other adherents settled in northern Kurdufan. Later on, a class of Tijani merchants arose as markets grew in towns and trade expanded, making them less concerned with providing religious leadership. Of greater importance to Sudan was the tariqa established by the followers of Sayyid Ahmad ibn Idris, known as Al Fasi, who died in 1837. Although he lived in Arabia and never visited Sudan, his students spread into the Nile Valley establishing indigenous Sudanese orders, the Majdhubiyah, the Idrisiyah, the Ismailiyah, and the Khatmiyyah.

Much different in organization from the other brotherhoods is the Khatmiyyah (or Mirghaniyah after the name of the order's founder). Established in the early nineteenth century by Muhammad Uthman al Mirghani, it became the best organized and most politically oriented and powerful of the turuq in eastern Sudan . Mirghani had been a student of Sayyid Ahmad ibn Idris and had joined several important orders, calling his own order the seal of the paths (Khatim at Turuq--hence Khatmiyyah). The salient features of the Khatmiyyah are the extraordinary status of the Mirghani family, whose members alone may head the order; loyalty to the order, which guarantees paradise; and the centralized control of the order's branches.

The Khatmiyyah had its center in the southern section of Ash Sharqi State and its greatest following in eastern Sudan and in portions of the riverine area. The Mirghani family were able to turn the Khatmiyyah into a political power base, despite its broad geographical distribution, because of the tight control they exercised over their followers. Moreover, gifts from followers over the years have given the family and the order the wealth to organize politically. This power did not equal, however, that of the Mirghanis' principal rival, the Ansar, or followers of the Mahdi, whose present-day leader was Sadiq al Mahdi, the great-grandson of Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, al Mahdi, who drove the Egyptian administration from Sudan in 1885.

Most other orders were either smaller or less well organized than the Khatmiyyah. Moreover, unlike many other African Muslims, Sudanese Muslims did not all seem to feel the need to identify with one or another tariqa, even if the affiliation were nominal. Many Sudanese Muslims preferred more political movements that sought to change Islamic society and governance to conform to their own visions of the true nature of Islam.

One of these movements, Mahdism, was founded in the late nineteenth century. It has been likened to a religious order, but it is not a tariqa in the traditional sense. Mahdism and its adherents, the Ansar, sought the regeneration of Islam, and in general were critical of the turuq. Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah, a faqih, proclaimed himself to be Al Mahdi al Muntazar ("the awaited guide in the right path," usually seen as the Mahdi), the messenger of God and representative of the Prophet Muhammad, not simply a charismatic and learned teacher, an assertion that became an article of faith among the Ansar. He was sent, he said, to prepare the way for the second coming of the Prophet Isa (Jesus) and the impending end of the world. In anticipation of Judgment Day, it was essential that the people return to a simple and rigorous, even puritanical Islam . The idea of the coming of a Mahdi has roots in Sunni Islamic traditions. The issue for Sudanese and other Muslims was whether Muhammad Ahmad was in fact the Mahdi.

In the century since the Mahdist uprising, the neo-Mahdist movement and the Ansar, supporters of Mahdism from the west, have persisted as a political force in Sudan. Many groups, from the Baqqara cattle nomads to the largely sedentary tribes on the White Nile, supported this movement. The Ansar were hierarchically organized under the control of Muhammad Ahmad's successors, who have all been members of the Mahdi family (known as the ashraf). The ambitions and varying political perspectives of different members of the family have led to internal conflicts, and it appeared that Sadiq al Mahdi, putative leader of the Ansar since the early 1970s, did not enjoy the unanimous support of all Mahdists. Mahdist family political goals and ambitions seemed to have taken precedence over the movement's original religious mission. The modern-day Ansar were thus loyal more to the political descendants of the Mahdi than to the religious message of Mahdism.

A movement that spread widely in Sudan in the 1960s, responding to the efforts to secularize Islamic society, was the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimin), founded by Hasan al Banna in Egypt in the 1920s. Originally it was conceived as a religious revivalist movement that sought to return to the fundamentals of Islam in a way that would be compatible with the technological innovations introduced from the West. Disciplined, highly motivated, and well financed, the Muslim Brotherhood, known as the Brotherhood, became a powerful political force during the 1970s and 1980s, although it represented only a small minority of Sudanese. In the government that was formed in June 1989, following a bloodless coup d'état, the Brotherhood exerted influence through its political expression, the National Islamic Front (NIF) party, which included several cabinet members among its adherents


Christianity was most prevalent among the peoples of Al Istiwai State--the Madi, Moru, Azande, and Bari. The major churches in the Sudan were the Roman Catholic and the Anglican. Southern communities might include a few Christians, but the rituals and world view of the area were not in general those of traditional Western Christianity. The few communities that had formed around mission stations had disappeared with the dissolution of the missions in 1964. The indigenous Christian churches in Sudan, with external support, continued their mission, however, and had opened new churches and repaired those destroyed in the continuing civil conflict. Originally, the Nilotic peoples were indifferent to Christianity, but in the latter half of the twentieth century many people in the educated elite embraced its tenets, at least superficially. English and Christianity have become symbols of resistance to the Muslim government in the north, which has vowed to destroy both. Unlike the early civil strife of the 1960s and 1970s, the insurgency in the 1980s and the 1990s has taken on a more religiously confrontational character.

Indigenous Religions

Each indigenous religion is unique to a specific ethnic group or part of a group, although several groups may share elements of belief and ritual because of common ancestry or mutual influence. The group serves as the congregation, and an individual usually belongs to that faith by virtue of membership in the group. Believing and acting in a religious mode is part of daily life and is linked to the social, political, and economic actions and relationships of the group. The beliefs and practices of indigenous religions in Sudan are not systematized, in that the people do not generally attempt to put together in coherent fashion the doctrines they hold and the rituals they practice.

The concept of a high spirit or divinity, usually seen as a creator and sometimes as ultimately responsible for the actions of lesser spirits, is common to most Sudanese groups. Often the higher divinity is remote, and believers treat the other spirits as autonomous, orienting their rituals to these spirits rather than to the high god. Such spirits may be perceived as forces of nature or as manifestations of ancestors. Spirits may intervene in people's lives, either because individuals or groups have transgressed the norms of the society or because they have failed to pay adequate attention to the ritual that should be addressed to the spirits.

The Nilotes generally acknowledge an active supreme deity, who is therefore the object of ritual, but the beliefs and rituals differ from group to group. The Nuer, for example, have no word corresponding solely and exclusively to God. The word sometimes so translated refers not only to the universal governing spirit but also to ancestors and forces of nature whose spirits are considered aspects of God. It is possible to pray to one spirit as distinct from another but not as distinct from God. Often the highest manifestation of spirit, God, is prayed to directly. God is particularly associated with the winds, the sky, and birds, but these are not worshiped. The Dinka attribute any remarkable occurrence to the direct influence of God and will sometimes mark the occasion with an appropriate ritual. Aspects of God (the universal spirit) are distinguished, chief of which is Deng (rain). For the Nuer, the Dinka, and other Nilotes, human beings are as ants to God, whose actions are not to be questioned and who is regarded as the judge of all human behavior.

Cattle play a significant role in Nilotic rituals. Cattle are sacrificed to God as expiatory substitutes for their owners. The function is consistent with the significance of cattle in all aspects of Nilotic life. Among the Nuer, for example, and with some variations among the Dinka, cattle are the foundation of family and community life, essential to subsistence, marriage payments, and personal pride. The cattle shed is a shrine and meeting place, the center of the household; a man of substance, head of a family, and a leading figure in the community is called a "bull." Every man and the spirits themselves have ox names that denote their characteristic qualities. These beliefs and institutions give meaning to the symbolism of the rubbing of ashes on a sacrificial cow's back in order to transfer the burden of the owner's sins to the animal.

The universal god of the Shilluk is more remote than that of the Nuer and Dinka and is addressed through the founder of the Shilluk royal clan. Nyiking, considered both man and god, is not clearly distinguished from the supreme deity in ritual, although the Shilluk may make the distinction in discussing their beliefs. The king (reth) of the Shilluk is regarded as divine, an idea that has never been accepted by the Nuer and Dinka.

All of the Nilotes and other peoples as well pay attention to ancestral spirits, the nature of the cult varying considerably as to the kinds of ancestors who are thought to have power in the lives of their descendants. Sometimes it may be the founding ancestors of the group whose spirits are potent. In many cases it is the recently deceased ancestors who are active and must be placated.

Of the wide range of natural forces thought to be activated by spirits, perhaps the most common is rain. Although southern Sudan does not suffer as acutely as northern Sudan from lack of rain, there has sometimes been a shortage, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s and in 1990; this lack has created hardship, famine, and death amidst the travail of civil war. For this reason, rituals connected with rain have become important in many ethnic groups, and ritual specialists concerned with rain or thought to incarnate the spirit of rain are important figures.

The distinction between the natural and the supernatural that has emerged in the Western world is not relevant to the traditional religions. Spirits may have much greater power than human beings, but their powers are perceived not as altering the way the world commonly works but as explaining occurrences in nature or in the social world.

Some men and women are also thought to have extraordinary powers. How these powers are believed to be acquired and exercised varies from group to group. In general, however, some people are thought to have inherited the capacity to harm others and to have a disposition to do so. Typically they are accused of inflicting illnesses on specific individuals, frequently their neighbors or kin. In some groups, it is thought that men and women who have no inherent power to harm may nevertheless do damage to others by manipulating images of the victim or items closely associated with that person.

Occasionally an individual may be thought of as a sorcerer. When illness or some other affliction strikes in a form that is generally attributed to a sorcerer, there are ways (typically some form of divination) of confirming that witchcraft was used and identifying the sorcerer.

The notions of sorcery are not limited to the southern Sudanese, but are to be found in varying forms among peoples, including nomadic and other Arabs, who consider themselves Muslims. A specific belief widespread among Arabs and other Muslim peoples is the notion of the evil eye. Although a physiological peculiarity of the eye (walleye or cross-eye) may be considered indicative of the evil eye, any persons expressing undue interest in the private concerns of another may be suspected of inflicting deliberate harm by a glance. Unlike most witchcraft, where the perpetrator is known by and often close to the victim, the evil eye is usually attributed to strangers. Children are thought to be the most vulnerable.

Ways exist to protect oneself against sorcery or the evil eye. Many magico-religious specialists--diviners and sorcerers-- deal with these matters in Sudanese societies. The diviner is able to determine whether witchcraft or sorcery is responsible for the affliction and to discover the source. He also protects and cures by providing amulets and other protective devices for a fee or by helping a victim punish (in occult fashion) the sorcerer in order to be cured of the affliction. If it is thought that an evil spirit has possessed a person, an exorcist may be called in. In some groups these tasks may be accomplished by the same person; in others the degree of specialization may be greater. In northern Sudan among Muslim peoples, the faqih may spend more of his time as diviner, dispenser of amulets, healer, and exorcist than as Quranic teacher, imam's of a mosque, or mystic


The public and private education systems inherited by the government after independence were designed more to provide civil servants and professionals to serve the colonial administration than to educate the Sudanese. Moreover, the distribution of facilities, staff, and enrollment was biased in favor of the needs of the administration and a Western curriculum. Schools tended to be clustered in the vicinity of Khartoum and to a lesser extent in other urban areas, although the population was predominantly rural. This concentration was found at all levels but was most marked for those in situations beyond the four-year primary schools where instruction was in the vernacular. The north suffered from shortages of teachers and buildings, but education in the south was even more inadequate. During the condominium, education in the south was left largely to the mission schools, where the level of instruction proved so poor that as early as the mid-1930s the government imposed provincial education supervisors upon the missionaries in return for the government subsidies that they sorely needed. The civil war and the ejection of all foreign missionaries in February 1964 further diminished education opportunities for southern Sudanese.

Since World War II the demand for education had exceeded Sudan's education resources. At independence in 1956, education accounted for only 15.5 percent of the Sudanese budget, or £Sd45 million Sudanese pound, to support 1,778 primary schools (enrollment 208,688), 108 intermediate schools (enrollment 14,632), and 49 government secondary schools (enrollment 5,423). Higher education was limited to the University ofditures on the postprimary level limited expenditures on the primary level, leaving most Sudanese children with an inadequate education. In the early 1990s this situation had not significantly changed.

In the mid-1970s, there were four universities, eleven colleges, and twenty-three institutes in Sudan. The universities were in the capital area, and all of the institutions of higher learning were in the northern provinces. Colleges were specialized degree-granting institutions. Institutes granted diplomas and certificates for periods of specialized study shorter than those commonly demanded at universities and colleges. These postsecondary institutions and universities had provided Sudan with a substantial number of well-educated persons in some fields but left it short of technical personnel and specialists in sciences relevant to the country's largely rural character.

By 1980 two new universities had opened, one in Al Awsat Province at Wad Madani, the other in Juba in Al Istiwai Province, and in 1981 there was talk of opening a university in Darfur, which was nearly as deprived of educational facilities as the south. By 1990 some institutes had been upgraded to colleges, and many had become part of an autonomous body called the Khartoum Institute of Technical Colleges (also referred to as Khartoum Polytechnic). Some of its affiliates were outside the capital area, for example, the College of Mechanical Engineering at Atbarah, northeast of Khartoum, and Al Jazirah College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Abu Naamah in Al Awsat.

The oldest university was the University of Khartoum, which was established as a university in 1956. In 1990 it enrolled about 12,000 students in degree programs ranging from four to six years in length. Larger but less prestigious was the Khartoum branch of the University of Cairo with 13,000 students. The size of the latter and perhaps its lack of prestige reflected the fact that many if not most of its students worked to support themselves and attended classes in the afternoon and at night, although some day classes were introduced in 1980. Tuition only at the Khartoum branch was free, whereas all costs at the fully residential University of Khartoum were paid for by the government. At the Institute of Higher Technical Studies, which had 4,000 students in 1990, tuition was free, and a monthly grant helped to defray but did not fully cover other expenses. The smallest of the universities in the capital area was the specialized Islamic University of Omdurman, which existed chiefly to train Muslim religious judges and scholars.

The University of Juba, established in 1977, graduated its first class in 1981. It was intended to provide education for development and for the civil service for southern Sudan, although it was open to students from the whole country. In its first years, it enrolled a substantial number of civil servants from the south for further training, clearly needed in an area where many in the civil service had little educational opportunity in their youth. After the outbreak of hostilities in the south in 1983, the university was moved to Khartoum, a move that had severely curtailed its instructional programs, but the university continued to operate again in Juba in the late 1980s. Al Jazirah College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was also intended to serve the country as a whole, but its focus was consistent with its location in the most significant agricultural area in Sudan.

Of particular interest was the dynamic growth and expansion of Omdurman Ahlia University. It was established by academics, professionals, and businesspeople in 1982 upon the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Omdurman and was intended to meet the ever-growing demand for higher education and training. The university was to be nongovernmental, job oriented, and self-supporting. Support came mainly from private donations, foreign foundations, and the government, which approved the allotment of thirty acres of prime land on the western outskirts of Omdurman for the campus. Its curriculum, taught in English and oriented to job training pertinent to the needs of Sudan, had attracted more than 1,800 students by 1990. Its emphasis on training in administration, environmental studies, physics and mathematics, and library science had proven popular.

Girls' Education

Traditionally, girls' education was of the most rudimentary kind, frequently provided by a khalwa, or religious school, in which Quranic studies were taught. Such basic schools did not prepare girls for the secular learning mainstream, from which they were virtually excluded. Largely through the pioneering work of Shaykh Babikr Badri, the government had provided five elementary schools for girls by 1920. Expansion was slow, however, given the bias for boys and the conservatism of Sudanese society, with education remaining restricted to the elementary level until 1940. It was only in 1940 that the first intermediate school for girls, the Omdurman Girls' Intermediate School, opened. By 1955, ten intermediate schools for girls were in existence. In 1956, the Omdurman Secondary School for Girls, with about 265 students, was the only girls' secondary school operated by the government. By 1960, 245 elementary schools for girls had been established, but only 25 junior secondary or general schools and 2 upper-secondary schools. There were no vocational schools for girls, only a Nurses' Training College with but eleven students, nursing not being regarded by many Sudanese as a respectable vocation for women. During the 1960s and 1970s, girls' education made considerable gains under the education reforms that provided 1,086 primary schools, 268 intermediate schools, and 52 vocational schools for girls by 1970, when girls' education claimed approximately one-third of the total school resources available. Although by the early 1990s the numbers had increased in the north but not in the war-torn south, the ratio had remained approximately the same.

This slow development of girls' education was the product of the country's tradition. Parents of Sudanese girls tended to look upon girls' schools with suspicion if not fear that they would corrupt the morals of their daughters. Moreover, preference was given to sons, who by education could advance themselves in society to the pride and profit of the family. This girls could not do; their value was enhanced not at school but at home, in preparation for marriage and the dowry that accompanied the ceremony. The girl was a valuable asset in the home until marriage, either in the kitchen or in the fields. Finally, the lack of schools has discouraged even those who desired elementary education for their daughters.

This rather dismal situation should not obscure the successful efforts of schools such as the Ahfad University College in Omdurman, founded by Babikr Badri as an elementary school for girls in the 1920s. By 1990 it had evolved as the premier women's university college in Sudan with an enrollment of 1,800. It had a mixture of academic and practical programs, such as those that educated women to teach in rural areas.

Education Reform

The revolutionary government of General Bashir announced sweeping reforms in Sudanese education in September 1990. In consultation with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic teachers and administrators, who were the strongest supporters of his regime, Bashir proclaimed a new philosophy of education. He allocated £Sd400 million for the academic year 1990-91 to carry out these reforms and promised to double the sum if the current education system could be changed to meet the needs of Sudan.

The new education philosophy was to provide a frame of reference for the reforms. Education was to be based on the permanence of human nature, religious values, and physical nature. This could only be accomplished by a Muslim curriculum, which in all schools, colleges, and universities would consist of two parts: an obligatory and an optional course of study. The obligatory course to be studied by every student was to be based on revealed knowledge concerning all disciplines. All the essential elements of the obligatory course would be drawn from the Quran and the recognized books of the hadith. The optional course of study would permit the student to select certain specializations according to

Khartoum, except for less than 1,000 students sent abroad by wealthy parents or on government scholarships. The adult literacy rate in 1956 was 22.9 percent, and, despite the efforts of successive governments, by 1990 it had risen only to about 30 percent in the face of a rapidly expanding population.

The philosophy and curriculum beyond primary school followed the British educational tradition. Although all students learned Arabic and English in secondary and intermediate schools, the language of instruction at the University of Khartoum was English. Moreover, the increasing demand for intermediate, secondary, and higher education could not be met by Sudanese teachers alone, at least not by the better educated ones graduated from the elite teacher-training college at Bakht ar Ruda. As a result, education in Sudan continued to depend upon expensive foreign teachers.

When the Nimeiri-led government took power in 1969, it considered the education system inadequate for the needs of social and economic development. Accordingly, an extensive reorganization was proposed, which would eventually make the new six-year elementary education program compulsory and would pay much more attention to technical and vocational education at all levels. Previously, primary and intermediate schools had been preludes to secondary training, and secondary schools prepared students for the university. The system produced some well- trained university graduates, but little was done to prepare for technical work or skilled labor the great bulk of students who did not go as far as the university or even secondary school.

By the late 1970s, the government's education system had been largely reorganized. There were some preprimary schools, mainly in urban areas. The basic system consisted of a six-year curriculum in primary schools and three-year curriculum in junior secondary schools. From that point, qualified students could go on to one of three kinds of schools: the three-year upper secondary, which prepared students for higher education; commercial and agricultural technical schools; and teacher- training secondary schools designed to prepare primary-school teachers. The latter two institutions offered four-year programs. Postsecondary schools included universities, higher technical schools, intermediate teacher-training schools for junior secondary teachers, and higher teacher-training schools for upper-secondary teachers .

Of the more than 5,400 primary schools in 1980, less than 14 percent were located in southern Sudan, which had between 20 and 33 percent of the country's population. Many of these southern schools were established during the Southern Regional administration (1972-81). The renewal of the civil war in mid- 1983 destroyed many schools, although the SPLA operated schools in areas under its control. Nevertheless, many teachers and students were among the refugees fleeing the ravages of war in the south.

In the early 1980s, the number of junior (also called general) secondary schools was a little more than one-fifth the number of primary schools, a proportion roughly consistent with that of general secondary to primary-school population (260,000 to 1,334,000). About 6.5 percent of all general secondary schools were in the south until 1983.

There were only 190 upper-secondary schools in the public system in 1980, but it was at this level that private schools of varying quality proliferated, particularly in the three cities of the capital area. Elite schools could recruit students who had selected them as a first choice, but the others took students whose examination results at the end of junior secondary school did not gain them entry to the government's upper secondary schools.

In 1980, despite the emphasis on technical education proposed by the government and encouraged by various international advisory bodies, there were only thirty-five technical schools in Sudan, less than one-fifth the number of academic upper secondary schools. In 1976-77 eight times as many students entered the academic stream as entered the technical schools, creating a profound imbalance in the marketplace. Moreover, prospective employers often found technical school graduates inadequately trained, a consequence of sometimes irrelevant curricula, low teacher morale, and lack of equipment. Performance may also have suffered because of the low morale of students, many of whom tended to see this kind of schooling as second choice at best, a not surprising view given the system's past emphasis on academic training, and the low status of manual labor, at least among much of the Arab population. The technical schools were meant to include institutions for training skilled workers in agriculture, but few of the schools were directed to that end, most of them turning out workers more useful in the urban areas.

The hope for universal and compulsory education had not been realized by the early 1980s, but as a goal it led to a more equitable distribution of facilities and teachers in rural areas and in the south. During the 1980s, the government established more schools at all levels and with them, more teacher-training schools, although these were never sufficient to provide adequate staff. But the process was inherently slow and was made slower by limited funds and by the inadequate compensation for staff; teachers who could find a market for their skills elsewhere, including places outside Sudan, did not remain teachers within the Sudanese system.

The proliferation of upper-level technical schools has not dealt with what most experts saw as Sudan's basic education problem: providing a primary education to as many Sudanese children as possible. Establishing more primary schools was, in this view, more important that achieving equity in the distribution of secondary schools. Even more important was the development of a primary-school curriculum that was geared to Sudanese experience and took into account that most of those who completed six years of schooling did not go further. The realistic assumption was that Sudan's resources were limited and that expen

individual aptitudes and inclinations. Whether the government could carry out such sweeping reforms throughout the country in the face of opposition from within the Sudanese education establishment and the dearth of resources for implementing such an ambitious project remained to be seen. Membership in the Popular Defence Forces, a paramilitary body allied to the National Islamic Front, became a requirement for university admission. By early 1991, Bashir had decreed that the number of university students be doubled and that Arabic replace English as the language of instruction in universities. He dismissed about seventy faculty members at the University of Khartoum who opposed his reforms.


The high incidence of debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases that persisted in the 1980s and had increased dramatically by 1991 reflected difficult ecological conditions and inadequate diets. The diseases resulting from these conditions were hard to control without substantial capital inputs, a much more adequate health care system, and the education of the population in preventive medicine.

By 1991 health care in Sudan had all but disintegrated. The civil war in southern Sudan destroyed virtually all southern medical facilities except those that the SPLA had rebuilt to treat their own wounded and the hospitals in the three major towns controlled by government forces--Malakal, Waw, and Juba. These facilities were virtually inoperable because of the dearth of the most basic medical supplies. A similar situation existed in northern Sudan, where health care facilities, although not destroyed by war, had been rendered almost impotent by the economic situation. Sudan lacked the hard currency to buy the most elementary drugs, such as antimalarials and antibiotics, and the most basic equipment, such as syringes. Private medical care in the principal towns continued to function but was also hampered by the dearth of pharmaceuticals. In addition, harassed the Bashir government, the private sector particularly the Sudan Medical Association, which was dissolved and many of its members were jailed. Compounding the rapid decline in health care have been the years of famine during most of the 1980s, culminating in the great famine of 1991, which was caused by drought and widespread crop failures in Bahr al Ghazal State and in Darfur and Kurdufan. The famine was so widespread that, according to various estimates, 1.5 million to 7 million Sudanese would perish.

Widespread malnutrition also made the people more vulnerable to the many debilitating and fatal diseases present in Sudan. The most common illnesses were malaria, prevalent throughout the country; various forms of dysentery or other intestinal diseases, also widely prevalent; and tuberculosis, more common in the north but also found in the south. More restricted geographically but affecting substantial portions of the population in the areas of occurrence were schistosomiasis (snail fever), found in the White Nile and Blue Nile areas and in irrigated zones between the two Niles, and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), originally limited to the southern borderlands but spreading rapidly in the 1980s in the forested regions of southern Sudan. It was estimated that by 1991 nearly 250,000 persons had been affected by sleeping sickness. Not uncommon were such diseases as cerebrospinal meningitis, measles, whooping cough, infectious hepatitis, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

Even in years of normal rainfall, many Sudanese in the rural areas suffered from temporary undernourishment on a seasonal basis, a situation that worsened when drought, locusts, or other disasters struck crops or animals. More dangerous was malnutrition among children, defined as present when a child's body weight was less than 80 percent of the expected body weight for the age. The weight criterion in effect stood for a complex of nutritional deficiencies that might lead directly to death or make the child susceptible to diseases from which he or she could not recover. A Sudanese government agency estimated that half the population under fifteen--roughly one-fourth of the total population--suffered from malnutrition in the early 1980s. This figure increased substantially during the famine of 1991.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was present in Sudan, primarily in the southern states bordering Uganda and Zaire, where the disease had reached epidemic proportions. There had been a steady increase in AIDS in Khartoum, because of the hundreds of thousands of people emigrating to the capital to escape the civil war and famine. The use of unsterile syringes and untested blood by health care providers clearly contributed to its spread. In spite of the increase in the spread of AIDS, the Sudanese government in 1991 lacked a coherent national AIDS control policy.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the government undertook programs to deal with specific diseases in limited areas, with help from the World Health Organization and other sources. It also initiated more general approaches to the problems of health maintenance in rural areas, particularly in the south. These efforts began against a background of inadequate and unequal distribution of medical personnel and facilities, and events of the late 1980s and early 1990s caused an almost complete breakdown in health care. In 1982 there were nearly 2,200 physicians in Sudan, or roughly one for each 8,870 persons. Most physicians were concentrated in urban areas in the north, as were the major hospitals, including those specializing in the treatment of tuberculosis, eye disorders, and mental illness. In 1981 there were 60 physicians in the south for a population of roughly 5 million or 1 for approximately 83,000 persons. In 1976 there were 2,500 medical assistants, the crucial participants in a system that could not assume the availability of an adequate number of physicians in the foreseeable future. After three years of training and three to four years of supervised hospital experience, medical assistants were expected to be able to diagnose common endemic diseases and to provide simple treatments and vaccinations. There were roughly 12,800 nurses in 1982 and about 7,000 midwives, trained and working chiefly in the north.

In principle, medical consultation and therapeutic drugs were free. There were, however, private clinics and pharmacies, and they were said to be growing in number in the capital area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The ever worsening shortage of medical personnel and of pharmacenticals had, however, limited the effectiveness of free treatment. In urban areas, physicians and medical assistants could be seen only after a long wait at the hospitals or clinics at which they served. In rural areas, extended travel as well as long waits were common. In urban and rural areas, the drugs prescribed were often not obtainable from hospital pharmacies. In the Khartoum area, they could be obtained at considerable cost from private pharmacies. In addition to the problems of cost, however, were those posed by difficulties of transportation and inadequate storage facilities. In the south, especially during the rainy season, the roads were often impassable. There and elsewhere, the refrigeration necessary for many pharmaceuticals was not available. All of these difficulties were compounded by inadequacies of stock rotation and inspection. Members of the country's elite overcame these problems by taking advantage of medical treatment abroad.

In the mid-1970s, the Ministry of Health began a national program to provide primary health care with emphasis on preventive medicine. The south was expected to be the initial beneficiary of the program, given the dearth of health personnel and facilities there, but other areas were not to be ignored. The basic component in the system was the primary health care center staffed by community health workers and expected to serve about 4,000 persons. Community health care workers received six months of formal training followed by three months of practical work at an existing center, after which they were assigned to a new center. Refresher courses were also planned. The workers were to provide health care information and certain medicines and would refer cases they could not deal with to dispensaries and hospitals. In principle, there would be one dispensary for every 24,000 persons. Of the forty primary health care centers and dispensaries to be completed by 1984, about half were in place by 1981. In addition, local (district) hospitals were to be improved. The program in the south was supported by the Federal Republic of Germany ( West Germany), which also provided medical advisers. In 1981 the program was most advanced in eastern Al Istiwai Province, but it was too early to assess the effects on the health of the people, and the program had virtually disappeared by 1991.

Two local programs for the control of endemic disease were also undertaken in the late 1970s and early 1980s. One was in the area of the Gezira Scheme, where it was estimated that 50 to 70 percent of the people suffered from schistosomiasis, a health problem aggravated by the presence of malaria and dysentery. The Blue Nile Health Care Project, a ten-year program inaugurated in early 1980, was intended to deal with all of these waterborne diseases simultaneously. Because people bathed in and drank the water in the irrigation canals, which were contaminated by human waste, a major change in their habits was required, as well as the provision of healthful drinking water and sanitary facilities that did not drain into the canals. Diarrheal diseases were to be treated with rehydration salts that should diminish considerably the very high rate of infant deaths. As of the 1991, the persistent civil war and the collapse of the Sudanese economy made the inauguration of these projects doubtful. Other programs to provide relief to disease and famine victims in Sudan were organized by foreign aid agencies' such as the World Food Program, the Save the Children Fund, Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, and the French medical group, Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

Extensively detailed and systematic analyses of contemporary Sudanese society or any large segment of it were not available as of 1991. Nevertheless, many monographs have been written on specific Sudanese subjects ranging from anthropology to zoology. The Bashir government's systematic purge of the civil service, the professional associations, the academic community, and the trade unions disrupted and curtailed the flow of statistics and information from ministries and other government and nongovernmental organizations. Such research material has also been impeded by the civil war in southern Sudan and the recurring famines.

To understand the physical and geographical nature of Sudan, K.M. Barbour's The Republic of the Sudan: A Regional Geography remains the standard work, supplemented by J.M.G. Lebon's Land Use in the Sudan. Because the Nile flows are crucial to Sudan, they have been extensively studied, producing a voluminous literature. Information on this subject is synthesized in two works: John Waterbury, Hydropolitics and the Nile Valley and Robert O. Collins, The Waters of the Nile: Hydropolitics and the Jonglei Canal, 1900-1988.

Interpretations of the population situation by several authors are found in Population of the Sudan: A Joint Project on Mapping and Analyzing the 1983 Census Data and in articles in the Sudan Journal of Population Studies.

Most ethnic studies are monographs that describe a particular ethnic group. Those include Edward E. Evans-Pritchard's The Nuer and Francis Mading Deng's The Dinka of the Sudan. For a more recent and sensitive treatment of ethnicity in Sudan, see articles in The Middle East Journal, autumn 1990; the perceptive novel by Francis Mading Deng, Cry of the Owl; or Abel Alier's Southern Sudan: Too Many Agreements Dishonoured.

Anne Cloudsley's Women of Omdurman: Life, Love, and the Cult of Virginity, Asma El Dareer's Woman, Why Do You Weep? Circumcision and Its Consequences, and Hanny Lightfoot Klein's Prisoners of Ritual: An Odyssey into Female Genital Circumcision in Africa, are perhaps the three most informative studies of women's role in Sudan.

Although it is somewhat outdated (he does not discuss the Muslim Brotherhood, which only appeared in Sudan in the 1950s), J. Spencer Trimingham's Islam in the Sudan remains the best reference on orthodox Islam and the Sufi brotherhoods. Anthropologist Godfrey Lienhardt's Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka explores the importance of religion among the largest ethnic group in Sudan.

The history of education in southern Sudan is covered in Lilian Passmore Sanderson and Neville Sanderson's Education, Religion, and Politics in Southern Sudan, 1899-1964. To assess the contemporary reordering of the education system, one should examine M. Abdalghaffar Othman's Current Philosophies, Patterns, and Issues in Higher Education.

The two standard historical studies of the Sudan Medical Service are Ahmed Bayoumi's The History of Sudan Health Services and Herbert Chavasse Squire's The Sudan Medical Service.

Chapter 3. The Economy

THE ECONOMY OF SUDAN continued to be in disarray in mid-1991. The principal causes of the disorder have been the violent, costly civil war, an inept government, an influx of refugees from neighboring countries, as well as internal migration, and a decade of below normal annual rainfall with the concomitant failure of staple food and cash crops.

The economic and political upheavals that characterized Sudan in the 1980s have made statistical material either difficult to obtain or unreliable. Prices and wages in the marketplace fluctuated constantly, as did the government's revenue. Consequently, information concerning Sudan's economy tends to be more historical than current.

In the 1970s, economic growth had been stimulated by a large influx of capital from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, invested with the expectation that Sudan would become "the breadbasket" of the Arab world, and by large increments of foreign aid from the United States and the European Community (EC). Predictions of continuing economic growth were sustained by loans from the World Bank and generous contributions from such disparate countries as Norway, Yugoslavia, and China. Sudan's greatest economic resource was its agriculture, to be developed in the vast arable land that either received sufficient rainfall or could be irrigated from the Nile. By 1991 Sudan had not yet claimed its full water share (18.5 billion cubic meters) under the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement between Egypt and Sudan.

Sudan's economic future in the 1970s was also energized by the Chevron Overseas Petroleum Corporation's discovery of oil on the borderlands between the provinces of Kurdufan and Bahr al Ghazal. Concurrently, the most thoroughly researched hydrological project in the Third World, the Jonglei Canal (also seen as Junqali Canal), was proceeding ahead of schedule, planned not only to provide water for northern Sudan and Egypt, but also to improve the life of the Nilotic people of the canal zone. New, large agricultural projects had been undertaken in sugar at Kinanah and cotton at Rahad. Particularly in southern Sudan, where the Addis Ababa accords of March 27, 1972, had seemingly ended the insurgency, a sense of optimism and prosperity prevailed, dashed, however, when the civil war resumed in 1983. The Khartoum government controlled these development projects, but entrepreneurs could make fortunes through the intricate network of kinship and political relations that has traditionally driven Sudan's social and economic machinery.

In the early 1970s, public enterprises dominated the modern sector, including much of agriculture and most of large-scale industry, transport, electric power, banking, and insurance. This situation resulted from the private sector's inability to finance major development and from an initial government policy after the 1969 military coup to nationalize the financial sector and part of existing industry. Private economic activities were relegated to modern small- and medium-scale industry. The private sector dominated road transport and domestic commerce and virtually controlled traditional agriculture and handicrafts.

In the 1980s, however, Sudan underwent severe political and economic upheavals that have shaken its traditional institutions and its economy. The civil war in the south resumed in 1983, at a cost of more than £Sd11 million per day (for value of the Sudanese pound--). The main participant in the war against government was the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA, the armed wing of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)), under John Garang's leadership. The SPLA made steady gains against the Sudanese army until by 1991 it controlled nearly one-third of the country.

The dearth of rainfall in the usually productive regions of Sahel  and southern Sudan added to the country's economic problems. Refugees, both Sudanese and foreigners from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Chad, further strained the Sudanese budget. International humanitarian agencies have rallied to Sudan's aid, but the government rejected their help.

When Jaafar an Nimeiri was overthrown in April 1985, his political party disappeared, as did his elaborate security apparatus. The military transitional government and the democratically elected coalition government of Sadiq al Mahdi that succeeded the exiled Nimeiri failed to address the country's economic problems. Production continued to decline as a result of mismanagement and natural disasters. The national debt grew at an alarming rate because Sudan's resources were insufficient to service it. Not only did the SPLA shut down Chevron's prospecting and oil production, but it also stopped work on the Jonglei Canal.

On June 30, 1989, a military coup d'état led by Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Umar al Bashir overthrew the government of Sadiq al Mahdi. Ideologically tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and dependent for political support on the Brotherhood's party, the National Islamic Front, the Bashir regime has methodically purged those agencies that dealt primarily with the economy--the civil service, the trade unions, the boards of publicly owned enterprises, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, and the central bank. Under Bashir's government, Sudan's economy has been further strained by the most severe famine of this century, the continuation of the war in the south, and a foreign policy that has left Sudan economically, if not politically, isolated from the world community.


Historically, the colonial government was not interested in balanced economic growth and instead concentrated its development efforts on irrigated agriculture and the railroad system throughout the Anglo-Egyptian condominium . Incidental government investment had gone mainly into ad hoc projects, such as the construction of cotton gins and oilseed-pressing mills as adjuncts of the irrigation program. A limited amount of rainfed mechanized farming, similarly on an ad hoc basis, had also been developed during World War II. After the war, two development programs-- actually lists of proposed investments--were drawn up for the periods 1946-50 and 1951-55. These plans appear to have been a belated effort to broaden the country's economic base in preparation for eventual Sudanese independence. Both programs were seriously hampered by a lack of experienced personnel and materials and had little real impact. Independently, the private sector had expanded irrigated agriculture, and some small manufacturing operations had been started, but only three larger industrial enterprises (meat and cement plants and a brewery) had been constructed, all between 1949 and 1952. As a result, at independence the new Sudanese government's principal development inheritance was the vast irrigated Gezira Scheme (also seen as Jazirah Scheme) and Sudan Railways.

Not until 1960 did the new government attempt to prepare a national development plan. Since that time, three plans have been formulated, none of which has been carried through to completion. Work on the first of these, the Ten-Year Plan of Economic and Social Development, for the fiscal years  1961-70, began in late 1960, but the plan was not formally adopted until September 1962, well over a year after its scheduled starting date. The total ten-year investment was set at £Sd565 million, at the time equivalent to more than US$1.6 billion. The private sector was expected to provide 40 percent of the amount. Unfortunately, the goals were overly ambitious, and the government had few experienced planners. The plan as prepared was not adhered to, and implementation was actually carried out through investment programs that were drawn up annually and funded through the development budget. Projects not in the original plan were frequently included. Investment was at a high rate in the first years, well beyond projections, and a number of major undertakings had been completed by mid-plan, including the Khashm al Qirbah and Manaqil irrigation projects, a sugar factory at the former site, another at Al Junayd irrigation project, and the Roseires (also called Ar Rusayris) Dam.

As the 1960s progressed, a lack of funds threatened the continuation of development activities. Government current expenditure had increased much faster than receipts, in part because of the intensification of the civil war in the south, and government surpluses to finance development vanished. At the same time, there was a shortfall in foreign investment capital. The substantial foreign reserves held at the beginning of the plan period were depleted, and the government resorted to deficit financing and foreign borrowing. The situation had so deteriorated by 1967 that implementation of the Ten-Year Plan was abandoned. Sudan's international credit worthiness became open to question.

Despite major financial problems, real economic gains were nevertheless made during the Ten-Year Plan, and per capita income rose from the equivalent of US$86 in 1960 to about US$104 at the end of the decade. Late in the 1960s, the government prepared a new plan covering FY 1968 to FY 1972. This plan was discarded after the military coup led by Nimeiri in May 1969. Instead, the government adopted a Five-Year Plan of Economic and Social Development, 1970-74. This plan, prepared with the assistance of Soviet planning personnel, sought to achieve the major goals of the May revolution (creation of an independent national economy; steady growth of prosperity; and further development of cultural, education, and health services) through socialist development.

During the plan's first two years, expenditures remained low, affected largely by uncertainties that stemmed from the civil war. After the war ceased in early 1972, the government felt that the plan failed to provide for transportation improvements and large-scale productive projects. In 1973, the government therefore established in the Interim Action Program, which extended the original plan period through FY 1976. New objectives included the removal of transportation bottlenecks, attainment of self-sufficiency in the production of several agricultural and industrial consumer items, and an increase in agricultural exports. To accomplish these goals, proposed public sector investment increased from £Sd215 million to £Sd463 million (however, actual expenditures during the five years, excluding technical assistance, were £Sd250 million). Private sector projected investment was estimated at £Sdl70 million originally, but the nationalizations carried out in 1970 and 1971 discouraged private investment in productive undertakings. Foreign private capital investment became negligible, and domestic private capital was put mostly into areas considered less subject to takeover, such as service enterprises, housing, traditional agriculture, and handicrafts . The denationalizations since 1972 resulted in increased private foreign investment in development. The final investment total during the first five years was considerably above the original plan projection. The plan failed to achieve its goal of a 7.6 percent annual growth rate in gross domestic product , however, and was extended to 1977.

From FY 1973, after introduction of the Interim Action Program, through 1977, development expenditures grew to more than 1 billion Sudanese pounds. The government initiated several irrigation projects at Rahad, Satit southeast of Khashm al Qirba, Ad Damazin, and Kinanah; and established factories at Sannar, Kinanah, at Shandi on the Nile northeast of Khartoum, Kusti, Kaduqli, Nyala, and Rabak on the White Nile south of Khartoum. Roads between Khartoum and Port Sudan were paved with tarmacadam. Excavation began on the Jonglei Canal. Chevron discovered oil. The original plan called for almost half of investment to be provided by surpluses in the central government budget. Although this assumption appeared highly optimistic in view of the modest surpluses attained during the last half of the 1960s, tax revenues did increase as projected.

Earnings from public corporations, however, fell short of projections, and growth in government current expenditures greatly exceeded revenue growth. As a result, not only were there no surpluses in the public sector, but the government had to borrow from the Bank of Sudan to cover the current expenditure account. Foreign capital, although abundant, also did not equal the spending on development, and, contrary to the expectations of the plan's drafters, the government had to resort to domestic borrowing to proceed with project implementation.

In early 1977, the government published the successor Six- Year Plan of Economic and Social Development, 1977-1982. Its goals and projections also appeared optimistic because of the worsening domestic economic situation, which was marked by growing inflation. The inflation stemmed in large part from deficit development financing (printing money), increasing development costs because of worldwide price rises, and rising costs for external capital. During the plan's second year, FY 1978, there was no economic growth as the deficit development financing in the mid- and late 1970s led the Sudan into a deepening economic crisis. At the same time, external debt pressures mounted, and Sudan failed to meet its scheduled payments   A substantial cutback in further development expenditures became unavoidable. The result was an abandonment of Six-Year Plan projections, a restriction of expenditures generally to the completion of projects under way, improvement of the performance of existing operational projects, elimination of transport constraints, and a series of short-term "rolling" programs that particularly emphasized exports.

In October 1983, the government announced a three-year public investment program, but efforts to Islamize the economy in 1984 impeded its implementation, and after the Nimeiri overthrow in April 1985, it was suspended . In August 1987, an economic recovery program was initiated. This program was followed, beginning in October 1988, by a three-year recovery program to reform trade policy and regulate the exchange rate, reduce the budget deficit and subsidies, and encourage exports and privatization. There was little possibility for early economic recovery offered by the military government of General Umar al Bashir that took office on June 30, 1989. The government's economic policies proposed to Islamize the banking system, but foreign business interests viewed this measure as a disincentive to do business in Sudan, because no interest would be paid on new loans. Furthermore, Islamic banks and other economic supporters of the regime were to be granted disproportionate influence over the economy, which led to widespread resentment among other sectors. Finally, the government did not go far enough to satisfy the International Monetary Fund   or other major creditors that it had sufficiently reduced subsidies on basic commodities, thus reducing its budget deficit. Bashir had announced an economic recovery program in mid-1990, but in 1991 its results were still awaited.

The late 1970s had seen corruption become widespread. Although always present, corruption never had been a major characteristic of the Sudanese economic scene. The enormous sums that poured into Sudan in the late 1970s from the Arab oil- exporting countries, the United States, and the European Community, however, provided opportunities for the small clique that surrounded Nimeiri to enrich themselves. This corruption fell into three principal categories: embezzlement of public funds, most of which left the country, agricultural acquisition schemes, and investment in the mercantile sphere.

The most common ways of embezzling public funds were acquiring liquid assets from banks or government agencies, selling the state's assets, selling state land, and smuggling. The siphoning off of liquid assets usually required the connivance of a high government official. Between 1975 and 1982, more than 800 cases were reported of embezzlement of, on the average, more than £Sd1 ,000. In one case, principal bank officials embezzled £Sd3 million; another bank made a loan of £Sd200 million to a businessman whose business was fictitious.

State property sold by embezzlers included gasoline and medicines. State officials also sold real estate in residential areas at below the market price. An impressive residence would then be built on the property for rental to diplomatic officials or executives of multinational companies. In the past, small operators penetrating the vast and unpatrolled borders of Sudan carried out smuggling, but in the late 1980s it became a vast and sophisticated business. Of the smuggling operations uncovered, one involved £Sd2.5 million in cloth, another £Sdl million in matches, and a third £Sd0.5 million in automobiles.

Another highly profitable form of corruption was the selling of state farmlands, each about 30,000 feddans (1 feddan is equivalent to 0.42 hectares). Mechanized Farming Corporation (MFC) officials sold large numbers of feddans at low prices to senior officials in Khartoum; many of the latter exploited the land for profit at the expense of the peasantry and caused profound ecological deterioration.

As corruption ran rampant during the late 1970s until Nimeiri was overthrown, commercial companies, particularly in the export- import trade, profited through their influence on public policy and through special permits they received. The Islamic institutions that dominated Sudanese banking facilitated this corruption . These banks, of which the most important was the Faisal Islamic Bank, possessed privileges not enjoyed by Sudanese national banks, such as exemption from taxation and the right to transfer profits abroad. An example of the combination of political power and financial capital was the Islamic Development Company. Established in 1983 as a limited shareholding company with an authorized capitalization of US$1 billion, the company was chartered to invest in agriculture, industry, services, construction, and Islamic banks. In practice, it concentrated on the export-import trade, where high profits could be made quickly and easily, in contrast to the slow returns of agricultural development projects. The board of directors consisted of ten persons, four Sudanese and six foreign nationals, mostly Saudis, including a son of the late King Faisal ibn Abd al Aziz Al Saud. Of the Sudanese, three belonged to the National Islamic Front, and the fourth was the son of the leader of the Khatmiyyah, a Muslim religious group associated with the National Unionist Party. All had connections with Islamic banks and the Sudanese parliament. Their purpose was to strengthen the Islamist movement's economic power by tying their commercial enterprise to the state in order to achieve a privileged position in the marketplace. They accomplished this aim by granting shares valued at US$100,000 to founding members and to prominent persons, ranging from the republic's president to wealthy Muslim businessmen.

Between 1978 and 1985, agricultural and industrial production had declined in per capita terms. Imports during much of the 1980s were three times the level of exports. By 1991 the value of the Sudanese pound against the dollar had sunk to less than 10 percent of its 1978 value, and the country's external debt had risen to US$13 billion, the interest on which could be paid only by raising new loans.

Two reasons for this decline were the droughts and accompanying famine occurring in the 1980s and 1991, and the influx of more than 1 million refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad, and Uganda, in addition to the persons displaced by the continuing war in southern Sudan who were estimated to number between 1.5 million and 3.5 million. Nevertheless, the decline in Sudan's agricultural and industrial production had begun before these calamities. Few development projects were completed on time and those that were failed to achieve projected production. After 1978 the GDP steadily fell so that the vast sums of money borrowed could not be repaid by increased productivity. Sudan found itself in a cycle of increasing debt and declining production.

These economic problems had two fundamental causes. First, in planning little thought was given to the impact of any one project on the whole economy and even less to the burden such huge projects would place on a fragile infrastructure. Some ministries undertook projects by unilaterally negotiating loans without reference to the Central Planning Agency. Second, remittances by Sudanese laborers in the Persian Gulf (thousands of workers were based in Kuwait and Iraq, until many of them were expelled) placed a stress on Sudan's economy, because the government was forced to relax its stringent currency controls to induce these workers to repatriate their earnings. Such funds were largely invested in consumer goods and housing, rather than in development projects.


Foreign capital has played a major role in development. The great reliance on it and the general ease with which it was acquired were major factors contributing to the severe financial problems that beset the country after the mid-1970s. Sudan obtained public sector loans for development from a wide variety of international agencies and individual governments. Until the mid-1970s, the largest single source had been the World Bank, including the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). By 1975 the World Bank and its organs had furnished the equivalent of US$300 million. Excluding repayments, the outstanding amount had risen to US$786 million in 1981, as major commitments to projects including agriculture, transportation, and electric power were made (chiefly by IDA, which accounted by 1981 for more than US$594 million of the outstanding total).

The Arab oil-producing states, as their balance of payments surpluses grew in the 1970s following increases in world petroleum prices, also became significant suppliers of development capital through bilateral loans and Arab international institutions. The largest of the latter was the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), through which was proposed the 1976 program to develop Sudan as a breadbasket for the Arab world. The implementing agency, the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development (AAAID), was established in Khartoum, based on an agreement signed in November 1976 by twelve Arab states. After the mid-1970s, Saudi Arabia, one of the founders of AAAID, through its Saudi Development Fund became the largest source of investment capital, apparently convinced that Sudan's development could complement its own, especially in making up its large food deficits. Unfortunately, the ambitious plans for Sudan's becoming the Arab world's major food source faded by the mid-1980s into an economic nightmare as agricultural production declined sharply.

In 1977 the United States resumed economic (and military) aid to Sudan. This aid followed a ten-year lapse beginning with a break in diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1967, with relations restored in July 1972 . In 1977 the United States had become concerned about geopolitical trends in the region, particularly potential Libyan or Marxist Ethiopian attempts to overthrow the pro-Western Nimeiri government. In the five-year period 1977-81, United States economic aid amounted to almost US$270 million, of which twothirds was in the form of grants. By 1984, when the United States had become Sudan's largest source of foreign aid, the country's worsening economic and political situation, particularly Nimeiri's domestic policies with regard to the south and the imposition of the sharia (Islamic law) on society, caused the United States to suspend US$194 million of aid. In 1985, following Nimeiri's visit to Washington, the United States provided Sudan with food aid, insecticides, and fertilizers. After Nimeiri's overthrow in April 1985 and Sudan's failure to make repayments on loans, the United States discontinued non-food aid. The aid had been administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It not only included direct funds for projects and project assistance through commodity imports (mainly wheat under the Food for Peace Program), but also generated local currency that was used to support general development activities. USAID continued providing humanitarian relief assistance to distressed regions in Sudan through early 1991.

Britain also made substantial aid contributions to Sudan, notably the sum of US$140 million to the Power III Project in the 1980s . In January 1991, Britain suspended its development aid to Sudan, which had amounted to US$58 million in 1989, while continuing humanitarian aid. This policy change was caused by a number of factors, including alleged terrorist activities by Sudanese agents against Sudanese expatriates in Britain. In addition to Britain, France, West Germany, Norway and other countries, EC have provided significant economic or humanitarian aid to Sudan ( Britain, Japan, West Germany, and the Netherlands also have been Sudan's main sources of imports). Japan is a major buyer of Sudanese cotton, while Sudan imports Japanese machinery. In early 1990, to ease Sudan's debt burden, the Danish government cancelled Sudan's outstanding debt totalling more than US$22.9 million. Other major financial assistance came from Arab countries, especially from Saudi Arabia ( Sudan's largest importer) and Kuwait. By December 1982, Sudan owed the Persian Gulf states US$2 billion. Saudi Arabia's assistance after 1980 mainly took the form of balance of payments support and petroleum shipments, rather than project aid. The total amount of aid from Arab states dropped in 1988 to only US$127 million, the lowest figure since the late 1970s. Arab aid totaled US$215 million in 1985, US$208 million in 1986, and US$228 million in 1987. Sudan's support of Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf war alienated the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia, sharply curtailing their economic aid to Khartoum. The increasingly close ties between Sudan and Iran in the early 1990s also concerned the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia and was a factor in their diminished financial aid to Khartoum. Economic cooperation was initiated with Libya in the late 1980s, with Libya becoming Sudan's third largest supplier in 1989.

In mid-1991 the World Bank announced its decision to close its Khartoum office by December 31, 1991. The decision resulted from the deterioration in relations between Sudan and international monetary bodies following cessation of debt repayment by Khartoum to the World Bank and the IMF.

Among communist countries, prior to the collapse of communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, China had been the most important provider of development funds. By 1971 it had furnished loans equivalent to US$82 million, and through 1981 an additional US$300 million was reported to have been made available. Sudan valued these loans because they were interest free and had long grace periods before repayments started. Economic cooperation with China continued into the 1980s. Sudan and China signed a trade cooperation protocol in March 1989, with technical agreements also renewed. A commercial protocol between the two countries was signed in April 1990. China remained a significant importer of Sudanese cotton in the mid-1980s, while Sudan imported about US$76 million in goods from China in 1988. Relations between Sudan and the Soviet Union improved markedly following Nimeiri's overthrow in 1985, but the overthrow did not result, as Khartoum had hoped, in Soviet economic assistance, but rather in a decrease in United States aid.



The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning's Department of Statistics compiled monthly data on consumer prices in Sudan based on approximately 100 items on sale in the capital area's three cities, Omdurman, Khartoum, and Khartoum North. This report contained two indexes covering the cost of consumer goods used by Sudanese having incomes below and above £Sd500 a year. At the beginning of the 1970s, annual price rises were moderate. From 1973 onward, the inflation rate grew, because of continuing worldwide inflation, an increase in the money supply resulting from the central government's deficit financing and from borrowing by state corporations, shortages of consumer goods, and problems of supply caused by transport deficiencies. Late in the 1970s, increased private sector borrowing added to the pressures on prices. In the six-year period from 1972 to 1977, inflation increased at an average rate of almost 24 percent a year for the low-income group and 22 percent for the higher group. In 1979 the official rate was 30.8 percent and 33.6 percent for the low and high groups, respectively. The reported rates were somewhat lower in 1980: 25.4 and 26.3 percent, respectively.

A series of currency devaluations took place, beginning in 1979, as part of the new financing agreement with the IMF . The economic results of the devaluations did not meet expectations, however, leading by the late 1980s to resistance to IMF demands for further devaluations. The accompanying austerity measures during the 1980s included attempts gradually to remove subsidies on food and other products, reductions in public expenditures, real wages, and nonessential imports, as well as an effort to reinvigorate the export sector. Such efforts, however, had little impact on Sudan's economic viability as far as international financial lenders were concerned.

Annual inflation was estimated at 300 percent in mid-1991, with the market value of the Sudanese pound deteriorating at a constant rate. Sudan's debt burden, estimated at US$4 billion in 1981, rose to US$13 billion by mid-1990, with debt arrears to the IMF alone since 1984 totalling more than US$1.1 billion, a situation that led the IMF to threaten to expel Sudan unless it settled its debt arrears. In September 1990, the IMF adopted a Declaration of Noncooperation regarding Sudan, as a prelude to expulsion. In May 1991, an IMF delegation arrived in Khartoum for discussions with the government, which by then had repaid the IMF a token US$15 million and reaffirmed its determination to cooperate with the IMF. The IMF then postponed for six months its decision on whether to expel Sudan. The deterioration in Sudan's debt position also placed in doubt future World Bank lending to Sudan, with existing loans still secure.


The size of the country's economically active labor force has been difficult to estimate because of different definitions of participation in economic activity, and the absence of accurate data from official sources, particularly the 1973 and 1983 censuses. In rural areas, large numbers of women and girls were engaged in traditional productive occupations, but apparently many have not been included in counts of the active work force.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated in 1980 that the work force was about 6 million persons, or approximately 33 percent of the population. This figure included about 300,000 unemployed. It also included the many male Sudanese working in other Arab states, a loss to Sudan that may have amounted to as much as 50 percent of its professional and skilled work force. The drop in world oil prices in the 1980s caused the Persian Gulf states to cut back drastically on their expatriate workers, leading in turn to increased unemployment in Sudan. In mid-1989, a total of 7,937,000 people were employed in Sudan, according to an ILO estimate. In the early 1990s, Sudan's employment situation was exacerbated by the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which resulted in the departure of the thousands of Sudanese workers based in Kuwait and Iraq, leaving many of their possessions behind. Sudan's support of Iraq also contributed to the departure of thousands of Sudanese workers from Saudi Arabia.

Unemployment figures were affected by the severe drought that spread throughout Sudan in the 1980s. In 1983-84, for example, several million people migrated from the worst hit areas in both the west and the east to Khartoum and other urban areas along the Nile. Many remained in these areas once the drought had eased, living in shanty towns and contributing to unemployment or underemployment in the cities. In addition, more than 1 million people from the south migrated to the north, as a result of the civil war and famine in these areas.

Agriculture was the predominant activity in Sudan, although its share of the labor force has gradually declined as other sectors of economic activity have expanded. In the 1955-56 census--the only complete count of the labor force for which data have been published (detailed results of the 1973 and 1983 censuses had not been released as of mid-1991)--almost 86 percent of those then considered as part of the work force were involved in agriculture, livestock raising, forestry, fisheries, or hunting. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning estimated that by 1969-70 the total had declined to somewhat less than 70 percent and that at the end of the 1970s the sector accounted for less than 66 percent. In mid-1989, the ILO estimated that about 4,872,000 people were employed in agriculture. Services, which included a government work force that grew about 10 percent a year in the 1970s, emerged as the second largest area of activity, encompassing an estimated 10.4 percent of those economically active in 1979-80, compared with 4.6 percent in 1955-56. Nonagricultural production--manufacturing, mining, electric power, and construction--accounted for 6.7 percent during 1979-80 and about 5.6 percent in 1955-56.


In 1991, reliable figures for wages in Sudan were difficult to obtain. Public sector wages have been generally higher than those of the privately employed, except in a few large private firms. Until late 1974 when the Minimum Standard of Wages Order (Presidential Order No. 21) was issued, there had not been a minimum wage in the private sector, although in a few occupations such as stevedoring at Port Sudan, official wage orders had set certain minimums. The 1974 minimum, established at £Sdl6.50 a month, was equivalent to the minimum entry wage for public sector jobs. It applied, however, basically only to workers in establishments having ten or more employees in the Khartoum area, Al Jazirah, and certain other urban centers. Its geographical limitations together with important exemptions--employees below the age of eighteen, all those in enterprises having fewer than ten workers, seasonal agricultural workers, and some others-- excluded about three-quarters of all wage earners. Employers were allowed to raise wages that were below the minimum to the prescribed level in three steps to be achieved by October 1977. In 1979 the minimum wage was raised to £Sd28 a month, and a minimum daily rate of £Sd1.50 was established for unskilled workers.

In mid-1978, rising inflation and worker unrest led the government to inaugurate the Job Evaluation and Classification Scheme (JECS), through which a substantial two-stage increase in public sector wages was to be effected. Considerable discontent with gradings appeared to have arisen, and for many people, little improvement in salaries occurred. One of the problems reportedly was the misjudgments in the JECS reclassification process that resulted in commitment of all allocated funds for the program well before the program had been half completed. In early 1979, members of the domestic bank workers' union and hospital technicians, among others, carried out strikes, and in August the powerful 32,000-man Sudan Railway Workers' Union (SRWU) also walked out. The government promised SRWU members that they would be given the second half of the JECS raise, but the strike was ended by the use of armed troops. SRWU again went on strike in May-June 1981, in part also because of continued discontent with JECS actions. The strike, which was also ended by use of the military, was declared illegal and the union dissolved. Various leaders were arrested. The government then appointed a preparatory committee to reestablish the SRWU.


Trade union activity was banned by the Bashir government following its rise to power in the 1989 coup, and many union officials were imprisoned. Prior to 1989, the trade unions that were active were nevertheless under state control, most having been established in their latest incarnation by the government in 1971. The labor union movement originated in 1946 with the formation by some Sudan Railways employees of the Workers' Affairs Association, the predecessor of the SRWU. Two years later the Trades and Tradesmen's Union Ordinance of 1948, which was based largely on the British model and the concepts of voluntary association and limited government intervention in union affairs, gave official sanction to unions. The 1948 ordinance permitted formation of unions by as few as ten individuals, and a proliferation of mostly small, ineffective bodies emerged. The major exception was the rail union, which, as an official body, became Sudan's wealthiest and most powerful union. In 1949 the workers' association helped form the national Workers' Congress, which in 1950 became the Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF). Dominated by communists, the SWTUF was closely associated with the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP). The SWTUF failed to receive government recognition, and its interests and actions tended strongly to be along political lines. After national independence, the federation had frequent confrontations with the new government, including a successful general strike in October 1958. This strike was one of the factors that contributed to the military takeover of the government the following month

At the time of the 1958 coup, the SWTUF controlled roughly 70 percent of all labor union membership. The new military government repealed the 1948 ordinance, dissolved all unions, and detained many of the federation's leaders. Some union organization was again permitted after 1960 but it was prohibited for white-collar workers, and federations were not allowed. Upon restoration of the civilian government in 1964, the 1948 ordinance was reinstated, and the SWTUF reemerged. Union membership increased rapidly and had risen to about 250,000 workers in about 500 to 600 unions by 1970. Most were small (three-quarters had fewer than 200 members), financially weak, and generally not very effective. The few larger unions were in the public sector, led by the SRWU.

SWTUF leadership remained in communist hands. The SCP was allied with the group that carried out the military coup of May 1969, and the SWTUF and the unions were welcomed as partners in the proclaimed socialist struggle to better the conditions of the workers. Strikes, however, were prohibited by a presidential order issued shortly after the 1969 takeover. The relationship was abruptly ended after the abortive communist coup in mid-1971. The government dissolved the SWTUF and executed a number of its leaders.

Late in 1971 the government promulgated the Trade Unions Act, under which directives were issued in 1973 that established eighty-seven unions based on sectoral, occupational, and industrial lines. Somewhat more than half were "employees'" unions (for white-collar employees), and the rest were "workers'" unions (for blue-collar workers). The existing unions were variously merged into the specified groupings. The act contained measures to strengthen unionism, including a provision for compulsory dues and employer-paid time off to serve as union officials. The SWTUF was reinstituted for the "workers'" unions, and the Sudanese Federation of Employees and Professionals Trade Unions formed in 1975 for the white-collar group. Their representation of union interests was carried on within guidelines set by the government and the Sudan Socialist Union (SSU), the mass political party established by the government in 1972. In the late 1970s, they led strikes, which, although illegal, resulted in settlement of issues through negotiations with the government. The last major attempt by organized labor to strike occurred in June 1981, but the strike by the Sudan Railways Workers' Union was broken by the Nimeiri government, which arrested its leaders.

Prior to 1989, the SWTUF, in its weakened state, included forty-two trade unions, representing more than 1.7 million workers in the public and private sectors. The federation was affiliated with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity.


In the early 1990s, agriculture and livestock raising were the main sources of livelihood in Sudan for about 61 percent of the working population. Agricultural products regularly accounted for about 95 percent of the country's exports. Industry was mostly agriculturally-based, accounting for 15 percent of GDP in 1988. The average annual growth of agricultural production declined in the 1980s to 0.8 percent for the period 1980-87, as compared with 2.9 percent for the period 1965-80. Similarly, the sector's total contribution to GDP declined over the years, as the other sectors of the economy expanded. Total sectoral activities, which contributed an estimated 40 percent of GDP in the early 1970s, had fluctuated during the 1980s and represented about 36 percent in 1988 . Crop cultivation was divided between a modern, market-oriented sector comprising mechanized, large-scale irrigated and rainfed farming (mainly in central Sudan) and small-scale farming following traditional practices that was carried on in the other parts of the country where rainfall or other water sources were sufficient for cultivation.

Large investments continued to be made in the 1980s in mechanized, irrigated, and rainfed cultivation, with their combined areas accounting for roughly two-thirds of Sudan's cultivated land in the late 1980s. The early emphasis on cotton growing on irrigated land had decreased. Although cotton remained the most important crop, peanuts, wheat, and sugarcane had become major crops, and considerable quantities of sesame also were grown . Rainfed mechanized farming continued to produce mostly sorghum, and short-fiber cotton was also grown. Production in both subsectors increased domestic supplies and export potentials. The increase appeared, however, to have been achieved mainly by expanding the cultivated area rather than by increasing productivity. To stimulate productivity, in 1981 the government offered various incentives to cultivators of irrigated land who were almost entirely government tenants. Subsistence cultivators produced sorghum as their staple crop, although in the northerly, rainfed, cultivated areas millet was the principal staple. Subsistence farmers also grew peanuts and sesame.

Livestock raising, pursued throughout Sudan except in the extremely dry areas of the north and the tsetse-fly-infested area in the far south, was almost entirely in the traditional sector. Because livestock raising provided employment for so many people, modernization proposals have been based on improving existing practices and marketing for export, rather than moving toward the modern ranching that requires few workers.

Fishing was largely carried out by the traditional sector for subsistence. An unknown number of small operators also used the country's major reservoirs in the more populated central region and the rivers to catch fish for sale locally and in nearby larger urban centers. The few modern fishing ventures, mainly on Lake Nubia and in the Red Sea, were small.

The forestry subsector comprised both traditional gatherers of firewood and producers of charcoal--the main sources of fuel for homes and some industry in urban areas--and a modern timber and sawmilling industry, the latter government owned. Approximately 21 million cubic meters of wood, mainly for fuel, were cut in 1987. Gum arabic production in FY 1986-87 was about 40,000 tons. In the late 1980s, it became in most years the second biggest export after cotton, amounting to about 11 percent of total exports.

Land Use

By 1991 only partial surveys of Sudan's land resources had been made, and estimates of the areas included in different landuse categories varied considerably. Figures for potentially arable land ranged from an estimate of 35.9 million hectares made in the mid-1960s to a figure of 84 million hectares published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1974. Estimates of the amount actually under cultivation varied in the late 1980s, ranging from 7.5 million hectares, including roughly 10 or 11 percent in fallow, to 12.6 million hectares.

Substantial variations also existed in land classified as actually used or potentially usable for livestock grazing. The ministry and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have classified about 24 million hectares as pastureland. The 1965 estimate of land use classified 101.4 million hectares as grazing land, and in 1975 an ILO-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) interagency mission to Sudan estimated the total potential grazing land at between 120 million and 150 million hectares.

Forestland estimates also differed greatly, from less than 60 million hectares by staff of the Forestry Administration to about 915 million hectares by the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the FAO . Dense stands of trees only covered between 20 million and 24 million hectares of the total forestland. Differences in land classification may have been accounted for by use of some woodland areas for grazing and some traditional grazing lands for raising crops. Given the dearth of rainfall during the 1980s and early 1990s, the ecological damage from mechanized farming, and the steady march of desertification, discrepancies in these statistics had little meaning in 1991.

It was generally agreed, however, that in the late 1980s Sudan still had a substantial amount of land suitable for future cropping. The ILO-UNDP mission believed that two-thirds of the potential area for livestock grazing, however, was already in use. In addition to land suitable for cultivation and livestock grazing, Sudan also had about 76 million to 86 million hectares of desert. Additionally, an area of about 2.9 million hectares was covered by swamps and inland water, and about 280,000 hectares were occupied by urban settlements and other man-made features.

Land Tenure

The right to own property, to bequeath it to heirs, and to inherit it was established by the Permanent Constitution of 1973; this right was suspended in 1985. Sudan had long had a system of land registration through which an individual, an enterprise, or the government could establish title to a piece of land. Such registration had been extensive in northern Sudan, especially in Al Khartum, Al Awsat, and Ash Shamali provinces. Before 1970 all other land (unregistered) belonged to the state, which held ownership in trust for the people, who had customary rights to it. In 1970 the Unregistered Land Act declared that all waste, forest, and unregistered lands were government land. Before the act's passage, the government had avoided interfering with individual customary rights to unregistered land, and in the late 1980s it again adhered to this policy.

The government owned most of the land used by the modern agricultural sector and leased it to tenants (for example, the Gezira Scheme) or to private entrepreneurs, such as most operators of large-scale mechanized rainfed farming. In the late 1980s, however, the great area of land used for pasture and for subsistence cultivation was communally owned under customary land laws that varied somewhat by location but followed a broadly similar pattern. In agricultural communities, the right to cultivate an area of unused land became vested in the individual who cleared it for use. The rights to such land could be passed on to heirs, but ordinarily the land could not be sold or otherwise disposed of. The right was also retained to land left in fallow, although in Bahr al Ghazal, Aali an Nil, and Al Istiwai there were communities where another individual could claim such land by clearing it.

Among the transhumant  communities of the north, the rights to cultivated land were much the same, but the dominant position of livestock in community activities had introduced certain other communal rights that included common rights to grazing land, the right-of-way to water and grazing land, the right to grass on agricultural land unless the occupier cut and stacked it, and the right to crop residues unless similarly treated. In the western savannas, private ownership of stands of hashab trees could be registered, an exception to the usual government ownership of the forests. But dead wood for domestic fuel and the underlying grass were common property. Water, a matter of greatest importance to stock raisers, was open to all if free standing, but wells that had been dug and the associated drinking troughs were private property and were retained by the digger season after season. In northern Sudan, especially in the western savanna where increasing population and animal numbers have placed pressure on the land, violations of customary laws and conflicts between ethnic groups over land rights have been growing. Resolution of these problems has been attempted by local government agencies but only on a case-by-case basis.

Irrigated Agriculture

In 1991 Sudan had a large modern irrigated agriculture sector totaling more than 2 million hectares out of about 84 million hectares that are potentially arable. About 93 percent of the irrigated area was in government projects; the remaining 7 percent belonged to private operations. The Nile and its tributaries were the source of water for 93 percent of irrigated agriculture, and of this the Blue Nile accounted for about 67 percent. Gravity flow was the main form of irrigation, but about one-third of the irrigated area was served by pumps.

The waters of the Nile in Sudan have been used for centuries for traditional irrigation, taking advantage of the annual Nile flood. Some use of this method still continued in the early 1990s, and the traditional shaduf (a device to raise water) and waterwheel were also used to lift water to fields in local irrigation projects but were rapidly being replaced by more efficient mechanized pump systems. Among the first efforts to employ irrigation for modern commercial cropping was the use of the floodwaters of the Qash River and the Baraka River (both of which originate in Ethiopia) in eastern Sudan to grow cotton on their deltas . This project was started in the late 1860s by the Egyptian governor and continued until interrupted by the turbulent period of the 1880s, leading to the reconquest of the country by the British in 1899. Cultivation was resumed in 1896 in the Baraka Delta in the Tawkar area, but in the Qash Delta it only resumed after World War I. Between 1924 and 1926, canals were built in the latter delta to control the flood; sandstorms made canals unfeasible in the Baraka. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, various projects were developed to irrigate land. In 1982 both deltas yielded only one crop a year, watered by the flood. Adequate groundwater, however, offered the eventual possibility of using pump irrigation from local wells for additional cropping or for supplementing any flood shortages.

The drought that affected Sudan in the 1980s was a natural disaster that had a crushing effect on the country's irrigation systems. In 1990-91, for instance, water was so scarce in the Tawkar area that for the first time in 100 years the crops failed.

As of 1990, the country's largest irrigation project had been developed on land between the Blue and White Nile rivers south of their confluence at Khartoum. This area is generally flat with a gentle slope to the north and west, permitting natural gravity irrigation, and its soils are fertile cracking clays well suited to irrigation. The project originated in 1911, when a private British enterprise, Sudan Plantations Syndicate, found cotton suited to the area and embarked on what in the 1920s became the Gezira Scheme, intended principally to furnish cotton to the British textile industry. Backed by a loan from the British government, the syndicate began a dam on the Blue Nile at Sannar in 1913. Work was interrupted by World War I, and the dam was not completed until 1925. The project was limited by a 1929 agreement between Sudan and Egypt that restricted the amount of water Anglo-Egyptian Sudan could use during the dry season. By 1931 the project had expanded to 450,000 hectares, the maximum that then could be irrigated by the available water, although 10,000 more hectares were added in the 1950s. The project was nationalized in 1950, and was operated by the Sudan Gezira Board as a government enterprise. In 1959 a new agreement with Egypt greatly increased the allotment of water to Sudan, as did the completion in the early 1960s of the Manaqil Extension on the western side of the Gezira Scheme. By 1990 the Manaqil Extension had an irrigated area of nearly 400,000 hectares, and with the 460,000 hectares eventually attained by the original Gezira Scheme, the combined projects accounted for half the country's total land under irrigation.

In the early 1960s, the government set up a program to resettle Nubians displaced by Lake Nubia (called Lake Nasser in Egypt), which was formed by the construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. To provide farmland for the Nubians, the government constructed the Khashm al Qirbah Dam on the Atbarah River and established the Halfa al Jadidah (New Halfa) irrigation project. Located west of Kassala, this project was originally designed to irrigate about 164,000 hectares. In 1982 it was the only large irrigation project in the country that did not use the waters of the Blue Nile or White Nile. The resettlement was effected mainly after completion of the Khashm al Qirbah Dam in 1964. Part of the irrigated area was also assigned to local inhabitants. The main commercial crops initially introduced included cotton, peanuts, and wheat. In 1965 sugarcane was added, and a sugar factory having a design capacity of 60,000 tons was built to process it. The project enabled 200,000 hectares of land to be irrigated for the first time. Heavy silting as well as serious problems of drainage and salinity occurred. As a result, by the late 1970s the reservoir had lost more than 40 percent of its original storage capacity and was unable to meet the project water requirements. These problems persisted in the early 1990s.

The multipurpose Roseires Dam was built in 1966 and power- generating facilities were installed in 1971. Both the water and the power were needed to implement the Rahad River irrigation project located east of the Rahad River, a tributary of the Blue Nile. The Rahad entered the Blue Nile downstream from the dam and during the dry season had an insufficient flow for irrigation purposes. Work on the initial 63,000 hectares of the project began in the early 1970s, the first irrigation water was received in 1977, and by 1981 about 80 percent of the prepared area was reported to be irrigated. (In May 1988, the World Bank agreed to provide additional funding for this and other irrigation projects). Water for the project was pumped from the Blue Nile, using electric power from the Roseires plant, and was transported by an eighty-kilometer-long canal to the Rahad River (en route underpassing the Dindar River, another Blue Nile tributary). The canal then emptied into the Rahad above a new barrage that diverted the combined flow from the two sources into the project's main irrigation canal. Irrigation was by gravity flow, but instead of flat field flooding, furrow irrigation was used, because it permitted more effective use of machinery.

In the 1920s, private irrigation projects using diesel pumps also had begun to appears in Al Khartum Province, mainly along the White Nile, to provide vegetables, fruit, and other foods to the capital area. In 1937 a dam was built by the Anglo-Egyptian condominium upstream from Khartoum on the White Nile at Jabal al Awliya to regulate the supply of water to Egypt during the August to April period of declining flow. Grazing and cultivated land along the river was flooded for almost 300 kilometers. The government thereupon established seven pump irrigation projects, partially financed by Egypt, to provide the area's inhabitants with an alternative to transhumance.

This irrigation project eventually proved successful, making possible large surpluses of cotton and sorghum and encouraging private entrepreneurs to undertake new projects. High cotton profits during the Korean War (1950-53) increased private interest along the Blue Nile as well, and by 1958 almost half the country's irrigated cotton was grown under pump irrigation. During the 1960s, however, downward fluctuations in world cotton prices and disputes between entrepreneurs and tenants led to numerous failures of pump irrigation projects. In 1968 the government assumed ownership and operation of the projects. The government established the Agricultural Reform Corporation for this purpose, and the takeover began that year with the larger estates. Subsequently, as leases expired, the corporation acquired smaller projects, until May 1970 when all outstanding leases were revoked. A considerable number of small pump operations that developed on privately owned land, chiefly along the main Nile but also on the Blue Nile, continued to operate.

Since the 1950s, the government has constructed a number of large pump projects, mostly on the Blue Nile. These have included the Junayd project on the right bank of the Blue Nile east of the Gezira Scheme. This project, with an irrigated area of about 36,000 hectares, went into operation in 1955 to provide an alternative livelihood for nomadic pastoralists in the area. It produced cotton until 1960, when about 8,400 hectares were converted to sugarcane. A sugar factory built to process the crop (with a potential capacity of 60,000 tons of sugar a year) opened in 1962. In the early 1970s, the Japanese-assisted As Suki project, also of 36,000 hectares, was established upstream from Sannar to grow cotton, sorghum, and oilseeds. In the mid-1970s, the government constructed a second project near Sannar of about 20,000 hectares. In addition to cotton and other crops such as peanuts, about 8,400 hectares of the area were devoted to raising sugarcane. The cane-processing factory, with a design capacity of 110,000 tons of sugar a year, opened in 1976. Several smaller Blue Nile projects added more than 80,000 additional hectares to Sudan's overall irrigated area during this time.

In the 1970s, when the consumption and import of sugar grew rapidly, domestic production became a priority, and two major pump-irrigated sugar plantations were established on the White Nile in the Kusti area. The Hajar Asalaya Sugar Project, begun in 1975, had an irrigated area of about 7,600 hectares. The sugar factory, completed in 1977, had a potential annual capacity of 110,000 tons. The Kinanah Sugar Project, which had almost 16,200 hectares under irrigation in 1981 and had a future potential of over 33,000 hectares, was one of the world's largest sugar- milling and refining operations. In 1985-86 production reached more than 330,000 tons a year. This project, first proposed in 1971, was beset with funding problems and overruns that increased overall costs from the equivalent of US$113 million estimated in 1973 to more than US$750 million when the plant opened officially in early 1981.

The Kinanah Sugar Project, unlike the country's four other government-owned sugar projects, was a joint venture--among the governments of Sudan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Investment Company, the Sudan Development Corporation, Kinanah Limited, and the AAAID, including local Sudanese banks. An initial trial run in the 1979-80 cane season produced 20,000 tons of sugar. Yield increased to an estimated 135,000 to 150,000 tons the following season. Production at the Hajar Asalaya factory did not get under way until the 1979-80 season because of cane and sugar-processing difficulties. Problems have also affected the other three state sugar factories, but as a result of proposed World Bank management, the output total of these four government operations for the 1984-85 season improved to nearly 200,000 tons. Output declined to 159,000 tons in 1985-86 because of the drought. In 1989 sugarcane production reached 400,000 tons

Rainfed Agriculture

Cultivation dependent on rainfall falls into two categories. Most Sudanese farmers always have relied on rainfed farming. In addition to these traditional farmers, a large modern mechanized rainfed agriculture sector has developed since 1944-45, when a government project to cultivate the cracking clays of central Sudan started in the Al Qadarif area of Ash Sharqi Province, largely to meet the food needs of army units stationed in the British colonies in eastern Africa (present-day Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda). An average of about 6,000 hectares a year was cultivated between 1945 and 1953, producing chiefly sorghum, under a sharecropping arrangement between the government and farmers who had been allocated land in the project. These estates proved costly, however, and in 1954 the government began encouraging the private sector to take up mechanized farming in the area, a policy that continued after Sudan gained independence in 1956. Under the new approach, the government established several state farms to demonstrate production methods and to conduct research. Research activities have been very limited, however, because of staffing and funding problems, and the farms have been operated essentially as regular production units.

The private sector response was positive, and by 1960 mechanized farming had spread into other areas of the cracking clay zone in Ash Sharqi and Al Awsat provinces. The government set aside rectangular areas that were divided into plots of 420 hectares (later raised in places to 630 hectares) each. Half of these plots were leased to private farmers, the other half left in fallow. After four years, the originally leased land was to be returned to fallow and the farmer was to receive a new lease to an adjacent fallow area. When the demand for land grew faster than it could be demarcated, areas outside the designated project limits were taken over by private individuals. The four-year lease proved unpopular because it meant new investment in clearing land every four years, and apparently much of the worked land continued to be cultivated while fallow land was also placed under cultivation. By 1968 more than 750,000 hectares were being cultivated, of which it was estimated that more than 200,000 hectares constituted unauthorized holdings. The average agricultural production growth rate declined, however, from 2.9 percent in the period between 1965 and 1980, to 0.8 percent in the period between 1980 and 1987, the latest available figures. Reportedly, for the 1991-92 season, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources planned for about 7.3 million hectares of food crops to be planted, with about 1.6 million hectares planted in the irrigated sector and about 5.7 million hectares in the rain-fed areas.

The investment requirements for mechanized farming favored prosperous cultivators, and eventually most farms came to be operated by entrepreneurs who raised capital through mortgageable property or other assets in the urban centers. Through arrangements with other individuals, these entrepreneurs frequently managed to control additional plots beyond the legal limit of two. Their ability to obtain capital also permitted them to abandon depleted land and to move into newly demarcated uncleared areas, a practice that had a deleterious impact upon the environment, deprived the indigenous inhabitants of work opportunities, and increased desertification. In 1968, to expand the operator base and to introduce more control over land allocation, crops, and farming methods, the government established the Mechanized Farming Corporation (MFC), an autonomous agency under the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. From 1968 through 1978, the IDA made three loans to the government to enable the MFC to provide technical assistance, credit for landclearing and machinery, and marketing aid to individual farmers and cooperative groups. The MFC also became the operator of state farms.

In the late 1970s, about 2.2 million hectares had been allocated for mechanized farming, and about 420,000 hectares more had been occupied without official demarcation. About 1.9 million hectares in all were believed to be under cultivation in any one season. Of the officially allocated land, more than 70 percent was held by private individuals. Private companies had also begun entering the field, and some allocations had been made to them. State farms accounted for another 7.5 percent. About 15 percent of the total allocated land was in MFC-IDA projects. The largest proportion of mechanized farming was in Ash Sharqi Province, 43 percent; the next largest in Al Awsat Province, 32 percent; and about 20 percent was in Aali an Nil Province. Mechanized farming had also been initiated in southern Kurdufan Province through a project covering small-scale farmers in the area of the Nuba Mountains, but under a different government program. Proposals also have been made for MFC projects using mechanized equipment in other areas of southern Kurdufan (some have already been tried) and southern Darfur provinces. There were serious feasibility problems in view of competition for land and conflicts with traditional farming practices, difficult soil conditions, and the probable negative effect on the large numbers of livestock of nomads.

Only a few crops had been found suitable for cultivation in the cracking clay area. Sorghum had been the principal one, and during the early 1980s it was planted on an average of about 80 percent of the sown area. Sesame and short-fiber cotton were also grown successfully but in relatively smaller quantities, sesame on about 15 percent of the land and cotton on about 5 percent. Soil fertility has reportedly been declining because of the continued planting of sorghum and the lack of crop rotation. Yields have apparently decreased, but in view of the area's greatly varying climatic conditions and the uncertain production data, definitive conclusions on trends appeared premature.


In the early 1990s, drought caused a dramatic decline in livestock raising in Sudan, following a period in the early 1980s when livestock provided all or a large part of the livelihood of more than 40 percent of the country's population. Livestock raising was overwhelmingly in the traditional sector, and, although initial steps had been taken to improve productivity and develop market orientation, for the modern monetized economy the sector represented largely a potential asset. In 1983 Sudan's more than 50 million animals comprised the second largest national herd in Africa, next in size to that of Ethiopia. An FAO estimate in 1987 indicated that there were about 20.5 million cattle, 19 million sheep, 14 million goats, and 3 million camels. Other animals included 660,000 donkeys, 21,000 horses, a small number of pigs (kept by such non-Muslim peoples as the Nuba) and 32,000 chickens. By 1991 these numbers had been reduced by perhaps one-third by the drought of 1990-91; the August 1988 floods in the south, described as the worst in Sudan's history; and the ravages of civil war in the south. Poultry was raised mainly by farm families and villagers. A small modern sector consisted of limited government commercial operations and a few semicommercial private ventures.

Sudanese cattle are of two principal varieties: Baqqara and Nilotic. The Baqqara and two subvarieties constituted about 80 percent of the country's total number of cattle. This breed was found chiefly in the western savanna regions and in fewer, although significant, numbers farther to the east from Aali an Nil to Kassala in Ash Sharqi. The Nilotic, constituting approximately 20 percent of all cattle, were common in the eastern hill and plains areas of southeastern Al Istiwai, which were free of the tsetse fly, and in those parts of the Bahr al Ghazal and Aali an Nil lying outside the tsetse-fly zone. Because of periodic rinderpest epidemics, the total number of cattle was relatively small until about 1930, when it stood at an estimated 2 million. A vaccination program begun about that time and mass inoculations during the succeeding decades resulted in a great increase in numbers, which by 1970 had reached about 12 million. In the vast areas used by pastoral herders (estimated to be 80 million to 100 million hectares), cattle husbandry was conducted in an economic, cultural, and social context that had evolved over generations. This included an emphasis on increasing herd size as an investment for future family security. Small surpluses (usually bulls) were available for subsistence use, exchange, or sale for local consumption or export. Cattle were also used for marriage payments and among the Nilotes for rituals. Numbers of cattle also helped to establish or increase status and power in a social system in which cattle were the measure of wealth.

Most Nilotic cattle were kept by transhumant groups. Migrations , related to the wet and dry seasons, usually did not exceed 150 to 160 kilometers. The majority of the Baqqara strain of cattle belonged to the Baqqara Arabs . The latter were largely nomadic, but since at least the early 1900s had a settled base on which crop cultivation was practiced. The farmers, their relatives, or their agents moved the cattle over traditional migratory routes northward during the rainy season and southward to the area of the Bahr al Arab as the dry season progressed. Migrations in either direction might amount to 400 kilometers. The expansion of mechanized rainfed agriculture in the region used by the Baqqara, continued government efforts to enlarge the cultivated area, and pressures on the land from the growing population have gradually reduced grazing areas. At the same time, traditional cultural forces have brought about a steady increase in cattle numbers. The result has been increasing overstocking and pasture depletion until the outbreak of civil war in 1983 and the devastating droughts of the 1980s and early 1990s decimated not only the Nilotic herds but livestock throughout Sudan. Many families and indeed whole ethnic groups who have traditionally survived on their cattle, sheep, goats, or camels, lost all of their herds and were forced to migrate to the Three Towns (Omdurman, Khartoum, and Khartoum North) in search of sustenance.

Sheep were herded chiefly by transhumants in Darfur and Kurdufan. Large numbers were found in the drier areas at greater elevations than the usual cattle zone. Several breeds were raised, but the predominant and preferred one was the so-called desert sheep, which had both good weight and good milk yield. Villagers in Al Awsat also raised large numbers of sheep, mostly on a nonmigratory basis. Fodder was obtained from crop residues on irrigated and rainfed farms and from vegetation along the rivers and canals. Goats, of which there were three principal breeds (desert, Nubian, and Nilotic), were found throughout the country south of the northern desert areas. They were raised mainly by sedentary families for milk and meat. Goat meat, although less popular than mutton, formed part of the diet of most families, particularly those having low incomes. Goat milk was an important source of protein, and many families in urban areas kept a few goats for their milk.

Camels were largely concentrated in the desert and subdesert regions of northern Darfur, northern Kurdufan, and southern Ash Sharqi. They were kept almost entirely by nomadic and seminomadic peoples, for whom the animal represented the preferred mode of transport. Camels were also important for milk and for meat. Camel ownership and numbers were sources of prestige in nomadic societies.


Sudan's total production of fish, shellfish, and other fishing products reached an estimated 24,000 tons per year in 1988, the latest available yearly figures. This compared with estimates of a potential yearly catch exceeding 100,000 tons. The principal source of fish was the Nile River system. In central and northern Sudan, several lakes and reservoirs have been formed by the damming of the river and its branches: the 180-kilometer section of Lake Nubia on the main Nile in Sudan and the reservoirs behind the Roseires and Sennar dams on the Blue Nile, the Jabal al Awliya Dam on the White Nile, and the Khashm al Qirbah Dam on the Atbarah tributary of the main Nile. These bodies of water accounted for about 11,000 tons of fish against a calculated potential of about 29,000 tons.

Production from Lake Nubia through 1979, the latest figures available in 1991, was only 500 tons a year, or about one-tenth of the estimated potential. Inhabitants around the lake, which had formed gradually in the 1960s, had no previous experience in fishing, and the first significant commercial exploitation of the lake's resources had been undertaken by the government's Fisheries Administration. In 1973 a private company also started operations. In the mid- and late 1970s, an ice plant and a cold storage facility were built at Wadi Halfa with assistance from China. China also furnished thirty-five two-ton fishing vessels, a number of transport launches, and other fishing equipment. Cooling plants were constructed at Khartoum and Atbarah to hold fish that were brought from Wadi Halfa by railroad. Although ice was used in the shipments, substantial loss occurred, especially during the hotter months. To what extent fish production from the lake and availability to consumers were increased by these new facilities was not known in 1991.

The largest potential source of freshwater fish was southern Sudan whose extensive river network and flooded areas in As Sudd were believed able to provide 100,000 to 300,000 tons annually on a sustained basis. Statistics on actual production were unavailable in 1991; much was consumed locally, although limited quantities of dried and salted fish were exported to Zaire where it was in great demand.

The country's second source of fish, the Red Sea coastal area, was relatively unexploited until the late 1970s. Annual production toward the end of the decade amounted to about 500 tons of fish, shellfish (including pearl oysters), and other marine life. In 1978 the British Ministry of Overseas Development began a joint project with the government Fisheries Administration to raise output by making boats, motors, and equipment available to fishermen. Included was an ice plant built at Sawakin to furnish local fishermen with ice for their catch. By 1982 the project was well advanced, and about 2,000 tons of fish were taken annually. A sustained catch of 5,000 tons might eventually be possible.


Since the early 1900s, extensive areas of woodland and forest have been converted to agricultural use. Large amounts of land classifiable as woodland have been cleared in the development of large-scale mechanized rainfed farming in Ash Sharqi and Al Awsat states, and smaller amounts in Aali an Nil and southern Kurdufan states. Although Sudan had a large quantity of natural forest, by 1991 much of it remained almost totally unexploited. In the late 1970s, FAO estimated that the country's forests and woodlands totaled about 915,000 square kilometers, or 38.5 percent of the land area. This figure was based on the broad definition of forest and woodland as any area of vegetation dominated by trees of any size. It also included an unknown amount of cleared land that was expected to have forest cover again "in the foreseeable future." An estimate in the mid-1970s by the Forestry Administration, however, established the total forest cover at about 584,360 square kilometers, or 24.6 percent of the country's land area. More than 129,000 square kilometers (about onequarter ) of this amount were located in the dry and semiarid regions of northern Sudan. These forests were considered valuable chiefly as protection for the land against desertification, but they also served as a source of fuel for pastoral peoples in those regions. The continued population pressure on the land has resulted in an accelerated destruction of forestland, particularly in the Sahel, because charcoal remained the predominant fuel. The loss of forestland in the marginal areas of the north, accelerated by mechanized farming and by drought, resulted in a steady encroachment of the Sahara southward at about ten kilometers a year in the 1980s.

The productive forest extended below the zone of desert encroachment to the southern border. It included the savanna woodlands of the central and western parts of the country, which were dominated by various species of acacia, among them Acacia senegal, the principal source of gum arabic. Gum arabic was Sudan's second largest export product, accounting for 80 percent of the world's supply. It is nontoxic, noncalorific, and nonpolluting, having no odor or taste. It is used widely in industry for products ranging from mucilage (for postage stamps) to foam stabilizers to excipient in medicines and dietetic foods. In 1986-87 Sudan produced more than 40,000 tons marketed through the Gum Arabic Company. In the late 1980s the drought severely curtailed production.

The principal area of productive forest and woodland, however, was in the more moist southern part of the country. Covering an area of more than 200,000 square kilometers and consisting mainly of broadleaf deciduous hardwoods, it remained largely undeveloped in 1990. Timber processed by government mills in the area included mahogany for furniture and other hardwoods for railroad ties, furniture, and construction. Domestic production of timber fell far short of local needs in the 1970s, and as much as 80 percent of the domestic requirement was met by imports.

Plantations established by the government Forestry Administration in the mid-1970s totaled about 16,000 hectares of hardwoods and 500 to 600 hectares of softwoods, most were in the south. They included stands of teak and in the higher elevations of the Imatong Mountains, exotic pines. Eucalyptus stands had also been established in the irrigated agricultural areas to serve as windbreaks and to supply firewood. A gradually increasing forest reserve has been developed, and by the mid1970s it covered more than 13,000 square kilometers. Additional protection of forest and woodland areas was provided by several national parks and game reserves that encompassed 54,000 square kilometers in the mid-1970s.

Since 1983 the civil war virtually halted forestry production in southern Sudan, from which came the overwhelming amount of forestry products. According to FAO estimates, however, in 1987 Sudan produced 41,000 cubic meters of sawn timber, 1,906,000 cubic meters of other industrial roundwood, and more than 18 million cubic meters of firewood. Each of these categories showed a substantial increase from production levels in the 1970s. The insatiable demand was for charcoal, the principal cooking fuel, and the one major forest product not dependent upon the south. Because wood of any kind could be turned to charcoal, the acacia groves of the Sahel have been used extensively for this purpose, with a resulting rapid advance of deforestation. To improve government forestry conservation and management policy, as well as the issue of land use, in 1990-91 plans were underway to establish a forestry resource conservation project, funded and cofinanced by several international development agencies and donors.


The development of modern manufacturing received little direct encouragement in Sudan during the condominium period. British economic policies were aimed basically at expanding the production of primary products, mainly cotton, for export. Imports and traditional handicraft industries met the basic needs for manufactured goods. Indirectly, however, the vast Gezira Scheme cotton-growing project induced the construction of ginneries, of which more than twenty were in operation by the early 1930s. A secondary development was the establishment of several cottonseed oil-pressing mills. During World War II, small import substitution industries arose, including those manufacturing soap, carbonated drinks, and other consumer items. These operations did not survive the competition from imports after the war's end. Foreign private interests invested in a few larger enterprises that included a meat-processing factory, a cement plant, and a brewery, all opened between 1949 and 1952.

At independence the Sudanese government supported an industrial development policy to be effected through the private sector. To facilitate this process, Khartoum adopted the Approved Enterprises (Concessions) Act of 1956, to encourage private Sudanese and foreign investment. The act placed few restrictions on foreign equity holdings. By 1961, however, the government had concluded that the private sector lacked interest or funds to establish enterprises important to the national economy, and so it entered the manufacturing field. The first government project was a tannery opened that year, and this was followed in 1962 by a sugar factory. In 1962 Khartoum formed the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to manage government plants. During the decade, several additional government enterprises were built, including a second sugar factory, two fruit and vegetable canneries, a date-processing plant, an onion-dehydrating plant, a milk-processing plant, and a cardboard factory. During this time, the private sector also made substantial investment, which resulted in factories making textiles and knitwear, shoes, soap, soft drinks, and flour. Other private enterprises included printing facilities and additional oil-pressing mills. Among the largest private undertakings was the foreign-financed and foreign-built oil refinery at Port Sudan, which opened in 1964. Well over half the private sector investment during the decade came from foreign sources.

Government participation in the manufacturing sector increased dramatically after the 1969 military coup and the adoption of a policy aimed at placing the country's economic development in government hands, although private ownership continued. During 1970 and 1971 Khartoum nationalized more than thirty private enterprises. In 1972, however, to counter the drop in foreign private investment that followed, Nimeiri announced that private capital would again be accorded favorable treatment, and the government passed the Development and Promotion of Industrial Investment Act of 1972, containing even more liberal provisions than precoup legislation.

As the economy remained dependent on private capital, as well as capital investment from developed nations, the government incorporated further incentives for the favorable treatment of such capital in a 1974 revision of the industrial investment act, and added provisions against arbitrary nationalization. Moreover, in 1972 Khartoum denationalized some enterprises nationalized earlier, and returned them to their former owners under an arrangement for joint government-private ownership. One of the largest of these enterprises was the Bata Shoe Company, which was returned in 1978 as a reorganized joint company in which Bata held a 51 percent interest and the government 49 percent. The most successful such enterprise, however, was the Bittar Group, which in 1990 had become the largest undertaking in Sudan. Begun in the 1920s, nationalized in 1969 but returned to its owners in 1973, it has diversified into products ranging from exports of vegetable oils to imports of wheat, sugar, and insecticides. The firm has been active in a wide range of projects involving agriculture, electricity, and such industrial products as household and office equipment, soap, and detergents.

Throughout the 1970s, the government continued to establish new public enterprises, some state-owned, others in conjunction with private interests, and some having foreign government participation, especially by the Arab oil-producing states. The new plants included three sugar factories, among which was the Kinanah sugar-milling and refining factory; two tanneries; a flour mill; and more than twenty textile plants. A joint venture with United States interests built Sudan's first fertilizer plant south of Khartoum, which was in operation by 1986. Private investment continued, particularly in textiles. About 300 million meters of cloth were produced annually in the 1970s, but output fell to 50 million meters in 1985. In 1988, the textile industry functioned at about 25 percent of capacity. The latter figure reflected the effects of the civil war, the dearth of hard currency for spare parts to maintain machinery, and the debt crisis.

Since independence Sudan's modern manufacturing establishment has emphasized the processing of agricultural products and import substitution. The production of foodstuffs, beverages, and clothing has accounted for a large part of total output. Significant import substitution industries included cement, chemicals, and dry battery manufacture; glass-bottle-making; petroleum refining; and fertilizer production. In the late 1980s, estimates of the contribution of modern manufacturing to GDP varied from about 7 to 8 percent a year, including mining (compared to about 2 percent in 1956). Employment in the sector had risen during that period from possibly 9,000 in 1956 to 185,000 in 1977, including wage earners in government enterprises. Almost three-quarters of large-scale modern manufacturing was located in Al Khartum, attracted by market size, higher per capita income, better transportation and power infrastructure, and access to financial and government services.

Total manufacturing output, however, had not met expectation by the end of the 1970s and steadily declined in the 1980s. Overall output in some subsectors had grown as new facilities began operating, but the goal of self-sufficiency had generally not been attained. Shortages of domestic and imported raw materials, power failures, transportation delays, lack of spare parts, and shortages of labor ranging from qualified managerial staff and skilled workers to casual laborers had been drawbacks to effective operations and increased output. Losses of skilled labor and management to the Persian Gulf states have been particularly debilitating. In the 1980s, many factories operated below capacity--frequently at well under 50 percent of their potential. In some instances, low production also was related to poor project planning. For example, the government cannery at Kuraymah in Ash Shamali was already constructed when scientists found that the surrounding farming area could not produce the quantity of crops the plant could process. The milk-processing facility at Babanusah south of Khartoum had a similar record of poor planning. Efforts to improve the transportation and power infrastructure, whose deficiencies have been major contributors to the manufacturing problems, and rehabilitation of existing plants were among the basic goals of the 1977-82 Six-Year Plan of Economic and Social Development . That plan was never effectively implemented. Some progress has been reported, but in 1990 the production problems faced earlier by manufacturing persisted.


In 1990 the mining industry accounted for less than 1 percent of the total GDP. A wide range of minerals existed in Sudan, but the size of reserves had not been determined in most cases. The discovery of commercially exploitable quantities of petroleum in the late 1970s offered some hope that the sector would play an increased role in the economy in the future. However, from February 1984, some months after concessions were allotted, oil exploration operations had been suspended in the south, where the largest deposits were located, as a result of the region's security problems. Nonhydrocarbon minerals of actual or potential commercial value included gold, chrome, copper, iron, manganese, asbestos, gypsum, mica, limestone, marble, and uranium. Gold had been mined in the Red Sea Hills since pharaonic times. Between 1900 and 1954, several British enterprises worked gold mines in the area, and extracted a considerable quantity of the metal--one mine alone reportedly produced three tons of gold between 1924 and 1936. Gold also has been mined along the borders between Sudan and Uganda and Zaire, but not in commercially profitable amounts. During the 1970s, the government's Geological Survey Administration located more than fifty potential gold-producing sites in different parts of the country. Several joint ventures between the Sudanese Mining Corporation, a government enterprise, and foreign companies were launched in the 1980s; these undertakings produced gold at Gebeit and several other mines near the Red Sea Hills beginning in 1987. In 1988, about 78,000 metric kilograms of gold ore were mined in Sudan. In late 1990, Sudan and two French mining companies formed a joint venture company to exploit gold reserves in the Khawr Ariab wadi in the Red Sea Hills.

Chrome ore was mined in the Ingessana Hills in Al Awsat. In the late 1970s, output was reportedly more than 20,000 tons a year, of which more than four-fifths were produced by the Ingessana Hills Mines Corporation, a subsidiary of Sudanese Mining Corporation. A private operation produced the remainder. The ore was exported, chiefly to Japan and Western Europe. In the 1980s, the establishment of ferrochrome processing facilities had been discussed with Japanese interests, but the estimated 700,000 tons of reserves were insufficient for profitable longterm operations. By 1983, when the civil war brought a halt to all production in the Ingessana Hills, chrome production had declined about 50 percent to only 10,000 tons per year. In 1988, production of chromium ore was estimated at 5,000 metric tons. Asbestos had also been found in the Ingessana Hills area. It was reportedly of good commercial grade, and mining possibilities were under study by a Canadian subsidiary of the United States firm of Johns-Manville. A small pilot extraction plant had been built, but larger scale operations were dependent on locating adequate reserves and on the ending of the civil war.

Large gypsum deposits, estimated to contain reserves of 220 million tons, were found along the Red Sea coast. Reportedly of high purity, the ore was mined mainly north of Port Sudan. In the late 1980s, about 20,000 tons were produced annually, about 6,000 tons by the Sudanese Mining Corporation and the remainder by private operations. Gypsum was used mostly in the production of cement. Limestone, found in substantial quantities in Sudan, was mined both for use in making cement and for other construction materials. Marble was also quarried for the latter purpose.

There has been some commercial mining of mica, exploitable deposits of which had been located in Ash Shamali Province by a UN mineral survey team between 1968 and 1972. The Sudanese Mining Corporation produced about 1,000 tons of scrap mica in FY 1978, but output reportedly slumped thereafter to about 400 tons annually. Manganese and iron ore, of which several large deposits exist in different parts of the country, have been mined at times but only on a small basis by international standards. There were more than 500 million tons of iron ore deposits in the Fodikwan area of the Red Sea Hills, and beginning in the late 1980s a project had been planned to produce between 120,000 and 200,000 tons a month. Exploitation of Sudan's mineral deposits, however, depended in large part on foreign companies willing to undertake such risks in the face of the country's mounting problems, and on international market factors.

Uranium ores have been discovered in the area of the Nuba Mountains and at Hufrat an Nahas in southern Kurdufan. Minex Company of the United States obtained a 36,000-square-kilometer exploratory concession in the Kurdufan area in 1977, and the concession was increased to 48,000 square kilometers in 1979. Uranium reserves are also believed to exist near the western borders with Chad and Central African Republic. Another potential source of mineral wealth was the Red Sea bed. In 1974 officials established a joint Sudanese-Saudi Arabian agency to develop those resources, which included zinc, silver, copper, and other minerals. Explorations below the 2,000-meter mark have indicated that large quantities of the minerals are present, but as of 1990 no actual extraction had been undertaken.

In 1990 the chief sources of energy were wood and charcoal, hydroelectric power, and imported oil. Wood and charcoal were principally used by households for heating and cooking. Substantial quantities of wood fuels, amounting to roughly onefifth of the country's annual consumption, were also used by commercial operations--chiefly baking and brickmaking and, to a lesser extent, tobacco curing. Some use was also made of other vegetable matter including sugarcane bagasse, which met a significant part of the energy needs of the sugar mills, and cotton stalks, used locally by households. Consumption of wood and charcoal has continued to increase as the population has grown, and some concern has been voiced at the gradual depletion of forest and woodland resources serving the large towns. Overuse of the sparser vegetation in the semidesert grazing areas reportedly was resulting in some fuel deficiencies in those regions, as well as in desertification.

The country's hydroelectric potential has been only partially exploited. Major undeveloped hydropower sources existed at the several cataracts on the main Nile downstream from Khartoum. Natural gas was discovered in the early 1960s along the Red Sea coast in a fruitless search for petroleum. In the mid-1970s, further quantities were found during additional oil explorations, but development was not considered at the time to be commercially feasible. In October 1988, Sudan announced that natural gas production would start in one year; presumably this would come from the 85 billion cubic meters of gas reserves Chevron had earlier estimated. The 1979 and later petroleum discoveries in southern and southwestern Sudan added a new potential domestic energy source. However, these deposits to date have yielded little oil because petroleum companies, such as Chevron, had suspended oilfield explorations in these regions because of the civil war. Sudan had no known deposits of coal or lignite as of the early 1990s.

Electric Power

The only sizable area of the country having electric power available to the public was the central region along the Blue Nile from Khartoum south to Ad Damazin. The central region in the early 1990s accounted for approximately 87 percent of Sudan's total electricity consumption. The area was served by the country's only major interconnected generating and distributing system, the Blue Nile Grid. This system provided power to both the towns and the irrigation projects in the area, including the Gezira Scheme. Another small, local, interconnected system furnished power in the eastern part of the country that included Al Qadarif, Kassala, and Halfa al Jadidah. The remaining customers were in fewer than twenty widely scattered towns having local diesel-powered generating facilities: Shandi, Atbarah, and Dunqulah in the north; Malakal, Juba, and Waw in the south; Al Fashir and Nyala in Darfur; Al Ubayyid and Umm Ruwabah in Kurdufan; a few towns along the White Nile south of Khartoum; and Port Sudan. About fifty other urban centers in outlying regions, each having populations of more than 5,000, still did not have a public electricity supply in 1982, the latest year for which statistical information was available. Rural electrification was found only in some of the villages associated with the main irrigation projects.

Approximately 75 percent of the country's total electric power was produced by the Public Electricity and Water Corporation (PEWC), a state enterprise. The remaining 25 percent was generated for self-use by various industries including foodprocessing and sugar factories, textile mills, and the Port Sudan refinery. Private and PEWC electricity generation increased about 50 percent in the 1980s, to an estimated 900 gigawatt hours in 1989 in attempts to counter frequent cuts in electric power. PEWC also handled all regular electricity distribution to the public. In 1989 PEWC power stations had a total generating capacity of 606 megawatts, of which about 53 percent was hydroelectric and the remainder thermal.

The largest hydroelectric plant was at Roseires Dam on the Blue Nile; it had a capacity of 250 megawatts. Other hydroelectric stations were located at the Sennar Dam farther downstream and at Khashm al Qirbah Dam on the Atbarah River; the latter was part of the small power grid in the Al Qadarif-Kassala area. The Sennar and Roseires dams were constructed originally to provide irrigation, Sennar in 1925 and Roseires in 1966. Electric-power generating facilities were added only when increasing consumer demands had made them potentially viable (Sennar in 1962 and Roseires in 1971), yet power generation in Sudan has never satisfied actual needs.

The Blue Nile Grid, in addition to its Roseires and Sennar hydroelectric plants, had thermal plants at Burri in eastern Khartoum, where work on a 40-megawatt extension began in 1986, and in Khartoum North, where a 60-megawatt thermal station began operation in 1985. In the late 1980s, two additional stations producing 40 to 60 megawatts each were under consideration for Khartoum North.

The demand for electricity on the Blue Nile system increased greatly in the late 1970s, and power shortages have been acute from 1978 onward. Shortages have been blamed in part on management inefficiency and lack of coordination between the PEWC and irrigation authorities and other government agencies. Demand continued to grow strongly during the 1980s as development projects were completed and became operational and the population of the Three Towns increased dramatically. New generating facilities were completed in 1986 under the Power III Project, almost doubling generating capacity in the Blue Nile Grid. The project included work on the Roseires units, funded by IDA, and on the Burri and Khartoum North installations, funded by the British Overseas Development Administration. In 1983, recognizing the need for more electricity the government began seeking support for the Power IV Project to be funded by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Federal Republic of Germany ( West Germany) to bring the entire electrical system up to its full generating capacity. The plan was later scaled back from the initial cost of US$100 million and renamed Power V Project

Petroleum Use and Domestic Resources

In 1982 roughly four-fifths of the nation's energy requirement for industry, modern agriculture, transportation, government services, and households (in addition to wood fuel, charcoal, and the like) was provided by imported petroleum and petroleum products. Approximately 10 percent of these imports were used to generate electricity. Foreign exchange costs for oil imports rose dramatically after 1973 and by 1988 amounted to almost 46 percent of earnings from merchandise exports. Dependence on external sources might lessen when the security situation permits Sudan's domestic petroleum resources to be exploited.

The search for oil began in 1959 in the Red Sea littoral and continued intermittently into the 1970s. In 1982 several oil companies were prospecting large concessions offshore and on land from the Tawkar area near the Ethiopian border to the northern part of the Red Sea Hills. No significant discoveries were reported. In 1974 Chevron, a subsidiary of Standard Oil Company of California , began exploration of a 516,000-square-kilometer concession (later reduced to 280,000 square kilometers by voluntary relinquishment) in southern and southwestern Sudan. Drilling began in 1977, and the first commercial flow was obtained in July 1979 at Abu Jabirah in southern Kurdufan Province. In 1980 major finds were made at the company's Unity Field near Bentiu in Aali an Nil Province, where further drilling by early 1981 had brought in forty-nine wells having a combined flow of more than 12,000 barrels a day. The company has estimated this field's reserves at from 80 to 100 million barrels, but exploration farther south placed the reserves at more than 250 million barrels. Other oil companies--including some from the United States, Canada, and France--have also obtained concessions, and by 1982 almost one-third of Sudan had been assigned for exploration. Oil exploration and production have been hampered, however, by the almost total lack of infrastructure and by the civil war in the south of the country. Chevron had found small aircraft and helicopters essential for transport, the latter for moving portable rigs and equipment and for general use during the rainy season when all roads and locally constructed air strips were washed out.

The domestic processing of crude petroleum began in late 1964 when the Port Sudan oil refinery went into operation. The refinery, which was financed, built, and managed by the British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell companies--from July 1976 as a joint equal shareholding project with the government--had a capacity of about 21,440 barrels per day. Its capacity was well in excess of Sudan's needs at the time it was built, and refined products were exported. Local demand had quintupled by 1990, well beyond the plant's capacity. As a result, more than one-third of the gas oil (used in diesel motors and for heating) and well over two-fifths of the kerosene required for domestic use had to be imported. A substantial quantity of other products refined by the plant in excess of Sudan's own needs were exported.

The domestic petroleum discoveries led to intensive discussion within the government concerning the establishment of a new refinery. Southern Sudan pressed for construction near the oilfields in the south, but it was decided finally to locate the refinery at Kusti on the White Nile about 315 kilometers south of Khartoum. In August 1981, the White Nile Petroleum Company (WNPC) was set up by the central government as a subsidiary of the Sudanese National Oil Company to handle the undertaking. The government held a two-fifths share in WNPC, Chevron Overseas Petroleum Corporation another two-fifths, and the International Finance Corporation the remaining one-fifth. Plans called for a 550-kilometer pipeline to be built from the oilfields to the new refinery. By early 1982, however, the estimated costs of the refinery and pipeline had risen to at least the equivalent of US$1 billion as against an earlier project allotment of about one-third that figure.

The Kusti refinery was predicated on production for domestic consumption. Its estimated capacity (in early 1982) of between 15,000 and 25,000 barrels a day would meet only part of Sudan's overall requirements, however, and the quality of the petroleum would restrict economic production to certain products, so the Port Sudan refinery would have to continue operating. In view of the greatly increased cost estimates of the new plant, the World Bank in 1982 undertook a study of an alternative plan that might be more attractive to foreign capital. Under this plan, the proposed pipeline would run to Port Sudan, and an extension to the existing refinery would make it possible to export surplus refined products and even earn foreign-exchange credits. Contracts were let for the construction of the pipeline, but the government canceled them in September 1986. Further seismic studies were undertaken in the swamps (As Sudd) of Aali an Nil, but all of Chevron's exploration and development activities came to an abrupt end in February 1984 when guerrillas from the southern Sudanese insurgent group known as Anya Nya II attacked the main forward Chevron base across the Bahr al Ghazal River from Bentiu, killing four Chevron employees. Chevron immediately terminated its development program and, despite repeated demands by successive Sudanese governments, has refused to return to work its concession until the safety of its personnel can be guaranteed by a settlement of the Sudanese civil war. Total, the French oil company, shut down its operations several months later.

The Nimeiri government pressured foreign oil companies to resume exploration and drilling and hoped to encourage them to do so in part by forming the National Oil Company of Sudan (NOCS) in a joint venture with Saudi Arabian entrepreneur Adnan Khashoggi. After Nimeiri was overthrown, the new government dissolved NOCS but continued to press companies to renew work. As a result, Chevron stated in late 1987 that it would begin a sixty-day, twowell drilling program in southern Kurdufan in 1988, but postponed this because of the spread of civil war. Several other foreign companies indicated an interest in petroleum exploration in 1988, following the completion of a three-year World Bank study of Sudan's hydrocarbon potential. The minister of energy and mining had announced in May 1987 that Sudan's confirmed oil reserves totaled 2 billion barrels, with an estimated 500 million barrels recoverable.


Sudan's transport infrastructure in 1990 included an extensive railroad system that served the more important populated areas except in the far south, a meager road network (very little of which consisted of all-weather roads), a natural inland waterway--the Nile River and its tributaries--and a national airline that provided both international and domestic service. Complementing this infrastructure was Port Sudan, a major deep-water port on the Red Sea, and a small but modern national merchant marine. Additionally, a pipeline transporting petroleum products extended from the port to Khartoum .

            Only minimal efforts had been expended through the early 1980s to improve existing and, according to both Sudanese and foreign observers, largely inefficiently operated transport facilities. Increasing emphasis on economic development placed a growing strain on the system, and beginning in the mid-1970s a substantial proportion of public investment funds was allocated for transport sector development. Some progress toward meeting equipment goals had been reported by the beginning of the 1980s, but substantial further modernization and adequately trained personnel were still required. Until these were in place, inadequate transportation was expected to constitute a major obstacle to economic development.


The country had two railroads. The main system, Sudan Railways, which was operated by the government-owned Sudan Railways Corporation, provided services to most of the country's production and consumption centers. The other railroad, the Gezira Light Railway, was owned by the Sudan Gezira Board and served the Gezira Scheme and its Manaqil Extension. Railroads dominated commercial transport, although competition from the highways has been increasing rapidly. The preeminence of the railroad system was based on historical developments that led to its construction as an adjunct to military operations, although the first line, built in the mid-1870s from Wadi Halfa to a point about fifty-four kilometers upstream on the Nile River, was initially a commercial undertaking. This line, which had not proved viable commercially, was extended in the mid-1880s and again in the mid-1890s to support the Anglo-Egyptian military campaigns against the Mahdiyah. Of little other use, it was abandoned in 1905.

The first segment of the present-day Sudan Railways, from Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamad, was also a military undertaking; it was built by the British for use in General Herbert Kitchener's drive against the Mahdiyah in the late 1890s. The line was pushed to Atbarah during the campaign and after the defeat of the Mahdiyah in 1898 was continued to Khartoum, which it reached on the last day of 1899. The line was built to 1.067-meter-gauge track specifications, the result apparently of Kitchener's pragmatic use of the rolling stock and rails of that gauge from the old line. This gauge was used in all later Sudanese mainline construction.

The line opened a trade route from central Sudan through Egypt to the Mediterranean and beyond. It became uneconomical, however, because of the distance and the need for transshipment via the Nile, and in 1904 construction of a new line from Atbarah to the Red Sea was undertaken. In 1906 the new line reached recently built Port Sudan to provide a direct connection between Khartoum and ocean-going transport.

During the same decade, a line was also built from Khartoum southward to Sannar, the heart of the cotton-growing region of Al Jazirah. A westward continuation reached Al Ubayyid, then the country's second largest city and center of gum arabic production, in 1911. In the north, a branch line was built from near Abu Hamad to Kuraymah that tied the navigable stretch of the Nile between the fourth and third cataracts into the transport system. Traffic in this case, however, was largely inbound to towns along the river, a situation that still prevailed in 1990.

In the mid- and late 1920s, a spur of the railroad was built from Taqatu Hayya, a point on the main line 200 kilometers southwest of Port Sudan, southward to the cotton-producing area near Kassala, then on to the grain region of Al Qadarif, and finally to a junction with the main line at Sannar. Much of the area's traffic, which formerly had passed through Khartoum, has since moved over this line directly to Port Sudan.

The final spurt of railroad construction began in the 1950s. It included extension of the western line to Nyala (1959) in Darfur Province and of a southwesterly branch to Waw (1961), southern Sudan's second largest city, located in Bahr al Ghazal Province. This essentially completed the Sudan Railways network, which in 1990 totaled about 4,800 route kilometers.

Conversion of Sudan Railways to diesel fuel started in the late 1950s, but a few mainline steam locomotives continued in use in 1990, serving lines having lighter weight rails. Through the 1960s, the railroads essentially had a monopoly on transportation of export and import trade, and operations were profitable. In the early 1970s, losses were experienced, and, although the addition of new diesel equipment in 1976 was followed by a return to profitability, another downturn had occurred by the end of the decade. The losses were attributed in part to inflationary factors, the lack of spare parts, and the continuation of certain lines characterized by only light traffic, but retained for economic development needs and for social reasons.

The chief cause of the downturn appeared to have been loss of operational efficiency. Worker productivity had declined. For example, repair of locomotives was so slow that only about half of the total number were usually operational. Freight car turnaround time had lengthened considerably, and the reported slowness of management to meet growing competition from road transport was also a major factor. The road system, although generally more expensive, was used increasingly for low-volume, high-value goods because it could deliver more rapidly--two or three days from Port Sudan to Khartoum, compared with seven or eight days for express rail freight and up to two weeks for ordinary freight. At the end of the 1980s, moreover, only 1 to 2 percent of freight trains arrived on time. The gradual erosion of freight traffic was evident in the drop from more than 3 million tons carried annually at the beginning of the 1970s to about 2 million tons at the end of the decade. The 1980s also saw a steady erosion of tonnage as a result of a combination of inefficient management, union intransigence, the failure of agricultural projects to meet production goals, the dearth of spare parts, and the continuing civil war.

Despite the rapidly growing use of roads, the railroads have remained of paramount importance because of their ability to move at lower cost the large volume of agricultural exports and to transport inland the increasing imports of heavy capital equipment and construction materials for development, such as requirements for oil exploration and drilling operations. Efforts to improve the rail system reported in the late 1970s and the 1980s included laying heavier rails, repairing locomotives, purchasing new locomotives, modernizing signaling equipment, expanding training facilities, and improving locomotive and rolling-stock repair facilities. One project would double-track the line from Port Sudan to the junction of the branch route to Sannar, thus in effect doubling the Port Sudan-Khartoum rail line. Substantial assistance has been furnished for these and other stock and track improvement projects by foreign governments and organizations, including the European Development Fund, the Development Finance Company, the AFESD, the International Development Association, Britain, France, and Japan. Implementation of much of this work has been hampered by political instability in the 1980s, debt, the dearth of hard currency, the shortage of spare parts, and import controls. Railroads were estimated in mid-1989 to be operating at less than 20 percent of capacity.

The Gezira Light Railway, one of the largest light railroads in Africa, evolved from tracks laid in the 1920s' construction of the canals for the Gezira Scheme. At the time, the railroad had about 135 route kilometers of 1.6096-meter-gauge track. As the size of the project area increased, the railroad was extended and by the mid-1960s consisted of a complex system totaling 716 route kilometers. Its primary purpose has been to serve the farm area by carrying cotton to ginneries and fertilizers, fuel, food, and other supplies to the villages in the area. Operations usually have been suspended during the rainy season.


In 1990 Sudan's road system totaled between 20,000 and 25,000 kilometers, comprising an extremely sparse network for the size of the country. Asphalted all-weather roads, excluding paved streets in cities and towns, amounted to roughly 3,000 to 3,500 kilometers, of which the Khartoum-Port Sudan road accounted for almost 1,200 kilometers. There were between 3,000 and 4,000 kilometers of gravel roads located mostly in the southern region where lateritic road-building materials were abundant. In general, these roads were usable all year round, although travel might be interrupted at times during the rainy season. Most of the gravel roads in southern Sudan have become unusable after being heavily mined by the insurgent southern forces of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA ) . The remaining roads were little more than fair-weather earth and sand tracks. Those in the clayey soil of eastern Sudan, a region of great economic importance, were impassable for several months during the rains. Even in the dry season, earthen roads in the sandy soils found in various parts of the country were generally usable only by motor vehicles equipped with special tires.

Until the early 1970s, the government had favored the railroads, believing they better met the country's requirements for transportation and that the primary purpose of roads was to act as feeders to the rail system. The railroads were also a profitable government operation, and road competition was not viewed as desirable. In the mid-1930s, a legislative attempt had been made to prevent through-road transport between Khartoum and Port Sudan. The law had little effect, but the government's failure to build roads hindered the development of road transportation. The only major stretch of road that had been paved by 1970 was between Khartoum and Wad Madani. This road had been started under a United States aid program in 1962, but work had stopped in 1967 when Sudanese-United States relations were broken over the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War. United States equipment was not removed, however, and was used by government workers to complete the road in 1970.

Disillusionment with railroad performance led to a new emphasis on roads in a readjustment of the Five-Year Plan in 1973--the so-called Interim Action Program--and a decision to encourage competition between rail and road transport as the best way to improve services. Paving of the dry-weather road between Khartoum and Port Sudan via Al Qadarif and Kassala was the most significant immediate step; this included upgrading of the existing paved Khartoum-Wad Madani section. From Wad Madani to Port Sudan, the road was constructed in four separate sections, each by different foreign financing, and in the case of the Wad Madani-Al Qadarif section, by direct participation of the Chinese. Other section contractors included companies from Italy, West Germany, and Yugoslavia. The last section opened in late 1980.

Other important road-paving projects of the early 1980s included a road from Wad Madani to Sannar and an extension from Sannar to Kusti on the White Nile completed in 1984. Since then the paved road has been extended to Umm Ruwabah with the intention to complete an all-weather road to Al Ubayyid. Paradoxically, most truckers in 1990 continued to pass from Omdurman to Al Ubayyid through the Sahelian scrub and the qoz to avoid the taxes levied to use the faster and less damaging paved road from Khartoum via Kusti.

A number of main gravel roads radiating from Juba were also improved. These included roads to the towns southwest of Juba and a road to the Ugandan border. In addition, the government built a gravel all-weather road east of Juba that reaches the Kenyan border. There it joined an all-weather road to Lodwar in Kenya connecting it with the Kenyan road system. All these improvements radiating from Juba, however, have been vitiated by the civil war, in which the roads have been extensively mined by the SPLA and the bridges destroyed, and because roads have not been maintained, they have seriously deteriorated.

Small private companies, chiefly owner-operated trucks, furnished most road transport. The government has encouraged private enterprise in this industry, especially in the central and eastern parts of the country, and the construction of allweather roads has reportedly led to rapid increases in the number of hauling businesses. The Sudanese-Kuwaiti Transport Company, a large government enterprise financed largely by Kuwait, began operations in 1975 with 100 large trucks and trailers. Most of its traffic was between Khartoum and Port Sudan. Use of road transport and bus services is likely to increase as paved roads are completed south of Khartoum in the country's main agricultural areas.

Inland Waterways

The Nile River, traversing Sudan from south to north, provides an important inland transportation route. Its overall usefulness, however, has been limited by natural features, including a number of cataracts in the main Nile between Khartoum and the Egyptian border. The White Nile to the south of Khartoum has shallow stretches that restrict the carrying capacities of barges, especially during the period of low water, and the river has sharp bends. Most of these southern impediments have been eliminated by Chevron, who as part of their oil exploration and development program dredged the White Nile shoals and established navigational beacons from Kusti to Bentiu. A greater impediment has been the spread of the water hyacinth, which impedes traffic. Man-made features have also introduced restrictions, the most important of which was a dam constructed in the 1930s on the White Nile about forty kilometers upriver from Khartoum. This dam has locks, but they have not always operated well, and the river has been little used from Khartoum to the port of Kusti, a railroad crossing 319 kilometers upstream. The Sennar and Roseires dams on the Blue Nile are without locks and restrict traffic on that river.

In 1983 only two sections of the Nile had regular commercial transport services. The more important was the 1,436-kilometer stretch of the White Nile from Kusti to Juba (known as the Southern Reach), which provided the only generally usable transport connection between the central and southern parts of the country. Virtually all traffic, and certainly scheduled traffic, ended in 1984, when the SPLA consistently sank the exposed steamers from sanctuaries along the river banks. River traffic south of Kusti had not resumed in mid- 1991 except for a few heavily armed and escorted convoys.

At one time, transport services also were provided on tributaries of the White Nile (the Bahr al Ghazal and the Jur River) to the west of Malakal. These services went as far as Waw but were seasonal, depending on water levels. They were finally discontinued during the 1970s because vegetation blocked waterways, particularly the fast-growing water hyacinth. On the main Nile, a 287-kilometer stretch from Kuraymah to Dunqulah, situated between the fourth and third cataracts and known as the Dunqulah Reach, also had regular service, although this was restricted during the low-water period in February and March. Transport facilities on both reaches were operated after 1973 by the parastatal (mixed government and privately owned company) River Transport Corporation (RTC). Before that they had been run by the SRC, essentially as feeders to the rail line. River cargo and passenger traffic have varied from year to year, depending in large part on the availability and capacity of transport vessels. During the 1970s, roughly 100,000 tons of cargo and 250,000 passengers were carried annually. By 1984, before the Southern Reach was closed, the number of passengers had declined to less than 60,000 per year and the tonnage to less than 150,000. Although no statistics were available, the closing of the Southern Reach had by 1990 made river traffic insignificant.

Foreign economists have characterized the RTC's operations as inefficient, a result both of shortages of qualified staff and of barge capacity. The corporation had a virtual monopoly over river transport, although the southern regional government had established river feeder transport operations, and private river transport services were reported to be increasing until the resumption of the civil war. Despite its favored position, the RTC and its predecessor (SRC) experienced regular losses that had to be covered by government appropriations. In the late 1970s, the corporation procured new barges, pusher-tugboats, and other equipment in an effort to improve services, but this attempt proved useless because of the warfare that had continued from 1983.

Civil Aviation

In mid-1991 scheduled domestic air service was provided by Sudan Airways, a government-owned enterprise operated by the Sudan Airways Company. The company began its operations in 1947 as a government department. It has operated commercially since the late 1960s, holding in effect a monopoly on domestic service. In 1991 Sudan Airways had scheduled flights from Khartoum to twenty other domestic airports, although it did not always adhere to its schedules. It also provided international services to several European countries, including Britain, Germany, Greece, and Italy. Regional flights were made to North Africa and the Middle East as well as to Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. The Sudan Airways fleet in 1991 consisted of thirteen aircraft, including five Boeing 707s used on international flights, two Boeing 737s and two Boeing 727s employed in domestic and regional services, and four Fokker F-27s used for domestic flights.

Sixteen international airlines provided regular flights to Khartoum. The number of domestic and international passengers increased from about 478,000 in 1982 to about 485,000 in 1984. Air freight increased from 6 million tons per kilometer in 1982 to 7.7 million tons per kilometer in 1984. As compared with the previous year, in 1989 passenger traffic on Sudan Airways fell by 32 percent to 363,181 people, reducing the load factor to 34.9 percent. By contrast, freight volume increased by 63.7 percent to 12,317 tons. At the end of 1979, Sudan Airways had entered into a pooling agreement with Britain's Tradewind Airways to furnish charter cargo service between that country and Khartoum under a subsidiary company, Sudan Air Cargo. A new cargo terminal was built at Khartoum.

Sudan Airways's operations have generally shown losses, and in the early 1980s the corporation was reportedly receiving an annual government subsidy of about £Sd500 ,000. In 1987 the government proposed to privatize Sudan Airways, precipitating a heated controversy that ultimately led to a joint venture between the government and private interests. Like the railroads and river transport operators, however, Sudan Airways suffered from a shortage of skilled personnel, overstaffing, and lacked hard currency and credit for spare parts and proper maintenance.

In the early 1980s, the country's civilian airports, with the exception of Khartoum International Airport and the airport at Juba , sometimes closed during rainy periods because of runway conditions. After the 1986 drought, which caused major problems at regional airports, the government launched a program to improve runways, to be funded locally. Aeronautical communications and navigational aids were minimal and at some airports relatively primitive. Only Khartoum International Airport was equipped with modern operational facilities, but by the early 1990s, Khartoum and seven other airports had paved runways. In the mid-1970s, IDA and the Saudi Development Fund agreed to make funds available for construction of new airports at Port Sudan and Waw, reconstruction and improvement of the airport at Malakal, and substantial upgrading of the Juba airport; these four airports accounted for almost half of domestic traffic. Because the civil war resumed, improvements were made only at Port Sudan. Juba airport runways were rebuilt by a loan from the European Development Fund, but the control tower and navigational equipment remained incomplete.

Marine Ports and Shipping

In 1990 Sudan had only one operational deep-water harbor, Port Sudan, situated on an inlet of the Red Sea. The port had been built from scratch, beginning in 1905, to complement the railroad line from Khartoum to the Red Sea by serving as the entry and exit point for the foreign trade the rail line was to carry. It operated as a department of SRC until 1974 when it was transferred to the Sea Ports Corporation, a newly established public enterprise set up to manage Sudan's marine ports. Facilities at the port eventually included fifteen cargo berths, sheds, warehouses, and storage tanks for edible oils, molasses, and petroleum products. Equipment included quay, mobile, and other cranes, and some forklift trucks, but much of the handling of cargo was manual. There were also a number of tugboats, which were used to berth ships in the narrow inlet.

During the early 1970s, port traffic averaged about 3 million tons a year, compared with an overall capacity of about 3.8 million tons. Exports were somewhat more than 1 million tons and imports about 2 million tons; about half of the latter was petroleum and petroleum products. By the mid-1970s, stepped up economic development had raised traffic to capacity levels. In 1985, however, largely as a result of the civil war, exports were down to 663 thousand tons (down 51 percent from the previous year) and imports were 2.3 million tons (down 25 percent from the previous year). Physical expansion of the harbor and adjacent areas was generally precluded by natural features and the proximity of the city of Port Sudan. However, surveys showed that use could be increased considerably by modernization and improvement of existing facilities and the addition of further cargo-handling equipment. In 1978, with the assistance of a loan from the IDA, work began on adding deep-water berths and providing roll-on-roll-off container facilities. A loan to purchase equipment was made by a West Germany body. The first phase was completed in 1982, and the second phase began in 1983, aided by a US$25-million World Bank credit. One of the major improvements has been to make the port more readily usable by road vehicles. Developed almost entirely as a rail-serviced facility, the port had large areas of interlacing railroad tracks that were mostly not flush with surrounding surfaces, thereby greatly restricting vehicular movement. Many of these tracks have been removed and new access roads constructed. Much of the cleared area has become available for additional storage facilities.

In the early 1980s, the Nimeiri government announced a plan to construct a new deep-water port at Sawakin, about twenty kilometers south of Port Sudan. Construction of a new port had long been under consideration in response to the projected growth of port traffic in the latter part of the twentieth century. A detailed study for the proposed port was made by a West German firm in the mid-1970s, and plans were drawn up for three general cargo berths, including roll-on-roll-off container facilities, and an oil terminal. Major funding for the port, known as Sawakin, was offered in 1985 by West Germany's development agency Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau and the DFC. After the Nimeiri government repeatedly postponed work on the port, the German government allocated the funds instead for purchase of agricultural inputs. Once work resumed, however, Sawakin port opened in January 1991, and was capable of handling an estimated 1.5 million tons of cargo a year.

A national merchant marine, Sudan Shipping Line, was established in 1962 as a joint venture between the government and Yugoslavia. In 1967 it became wholly government owned. From the initial two Yugoslav-built cargo vessels, the line had grown by the mid-1970s to seven ships, totaling about 52,340 deadweight tons. During 1979 and early 1980, eight more ships were added, including six built in Yugoslavia and two in Denmark. In 1990 the merchant marine consisted of ten ships of 122,200 deadweight tons. The Yugoslav vessels were all multipurpose and included container transport features. The Danish ships were equipped with roll-on-roll-off facilities. Sailings, which had been mainly between Red Sea ports and northern Europe, were expanded in the late 1980s to several Mediterranean ports.


By the early 1970s, operational problems on the Port SudanKhartoum section of Sudan Railways had resulted in inadequate supplies of petroleum products reaching Khartoum and other parts of the country. In 1975 construction of an oil pipeline from the port to Khartoum was begun to relieve traffic pressure on the railroad. It was completed in mid-1976, but leaks were discovered and the 815-kilometer-long pipeline, laid generally parallel to the railroad, did not become operational until September 1977. As constructed, its capacity was 600,000 tons a year, but that throughput was only attained in mid-1981. In early 1982, steps were taken to add additional booster pumping stations to increase the rate to an annual throughput capacity of 1 million tons. The line carried only refined products, including gasoline, gas oil, kerosene, and aviation fuel obtained either from the refinery at the port or from import-holding facilities there. These fuels were moved in a continuous operation to storage tanks at Khartoum with some capacity offloaded at Atbarah. Rail tank cars released by the pipeline were reassigned to increase supplies of petroleum products in the western and southwestern regions of the country.


Domestic telecommunications in Sudan were sparse, and the system suffered from poor maintenance. In 1991 the country had only 73,000 telephones, two-thirds of which were in the Khartoum area. Telex was available in the capital. A domestic satellite system with fourteen ground stations, supplemented by coaxial cable and a microwave network, linked telephone exchanges and broadcast facilities within the country. Eleven cities had amplitude modulation (AM) radio stations, and Khartoum, Atbarah, and Wad Madani had television stations with broadcasts in Arabic seven hours nightly. The country had an estimated 6 million radio receivers and 250,000 television sets in 1991.

International telecommunications were modern and provided high-quality links to the rest of the world. A satellite ground station near the capital working with the International Telecommunications Satellite Corporation's (Intelsat) Atlantic Ocean satellite permitted direct dialing of telephone calls between Sudan and Europe, North America, and parts of Africa. In addition, a second satellite ground station was linked to the Arab Satellite Communications Organization's (Arabsat) pan-Arab communications network. The Arabsat network was used for live television broadcasts, news exchanges, and educational programming among the members of the League of Arab States (Arab League).



The traditional banking system was inherited from the AngloEgyptian condominium (1899-1955). When the National Bank of Egypt opened in Khartoum in 1901, it obtained a privileged position as banker to and for the government, a "semi-official" central bank. Other banks followed, but the National Bank of Egypt and Barclays Bank dominated and stabilized banking in Sudan until after World War II. Post-World War II prosperity created a demand for an increasing number of commercial banks. By 1965 loans to the private sector in Sudan had reached £Sd55.3 million.

Before Sudanese independence, there had been no restrictions on the movement of funds between Egypt and Sudan, and the value of the currency used in Sudan was tied to that of Egypt. This situation was unsatisfactory to an independent Sudan, which established the Sudan Currency Board to replace Egyptian and British money. It was not a central bank because it did not accept deposits, lend money, or provide commercial banks with cash and liquidity. In 1959 the Bank of Sudan was established to succeed the Sudan Currency Board and to take over the Sudanese assets of the National Bank of Egypt. In February 1960, the Bank of Sudan began acting as the central bank of Sudan, issuing currency, assisting the development of banks, providing loans, maintaining financial equilibrium, and advising the government.

There were originally five major commercial banks (Bank of Khartoum, An Nilein Bank, Sudan Commercial Bank, the People's Cooperative Bank, and the Unity Bank) but the number subsequently grew. The public was dissatisfied with the commercial banks, however, because they were reluctant to lend capital for longterm development projects. Since the Nimeiri government decreed the 1970 Nationalization of Banks Act, all domestic banks have been controlled by the Bank of Sudan.

In 1974, to encourage foreign capital investment, foreign banks were urged to establish joint ventures in association with Sudanese capital. Banking transactions with foreign companies operating in Sudan were facilitated so long as they abided by the rulings of the Bank of Sudan and transferred a minimum of £Sd3 million into Sudan. Known as the "open door" policy, this system was partly a result of Nimeiri's disillusion with the left after the unsuccessful communist coup of 1971. Several foreign banks took advantage of the opportunity, most notably Citibank, the Faisal Islamic Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development.

In addition, the government established numerous specialized banks, such as the Agricultural Bank of Sudan (1959) to promote agricultural ventures, the Industrial Bank of Sudan (1961) to promote private industry, the Sudanese Estates Bank (1966) to provide housing loans, and the Sudanese Savings Bank established to make small loans particularly in the rural areas. The system worked effectively until the late 1970s and 1980s, when the decline in foreign trade, balance-of-payments problems, spiraling external debt, the increase in corruption, and the appearance of Islamic banking disrupted the financial system.

Islamic Banking

The Faisal Islamic Bank, whose principal patron was the Saudi prince, Muhammad ibn Faisal Al Saud, was officially established in Sudan in 1977 by the Faisal Islamic Bank Act. The "open door" policy enabled Saudi Arabia, which had a huge surplus after the 1973 Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) increases in the price of petroleum, to invest in Sudan. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the National Islamic Front, played a prominent role on the board of directors of the Faisal Islamic Bank, thus strengthening the bank's position in Sudan. Other Islamic banks followed. As a consequence, both the Ansar and Khatmiyyah religious groups and their political parties, the Umma and the Democratic Unionist Party, formed their own Islamic banks.

The Faisal Islamic Bank enjoyed privileges denied other commercial banks (full tax exemption on assets, profits, wages, and pensions), as well as guarantees against confiscation or nationalization. Moreover, these privileges came under Nimeiri's protection from 1983 onward as he became committed to applying Islamic doctrine to all aspects of Sudanese life. The theory of Islamic banking is derived from the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad's exhortations against exploitation and the unjust acquisition of wealth, defined as riba, or, in common usage, interest or usury. Profit and trade are encouraged and provide the foundation for Islamic banking. The prohibitions against interest are founded on the Islamic concept of property that results from an individual's creative labor or from exchange of goods or property. Interest on money loaned falls within neither of these two concepts and is thus unjustified.

To resolve this dilemma from a legal and religious point of view, Islamic banking employs common terms: musharakah or partnership for production; mudharabah or silent partnership when one party provides the capital, the other the labor; and murabbahah or deferred payment on purchases, similar in practice to an overdraft and the most preferred Islamic banking arrangement in Sudan. To resolve the prohibition on interest, an interest-bearing overdraft would be changed to a murabbahah contract. The fundamental difference between Islamic and traditional banking systems is that in an Islamic system deposits are regarded as shares, which does not guarantee their nominal value. The appeal of the Islamic banks, as well as government support and patronage, enabled these institutions to acquire an estimated 20 percent of Sudanese deposits. Politically, the popularity and wealth of Islamic banks have provided a financial basis for funding and promoting Islamic policies in government.


Foreign Trade

In 1989 Sudan's export earnings amounted to £Sd3 ,023.1 million and its imports £Sd5,373.4 million. Export earnings dropped to an estimated £Sd1 ,800 million in 1990, with imports remaining at the 1989 level. Agricultural products have dominated Sudanese exports since the condominium period, and in the 1980s they accounted for more than 90 percent of export receipts. Cotton, gum arabic, peanuts, sesame, and sorghum were the main commodities. Live animals; hides and skins; and peanut, cottonseed, and sesame products (oil and meal) constituted the more important remaining export items . Sudan has long been the world's second largest exporter of longstaple cotton, and cotton exports constituted more than 50 percent of total exports by value in the 1960s but declined to about 30 percent in the 1980s. Gum arabic was in second place until the 1960s when production of peanuts expanded to occupy that position which, however was not sustained by the late 1980s. Sesame became the third most valuable export in the 1970s. Fluctuations have occurred in the earnings of these four principal commodities as the result of weather conditions, local price situations, and world market prices.

Foodstuffs and textiles were Sudan's largest imports by value at the start of national independence. These commodities held that position into the mid-1970s, when they were surpassed by increased imports of machinery and transport equipment as the government began an intensive drive for economic development. The share of foodstuffs and textiles declined by roughly one-half during the decade, from 40.5 percent in 1971 to less than 20 percent in 1979. In 1986 manufactured goods, including textiles, accounted for 20 percent of imports whereas wheat and foodstuffs represented about 15 percent. Machinery and transport equipment, which had accounted for about 22 percent of imports in 1970, averaged 40 percent between 1975 and 1978, reaching a high of 45 percent in 1976, and dropped to 25 percent in 1986, reflecting the slowdown of economic development .

Government plans for self-sufficiency through the development of import substitution industries achieved limited success in certain cases. Notable was the reduction in imports of refined petroleum products that resulted from the 1964 opening of the Port Sudan refinery. Substantial savings were made in foreign exchange expenditure until the rise in world crude petroleum prices after 1973. Crude oil and certain refined products accounted for only about 1 percent of import values in 1973 but had increased to more than 12 percent in 1986. Progress has been extremely slow in sugar production, and government factories were reported in the late 1970s to be meeting about one-third of the domestic demand. After its opening in 1980, the new Kinanah sugar mill and refinery, which alone had a rated capacity sufficient to replace most current sugar imports, helped in 1981 to increase overall sugar production to 71 percent of estimated consumption. Domestic textile production had also increased greatly from the 1960s, and the share of textiles in total imports had declined from about 20 percent at the end of the 1960s to less than 4 percent in 1980.

In the early condominium era, Egypt had been Sudan's main customer. The development of the Gezira Scheme, however, resulted in large-scale exports of cotton to Britain, which by the end of the 1920s was purchasing about 80 percent of Sudanese exports. Although development of the textile industry in other European countries gradually cut into Britain's share of cotton exports, at the start of World War II that country still was the destination of almost half of Sudan's total export trade and at the time of Sudanese independence continued to be the largest customer. During the 1960s, India, West Germany, and Italy emerged as major buyers; late in the decade Japan also became a major customer. In the late 1980s, Britain remained an important export destination. Other major customers were France, China, and Saudi Arabia. In 1989 Saudi Arabia was Sudan's main export market, buying an estimated 16.8 percent of Khartoum's exports, particularly sorghum and livestock. The United States although not one of Sudan's largest purchasers, became a major customer in the latter 1980s, buying mainly cotton, gum arabic, and peanuts .

After the May 1969 coup, Khartoum took steps to expand trade with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Exports to the Soviet Union rose dramatically in 1970 and 1971 as that country became Sudan's leading customer. After the abortive communist-led coup of 1971, however, relations deteriorated, and Soviet purchases dropped to almost nil. After 1985 overtures to improve economic relations with the Soviet Union met with little response. Economic ties with China improved in the mid- and late 1980s, with exports to Beijing reaching an estimated 7.3 percent of Khartoum's total exports in 1989, making it Sudan's fifth largest customer.

Sudan's imports were provided by a wide range of countries, led by Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s. In 1989, Saudi Arabia supplied nearly 14.1 percent of Sudan's total imports, with petroleum the chief import item. Britain was Sudan's main import source until 1980; in the late 1980s it became Khartoum's second largest provider, supplying an estimated 8.3 percent of the country's imports in 1989. Britain had well-established commercial and banking operations in Khartoum and a leading position in exporting manufactured goods, vehicles, tobacco, beverages, chemicals, and machinery to Sudan. Among the ten or twelve other top suppliers, the United States, West Germany ( Germany after 1990), France, Italy, the Netherlands, China, and India were most significant. Most were also major export customers.

Through 1978 Iraq had been a prime source of Sudan's imports because it was the principal supplier of crude petroleum, a function that was taken over by Saudi Arabia in 1979 after Iraq cut off oil supplies because Sudan backed Egypt in the latter's peace initiative with Israel. In the last years of the Nimeiri government, bilateral trade with Egypt was cut sharply but in April 1988, Sudan and Egypt signed a trade agreement valued at US$225 million. In June 1991, Sudan ratified a US$300 million trade agreement with Egypt. Improved relations with Libya enabled Tripoli to become Sudan's third biggest importer in 1989. In January 1989, Sudan and Tripoli signed a US$150 million agreement for Sudan to buy Libyan crude oil. The two countries signed a trade pact in December 1989, with Sudan agreeing to purchase Libyan fuel, chemicals, fertilizer, cement, and caustic soda.

Balance of Payments

A reasonably accurate presentation of Sudan's balance of payments--the summary in money terms of transactions with the rest of the world--was hampered by what foreign economists considered understatements in official statistics of imports and public sector loans. The lack of reliable statistical information was a problem, but the effects on the economy of mismanagement, famine, and war were obvious. In the current account (covering trade, services, and transfer transactions), the trade balance throughout the two decades from 1960 to 1980 usually showed a deficit; only in 1973 was a relatively substantial surplus registered. After 1973 the trade balance was unfavorably affected by higher petroleum import costs and the greater costs of other imports that resulted from the worldwide inflation engendered by oil price increases. The impact on the balance of payments was especially serious because of its coincidence with the implementation after 1973 of an intensive development program that required greatly increased imports. The current account situation was not improved by the services sector (insurance, travel, and others), which regularly experienced a net loss, as did investment income. Transfers usually had a positive balance, but one insufficient to offset the usual deficit in trade and services. Net inflows and disbursement of foreign loans and other capital failed to cover the shortage in the current account, and the overall balance of payments was regularly in deficit

The government from its earliest days had been forced to resort to external financing to cover balance of payments shortfalls. Deficits and debt service obligations were relatively insignificant until the mid-1970s. Particularly from 1974 to 1977, large-scale borrowing and new commitments were estimated at more than the equivalent of US$2.4 billion. At the end of 1979, outstanding public and publicly guaranteed debts (disbursed) totaled more than US$2.5 billion, of which almost US$1.8 billion was owed to governments, US$535 million to commercial lenders, and US$235 million to suppliers. In 1981 Sudan's debt burden was estimated at US$4 billion. Little control over borrowing was exercised within the government. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning officially had responsibility for contracting foreign loans, but such loans frequently had been authorized directly by Nimeiri. Many were relatively short-term and at interest rates too high for Sudan, considering its economic situation. Until the coup d'état of Brigadier General Umar al Bashir on June 30, 1989, there was little fiscal control over currency and imports, and imports tended to include a large number of luxury goods. After 1989 there was no improvement in Sudan's foreign debt situation, despite a reduction in government subsidies for bread, a 50 percent reduction of wheat imports, and the end of sugar importation, which was expected to save an estimated US$400 million annually. Despite these measures, total foreign debt rose in 1990 to US$13 billion, with debt liabilities, including principal and interest, estimated at US$980 million in 1988-89.

In 1978 Sudan failed to meet its obligations fully--debt service payments owed that year amounted to 17.9 percent of export earnings. It was apparent that it would also not meet its obligations in 1979, and so it sought relief from creditors. In late 1979, acting through the so-called Paris Club, a group of industrialized creditor countries including the United States, Japan, and nine West European states, Sudan rescheduled an estimated US$400 million to US$500 million of the debts guaranteed by Western export credit agencies. The agreed payments were to be made over a seven-year period commencing after a three-year grace period. Rescheduling of another US$600 million in loans and interest with more than 100 commercial banks-- represented by the 5 main creditor banks--required a further two years; the agreement was signed at the end of 1981. Despite repeated reschedulings of Sudan's debt burden, both arrears and debt service payments continued to increase.

Since 1978 the government has undertaken various measures to improve the balance of payments situation. A 1979 devaluation of the overpriced Sudanese pound was carried out, reducing its value from the equivalent of US$2.87 to US$0.22. As of March 31, 1991, the official exchange rate was US$1=£Sd4.50. Since then Sudan's economy has steadily weakened, as have its relations with the IMF and the Paris Club. In 1989 Sudan had repaid the IMF only a token US$15 million and continued to resist IMF demands for further economic austerity measures. Despite declarations by the Sudanese government that it was determined to cooperate with international lending organizations, in mid-1991 Sudan had made itself ineligible for debt relief because it was unable to service its debt.

Despite the problem of obtaining reliable and current information, a number of significant books and monographs have been published recently on various aspects of Sudan's economy. Among these is El Wathiq Kameir and Abrahim Kursany's Corruption as the 'Fifth' Factor of Production in the Sudan, which should be read in conjunction with the two books by Mansour Khalid, Nimeiri and the Revolution of Dis-May and The Government They Deserve. These books not only unravel corruption but also provide insightful analyses of Sudanese governments. Tim Niblock's Class and Power in Sudan covers the whole of the condominium and ends with the Nimeiri regime. Of more contemporary interest is the sound analysis of Sudan's economy in Dr. Medani M. Ahmed's The Political Economy of Development in the Sudan. A more recent work is a collection of essays, Sudan since Independence; several of these essays edited by Muddathir Abd al Rahim, Raphael Badal, Adlan Hardallo, and Peter Woodward pertain to the economy.

A very useful collection of essays is that edited by Ali Mohamed el Hassan, "Essays on the Economy and Society of the Sudan." More recent is a collection of essays on Sudan's economy edited by Paul van de Wel and Abdel Ghaffar Mohamed Ahmed, Perspectives on Development in the Sudan. Ali Abdel Gadir Ali's, Some Aspects of Production in Sudanese Traditional Agriculture has insightful comments on Sudan's economy. Siddiq Umbadda's Import Policy in the Sudan, 1966-1976 and Mekki El Shibly's Monetisation, Financial Intermediation, and Self-Financed Growth in the Sudan, analyze the economy during the Nimeiri years. An assessment of Sudan's agricultural development is provided in Tony Barnett's and Abbas Abdelkarim's book, Sudan: The Gezira Scheme and Agricultural Transition. An important journal specifically devoted to the Sudan's economy, particularly during the Nimeiri regime, is Sudan Journal of Economic and Social Studies.

Statistical information can be found in the Annual Reports of the Bank of Sudan (especially the 1989 edition), but their statistical information becomes increasingly unreliable after the fall of the Nimeiri regime, reflecting the political instability. Moreover, after the coup of June 30, 1989, the regime became increasingly secretive. The Economist Intelligence Unit's Sudan: Country Report, published quarterly, provides valuable data about Sudan's economy, as does the chapter on Sudan in the annual Europa volume Africa South of the Sahara, 1990.

Finally, Islamic banking as a relatively new phenomenon in Sudan cannot be ignored because of its impact on the economy and the powerful political influence these financial structures are enjoying in contemporary Sudan. J. Schacht's An Introduction to Islamic Law, Islamic Law and Finance, edited by Chibli Mallat, and the influential work by A. Mirakhour and Z. Iqbal, Islamic Banking, are useful works on the subject.

Chapter 4. Government and Politics

IN MID-1991, SUDAN was ruled by a military government that exercised its authority through the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC-NS). The chairman of the fifteenmember RCC-NS and head of state was Lieutenant General Umar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir, who also served as prime minister, minister of defense, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The RCC-NS had come to power at the end of June 1989 as a result of a coup d'état that overthrew the democratically elected civilian government of Sadiq al Mahdi. Although the RCC-NS initially stressed that its rule was a transitional stage necessary to prepare the country for genuine democracy, it banned all political party activity, arrested numerous dissidents, and shut down most newspapers. Subsequently, members of the RCC-NS claimed that Western-style democracy was too divisive for Sudan. In place of parliament, the RCC-NS appointed committees to advise the government in specialized areas, such as one concerning the legal system to bring legislation into conformity with the sharia, or Islamic law.

The factors that provoked the military coup, primarily the closely intertwined issues of Islamic law and of the civil war in the south, remained unresolved in 1991. The September 1983 implementation of the sharia throughout the country had been controversial and provoked widespread resistance in the predominantly non-Muslim south. The Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its military arm, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), were formed in mid-1983. They became increasingly active in the wake of President Jaafar an Nimeiri's abolition of the largely autonomous Southern Regional Assembly and redivision of the south, and as his program of Islamization became more threatening. Opposition to the sharia, especially to the application of hudud (sing., hadd), or Islamic penalties, such as the public amputation of hands for theft, was not confined to the south and had been a principal factor leading to the popular uprising of April 1985 that overthrew the government of Jaafar an Nimeiri. Although implementation of the sharia remained suspended for the next four years, northern politicians were reluctant to abolish Islamic law outright, whereas southern leaders hesitated to abandon armed struggle unless the legal system were secularized. The continuing conflict in the south prevented progress on economic development projects and eventually compelled the Sadiq al Mahdi government in the spring of 1989 to consider concessions on the applicability of sharia law as demanded by the SPLM.

On the eve of an historic government-SPLM conference to discuss the future status of Islamic law in Sudan, a group of military officers carried out a coup in the name of the newly constituted RCC-NS. Their intervention in the political process halted further steps toward a possible cancellation of the suspended but still valid sharia. Although the RCC-NS initially announced that the sharia would remain frozen, the government encouraged courts, at least in the north, to base decisions on Islamic law. SPLM leaders charged that the government was unduly influenced by Islamic political groups and announced that the SPLA would not lay down its arms and discuss political grievances until the government abrogated the sharia. Because neither the RCC-NS nor its southern opponents were prepared to compromise on the sharia, the military conflict continued in the south, where the government's authority was limited to the larger towns and the SPLA or other militia controlled most of the secondary towns and rural areas.

Although the RCC-NS banned all political parties following the 1989 coup, members of this ruling body have not concealed their personal and ideological ties to the National Islamic Front (NIF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. RCC-NS policy decisions on many social, as well as political and economic issues, reflected strong NIF influence. For example, the RCC-NS purged hundreds of army personnel, senior civil servants, and teachers perceived as being insufficiently Islamic, decreed that men and women must sit in separate sections on public buses, and forbade any Sudanese female to leave the country without the written consent of her father or legal male guardian. Finally, on New Year's Eve 1990-91, the government announced that the sharia would be applied in the north.

The RCC-NS policies aroused antagonism in the north as well as the south, and consequently political instability has continued to dominate Sudan. During 1990, for example, the Bashir government announced that at least two alleged coup attempts within the military had been foiled. In addition, there were several instances of antigovernment demonstrations being violently suppressed. Opposition politicians, international organizations, and foreign governments all accused the government of systematic human rights abuses in its efforts to quell dissent. Opposition to the Bashir government induced exiled leaders of banned political parties in the north and SPLA leaders in the south to meet on a number of occasions to work out a joint strategy for confronting the regime. Consequently, in mid-1991 the regime's stability seemed fragile and its political future uncertain.

Further clouding the regime's prospects for stability was the threat of famine in many parts of the vast country as a result of the drought, which had been sporadic throughout the 1980s and particularly severe since 1990, and of the continuing civil war. The Bashir government was preoccupied with the political ramifications of food shortages because it was acutely aware that riots by hungry Sudanese were one of the factors that had brought down the Nimeiri regime in 1985. Nevertheless, the government was determined that any food aid the country received not reach SPLAcontrolled areas. The efforts to mix politics and humanitarian assistance angered foreign aid donors and international agencies, resulting in food shipment suspensions that have aggravated the food shortages.



Since obtaining independence from Britain on January 1, 1956, Sudan has had a political history marked by instability. The military first intervened in politics in November 1958 by overthrowing the parliamentary government of Prime Minister Abd Allah Khalil . The ensuing regime of Major General Ibrahim Abbud lasted for six years before dissolving itself in the face of widespread popular opposition in 1964. The country then again experimented with civilian democratic government, which was terminated by a military coup in 1969. Colonel Jaafar an Nimeiri, leader of the junior officers who staged that coup, survived in power for sixteen years until overthrown by a military coup in 1985. The new government under Lieutenant General Abd ar Rahman Siwar adh Dhahab legalized political parties, scheduled elections, and handed over power to civilians in 1986. Sudan's third experiment in democratic rule was ended by yet another military coup on June 30, 1989.

The leaders of the 1989 military coup abolished all the existing executive and legislative institutions of government, suspended the Constitution, arrested many prominent civilian politicians, banned all political parties and partisan political activity, and restricted freedom of the press. They established the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation, which was designated the legislative authority of the country. The chairman of the RCC-NS was designated as head of state. The RCCNS also appointed a cabinet that served in many respects as the executive authority. Although the RCC-NS described its rule as transitional, pending the reestablishment of security and order throughout the country, as of mid-1991 the RCC-NS had not legalized political parties nor introduced permanent governmental institutions.

The Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation

In mid-1991 the RCC-NS remained the top decision-making body of the state. It consisted of fifteen members, all of whom were military officers. They were the original officers who joined Bashir to carry out the 1989 coup. The most important members included Bashir, the chairman; Major General Az Zubair Muhammad Salih, the vice chairman and deputy prime minister; Major General At Tijani Adam at Tahir; Colonel Salah ad Din Muhammad Ahmad Karrar, a naval officer and chairman of the RCC-NS's economic committee; Colonel Muhammad al Amin Khalifa Yunis, chairman of the RCC-NS's peace and foreign relations committee; Colonel Bakri Hassan Salih; and Major Ibrahim Shams ad Din, commander of the NIF's youth movement. Two members, Brigadier General Uthman Ahmad Uthman, chairman of the RCC-NS's political committee, and Colonel Faisal Madani, were reportedly placed under house arrest in 1991 after they tried to resign from the RCC-NS.

The RCC-NS had designated itself the legislative arm of government but in practice it exercised some executive functions as well. Its chairman also served as prime minister and president of the republic. Although the RCC-NS had not publicized the rules and procedures governing its deliberations, most political affairs analysts believed government decisions were based on a majority vote of members rather than the ultimate authority of the chairman. The RCC-NS also had not drawn up any regulations pertaining to membership tenure or the selection of new members. The primary responsibility of the RCC-NS appeared to be preparing legislative decrees. Legislation was drafted in special committees, including committees for political issues, the economy, and foreign affairs, then placed before the RCC-NS for approval. In 1990 the RCC-NS created appointive civilian consultative councils to advise its committees. As of early 1991, five members of the RCC-NS also headed ministries.

The RCC-NS appointed a secretary general who was responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the RCC-NS. The secretary general in the early 1990s was a junior officer on secondment to the RCC-NS. Colonel Abd al Mahmud was the first RCC-NS secretary general. He was replaced in June 1990 by Colonel Abd ar Rahim Muhammad Husayn

The Presidency

The president served as head of state. As of early 1991, however, the RCC-NS had not defined the powers and duties of the office nor specified the term of office. The presidency was neither an elective nor an appointive position. In accordance with an RCC-NS decree, the chairman of the RCC-NS was designated the president of the republic. Since the 1989 coup, RCC-NS chairman Bashir who was born in 1944, has been the president. At the time of the coup, Bashir only had achieved the rank of colonel. He was the commander of a paratroop brigade that was stationed at Al Mijlad in southern Sudan. He had returned to Khartoum with 175 paratroopers only a few days prior to the coup. Bashir's earlier experience included military training in Egypt and Malaysia, and service on the frontline with the Egyptian armed forces during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War. In the late 1970s, he was a military adviser in the United Arab Emirates. Soon after the coup, Bashir promoted himself to lieutenant general.

The Council of Ministers

The RCC-NS appointed the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which included civilian politicians and military officers. Cabinet composition varied, but in 1991 it included the prime minister; the deputy prime minister; some ministers of state; and finance; and heads of about twenty other ministries. The main ministries included agriculture and natural resources, construction and public works, culture and information, defense, education, energy and mining, finance and economic planning, foreign affairs, health, higher education and scientific research, industry, interior, irrigation, justice, labor and social insurance, trade and cooperation, transport and communications, and welfare and social development.

Although the Council of Ministers was the designated executive arm of the government and a majority of ministers were civilians, in practice the council had no power independent of the RCC-NS. The prime minister, RCC-NS chairman Bashir, had authority to appoint and dismiss ministers and reshuffled the cabinet several times between 1989 and 1991. The important portfolios of defense and interior were held by RCC-NS members, and at least three other ministries were headed by RCC-NS officers. The civilian ministers could not undertake independent initiatives and had to obtain advance approval from the RCC-NS for any major policy decisions.

Parliamentary Government

The RCC-NS dissolved the elected legislature when it seized power in 1989. As of mid-1991 no plans had been announced for new elections or for the creation of a new representative body. Nevertheless, Sudan's postindependence political history, characterized by alternating periods of parliamentary democracy and military rule, suggested that there was support for a popularly elected assembly. The country's first parliament, the Legislative Assembly, was established during the final years of British colonial rule, and the country's first multiparty elections were held in 1948. Subsequently, the Constituent Assembly drew up a transitional constitution that provided for a two-chamber legislature: an indirectly elected upper house, called the Senate, and a House of Representatives elected by direct popular vote. The British model of government was followed, that is, a parliamentary system in which the political party winning the most seats in the lower house formed the government. Multiparty elections for the House of Representatives were held in 1953 and 1958. The second parliament was in session only a few months before being forcibly dissolved by a military coup. Parliamentary government was restored briefly between 1964 and 1969, during which time there were two multiparty elections for the House of Representatives.

Following the precedent set by the 1958 military coup, Nimeiri dissolved parliament and banned political parties when he seized power in May 1969. Five years later, in 1974, he permitted controlled elections for a new People's Assembly. In this and subsequent balloting, candidates had to be approved by the government, and persons with known or suspected ties to the banned political parties were barred from participation. The People's Assembly never functioned as an institution independent of the executive and was dissolved after Nimeiri's overthrow in April 1985. The first genuinely democratic parliamentary elections since 1968 were held in April 1986, but no political party won a majority of seats. During the next three years, six successive coalition governments were formed. The assembly was dissolved and political parties again banned following the June 30, 1989, military coup.

Constitutional Development

One of the first acts of the RCC-NS after seizing power was to abolish by decree the transitional Constitution of 1985, drafted following the overthrow of the Nimeiri government to replace the 1973 Permanent Constitution. Bashir and other RCC-NS members initially promised that a constituent assembly would be convened to draw up a new constitution. During its first eighteen months, however, the RCC-NS government failed to address the issue of a constitution. Then in early 1991, in response to increasing criticism of its authoritarian and arbitrary rule, the RCC-NS announced the convening of a constitutional conference. Bashir invited civilian politicians, including those opposed to the government, to attend the conference and discuss without fear of reprisal legal procedures that might be set forth in a constitutional document. Although representatives of some banned political parties attended the constitutional conference in April, the conclave's lack of an electoral mandate, its government sponsorship, and a boycott by major opposition groups served to undermine the legitimacy of its deliberations.

The 1991 constitutional conference necessarily labored under a heavy historical legacy: drawing up a constitution acceptable to all elements of the country's diverse population has been an intractable political problem since Sudan became independent in 1956 with a temporary constitution known as the Transitional Constitution. The primary reason for this situation has been the inability of the country's major religious groups, the majority Muslims and the minority non-Muslims, to agree on the role of the sharia, or Islamic law. Islamic political groups, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, have insisted that any constitution must be based on the sharia. The non-Muslims have been equally insistent that the country must have a secular constitution. Despite the convening over the years of numerous committees, conferences, and constituent assemblies to discuss or draft a constitution, most Muslim and non-Muslim political leaders refused to compromise their views about the role of the sharia. The unresolved constitutional issue remained one of the major sources of disaffection in the predominantly non-Muslim south, where deepseated fears of Islamization have been reinforced by the government's Islamic education policies during the Ibrahim Abbud military dictatorship (1958-64), Nimeiri's September 1983 introduction of the Islamic sharia by decree, and the failure since 1985 to remove the sharia as the basis of the legal system.

Regional and Local Administration

Relations between the central government and local authorities have been a persistent problem in Sudan. Much of the present pattern of center-periphery political relationships-- local officials appointed by authorities in Khartoum--originated in the early part of the century. During most of the AngloEgyptian condominium period (1899-1955), the British relied upon a system called indigenous administration to control local governments in nonurban areas. Under this system, traditional tribal and village leaders--nuzara (sing., nazir), umada (sing., umda), and shaykhs--were entrusted with responsibility for administrative and judicial functions within their own areas and received financial and, when necessary, military support from the central authorities. Following World War II, pressures arising from younger and better educated Sudanese led the British in 1951 to abandon administration by local rulers in favor of a system of local government councils. As they evolved under successive national administrations following independence in 1956, a total of eighty-four such councils were created and entrusted with varying degrees of community autonomy. This system, however, was plagued by problems of divided power, the councils being responsible to the minister of local government whereas provincial governors and district commissioners remained under the supervision of the minister of interior. Effectiveness varied from one local authority to another, but all suffered from inadequate finances and a shortage of trained personnel willing to serve in small, isolated communities. In the south, such problems were compounded when hundreds of colonial officials were replaced by Sudanese civil servants, almost all of whom were northerners. In many rural areas of Sudan, the system in the early years of independence was little different from the old indigenous administration dominated by the conservative, traditional elite, while in most cities the effectiveness of councils was seriously weakened by party politics.

The Abbud regime sought to end the dual features of this system through the 1961 Local Government Act, which introduced a provincial commissioner appointed by the central government as chairman of the provincial authority, an executive body of officials representing Khartoum. The 1961 law was not intended to be a democratic reform; instead, it allowed the central government to control local administration despite the existence of provincial councils chosen by local governmental and provincial authorities.

Soon after coming to power in the military coup of 1969, the Nimeiri government abolished local and regional government structures. The People's Local Government Act of November 1971 designed a pyramidal structure with local community councils at the base and progressively higher levels of authority up to the executive councils of the ten provinces. By 1980 community councils included an estimated 4,000 village councils, more than 800 neighborhood councils in cities and towns, 281 nomadic encampment councils, and scores of market and industrial area councils. In theory, membership on these local councils was based on popular election, but in practice the councils were dominated by local representatives of the Sudan Socialist Union, the only political party that Nimeiri permitted to function. Above the community councils was a second tier of local government structures that included 228 rural councils and 90 urban councils. A third tier consisted of thirty-five subprovincial district councils, and at the apex were the province commissions, presided over by the province governor appointed from Khartoum.

Although there were some changes following Nimeiri's overthrow in 1985, the local government structures remained relatively intact. Parliament devolved more authority to community councils and reorganized the functions and powers of the province commissions. In February 1991, the RCC-NS instituted a major change in local government by introducing a federal structure. The federalism decree divided the country into nine states: Aali an Nil, Al Awsat, Al Istiwai, Al Khartum, Ash Shamali, Ash Sharqi, Bahr al Ghazal, Darfur, and Kurdufan. Generally, both the borders and names of the states are similar to the historical nine provinces of Sudan during the colonial period and early years of independence. The states were further subdivided into 66 provinces and 218 local government areas or districts. The RCC-NS appointed a governor, deputy governor, and council of ministers for each state. These officials were responsible for administration and economic planning in the states. They also appointed the province and district authorities in the states. The latter officials, for the most part the same persons who occupied local government posts before the federal structure was introduced, continued to be responsible for elementary and secondary education, health, and various government programs and services in the cities, towns, and villages

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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