Policy & Advocacy

Backgrounder on Sudan, August 2004

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

August 2004

Sudan, Africa's largest country, has been historically divided along geographic, cultural, ethnic, and religious lines. For the past 20 years, Sudan has been devastated by civil war, marked by a systematic campaign of terror by the north against the south. The divisions in this conflict were clearly marked by religion and race, pitting the Arab Muslim government of Khartoum, in the north, against Southern black Africans, including Christians and practitioners of traditional African religions. 

The USCCB has repeatedly visited northern and southern Sudan to meet with government and Church officials, and has achieved some successes in furthering a just and lasting peace between north and south. 

Although this civil war is ending as the two main opponents have negotiated a series of peace agreements, another conflict has erupted in Sudan's western region of Darfur. Since February 2003, Arab militias known as the "Janjaweed" have targeted members of three Darfurian ethnic groups who rebelled against their exclusion from the north-south peace process. Unlike the longer civil war, in this case, Muslims are killing other Muslims, and the divisions lie in language, culture, and other locally perceived tribal differences. It is becoming increasingly clear that the government of Sudan has supported the Janjaweed in their campaign of ethnic cleansing, which includes massacring thousands of civilians, decimating villages, raping women and girls, and forcing people from their homelands and into the desert, where their chances of survival are slim.

Current humanitarian situation:

  • 30,000 to 50,000 dead
  • 1.2 million refugees
  • Refugees suffer from overcrowded conditions in camps, malnutrition, lack of shelter and sanitation, and insecurity.
  • International humanitarian organizations cannot access many of the refugee camps because of government restrictions, lack of security, and flooded roads. The Janjaweed frequently attack aid workers and loot their supplies.
  • The government is forcing refugees to move from one camp to another or, worse, back to their villages, which remain unsafe and uninhabitable.
  • Janjaweed attacks continue around refugee camps and in what villages are left.
  • The rainy season is impeding humanitarian access and spreading disease in the camps.
  • There are serious concerns about the ability of international aid groups to provide sufficient food, clean water, medication, and other supplies under the current conditions. Without additional assistance, hundreds of thousands more might die.

International response: 
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1556 on July 30, giving the government of Sudan 30 days to comply with demands that include the following:

  • Respecting a cease-fire agreement and beginning peaceful talks on resolving the crisis in Darfur
  • Granting full access to humanitarian aid organizations
  • Establishing security for both civilians and humanitarian workers
  • Disarming, arresting, and trying Janjaweed members 

The government of Sudan has denounced this resolution and has also criticized a non-binding resolution recently passed by the U.S. Congress declaring that the crisis constitutes genocide.

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