A CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY
A Background to Conflict
forces led by Mohammed Ali occupy northern Sudan and much
of southern Sudan, including Bahr al-Ghazal. In 1881 Mohammed
Ahmed declares himself to be al-Mahdi, the awaited guide,
and leads his Ansar Islamic movement against Egyptian control
of Sudan. The Mahdist conquest of Sudan begins.
1882 The British occupy
1885 Mahdist forces capture
Khartoum. British General Charles Gordon is killed in the
fighting. Mohammed Ahmed dies later that year.
1885-1898 The Mahdist state
is established first under al-Mahdi and then under Abdallah
ibn Mohammed, known as the Khalifa. "The mahdist state
was the first modern Sudanese national entity, governing
vast and diverse regions from a central capital at Omdurman,
with a centralized legal and political apparatus and its
own currency. It was also an Islamic state fashioned to
revive the concept and practice of the early Islamic community
of Muhammad and his companions." In 1896 Anglo-Egyptian
forces led by Lord Kitchener begin the conquest of Sudan.
In September 1898, the battle of Omdurman saw the resounding
defeat of Mahdist forces. The Khalifa is killed in fighting
the following year.
Carolyn Fluer-Lobban, "Islamization
in Sudan", in John O. Voll (Editor) Sudan: State
and Society in Crisis, Indiana University Press, 1991
1899 The Anglo-Egyptian
Condominium in Sudan is established following the defeat
of the Mahdist state. Britain and Egypt are legally equal
rulers over Sudan, although Britain is the dominant partner.
In the following years. the British focus
on development in northern Sudan, including building railways.
A modern civil service is also established. There is little
social or economic development of western or southern Sudan
which are administered through British-supervised traditional
authorities. Abdel Rahman al-Mahdi, hereditary head of the
Islamic Ansar sect and Ali al-Mirghani, hereditary head
of the Islamic Khatmiyya sect, are encouraged by the British
authorities to reconfigure their conservative, Sunni Muslim
movements into political organisations.
1922 The British administration
introduces the 'Passport and Permits Ordinance' which controls
movement between northern and southern Sudan. This resulted
in the progressive exclusion of northern traders and the
limitation of southerners travelling to the north.
1930 The British develop
the "Southern Policy" reinforcing barriers between
northern and southern Sudan.
1943-45 The first political
parties are formed, including the Ashigga, identified with
the Khatmiyya sect, and the Umma Party, based on the Mahdi
family's Ansar Islamic sect. The Ashigga Party favours union
with Egypt while Umma advocates the complete independence
of the Sudan.
1946 The administration's
"Southern Policy" is reversed. The colonial authorities
acknowledges that southern Sudan was inextricably bound
to the Arabicised northern Sudan. The new policy was to
ensure that the southern Sudanese were equipped to stand
up for themselves as social and economic equals of the northerners.
12 June 1947 The Juba Conference
is convened by the British colonial administration. Southern
and northern representatives met for the first time to discuss
the future of southern Sudan in the framework of a united
Sudan. It was agreed that a legislative council should be
formed with members drawn from the north and south. It was
also agreed that a plan of economic, administrative and
educational development should be initiated in southern
Sudan to enable the region to catch up with the north.
23 December 1948 The Legislative
Assembly meets for the first time. There are 76 members
representing the north, 13 southerners and six British members.
1951 A southern Sudanese
political movement is formed. It is subsequently officially
registered as the Southern Party.
12 February 1953 There is an
Anglo-Egyptian agreement which outlines the end of Anglo-Egyptian
rule in Sudan and the steps to self-rule.
December 1953 Parliamentary
elections are won by the National Unionist Party (NUP),
which had evolved out of the Ashigga Party, which gained
97 seats in the lower house. The Umma Party won 23 seats.
The Southern Party wins sixteen out of twenty-two southern
January 1954 NUP leader Ismail
al-Azhari becomes prime minister. The Southern Party change
its name to the Liberal Party.
October 1954 The Liberal
Party, at a conference in Juba, passes a resolution calling
for federal status with northern Sudan. The party calls
on all southern Members of Parliament, regardless of party
affiliation, to form one Southern Bloc.
August 1955 Following earlier
unrest in Nzara and Juba, southern Sudanese soldiers belonging
to the Equatorian Corps mutiny against central government
in Torit in southern Sudan. 261 Northerners are killed.
The Sudanese civil war commences.
1 January 1956 Sudan becomes
independent. There has been no prior agreement on a permanent
constitution. The Constituent Assembly instead adopts a
"Transitional" Constitution, which replaces the
governor-general as head-of-state with a five-member Supreme
Council elected by a parliament made up of an elected House
of Representatives and an indirectly-elected Senate. The
Transitional Constitution granted executive power to a prime
minister, nominated by the House of Representatives and
confirmed in office by the Supreme Council.
February 1956 Ismail al-Azhari
becomes the first prime minister of an independent Sudan.
His government is formed from the National Unionist Party
and Umma Party. A special commission was established to
work towards a permanent constitution. The commission decides
against federalism. Azhari alienates the Khatmiyya sect
by supporting some secular government policies. As a result
the National Unionist Party fragments and some Khatmiyya
members defect from the NUP and form the People's Democratic
June 1956 The al-Azhari government
is brought down. It is replaced by a coalition government
made up of the Umma Party and the People's Democratic Party,
with backing from the Ansar and Khatmiyya. Abdallah Khalil
becomes prime minister. The government is faced with a number
of problems including searching for a permanent constitution,
addressing problems in southern Sudan, economic development
and improving relations with Egypt.
February 1958 Elections result
in an Umma Party-PDP coalition led once again by Abdallah
Khalil. The NUP win nearly one-quarter of the seats. Electoral
results in southern Sudan demonstrate continuing southern
political dissatisfaction. Factionalism, corruption and
vote fraud dominate parliamentary proceedings. The government
is seemingly unable to address several social, political
and economic problems. There are many anti-government demonstrations
in Khartoum. Egypt is also critical of the government.
17 November 1958 General Ibrahim
Abboud, the commander-in-chief of the Sudanese army, seizes
power in a military coup d'etat. He dissolves all political
parties and forms a 12-man Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces. Abboud also appoints a constitutional commission
to draft a permanent constitution, and promises to resolve
any problems with Egypt.
February 1962 Southern Sudanese
leaders form the Sudan African Closed Districts National
Union (SACDNU). Its founding president is Joseph Oduho.
William Deng is appointed as secretary-general. There is
continuing unrest in southern Sudan.
April 1963 SACDNU shortens
its name to Sudan African National Union (SANU). It is head-quartered
in Kampala, Uganda.
19 September 1963 The rebel military
organisation is formed. Emilio Tafeng is appointed commander-in-chief.
The movement would come to be known as Anya-Nya. Rebel military
activity begins in Equatoria and extends to the Anwak and
Gaajok Nuer of Nasir region.
11 January 1964 Southern
rebels attack the military barracks in Wau.
October 1964 The Abboud regime
is ousted following civil unrest and a general strike. A
broad-based caretaker government is formed to serve under
the 1956 transitional constitution. Sirr al-Khatim al-Khalifah
becomes prime minister.
December 1964 There is intensive
fighting in western Bahr al-Ghazal.
16 -29 March 1965 A round-table
conference was held between northern and southern representatives
to discuss constitutional links between north and south.
Delegates from six northern parties attend with southerners.
Monitors from African and Arab countries also attended.
The representatives failed to reach any conclusive understanding
but agreed to form a joint commission of 12 members to draw
up the basis for a comprehensive understanding.
June 1965 A general election
results in an Umma Party and NUP coalition. Umma politician
Mohammed Mahgoub becomes prime minister. Parliamentary activity
is dogged by factional disputes. Mahgoub is supported by
the traditionalist wing of the Umma Party identified with
Imam al-Hadi al-Mahdi and challenged by a younger generation
headed by Sadiq al-Mahdi. The government decides to pursue
military means to end the southern rebellion. The war in
southern Sudan escalates. The Islamic Charter Front also
contests the elections, presenting itself as a modern, urban-based
26 June 1966 The joint commission
set up following the March 1965 round-table conference recommends
regional self-government as the most appropriate constitutional
arrangement for the country. The war intensifies.
26 July 1966 Following a
split in the Umma Party, the thirty-year old Parliamentarian
Sadiq al-Mahdi replaces Mahgoub as prime minister of Sudan.
15 May 1967 Sadiq al-Mahdi
relinquishes the premiership. Mohammed Mahgoub becomes prime
15 August 1967 Southern military
and political leaders meet in Angundri, in eastern Equatoria.
They announce the formation of the 'Southern Sudan Provisional
Government' (SSPG), a provisional government to administer
areas under Anya-Nya control. Two southern parties, William
Deng's SANU and the Southern Front, remain outside of this
framework. The SSPG subsequently breaks down as a result
of tensions between Equatorian and Dinka members.
April 1968 The newly formed
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the result of a merger
between the National Unionist Party and the Popular Democratic
Party wins the general election. Both parties are associated
with the Khatmiyya sect. Mohammed Mahgoub continues as premier.
A coalition government is formed between the DUP and Umma
5 May 1968 William Deng,
President of SANU, is assassinated by rebels.
March 1969 Following the
collapse of the 'Southern Sudan Provisional Government',
the 'Nile Provisional Government' is formed.
25 May 1969 The government
of Mohammed Mahgoub is overthrown in a bloodless coup by
Colonel Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri. All existing political
institutions and organisations are abolished. Nimeiri creates
a one-party state under the Sudanese Socialist Union and
introduces socialist policies.
9 June 1969 President Nimeiri
issues a policy statement regarding the conflict in southern
Sudan: "(T)he revolutionary government is confident
and competent enough to face existing realities. It recognizes
historical and cultural differences between the North and
the South and firmly believes that unity of our country
must be built on these objective realities. The Southern
people have a right to develop their respective cultures
and traditions within a united Sudan." He announces
a four-point programme. These were the continuation and
widening of the amnesty for southern opponents granted by
the previous regime, an intensive social, economic and cultural
programme for southern Sudan, the appointment of a minister
for southern affairs and the training of southerners to
take up positions of responsibility. A prominent Dinka southern
lawyer Abel Alier is made Minister of Supply and Internal
See, John G. Nyuot Yoh, "The Conflict
in Sudan", Seminar held by the South Africa Human Rights
Commission, held at Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa
on 25 May 2001
October 1969 Colonel Joseph
Lagu forms the Anya-Nya High Command Council. This unites
rebel commanders throughout southern Sudan.
March 1970 A Umma Party insurrection
is crushed by the Sudanese military. Thousands of Ansar
members are killed in the fighting. Imam al-Hadi al-Mahdi
dies in the uprising.
July 1971 There is an unsuccessful
coup attempt by the Sudanese communist party.
July 1971 Joseph Lagu convenes
a conference which brings together southern Sudanese military
and political leaders. This conference sees the formation
of the 'Southern Sudan Liberation Movement'. Lagu emerges
as the recognised leader of rebel forces in southern Sudan.
Lagu issues a policy statement in which, among other things,
he states: "(A)s far as the Southern Sudanese are concerned,
it is well recorded in history that our attitude has always
been to find a peaceful solution to the Southern cause.
Therefore in conformity with this constant policy for a
negotiated settlement that we have pursued during the reign
of different and consecutive governments in Khartoum, we
call upon General el-Nimeiri to meet the Southern Sudan
Liberation Movement to determine conditions aimed at bringing
a final end to war and atrocities in South Sudan."
See, John G. Nyuot Yoh, "The Conflict
in Sudan", Seminar held by the South Africa Human Rights
Commission, Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa on 25 May
16-17 February 1972 The Addis
Ababa peace conference takes place. The government delegation
is headed by Vice-President and Minister for Southern Affairs,
Abel Alier. The Southern Sudan Liberation Movement delegates
are led by Ezboni Mindiri. The General Secretary of the
All-Africa Conference of Churches, Canon Burgess Carr, chaired
the conference. This conference ends what proves to be the
first phase of the Sudanese civil war with the provision
for constituent local elections and an autonomous regional
government in southern Sudan. Some 6,000 former Anya-Nya
rebels were to be integrated into the Sudanese armed forces,
and southern Sudanese refugees were to be resettled with
the assistance of the United Nations and various non-governmental
3 May 1972 The Addis Ababa
agreement is ratified through a presidential decree by President
Nimeiri as 'The Southern Provinces Regional Self-Government
Act 1972'. Abel Alier is appointed as President of the High
Executive Regional Assembly. Samuel Aru Bol and Joseph Oduho
are amongst those appointed to the southern executive. Joseph
Lagu is appointed a major-general in the Sudanese army and
commanding officer for the Southern Command in Juba.
November 1973 Elections to
the Southern Assembly are held.
1974 The Chevron oil
company begins operations in Sudan. It is active on the
Red Sea and near Bentiu, Malakal and Muglad.
March 1975 Former Anya-Nya
soldiers mutiny in Akobo. The mutiny is put down.
September 1975 An attempted
military coup, in which both communists and religious groups
participated, is suppressed.
February 1976 Former Anya-Nya
soldiers mutiny in Wau. This is the start of what comes
to be known as the Anya-Nya 2 movement, seeking to renew
the fight for a separate southern Sudan.
July 1976 There is an unsuccessful
attempted military coup d'etat by Umma Party, DUP and Islamist
elements. A Defence agreement with Egypt is signed.
6-7 July 1977 President Nimeiri
and Sadiq al-Mahdi agree a policy of national reconciliation
and a general amnesty for the Sudanese opposition. Nine
hundred political prisoners are released.
1978 Chevron discover
large oil deposits near Heglig and Bentiu in south-central
and southern Sudan.
February 1978 General elections
are held in Sudan. Nimeiri appoints Joseph Lagu as the new
President of the High Executive Council of southern Sudan.
Joseph Oduho and Benjamin Bol are amongst newly and re-appointed
January 1980 Sudan is divided
into five regions in addition to the south which has its
February 1980 New elections
are held in Sudan. Abel Alier is re-elected President of
the High Executive Council of southern Sudan. He is subsequently
re-appointed as Sudanese Vice-President.
1981 Chevron discovers
significant oil deposits north of Bentiu.
4 January 1982 Twenty-one
leading politicians are arrested in Juba, and are charged
with forming an illegal party - 'The Council for Unity of
Southern Sudan'. They include Clement Mboro, Samuel Aru
Bol, Michael Wal and Martin Majier.
April 1982 Africa Now
publishes a special report on the politics of southern Sudan.
While acknowledging that there was pressure from northern
politicians and political groups to divide southern Sudan,
Africa Now confirms that there also southern pressure
from people such as Joseph Lagu: "Lagu has been pushing
the idea of division for over a year now, arguing that regionalism
and a division into the three provinces would serve the
interests of the smaller ethnic groups; it would also help
to break what Lagu sees as the political hegemony of the
largest single group in the South, the Dinka.In February
last year, Lagu was complaining about ethnicism in the South,
organising discussion groups to talk about division, and
public demonstrations.Lagu himself.[published] a pamphlet
entitled 'Decentralisation - a necessity for the South'".
"Southern Sudan Division Still an
Election Issue", Africa Now, April 1982, pp.53-54
April 1982 Elections to the
Southern Regional Assembly are held. Of 115 seats, 29 of
36 of the Equatorian seats are "divisionist",
seeking a redivision of southern Sudan, while the other
four provinces return unionists. Joseph James Tembura was
elected as President of the High Executive Council of southern
Sudan. Joseph Lagu was subsequently appointed Vice-President
May 1983 Southern Sudanese
soldiers, commanded by Captain Kerubino Bol Kuanyin, mutiny
at Bor in southern Sudan in response to the Nimeiri regime's
decision to revise some of the understandings and structures
settled by the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement. Similar
uprisings take place in Ayod and Pibor.
16 May 1983 The Sudan People's
Liberation Movement (SPLM) is formed. Veteran southern politician
Joseph Oduho becomes chairman. Colonel John Garang, a Dinka
army officer, heads the Sudan People's Liberation Army.
A manifesto outlining its aims was published. Oduho is subsequently
deposed by Garang who then establishes himself as the leader
of the SPLA/M. There are armed clashes with Anya Nya 2 rebels.
Largely Nuer-based, the Anya-Nya militarily opposed the
SPLA because of that organisation's Dinka domination and
commitment to Sudan's unity.
23 May 1983 Nimeiri redivides
southern Sudan into three smaller and separate regions,
Equatoria, Bahr al-Ghazal and Upper Nile, each with their
own assembly. This move is partly in response to Equatorian
concerns about Dinka domination.
8 September 1983 President Nimeiri
announces the introduction of Islamic sharia law in Sudan
November 1983 The SPLA abduct
eleven workers working on the Jongli Canal project in Upper
Nile. The French company managing the project suspends its
4 February 1984 Chevron announces
that it is suspending its oil exploration and production
activities in southern Sudan following SPLA attacks on its
installations. The SPLA admits responsibility for an attack
on a Nile steamer, an attack which halts all river and rail
transport to the south. One hundred and fifty passengers
are reported to have been killed in the attack.
2 March 1984 Speaking on
the occasion of the twelfth anniversary commemorating the
end of the war within southern Sudan, General Nimeiri extended
an offer of reconciliation. He assured southerners that
"development projects would benefit all Sudanese without
discrimination". He appealed "to all those who
carry weapons in southern Sudan to return to their units
and villages", promising them a "general amnesty".
News Article by SUNA, 3 March 1984
3 March 1984 John Garang
outlines what he sees as the SPLA's objectives: "The
Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has been founded to
spearhead armed resistance against Nimeiri's one-man system
dictatorship and to organize the whole Sudanese people under
the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), through revolutionary
protracted armed struggle waged by the SPLA and political
support.A united and Socialist Sudan can be achieved only
through protracted revolutionary armed struggle."
"Speech by John Garang, 3 March 1984",
Mansour Khalid (Editor), The Call for Democracy in Sudan:
John Garang, Kegan Paul International, London, 1992,
29 April 1984 The government
declares a state of emergency throughout southern Sudan.
19 November 1984 Speaking during
a visit to Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile region in
southern Sudan, General Nimeiri called on "all brothers"
in the south to engage in dialogue with him, an invitation
repeated on subsequent occasions. The SPLA categorically
reject these calls.
Broadcast by Radio Omdurman, 19 November
December 1984 There is intensive
SPLA activity in Bahr al-Ghazal and Upper Nile.
1985 Sudan receives five
hundred million dollars in aid from the United States.
1 January 1985 In response
to Nimeiri's calls for negotiations, the SPLA states that
it would cease fighting only "when Numayri's system
[had] all been dismantled and thrown into history's dustbin".
Broadcast by Radio SPLA, 1 January 1985
3 March 1985 The Nimeiri
regime once again called upon the SPLA to enter into a dialogue.
The rebels responded with a new wave of military attacks.
6 April 1985 The Nimeiri
government is ousted in a military coup d'etat led by Lieutenant
General Abd al-Rahman Mohammed Swar al-Dahab. A 15-man Transitional
Military Council is formed and headed by General Swar al-Dahab.
A military communiqué stated that "the forces
of the Sudanese people noticed the country's worsening situation
in the course of the past days and the political crisis
that worsens continuously." The armed forces had "unanimously
decided" to take over power in order "to save
the country and its independence", and to "convey
this power to the people after a precise transition".
All political structures are dissolved and hundreds of political
detainees are released. The economy is extremely weak and
Sudan has a nine billion dollar international debt. The
SPLA initially declares a cease-fire but subsequently refuses
offers to enter into peace negotiations and resumes fighting.
News Article by SUNA, 6 April 1985
12 April 1985 The TMC declares
it will only be in office for 12 months and prepares the
way for multi-party elections. John Garang is offered a
position in government.
17 April 1985 The transitional
government revokes Nimeiri's division of southern Sudan
into three regions. Khartoum also announces the validation
of the articles of the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement "as
a general framework for regional rule in the South."
Broadcast by Radio Omdurman, 17 April 1985
19 April 1985 The SPLA continues
with its war, reiterating its commitment to fight until
"the reactionary structure [in Khartoum was] completely
removed and the edifice of Socialism [was] constructed on
the ruins of the ancient regime".
Broadcast by Radio SPLA, 19 April 1985