When Sudan gained its independence from Egypt in 1821, then
finally threw off colonial shackles in 1956 on independence from
the UK, the south of the country merely replaced one form of
outside rule with another.
At the heart of the
tensions was the disparity between the people of the north with
its Islamic leaning culture and the African Christian south who
considered themselves as second class citizens to the dominate
north, a role the north was happy to confirm seeing the black
Africans as a slave race of whom they were the masters.
The first major war between the north and south ended in 1972 on the signing of
the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement which saw the country remaining unified but with
the south operating largely autonomously.
Despite sporadic outbreaks of violence the peace agreement officially held
until 1983 when President Gaafar Nimeiry (right) unilaterally modified the
treaty and imposed Islamic law across the south.
Within this Islam had
to be taught in schools and many in the south saw this as an
attempt to eradicate existing culture as in time, future
generations would be brought up as Muslims. This second war lasted
for two decades, cost the lives of millions and the displacement
of many more.
The war ended with the
signing of the Nairobi Peace Agreement in 2005 which saw south
Sudan restored to its semi-autonomous state together with the
promise of a referendum in 2011 on future independence for the
The agreement also established that the future boundary of the two countries
should be clarified within six months so those voting knew exactly what they
were voting for. However, six years later, this has not been achieved, despite
the referendum for south Sudan independence going ahead as planned in early 2011
with a 99% majority vote in favour of the split.
South Sudan was officially recognised as an
independent state on 9th July 2011 and was welcomed into the world community as
Africa's 55th nation and took its seat at the United Nations. Despite this, the
border remains unresolved with the town and region of of Abyei in particular
remaining in dispute due, not least, to its oil fields which in 2003 made up one
quarter of Sudan's entire output (although this figure has since declined.)
Northern troops patrol the area which was due to
hold its own referendum on its future but that referendum has been postponed