President Omar Hassan al-Bashir came to power in a coup in 1989 and has since retained his position through multiple elections that have been considered corrupt and falling well beyond international standards because of inaccurate voter rolls, ballot stuffing, and cash distributions to voters. ? Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. ?Following decades of civil war, South Sudan seceded from Sudan to form its own country on 9 July 2011. There are still unresolved issues surrounding the control of shared oil revenues and border demarcation, particularly in the Abyei area.
Sudan has struggled with ongoing internal conflicts over the years. In Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have been involved in clashes with the government since South Sudan's independence in 2011. In Darfur, a separate conflict has been ongoing since 2003 between the government and various groups including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Abdel Wahid Mohamed al-Nur’s faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW), and Minni Minawi’s faction of the SLM (SLM-MM).? These conflicts are mostly in protest against perceived political and economic neglect of the region.
In 2008, the UN issued a hybrid United Nations-African Union mission (UNAMID) as a peacekeeping force in Darfur. However, they have struggled to stabilise the situation. UNAMID, with a projected strength of 26,000 troops, was authorised to use force to protect civilians. Despite this mandate, only 9,000 were sent, and they lacked the necessary equipment to carry out their mission.?
Economically Sudan is in debt distress and is eligible for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. The large external debt and economic sanctions have hindered the country's access to external financing. ? In October 2017, the US lifted their long-standing sanctions against Sudan, including some in place for 20 years. The lifting of sanctions can benefit a range of businesses in the country, including its energy and agricultural sectors, but the long-term impact of the change is difficult to forecast. ?
The level of armed hostilities in Darfur has continued to be significantly lower than in previous years, and Sudanese government forces have re-taken most of the territory previously controlled by non-state armed groups.? While the overall security situation is improving, the region remains fragile, attacks by militia, some reportedly aligned with the government, are frequent in Darfur, as well as inter-communal conflict over land and livestock.? ? In August, the Sudanese government launched a six-month disarmament campaign to eliminate weapons around Sudan from the rival tribes to increase stability in Darfur. Some tribal leaders have refused to hand over their arms, which poses a risk for increased fighting if government forces begin forcible collection. ? In October, the Sudanese government has deployed 12,500 members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to El Fasher in Darfur to assist in carrying out the disarmament campaign. ?
There is a growing number of militia near Nierteti camp in Central Darfur.? The JEM and the SML-MM have condemned the handover of UNAMID bases in the North Darfur sites in Mellit and El Malha to the RSF. They claim it is illegal as any UNAMID property should be handed over to local authorities and be used for civilian purposes only. ?
The Two Areas: Blue Nile and South Kordofan
Violence has been ongoing in the Two Areas since the 1990s, and has worsened since the discovery of oil in the states and South Sudan’s independence. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), currently controls areas in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Violence has increased dramatically since the end of 2014 when the government began an extensive military operation aimed to end armed opposition in Darfur and the Two Areas. Information is difficult to obtain, as government authorities severely restrict access.?The SPLM-N has split into two factions following a leadership crisis that erupted in May, one headed by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu of the Uduk tribe and the other by Malik Agar of the Ingessana tribe. This has led to clashes not only betweeen the two sides, but also between civilian supporters of both sides. ? In Maban refugee camp, which is structured in four segments, refugees have relocated themselves to alternate areas of the camps that reflect their political alignments. The reasons for the division are not entirely clear but some who now support Hilu claimed there was ethnic favouritism within the SPLM-N structure under Agar. Another factor put forward was the claim that Agar was disregarding the issue of self-determination for the Nuba Mountains in the peace talks with Khartoum. ? On 13 August, further fighting broke out between the two factions and an aid worker was killed in the crossfire. ?
Students have been participating in mass demonstrations in Khartoum following the guilty verdict imposed on a student who was on trial for the murder of a policeman during a previous protest. The student will face the death penalty if the verdict is not overruled. Students have been protesting since May 2016 over political interference with the student union elections. ? The Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC) has expressed great concern over the treatment of university students in Sudan, claiming that the situation has reached epidemic proportions. It is particularly concerned over the political intrusion into student affairs and attempts by political elements to recruit university students into their ranks. The National Islamic Students Movement and its Jihadists Units, which is the student wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is suspected to be behind the majority of the recent violent attacks.?