President Omar Hassan al-Bashir came to power in a coup in 1989 and has retained his position through multiple elections 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.?
In October 2017, the US lifted their long-standing sanctions against Sudan, including some in place for 20 years. The government has started a series of economic reforms in line with International Monetary Fund recommendations as the country is struggling with inflation running at about 25% and shortage of hard currency that complicates import activity.? ? The removal of wheat subsidies in early-January 2018 as part of austerity measures doubled bread prices in large parts of the country and caused protests in Khartoum, Nyala, Geneina, and al-Damazin. ?On 16 January a peaceful demonstration against the implementation of the new national budget was deterred by security forces with excessive force. A number of protesters (unknown number) were detained. ?
Freedom of press in Sudan is limited. In November and December 2017, the National Intelligence and Security Service has repeatedly confiscated four newspapers from printing houses in Khartoum without explanation.?
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 deployed 12,500 members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to El Fasher in Darfur to assist in carrying out the disarmament campaign. ? In November, UNAMID made a statement to Sudanese authorities to coordinate the search of illegal weapons in IDP camps with the UN-AU peacekeepers to ensure that disarmament does not affect displaced people. The statement was a reaction to government forces disarmament measures in Kalma camp on 1 November that caused panic within the camp as Sudanese authorities deployed more than 200 armoured vehicles to the camp, including rocket launchers. ? As of November 22, the Sudanese government announced that more than 7,800 illegal arms had been confiscated in North Darfur. ? 27 November, Musa Hilal, a tribal leader and head of the Border Brigades Forces (BBF) was arrested by RSF following fighting between RSF and Hilal's forces where 10 RSF members died. Hilal had earlier stated that he would refuse to surrender the weapons of his troops voluntarily. ?
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. ? 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. ? The SPLM-N split stagnated the Two Areas peace negotiations in September 2017 after members of the government negotiating team said they would not negotiate with an SPLM-N Agar faction. On 9 January 2018 the Sudanese government expressed that despite the split, they are aiming to resume peace talks in late January. ?