President Omar Hassan al-Bashir came to power in a coup in 1989 and remains president through multiple elections considered corrupt and falling well beyond international standards, with reports 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. 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 have lacked equipment to carry out their mission.?
In October 2017, the US lifted long-standing sanctions against Sudan, some in place for 20 years. The government started a series of economic reforms in line with International Monetary Fund recommendations, as inflation was running at about 25% and there were shortages of hard currency.? 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. ?
Freedom of the press in Sudan is limited.?
The level of armed hostilities in Darfur is 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, as well as inter-communal conflict over land and livestock.? Clashes between the SLM-AW and the Sudanese forces have been reported since late March in Jebel Marra.? Local media reports that the Sudanese army has deployed large numbers of troops in Kass locality of South Darfur, and in Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, in an apparent preparation for a large-scale attack on opposition-held positions in the Jebel Marra.?
On 7 May, the Sudan Liberation Movement lead by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and Sudan Liberation Movement–Transitional Council (SLM–TC) declared an unilateral cessation of hostilities for humanitarian purposes, throughout the conflict areas of Darfur and lasting until 6 August 2018.?
The Two Areas: Blue Nile and South Kordofan
Violence has been ongoing in the Two Areas since the 1990s, and worsened following the discovery of oil in these 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 split into two factions in May 2017, 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 betweeen the two sides and between their civilian supporters, displacing thousands in February 2018. ? The reasons for the division are not entirely clear. Some who support Hilu claimed there was ethnic favouritism within the SPLM-N structure under Agar. There are also claims that Agar was disregarding the issue of self-determination for the Nuba Mountains in peace talks with Khartoum.? Both factions of the SPLM-N have declared unilateral ceasefires in their conflict with the government, but peace talks have stalled.?Clashes between the Sudanese forces and the SPLM-N were reported in Blue Nile in the end of April.?