|The Republic of Sudan, one of the largest and most diverse nations in Africa,
was formed in 1956 when it was granted independence by Britain, which at the time
also controlled Egypt to the North. |
Ethnic and religious differences have
plagued Sudan for almost its entire existence. Except for a period of peace from
1972 to 1983, the country has been embroiled in civil war.
Sudan is split
between the Muslim, largely Arab North and the more religiously and ethnically
For most of its history, Arabs in the North have controlled
Sudan and sought to unify the country along the lines of Arabism and Islam. However,
ethnic and Christian groups to the South have resisted, demanding self-determination
and freedom from Islamic, or Sharia, law.
The current president, Gen. Omar
Hassan al-Bashir, came to power in a military coup in 1989.
in 1944 in a rural area, Omar al-Bashir worked in a motor garage before joining
the army, where he quickly rose through the ranks. A trained pilot, al-Bashir
fought for the Egyptian army in the 1973 war with Israel and commanded a brigade
in the military campaign against rebels in southern Sudan.
to the Islamic cause intensified the North-South conflict and raised suspicion
among international organizations.
In 1996, the United Nations imposed
sanctions on Sudan for its support of international Islamic terrorists and alleged
connections to the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
support of militia, which have attacked rebel groups in Sudan's western Darfur
region, has also been the subject of international condemnation, including accusations
by the Bush administration that the government of Sudan is supporting genocide.
Nov. 19, 2004, the government of Sudan reached an historic agreement with the
southern rebels, led by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army on the role
of the state and religion and the right of southern Sudan to self-determination.
The agreement provides for a cease-fire, a new constitution and
new arrangements for sharing power and wealth.
the agreement, al-Bashir was named president, and SPLM Chairman John Garang became
the first vice president as part of a Government of National Unity. Shortly afterward,
Garang died unexpectedly in a helicopter crash. Salva Kiir was immediately named
as his successor.
Although Sudan's government is set up as a parliamentary
system, it is in effect an authoritarian regime. In addition to being president,
al-Bashir is Sudan's prime minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
As president, al-Bashir appoints the cabinet. He also names the governors
of Sudan's 26 states and allocates their budgets.
Sudan's parliament is
composed of an upper house, the 450-member National Assembly, and a lower house,
the Council of States. Per the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 70
percent of the representatives in the National Assembly must be from the North
and 30 percent from the South. The Council of States is composed of two representatives
from each of Sudan's 26 states and two observers.
Sudan also has a judicial
branch made up of a high court, a Ministry of Justice, an Attorney General and
civil and special tribunals, including religious courts and tribal courts. Sharia
law is imposed in all northern states, but southern states are exempt.
Comprehensive Peace Agreement stipulates that the government hold national elections
at the end of a five-year interim period, which, if all goes as scheduled, would
take place between 2007 and 2008.