Responses varied to the war between the north and south and to genocide and conflict in Darfur.
The international policy responses to the conflict in Sudan (1985-2005) varied greatly over the twenty years of the conflict, affected by the Cold War, multiple conflicts and regime changes in neighboring countries, and other shifting geopolitical and economic interests. The governments of neighboring Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Chad, Uganda, and Kenya all played significant roles. Key players among the broader international community included the US, United Kingdom, and China. Sudan's support for Iraq during the first Gulf War and various radical Islamist movements (including hosting Osama Bin Laden from 1992-1996) resulted in increased isolation from western countries. In 1993, the US placed Sudan on its list of state sponsors of terrorism and imposed sanctions in 1997.
A peace process for southern Sudan, sponsored by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development and mediated by Kenyan General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, gained momentum with the signing of a framework for peace in July 2002 by the Government of Sudan and the SPLM. The United States, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom increased their engagement in the peace process after 2001.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by the government and the SPLM on January 9, 2005. It ended the two-decade war and provided the framework within which the South eventually voted for independence, creating the new country of South Sudan on July 9, 2011. Following the signing of the CPA, the UN Security Council authorized the establishment of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for a period of seven years. Deployed across Sudan, the 10,000-strong peacekeeping force was unable to prevent a recurrence of fighting between the government army and SPLA soldiers in oil-rich Abyei on the north-south border or in Kordofan.
Beginning in April 1989, humanitarian assistance came from Operation Lifeline Sudan, which was set up following a devastating famine in Southern Sudan—the result of drought and the civil war—which killed an estimated 250,000 people. The consortium included three UN agencies, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and 40 non-governmental organizations. Although it saved countless lives, the system was manipulated by both sides in the war, which limited access to suffering displaced populations and siphoned off aid.
With mounting pressure from public advocacy groups a wide array of measures was deployed in response to violence in Darfur, which helped spark the beginning of an anti-genocide movement across the United States. Print journalists, like Nicholas Kristof, played a central role in bringing the story of violence in Darfur to the general public early in 2004. Bolstered by public interest, editors kept reporters on the scene in Darfur and their stories on the pages of major newspapers. Another important early alarm was sounded by Amnesty International, which published one of the first full-length reports on Darfur in February 2004. In the next months attention focused on the growing crisis in the region—on July 22nd, both houses of the US Congress passed resolutions condemning the atrocities in Darfur as genocide; on July 26th the US Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a "genocide emergency" warning; and on September 9th, US Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced the Bush Administration’s opinion that "genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility—and genocide may still be occurring." While the UN, the African Union (AU), and the European Union disagreed that genocide had occurred, they all accused the Sudanese government and its allied militias of committing crimes against humanity.
Most of the deaths in Darfur resulted from malnutrition and exposure after civilians were forcibly displaced into the harsh desert environment. A massive aid effort that began in 2003 saved countless lives and stemmed the death toll. As the conflict continued, however, humanitarian aid workers themselves increasingly became targets of violence. On March 5, 2009, the day after the International Criminal Court issued its arrest warrant for President Bashir, the Sudanese government ejected some 13 international humanitarian aid groups from, Darfur and disbanded several national groups, with blatant disregard for the humanitarian needs of the displaced populations.
As part of a 2004 agreement between the Sudanese government and the Darfurian rebels, the AU sent in soldiers mandated to protect unarmed ceasefire monitors. The ceasefire was not honored, and when civilians came under attack the AU soldiers often were not present or provided limited protection. On December 31, 2007, after protracted negotiations with the Sudanese government, the AU and the United Nations formed a joint force with a stronger mandate to protect civilians, but undermanned and ill-equipped, its presence has been inadequate to change the situation on the ground.