Responses varied to the war in the South and to genocide and conflict in Darfur.
To the war in the South
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 U.S., 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 U.S. 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.
Beginning in April 1989, Operation Lifeline Sudan 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 in 1988. The consortium included three United Nations 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.
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
To genocide and conflict in Darfur
With mounting pressure from public advocacy groups a wide array of measures was deployed in response to violence in Darfur. Watch short videos of a student activist and a Sudanese activist.
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, who published one of the first full-length reports on Darfur in February 2004. Spring and Summer of 2004 witnessed an increase in attention to genocide in Darfur: on July 22nd both houses of the U.S. Congress passed resolutions condemning atrocities in Darfur as genocide; on July 26th the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a genocide warning; and on September 9th 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."
In September 2004, the U.S. government declared the conflict in Darfur a "genocide." While the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union disagreed that genocide had occurred, they all accused the Sudanese government and its allied militias of committing crimes against humanity.
The African Union, of which Sudan is a member, pressured the Sudanese government and Darfurian rebel movements to allow humanitarian access to civilians and has overseen a series of attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution. Watch eyewitness testimony from one of the negotiators.
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 following the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for President Bashir, the Sudanese government kicked some 13 international humanitarian aid groups out of Darfur and disbanded several national groups, thereby affecting core needs of the displaced populations.
As part of a 2004 agreement between the Sudanese government and the Darfurian rebels, the African Union (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. View a film about Brian Steidle, a member of the AU monitoring mission.
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.
On March 31, 2005, the UN Security Council referred the case of Darfur, Sudan, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a permanent court created in 1998 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. On March 4, 2009, the ICC announced its historic decision to issue an arrest warrant charging Sudanese President Bashir with five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes for his leadership role in orchestrating the conflict in Darfur. Learn more about the ICC, this historic case, and concerns about the Court’s future.?