Sudan 101: Why does Sudan have so many wars?

Sudan's size and ethnic diversity have made the country hard to govern. Lack of government attention to far-flung regions has been at the root of wars in Darfur and South Sudan.

By , Staff writer

Sudan is incredibly vast, and incredibly poor.

Its troubled Darfur region alone is the size of Spain (or France or Texas).

It would take a rich nation with a strong civil service to be able to provide services to all the tiny villages and towns that stretch out far from Sudan's capital, Khartoum. But Sudan is not a rich nation and its civil service is weak.

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Thus, distant regions are often ripe for political movements that feed on frustration over neglect.

This lack of government attention has sparked resentment that led to war in two regions: a two-decade-long conflict in southern Sudan, which has killed 1.5 million people, and, later, an eight-year-long conflict in Darfur, which has killed some 300,000.

One thing that might tie the nation together is a common identity or a common ideology that would bind Sudanese under a system that treats all citizens fairly. That hasn’t happened, and there isn’t a golden time of the past that Sudanese can harken back to.

Sudan was only unified in the 1830s by the Ottoman ruler Mohamed Ali Pasha, as he swept south to control more of the Nile River and to put troublesome warlike tribes in their place.

One by one, the various communities fell to Mohamed Ali’s army, and neither the Ottomans nor the British empire who took over Sudan gave much attention to creating a Sudanese identity.

Sudan 101:

Part 1: Why does Sudan have so many wars?

Part 2: Why is President Omar al-Bashir accused of war crimes in Darfur?

Part 3: Is the Darfur conflict a fight between Arabs and black Africans?

Part 4: What is the Darfur war about?

Part 5: Could the war over South Sudan spark up again?

Part 6: Could Sudan's oil resources solve its problems?

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