Sudan is the largest country on the continent. The region was known in ancient times the kingdom of Nubia, which came under Egyptian rule after 2600 B.C. An Egyptian and Nubian civilization called Kush flourished until A.D. 350. Missionaries converted the region to Christianity in the 6th century, but an influx of Muslim Arabs eventually controlled the area and replaced Christianity with Islam.

During the 1500s a people called the Funj conquered much of Sudan, and several other black African groups settled in the south, including the Dinka, ShillukNuer, and Azande. Egyptians conquered Sudan again in 1874, and Britain took over Sudan in 1898, ruling in conjunction with Egypt. It was known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan between 1898 and 1955.

In 1953, Egypt and Britain granted Sudan self-government. Independence was proclaimed on January 1, 1956.

Sudan instituted Islamic law under Maj. Gen. Gaafar Mohamed Nimeiri in 1983. This exacerbated the rift between the Arab north and the black African animists and Christians in the south. Differences in language, religion, ethnicity, and political power erupted in a long civil war between government forces influenced by the National Islamic Front (NIF) and the southern rebels most influential faction, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Human rights violations, religious persecution, and allegations that Sudan had been a safe haven for terrorists isolated the country from most of the international community. In 1995, the United Nations imposed sanctions against Sudan.

On August 20, 1998, the United States launched cruise missiles that destroyed a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Khartoum. The U.S. contended the factory was financed by Islamic militant Osama bin Laden.

Starting in 1999, international attention focused on evidence that slavery is widespread throughout Sudan. Arab raiders from the north have enslaved thousands of southerners, who are black. The Dinka people have been the hardest-hit.

In 1999, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir ousted de facto ruler Hassan el-Turabi, a cleric and political leader who is a major figure in the pan-Arabic Islamic fundamentalist resurgence, and placed him under house arrest. Turabi was freed in October 2003.

A cease-fire was declared between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in July 2002. During peace talks, the government agreed to a power-sharing government for six years, to be followed by a referendum on self-determination for the south. Fighting on both sides continued throughout the peace negotiations.

Another war intensified in the northwestern Darfur region. After the government quelled a rebellion in Darfur in January 2004, pro-government militias called the Janjaweed carried out massacres against black villagers and rebel groups in the region. These Arab militias killed between 200,000 and 300,000 civilians and displaced more than 1 million. While the war in the south was fought against black Christians and animists, the Darfur conflict is being fought against black Muslims.

In May 2004, a deal between the government and the SPLA was signed, ending a brutal civil war that resulted in the deaths of 2 million people.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement was reached on January 9, 2005 between the southern rebels, led by John Garang of the SPLA, and the Khartoum government, ending Africa's longest-running civil war. Under the deal, roughly half of Sudan's oil wealth was given to the south, as well as nearly complete autonomy and the right to secede after six years. Two weeks after Garang was sworn in as first vice president, he was killed in a helicopter crash during bad weather. Rioting erupted in Khartoum. Garang's deputy, Salva Kiir, was sworn in as the new vice president.

In 2006, the slaughter in Darfur escalated, and the Khartoum government remained defiantly indifferent to international communities' calls to stop the violence. The 7,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers deployed to Darfur proved too small and ill equipped to prevent much of it. A peace deal in May 2006 was signed between the Sudanese government and the main Darfur rebel group. The Sudanese government reneged on essential elements of the accord, including the plan to disarm the militias and allow a UN peacekeeping force into the region.

In January 2007, Sudan and Darfur rebel groups agreed to a 60-day cease-fire, which was intended to lead to peace talks sponsored by the African Union. Libya hosted peace talks in October, but several rebel groups boycotted the proceedings, and the summit ended shortly after the opening ceremony.

In February 2007, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague named Ahmad Harun, Sudan's deputy minister for humanitarian affairs, and Ali Kushayb, also known as Ali Abd-al-Rahman, a militia leader, as suspects in the murder, rape, and displacement of thousands of civilians in the Darfur region. In May, the Court issued arrest warrants for Haroun and Ali Kushayb, charging them with mass murder, rape, and other crimes. The Sudanese government refused to hand them over to the Court. Kushayb was arrested by Sudanese police in October 2008, but was not handed over to the ICC.

On July 31, 2007, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to deploy as many as 26,000 peacekeepers from the African Union and the United Nations forces to help end the violence in Darfur. The African Union peacekeeper base in Darfur was attacked in September. Ten peacekeepers were killed. Days later, the town was razed, leaving thousands homeless.

In October 2007, the Sudan People's Liberation Army quit the national unity government, leaving the peace agreement signed in 2005 on the brink of collapse. The SPLA claimed that the governing party, the National Congress Party, ignored its concerns over boundary between the north and south and how to divide the country's oil wealth.

Sudan faced international criticism in January 2008, when Musa Hilal, a Janjaweed leader, was appointed to a top government position as an adviser to the minister of federal affairs. Human Rights Watch called Hilal "the poster child for Janjaweed atrocities in Darfur."

Government forces and the Janjaweed resumed attacks in the Darfur region in February 2008, forcing as many as 45,000 people to flee their homes. The government claimed it was targeting the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group believed to be linked to the government of Chad. The Justice and Equality Movement launched an attack in May, coming within a few miles of Khartoum before being repulsed by government troops.

In July 2008, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, indicted Bashir with genocide for planning and executing the decimation of Darfur's three main ethnic tribes: the Fur, the Masalit, and the Zaghawa. Moreno-Ocampo also said Bashir "purposefully targeted civilians" and used "rapes, hunger, and fear" to terrorize civilians. The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in March 2009, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity. An indictment for genocide was rejected by the court, and Moreno-Ocampo appealed the decision. Bashir responded by shutting down 13 aid agencies that operate relief camps in Sudan.

In July 2009, an international tribunal at The Hague redefined the border of Sudan's oil-rich Abyei region, giving the North rights to the Heglig oil field, and the South retained rights to other oil fields in Abyei.

In February 2010, Moreno-Ocampo won his appeal and the ICC was ordered to review the evidence to determine if Bashir should be tried for genocide. The court formally charged him with three counts of genocide in July. It was the first time the court charged a person with genocide.

In April 2010, Omar al-Bashir easily won Sudan's first multi-party elections since 1986, with 68% of the vote. Several opposition parties boycotted the election, and international observers questioned its fairness, citing ballot-box stuffing and other allegations of fraud.

A referendum on independence for Southern Sudan was held in January 2011, with 98.83% of the electorate opting for secession. Omar al-Bashir, accepted the results and issued a Republican Decree confirming the outcome of the referendum and said he would not seek re-election.

In April 2011, President Omar Al-Bashir said he would not recognize the independence of South Sudan if its government claims the Abyei region, which is part of South Kordofan state. On May 21, 2011, the Armed Forces of Sudan seized control of Abyei, which the south Sudanese government called an act of war. More than 20,000 people fled and the United Nationssent an envoy to intervene.

The Republic of South Sudan declared its independence on July 9, 2011 and became Africa's 54th state. Thousands celebrated in the streets of South Sudan's capital, Juba.

Sudan and South Sudan teetered on the brink of border war in April 2012. South Sudan took over disputed oil fields in Heglig. President Omar al-Bashir said he would not negotiate with South Sudan. The South withdrew from the contested region, but the aggression continued.

Sudan and South Sudan reached an oil deal on August 4, 2012. South Sudan agreed to compensate Sudan for the use of its oil pipeline.

Sudan and South Sudan reached an agreement in March 2013, brokered by the African Union, to resume oil production.

In an unofficial referendum held on October 31, 2013, registered voters from the Dinka Ngok tribe voted to join South Sudan. The results were not recognized by the governments of either Sudan nor South Sudan.

In May 2014, a court in Khartoum prompted international outcry by sentencing a pregnant woman born to a Muslim father, but raised as a Christian, to death for apostasy after she refused to recant her Christianity.

© 2014 World Ministries International