Sudan at a glance
Full Name The Republic of Sudan
Capital: Khartoum
Area: 2,505,810 sq km
Population(m): 34.4 (2013)
Head of state: President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir (since 1993)
Currency: Sudanese pound
Religions: Sunni Muslim 70% (mainly in north), Christian 5% (mainly in Khartoum and the south), indigenous beliefs 25%
Languages: Arabic (official), Nubian, Ta Bedawie, dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages, English
International organisations: COMESA, IAEA, IMF, UN, WTO (observer)

Following a referendum in January 2011, Sudan split in two in July 2011 to form Sudan and South Sudan. The Government of South Sudan is considering building a new capital city in the centre of the world’s newest country instead of its current location on Juba.

Sudan is bordered by Egypt to the north, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, Kenya and Uganda to the southeast, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. It has 853 kilometres of Red Sea coastline to the northeast.

The country is characterised by largely flat, featureless terrain, through which runs the River Nile, with mountains in the far south, northeast and west and desert dominating the north. Its major settlements are the capital, Khartoum, in the centre of the country and Port Sudan in the northeast.

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Recent politics

More than 99 per cent of votes in southern Sudan in the 2011 referendum were cast in favour of secession from the country’s northern region.

A total of 3,837,406 votes were cast. While opinion in the country’s north was more divided with 42.4 per cent voting for unity, 99.6 per cent of Sudan’s southern voters opted for secession.

The overall vote in favour of secession stood at 98.83 per cent.

The poll was agreed as part of a 2005 peace deal to end two decades of war along religious and ethnic lines between the predominantly Islamic north and Christian south. The government of South Sudan (GOSS) and its Khartoum counterpart will have to agree on how to share strategic national resources. The country is already facing stark economic choices. Its external debt stands at $34bn, which exceeds projected oil revenues – the source of 93 per cent of the country’s exports and at least 50 per cent of state income in 2009.

Both sides will also have to come to an agreement on sharing oil revenues as their economic fortunes are inextricably linked; 80 per cent of Sudan’s oil production is based in the south, while the north controls the country’s refinery and export pipeline. GOSS ministers have already warned an independent South Sudan would review all deals struck between Khartoum and foreign oil firms.

History

Sudan gained its independence, from Egypt and the UK, on 1 January 1956. The current ruling party, the National Congress Party, came to power by military coup in 1989. President Al-Bashir assumed power as chairman of Sudan’s Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC) in June 1989. Al-Bashir adopted the roles of head of state, chairman of the RCC, prime minister and minister of defence until mid-October 1993, when he was appointed president by the RCC. Al-Bashir was elected president by popular vote in March 1996.

The country’s recent history has been dominated by two civil wars. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in January 2005, brought to a close the world’s longest-running civil war. The conflict was between the Khartoum-based government of the country in the north and tribal factions in the south, represented by rebel groups including the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

The peace agreement allowed for a government to be established in the south of the country, at Juba and for the south to share in the country’s substantial oil resources. The agreement also established a government of national unity in Khartoum and gave the South the right to conduct a referendum in 2011 over secession

Economy

Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth surged from about 5 per cent in the 1990s to 7.5 per cent in the 2000-2008 period, one of the strongest records in the region, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This was thanks largely to an increase in oil production, from 130,000 barrels a day (b/d) in 1999 to about 500,000 b/d in 2010, coinciding with a long-term rise in global prices. Sudan, however, was hard hit by the fall in oil prices in 2008. GDP growth shrank to 6.8 per cent that year, compared with 10.2 per cent in 2007 and moderated further in 2009 to an estimated 4 per cent. The continued global recession will slow recovery prospects in 2010, though Sudan’s finances will feel the positive impact of higher oil prices this year, with the government forecasting oil revenues of SP10.5bn.

Sudan GDP and inflation
  2007 2008 2009f 2010f
Real GDP growth (% change) 10.2 6.8 4 5
Inflation (annual average %) 8 14.3 9 8
f = forecast. Source: IMF