Fast Facts

Population:
36,787,012
Capital:
Khartoum; 4,286,000
Area:
1,861,484 square kilometers (718,723 square miles)
Language:
Arabic, Nubian, Ta Bedawie, many local dialects
Religion:
Sunni Muslim, indigenous beliefs, Christian
Currency:
Sudanese pound
Life Expectancy:
55
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $2,300
Literacy Percent:
61
Flag: Sudan
Map: Sudan

Africa's largest country in land area, Sudan is dominated by the Nile and its tributaries, with mountains rising along its Red Sea coast and along the western border with Chad. Sudan's name in Arabic means "land of the blacks."

Since independence from Britain in 1956, a north-south war has dominated Sudan's history, pitting Arab Muslims in the northern desert against black Christians and animists in the southern wetlands. Muslim Arabs control the government in Khartoum, but are only about 39 percent of the population. Blacks, or Africans, make up 52 percent of Sudanese, and are most numerous in southern and western Sudan. The country is further divided with hundreds of black, Arab, and non-Arab ethnicities, tribes, and languages.

Sudan's political history has been unstable. Gen. Muhammad Nimeiri, who seized control in the 1970s, was deposed in 1985. In 1989 another military coup, led by then-Col. Omar al-Bashir, toppled the elected government. The military dictatorship, so far, has been incapable of stopping the civil war. Indeed its intensity rose with the discovery and exploitation of oil fields in the south. In 2004 a rebel uprising by blacks in western Sudan's Dafur region brought army reprisals, creating 100,000 refugees. Pro-government Arab militias carried out systematic killings of Darfur's blacks—who are mostly Muslim.

Ongoing peace talks finally resulted in a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in January 2005. As part of this agreement the south was granted a six-year period of autonomy to be followed by a referendum on final status. The result of this referendum, held in January 2011, was a vote of 98 percent in favor of secession. Independence was attained on July 9, 2011.

ECONOMY

  • Industry: Oil, cotton ginning, textiles, cement, edible oils, sugar, soap distilling, shoes, petroleum refining
  • Agriculture: Cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), sorghum, millet, wheat; sheep
  • Exports: Oil and petroleum products, cotton, sesame, livestock, groundnuts

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