In Sudan the civil war has presented an endemic character since the months preceding the proclamation of the independence of the country in January 1956. At the origin of the conflict was the historic abandonment of the South of the country, a region deliberately marginalized by the civil and military governments that have succeeded in power in the last forty years, supported by the Arab and Islamic component of the population, the majority component in the country and resident in the Northern regions. The subjugation of the population of the South, mostly black and Christian, fighting for their autonomy against the cultural, political and religious domination of the North, has provoked the outbreak of numerous conflicts that have accentuated the age-old antagonism between the two regions. During the eighties and nineties, the flare-up of the fighting caused a tragedy of vast dimensions: over one and a half million dead, four million residents fled from their lands, more than half a million refugees in other countries and a population on the verge of starvation due to drought and famine. In particular, after the coup in June 1989 the military regime of ῾Umar Ḥasan Aḥmad al-Bašīr started a drastic process of forced Islamization of the country, which caused a resurgence in the South of armed initiatives by the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) commanded by J. Garang, the military wing of the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement). The first unsuccessful attempts to reach an agreement between the parties took place in the early 1990s: the failure of the Nairobi talks, in 1994, was sanctioned at the beginning of the following year by the government reshuffle which saw a strengthening of the Islamist component linked to the Islamic National Front (FNI) of Ḥasan al-Turābī, a direct expression of the fundamentalist organization of the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’. In the absence of a genuine political debate, the parliamentary and presidential elections in March 1996, the first since the coup, they saw the obvious statement of al-Basir with 75, 7 % of the votes and the success of the FNI, the whose leader al-Turābī was elected president of the National Assembly. In the South, the fighting prevented the natural course of the electoral round. During 1997, the realization of the alliance of the SPLA with the Northern Democratic Alliance (NDA), the organization that gathered numerous forces of opposition to the regime, active in the north-east of the country and based in Asmara (Eritrea), determined a strategic advance of the rebels in the South and the intensification of the guerrilla in the country. In May 1998, after repeated attempts at an agreement that failed in previous years, the Nairobi peace talks between the government forces and the representatives of the rebels recorded a first significant success: in the agreement signed by the parties on May 6, the need was recognized for call a referendum for the self-determination of the South. No date was indicated, however. Also in May, with 96, 7% of the consents, also registered in the southern regions, a new Constitution was approved by referendum in which freedom of expression, religion and political association were recognized, at least in theoretical form. But free political activity, banned in the country after the coup, was restored only in January 1999 with the approval of a law considered too restrictive by the political forces less close to the regime.
At the end of the nineties, the intensification of the civil war, the worsening of economic conditions and the latent risk of famine strongly undermined the resilience of the population, and in particular of those living in the South, harassed by violence and systematic violations of rights. by the military regime and by the continuous stealing of food resources by the rebel forces. Between 1998 and 1999 the United Nations organization has repeatedly reiterated that in the south of the country hunger endangered the survival of over two and a half million people: the areas most affected by the tragedy were in the province of Baḥr al-Ġazāl, where the majority resides of the Dinka people, the ethnic group that dominates the SPLA. The war between the South and the North also threatened the survival of the Nūba, the people of Muslim faith barricaded in the mountains south of Khartoum, ignored by the international humanitarian aid machine and attacked by government forces because they settled in particularly fertile and strategically important areas.
In foreign policy, the fundamentalist orientation of the al-Bašīr regime has characterized the policy of the alliances of the Sudan in the region and in international conflicts. The support given to Ṣaddām Ḥusayn during the Gulf War and the close ties maintained with Iraq, Iran and Libya placed the Sudan among the main countries held responsible, in particular by the United States, for fomenting Islamic terrorism and for pursuing a political of destabilization of neighboring countries. The support provided by the Sudanese government to anti-government guerrilla movements in Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Egypt’s allegations of Sudanese involvement in the attempted assassination of Egyptian President M. Mubārak in Addis Ababa (June 1995), led to a dramatic worsening of relations with these countries and to the isolation of the Sudan on a regional level. In particular, Ugandan President Y. Museveni sided against the Sudanese regime to preserve the cultural identity of black Africa, not sparing his solidarity and support for the SPLA rebels who have always opposed Arab and Islamic penetration. ‘militant’ in the region.
On August 20, 1998, confirming the belief of the United States that the Sudan represented one of the global centers of Islamic terrorism together with Iran and Afghānistān, President B. Clinton, in response to the attacks on the American embassies in Nairobi and Dār al-Salām of 7 August, ordered the bombing of the factories of a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, the Shifa, where it was believed that chemical weapons were being manufactured. On the level of international relations, a clear improvement was instead recorded in relations between the South and Egypt, which in February 1998, after more than four years of interruption, restored mutual commercial exchanges along the Nile.
Surprisingly, in February 1999, President al-Bašīr declared that the government was ready to negotiate with the rebels the question of the autonomy of the South in order to put an end to the war that had been tearing the country apart for over fifteen years. In July, peace talks with the SPLA rebels opened in Nairobi (Kenya). At the end of 1999, a clash at the top of the state broke out in the country between President al-Bašīr and the powerful ideologue of the fundamentalist regime, the president of the Parliament al-Turābī, who had been the main supporter of al-Bašīr on the occasion of the coup of State of 1989. In December, the president dissolved Parliament and declared a state of emergency in the country, proceeding with the formation of a new government of his loyalists.