Stretching between the savannah and the equator, Sudan is a microcosm of Africa, with one leg in the Arab world and the other in Africa. Sudan's development, however, has failed to address the differences within the country between its diverse ethnic communities. This has resulted in political instability and a lack of national consensus,nbsp;ultimately leading to long-term civil war. This useful book provides a comprehensive introduction to contemporary Sudan, outlining the evolution of the state with emphasis on its post-independence experience. It includes chapters on the history, politics, society, international relations and economy of the country.


The Sudan first came to be known as a political entity with approximately its present geographical borders in the nineteenth century, when it was administered as a Turko-Egyptian colony. In a little over six decades the Turko-Egyptian administration was overthrown by the Mahdist Revolution in 1885, and was succeeded by the Mahdist state, which lasted for only 13 years. Once again international politics came into play and Britain, afraid of French encroachment, re-occupied Sudan in 1898 with Egypt as a junior partner, in a unique arrangement that came to be known as the Condominium era, and which lasted until 1956.

Stretching between the savannah and the equator, Sudan is a microcosm of Africa, linking the northern and southern parts of the Sahara, with one leg in the Arab world and its culture and the other in Africa, but political developments have failed to reflect these realities. The result is a lack of national consensus and a political instability that has translated itself into continuing civil war for more than 35 years so far. As a result, Sudan, a country of immense economic potential, continues to be among the least developed countries, with a majority of its people living in poverty and suffering from occasional famines.

Post-independence Sudan saw three civilian parliamentary regimes (1956-58; 1965-69; 1986-89) and three military ones (1958-64; 1969-85; 1989-present). Exchange of power between military and civilian elites is indeed a common phenomenon in a majority of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America and is not confined to Sudan as such. Yet it is the peculiarity of the Sudanese situation that no military regime was replaced by another military take-over. Even the 1985 coup that overthrew Field Marshal Ja'far Nimeiri was in fact a response to a popular uprising and eventually handed power back to civilians. Equally, neither has a civilian parliamentary government been allowed to stand for re-election.

It is disheartening to note that both the soldiers who usurped power through the 'barrel of a gun' and seasoned politicians who come to office through the ballot box, were initially judged by the mistakes and follies of their predecessors, not by what they promised or could do. However, it soon becomes clear that a corrupt or oppressive predecessor does not necessarily ensure a good successor.

The obvious questions to be asked in this connection are what are the real causes of the repeated failures that generate instability and chronic problems, and whether there is a way out. Naturally, answers to such questions are neither simple, nor

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