Navigating Turbulence, Sudan's Journey Towards Stability, Growth and Cultural Resilience Amidst Challenges

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CDS Africa

Administrator . Updated July 1, 2024

Sudan is a nation in Northeast Africa formally known as the Republic of the Sudan. With a population of around 50 million as of 2024, it is the third-largest country in Africa. For more than a century, Sudan was a colonial territory and then became an independent country together its neighbor South Sudan. Prior to the secession of the south in 2011, Sudan was the largest African country, with an area size that encompassed more than 8% of the African continent and nearly 2% of the global total land area.

The name Sudan is derived from Arabic meaning “land of black people” and has occasionally been used more broadly to refer to West and Central Africa's Sahel region. Sudan's history has been marred by internal conflict since gaining independence in 1956. These conflicts include the First Sudanese Civil War (1955–1972), the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005), the War in Darfur (2003–2020), which resulted in South Sudan's secession on July 9, 2011, and the ongoing Sudanese Civil War (2023–present). Since independence from Egypt and Britain in 1956, the country has been governed by military dictatorships. This has resulted in civil conflict and unrest since 1972. Sudanese people have faced persecution, starvation, diseases, injustice, and human rights violations for decades.


 Culture & Religion

Sudan is home to more than 500 ethnic groups, each with its own traditions, dialects, and customs. The dominant ethnic group is Sudanese Arabs, followed by diverse Nilotic peoples like as Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk. The official language of Sudan is Arabic, which is also widely spoken, particularly in the northern areas. Additionally, English is employed, especially in government and education. As an Islamic country, its ethnic diversity is further reflected in the multitude of indigenous languages that are spoken there.

The Sudanese culture is rich in oral traditions, poetry, and music. Storytelling is an important aspect of cultural legacy, with many stories and poems handed down through generations. Music and dance are essential components of both social and religious rituals. Traditional music are played with instruments like the oud, tambour, and lyre. Sudanese society emphasizes family and community. Extended families frequently live together, and social life is strongly linked to familial and tribal relationships. Hospitality is a deeply held concept and guests are treated with great respect and generosity.

Islam is the largest religion in Sudan, with around 90% of the people practicing Sunni Islam. Islam has a pervasive impact in the country, defining its laws, customs and daily life. Islamic customs and festivals, like Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, are widely observed. Sharia law has been adopted to varied degrees, influencing both legal and social values. Christianity is practiced by a small percentage of people, particularly in the south and among specific ethnic groups. The Christian population comprises Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and a variety of evangelical churches. Sudan has seen substantial political and social turmoil, especially in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The violent wars, particularly the one that resulted in South Sudan's secession in 2011, have had a significant impact on the country's cultural and religious landscape. These confrontations have frequently had ethnic and religious overtones, straining the social fabric.


Economy of Sudan

Sudan's economy is mostly driven by agriculture, which employs the bulk of the population and contributes significantly to GDP. Key goods include sorghum, millet, wheat, and livestock. According to Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim, the violent conflicts that have affected various parts of Sudan have caused the country's GDP to contract by 40% last year, and this contraction is expected to continue by roughly 28% in 2024. The finance minister stated during a news conference in Port Sudan that the conflicts have severely damaged the nation's infrastructure, public buildings, private residences, and property affecting Sudan's economy badly.

 The industrial sector, which is the foundation of Sudan's economy, has suffered significant harm as a result of the fighting. Export and international trade have been hampered by the damage to infrastructure, such as supply chains and highways. Sudan's bilateral commerce with its neighbors, namely Libya and Chad, has drastically decreased. However, the financial sector took the brunt of the damage, leading to a bank liquidity crisis and systemic vulnerabilities, according to Sudanese economist Rasheed Ibrahim.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that approximately 8.1 million people have fled their homes in Sudan since the outbreak. Approximately 6.3 million people were displaced within Sudan, with a further 1.8 million fleeing to neighboring nations. Despite these challenges, efforts to stabilize and diversify the economy continue through reforms, infrastructure investment, and international cooperation, with the goal of capitalizing on Sudan's vast agricultural potential and mineral richness.


The Political Landscape

Sudan's political and democratic landscape has been turbulent, with periods of authoritarian government, military coups, civil wars, and current attempts at democratic transition. Sudan has been plagued by insecurity and violence for much of its post-independence history, with military commanders and dictatorial administrations wielding significant political authority. Omar Al-Bashir seized power in a military coup in 1989 and ruled with an iron hand for the next 30 years. His government was marked by human rights violations, economic mismanagement, and conflicts, most notably the Darfur crisis and the long-running civil war that ultimately led to South Sudan's secession in 2011. Al-Bashir's government received considerable international condemnation and sanctions.

When massive protests broke out in December 2018 over demands for political freedom and worsening economic conditions, the political landscape started to change. The military's removal of Al-Bashir in April 2019 marked the culmination of these protests and the creation of the Transitional Military Council (TMC). However, in August 2019, the TMC and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), a coalition of civilian groups, reached a power-sharing deal as a consequence of persistent pressure from civil society and opposition groups. However, there were a number of obstacles to the transition period, including economic downturns, political rivalry, and opposition from factions within the armed forces and supporters of the previous regime. After months of strain, there was another military takeover in October 2021 that resulted in the incarceration of Prime Minister Hamdok and the dissolution of the Sovereign Council, drawing criticism from both internal and foreign quarters.

After the coup, demonstrations persisted, calling for the restoration of civilian authority. A compromise was mediated in November 2021 to restore Hamdok to his position as prime minister; nevertheless, he resigned in January 2022, citing the ongoing political impasse and lack of agreement. There is still political unrest in the nation, and different parties are still working to find a way to establish a democratic and stable system of government. Power struggles are taking place between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and 16,000 people have died as a result of this violence, millions more have been displaced; thousands more are leaving the nation every day. An internationally sponsored intention to combine the RSF with the army was one of the factors that partly started the conflict. The conflict has not yet been resolved through diplomacy. On April 15, 2023, the conflict broke out as a result of an intensifying power struggle between RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan "Hemedti" Dagalo and army head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Tom Perriello, the US special envoy to Sudan has asserted that portions of Sudan are suffering from famine because of the ongoing battle between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). He added that while famine conditions are evident, the exact scope and length remain unknown and blamed both sides for the intentional activities that caused the famine, accusing the army of impeding humanitarian help and the RSF of destroying farms and plundering.

The United Nations has not issued a formal famine declaration has been, but warned in May 2024 that Sudan was in grave danger, with 18 million people acutely hungry, including 3.6 million severely malnourished children.

The fighting has significantly reduced data gathering efforts, confounding famine evaluations. The war, which started in April 2023, has resulted in widespread displacement and acute food shortages. The crisis has not yet been resolved, despite international efforts, and talks to establish a ceasefire have stagnated.



Sudan faces deep-seated challenges stemming from decades of economic losses, civil wars, and political instability exacerbated by South Sudan's 2011 secession. Despite these hurdles, Sudanese society remains rooted in cultural traditions, with Islam shaping social norms alongside a notable Christian minority. Agricultural activity drives the economy, yet ongoing conflicts impede infrastructure development and economic progress. The nation's path forward hinges on sustained reforms, global cooperation, and efforts to overcome its turbulent history for a stable and prosperous future.

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