• patricia tonui

First Sudanese civil war

Between 1955 and 1972, the First Sudanese Civil War was a twelve-year battle between Sudan's northern and southern regions. The conflict began a year before Sudan gained independence from the United Kingdom. The Sudanese central government and the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement were the main combatants in the conflict. The central government was backed by Britain, Egypt, and the Soviet Union, while Ethiopia, Uganda, and Israel backed the SSLM. During the twelve-year conflict, an estimated 500,000 people died.

The conflict's origins can be traced back to 1953, when the United Kingdom and Egypt agreed that Sudan would get independence in 1956. The Equatoria Corps, largely made up of British colonial soldiers from southern Sudan, attempted to disperse a mob of demonstrators in Torit Sudan on August 18, 1955. (now Torit, South Sudan). The southern soldiers, on the other hand, appeared sympathetic to the protestors, forcing the Sudanese central government in Khartoum to replace them with forces from the north. Southern soldiers mutinied, killing 336 northerners, both soldiers and civilians, in a fit of anger.News of the Torit mutiny spread, and southern soldiers across Sudan revolted.


Other factors also had a role in the war. The northern two-thirds of Sudan were largely Muslim, whereas the southern two-thirds were dominated by Christianity or indigenous religions. Northern Sudanese population spoke Arabic and identified with Saudi Arabia and North Africa, but southern Sudanese people looked to Ethiopia and the newly established states of Sub-Saharan Africa for cultural inspiration.


Southern Sudanese forces waged a guerilla war against the north because they lacked the infrastructure to launch a major onslaught. They were also the first insurrection to use child soldiers as a recruiting tool. Southern Sudanese rebels split into two divisions as the conflict progressed. The Sudan African National Union (SANU), led by William Deng of the Dinka ethnic group, was created. Joseph Lagu established and led another faction, the Anya Nya, which was primarily made up of Madi members.

Child Soldiers, First Sudanese Civil War

fair use image, Source unknown


The fighting caused challenges for the Khartoum government as well. Because Northern soldiers were unable to quell the uprising, multiple coups took place, resulting in the formation of new governments. Interim Prime Minister Muhammad Ahmad Mahgoub promised the Southern Sudanese rebels amnesty if they laid down their arms in 1965, ten years after the civil war began. The rebels turned down the offer, and the combat continued.

By 1970, the civil war had claimed the lives of approximately 500,000 people, predominantly in the South. General Gaafar Nimeri seized power in Sudan in 1969 and implemented a socialist program that included nationalizing banks and other companies. The Soviet Union provided him with significant military assistance. After a failed murder attempt by Sudanese communists two years later, Nimeri rejected socialism and invited foreign investors into Sudan on July 19, 1971. The Addis Ababa Agreement, which ended the First Sudanese Civil War, was signed eight months later, on March 27, 1972, by the government in Khartoum and the Southern insurgents.

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