Sudan. In the war-ravaged western region of Darfur, the situation calmed down in 2009. Combat activity subsided, especially since the leading rebel movement JEM (the Justice and Equality Movement) signed a standstill agreement in February. However, the more than two million internally displaced persons remained equally vulnerable, and their situation worsened since the government ordered aid organizations to leave the area in March. According to countryaah, that decision was a reaction to the International Criminal Court (ICC) having prosecuted Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity and issued an international arrest warrant for him.
In open defiance of the ICC, al-Bashir began an intensive journey to African and Arab countries to show that he was not afraid of being arrested and extradited. Both the African Union (AU) and the Arab League protested against the arrest warrant. al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state prosecuted by the ICC. In October the AU offered to set up a special court for Darfur in Sudan with the participation of both foreign and Sudanese lawyers. However, among other things, JEM maintained that the most serious criminals should be investigated at the ICC.
In May, the ICC initiated the first process of connection to Darfur in May. The case involved a rebel leader who was charged with participating in an attack in which 12 soldiers of the AU peacekeeping force were killed in 2007. Ten members of JEM were sentenced to death in April for participating in an armed raid against the capital Khartoum in May 2008 A few days earlier, nine men from Darfur were executed for the 2006 assassination of a prominent Islamic journalist.
While some calm settled over Darfur, the unrest increased significantly in southern Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in battles that often emerged as traditional conflicts over livestock, water and pastures but were usually interpreted as expressing increased tension in the referendum on independence to be carried out in the semi-autonomous southern states in 2011. Local militias were suspected of being exploited by forces in north to sabotage the opportunities to carry out the referendum. Foreign Minister Lam Akol received harsh criticism from the South Sudanese liberation movement SPLM for going north-side affairs when he formed an outbreak party called SPLM-DC (Democratic Change). He himself accused the SPLM of mismanagement in the southern states.
Only at the end of the year could Parliament pass a law on the rules for the referendum. The lengthy negotiations included, among other things, the conditions for voting rights for South Sudanese residing in the north, how high the turnout must be in order for the vote to be declared valid, and how large a yes majority is required for independence to be granted. The rivals from the north and south previously accepted a ruling by the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague, which gave the north side the right to an oil field in the disputed area of Abyei.
Khartoum, the capital of Sudan; 1.94 million residents (2014). The city lies at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile and together with the neighboring Omdurman and Khartoum North forms the dominant urban center of Sudan. The population is predominantly Muslim Arabs, but civil war and poverty have driven approximately 1 million African refugees from southern and western Sudan to the city, where they live in slum towns and camps on the edge of the desert around the city.
The city’s many one- and two-story houses are spread over a large area along the confluence of the Nile; only in the city center are there higher buildings. The mains, the water supply and the telephone network are overloaded and often put out. Khartoum has an international airport and is the country’s road and rail hub; also the Nile is an important transport route for the city’s smaller industrial companies.
The modern Khartoum was founded in 1821 by Egyptian Muhammad Ali. British General Charles Gordon and his troops were killed here in 1885, when al-Mahdi rebels conquered the British-Egyptian garrison in the city. Lord Kitchener regained control in 1898 (the Battle of Omdurman) and rebuilt the city as the administrative center of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.