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Sudan's Fractured Internal Politics

Introduction

For the past four years, significant U.S. attention has been devoted to the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, in which roughly two hundred thousand have died and more than two million have been displaced. A hybrid African Union/United Nations peacekeeping force remains only partially deployed, and peace negotiations have stalled. Meanwhile, clashes in South Sudan have raising fears that the fragile peace brought by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement will collapse and the country's civil strife will expand to disastrous levels. The Bush administration treated Darfur and South Sudan as separate issues. But experts say both situations can be traced back to Khartoum's central government, which has historically maintained control of the country's periphery through divide-and-rule policies. There is wide disagreement about the best policy course for the United States to pursue in Sudan, but analysts agree that any effective policy will have to consider Sudan's internal politics and the center's relationship with its periphery.

Khartoum and its Periphery

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, approximately the size of Western Europe. Since its independence in 1956, it has been roiled by civil war almost continuously. This war was initially between northern Sudan and the south, which objected to its isolation and lack of development in comparison to the north.Following the military coup that brought President Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989, Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) spurred an Islamist revolution that empowered the center's security and business interests at the expense of rural areas. In response, groups from each peripheral area of Sudan entered conflict with the central government. According to a 2003 briefing paper from the International Crisis Group, these groups feel marginalized as a result of a government that has "exploited local resources, imposed its religious and cultural beliefs...

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