Sudan's First Civil Conflict: 1955-1972

The First Sudanese war was a conflict that began in 1955 and ended in 1972. The underlying cause of the conflict was regional autonomy. The British failed to guarantee equity in government representation for the Southern African-Christians. The Arab-led government, located in Khartoum, promised to create a federal system of government in which everyone, North and South would be represented. However, they reneged on their promises, which led to a mutiny in the town of Torit (by looking at the map, one can see that Torit is located in Southern Sudan). In the summer of 1955, the Equatoria Corps (a military force led by southerners) attacked Sudanese government officials. Instead of surrendering, many fled into the woods with their weapons and created many unorganized militia and insurgent groups.

These rebel groups did not stay unorganized, however; and by 1963 the Anya Nya (literally means "snake venom") was born. This insurgent group was the largest and most effective in this conflict. This guerilla band was able to receive weapons through a number of ways. Israel provided weapons via Uganda and Ethiopia. Uganda proved to be a strong supporter of the Anya Nya and the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) which was soon to follow.
The conflict proceeded until 1972 when the Addis Abada Accords were presented to the opposing sides. This agreement granted autonomy to the Southern provinces. However, it would not be long, eleven years to be exact, that this agreement would be totally undermined and conflict would again ensue. One can draw parallels to the Arusha Accords of 1993 in Rwanda, which failed miserably and genocide resulted from the fact. 

The Anya Nya's Impact

The rebel insurgents (Anya Nya, etc.) not only had a significant impact on the first Sudanese Civil War, but also on warfare in Sudan in general. Guerrilla warfare was to follow in the years to come, and it is evident today when one looks at the Janjaweed, the DLA (Darfur Liberation Army), SLA (Sudan Liberation Movement), etc. When government forces were being absolutely humiliated by the SLA and other rebel forces, the government knew that they had to match the rebels in their tactics. Military units untrained in desert warfare were unable to keep up with the rebels. Therefore, the government acted on the basis of a new counter-insurgency group, the Janjaweed. Due to being better equipped, this group has been able to commit the terrible atrocities occurring within Darfur today. The preferred tactics are burning and pillaging, castration and rape. This is not like the Rwandan genocide in that machetes are not being used, but rather helicopters are being deployed, and Kalashnikovs are being utilized. The warfare used in the First Civil War impacted the future. With the inconsistency of military units, the government had to change the way it operated because rebel forces were ongoing since independence in 1956.

            Creation of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM)

This movement/organization was created in 1971, just before the end of the civil war, by a man named Joseph Lagu. Under this movement, he was able to gather all the individual guerrilla bands, including the Anya Nya. This was the first time in the short history of Southern Sudan that the separatist movement had a unified structure. Because of this unification, the Southern Sudan could fulfill its objectives more easily.

It is important to note the creation of this group in understanding the genocide because from this group, many others were formed with essentially the same goals. This group sparked the creation of the two main rebel groups found in the Sudan today. The Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) was originally known as the Darfur Liberation Front until 2003. Backed by neighboring Eritrea, it has announced no connection with the Southern rebels, however; they fight for essentially the same cause: secession from Sudan.

The Justice and Equality Movement is the other main rebel group involved in the Darfur conflict. They appear to be backed by Chad (rebels were caught with Chadian identification and arms). The SLA and JEM joined forces on January 20, 2006 and formed the “Alliances of Revolutionary Forces in West Sudan.” They believe that they will be more effective with their forces joined together.


Uganda and Sudan: An Interesting Relationship

The two countries of Uganda and Sudan have had a special relationship since independence in 1956. Both countries had the same ideas, which led to much destruction. Uganda supported the newly formed SPLA, and Sudan supported the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which was created in 1988 by a man named Joseph Kony. It is responsible for abusing and taking children to bases located in the government controlled Sudan. In 1998, it was estimated that six to ten thousand children were tortured and killed by the LRA. The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has asked Sudan to stop supporting the LRA, and they will stop supporting the SPLA.  Agreements were reached in 2002, and diplomatic relations were renewed between the two countries. However, some suspicion remains on both sides whether they are still funding each other’s rebel group. It is under speculation whether each country’s military units are providing assistance, and in 2003, Sudan announced that they are leaving the door open for supporting the LRA.



Cooper, Tom. “Sudan, Civil War Since 1955.” Central, Eastern, and Southern
            Africa Database. 2 Sep. 2003.

Morse, David. “War of the Future: Oil Drives the Genocide in Darfur.” Common Dreams NewsCenter. 19 Aug 2005.

Rone, Jemera. “Northern Uganda and Sudan’s Support for the Lord’s
            Resistance Army.” Human Rights Watch. 29 July 1998.

Shinn, David H. “Sudan and Her Neighbors: Part I.”

“Sudan Civil War.” <>