Sudan, the largest country in Africa, was one of the first countries on the continent to gain its independence from colonial rule in 1956, but has never developed a clear identity of its own. Clear divisions exist between the people of the North, primarily Muslims of Arab descent, and the South, mostly black Africans of Christian or traditional African religions, and it is this division which historically has formed the battle lines in the civil war that has raged off and on since the 1950's.
Many factors led to and continue to be important aspects of the conflict, including religious and cultural persecution, poor economic conditions, historical differences between North and South, and misguided social and economic programs. Ecological and environmental factors, however, have exacerbated the problems and, for the time being, make settlement of this war impossible.
This country has struggled under the weight of this war for fourteen years, with over a million people killed and 3.5 million refugees displaced. (15) This conflict has many causes and many consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences exacerbate the underlying causes and make settlement even more difficult. The flow of the displaced into the cities continues, though now this flow consists of refugees from the south rather than displaced farmers and nomads. The drought continues and in order to survive, Sudanese farmers continue their harsh treatment of the land and southward progression in search of arable land, a practice that can only make a bad situation much worse.