Population: 43.2 million (UN, 2010)
Border countries: Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Uganda

Sudan is the largest and one of the most diverse countries in Africa. In 2011, however, it was poised for a split into two States - North and South Sudan - following a referendum in January in which some 99% of South Sudanese voted to secede from the north. The poll was agreed as part of a 2005 peace deal (see below) to end two decades of war. As the result was confirmed in vote in February 2011, South Sudan declared its independence on 9 July 2011.

Sudan has been engaged in violent struggle for most of its existence. In 2003, it emerged from a 21-year internal armed conflict between the Sudanese Government and non-state armed groups in the south, which is said to have cost the lives of 1.5 million people. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement, the largest non-state armed group, provides for a high degree of autonomy for the south (see Peace treaties section). The region will also share oil revenue equally with the north.

Fighting is ongoing in several of Sudan's regions: in Darfur, where clashes occurred in early 2003 when non-state armed groups seeking greater autonomy began an insurrection; in the Abyei border region with South Sudan, where problems with the implementation of the CPA intensified in 2008 and have since escalated; and, since June 2011, in Southern Kordofan, where there have already been reports of possible war crimes being committed. (See Current conflicts section for ample descriptions of all these conflicts.)

Inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, protests erupted in January 2011 in Sudan and were met with harsh measures: hundreds of arrests, weeks of detention and, according to Human Rights Watch, "beatings, sleep deprivation, electric shock, and other forms of physical and mental abuse, including death threats and threats of rape."

Last updated: 13 April 2012