Fact-Checking Claims on Sudan’s Independence and Civil Wars’ Deaths

A request was submitted via News Verifier Africa, N-VA’s ‘submit a claim’ portal, to fact-check a work-in-progress documentary script on Sudan. The claim was submitted by a television, film and photographic personnel from the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC.

The submitted claim reads: “It is about Sudan and the line I’d like to check is – ‘in 1956 Sudan gained independence. A war between the government and rebels in the South kills almost 2 million people until South Sudan gains its own independence in 2011.’”



N-VA extracted two claims from the documentary script: “Sudan Gained Independence in 1956,” and “The War between the Government and Rebels in the South Killed almost 2 Million People until South Sudan Gained its own Independence in 2011,” and went on to fact-check the claims.



The claim was extracted from a documentary which will be produced by the BBC and it is pertinent to verify the authenticity of the claims and prevent misinformation as the multinational broadcasting company has a viewership of 489 million adults every week

Also, the documentary is on the history of Sudan which makes it pertinent to confirm the dates and timeline of events.


Did Sudan Gain Independence in 1956?

Sudan gained independence from the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, the joint British and Egyptian government that administered Sudan since 1899. From 1924 until Sudan’s independence in 1956, the British had a policy of running Sudan as two essentially separate territories – the north and south.

The United Kingdom and Egypt concluded an agreement which provided for Sudanese self-government and self-determination in February 1953 and the transitional period towards independence began with the inauguration of the first Sudanese parliament in 1954.

According to the New York Times, the Sudanese parliament, unilaterally and unanimously declared Sudan’s independence on December 19th, 1955. The British and Egyptian governments’ recognized the independence of Sudan on 1st January 1956.


What Happened After Sudan’s Independence?

Sudan’s sovereignty came with self-government for about 600 ethnic groups speaking over 400 languages and the new country came with a new constitution, the 1956 constitution.

Sudanese citizens agitated that the constitution marginalised some territories for not stating whether the new state should be secular or an Islamist state and failed to address the country’s federal structure.


Sudan’s First Civil war

According to Global Security, the Arab-led Khartoum government defaulted on its assurances to southerners that it will create a federal system, this led to an uprising by Southern troops in the Equatoria Province. On August 18, 1955, the Equatoria Corps, a military unit composed of southerners mutinied at Torit as they felt cheated and disenfranchised. During the altercation, these rebels did not surrender to Sudanese government authorities, rather they disappeared into hiding with their weapons, marking the beginning of the first war in southern Sudan. This war lasted for seventeen years, from 1955 to 1972.

These rebels, later called Anya Nya, were trained by the Israelis while they shipped weapons from Ethiopia, Uganda and Congo. By the late 1960s, the war had resulted in the deaths of about 500,000 people. Government operations against the rebels declined after the 1969 coup. However, when negotiations failed to result in a settlement, Khartoum increased troop strength in the south.

In 1971, one of the major leaders of southern forces opposed to Khartoum, Joseph Lagu, proclaimed the creation of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) and other Anya Nya leaders united behind him. By October 1971, Khartoum established contact with the SSLM which led to the conference between SSLM and Sudanese government delegations convened at Addis Ababa in February 1972. The accord granted many of the agitations of the South, granting them autonomy and recognizing Arabic as Sudan’s official language, and English as the South’s principal language.

The Sudanese government issued a decree legalising the agreement and creating an international armistice commission to ensure the well-being of returning southern refugees and amnesty which was backdated to 1955 was also announced. The two sides signed the Addis Ababa accords on March 27, 1972, which was later celebrated as National Unity Day.


Sudan’s Second Civil War

In September 1983, President Jaafar Nimeiri began an Islamization campaign and announced his decision to incorporate traditional Islamic punishments drawn from Shari’a (Islamic Law) into the penal code. The statute of the Islamic law and its punishment also extended to Southerners and other non-Muslims living in the north.

Another civil war erupted after Nimeiri institutionalised Sharia Law and reneged on the Addis Ababa Agreement’s provisions for a referendum in Abyei. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLM/A) fought against the Sudan national government until 1989 when the parties reached a peace agreement and suspended Sharia Law.

However, on June 30, 1989 a military coup led by Omar Al-Bashir overthrew the Sudanese government and repudiated the peace agreement. Through the 1990s, attempts to draft peace agreements hit many setbacks with varying degrees of success recorded. The splintered nature of the conflict and large region posed a constant problem and for years, the national government used aerial bombardments and helicopter gunships to attack the southern Sudanese civilian population. On November 19, 2004, the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A signed a declaration committing themselves to conclude a final Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by December 31, 2004. The second civil war came to an end after the two parties formally signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2005.

The CPA set standards for sharing oil revenue (50:50 split) and a timetable toward a referendum on the South’s independence. A referendum took place in January 2011 in which the people of the South voted to secede from Sudan. In July 2011, Sudan became two countries – Sudan (Khartoum) and South Sudan (Juba).


Did the War between the Government and Rebels in the South Kill almost 2 Million People until South Sudan Gained Independence in 2011?

Reliefweb stated that a report released by the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) titled “Quantifying Genocide in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains: 1983-1998,” revealed that at least 1.9 million people in southern and central Sudan have died during the past 15 years as a direct result of civil wars and intentional policies of the Sudan government.

Five years before, the USCR published the first ground-breaking study by Millard Burr reviewing the death toll in Sudan’s long civil war. The study titled, ‘A Working Document: Quantifying Genocide in the Southern Sudan 1983-1993,’ estimated that 1.3 million people had died in southern Sudan due to war and war-related causes.

In the Working Document II which was published nearly five years after the first and includes specific data on the Nuba Mountains, research suggests that no fewer than 600,000 people have lost their lives since 1993, hence, more than 1.9 million southern Sudanese and Nuba Mountains peoples perished since the civil war began in 1983.

According to the report, between 1983 to 1993, foreigners and the media were able to observe the series of catastrophic events that caused the death of tens of thousands, but in subsequent years, the Khartoum government impeded the collection of field data by sealing off war-prone areas from the prying eyes of journalists, aid agencies, and social scientists.



The claim that ‘Sudan gained Independence in 1956,’ is verified as TRUE and the second claim that ‘the War between the Government and Rebels in the South killed almost 2 Million People until South Sudan gained its own Independence in 2011,’ is TRUE, according to multiple reports and data sources on the Sudanese war.


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