For introductory purposes, this vid gives a nice, short overview of the significant history of Sudan:
__________April 29, 2012 update: The embed link no longer works; please go to http://www.economist.com/node/21005684 to view the three-minute video.
In July, 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted Sudan's President Bashir for war crimes in connection with the war in Darfur.
Sudan's President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
The People's Republic of China has been involved with Sudan for years and, in the wake of the ICC indictment, had high-level contacts with Sudan. The essence of the contacts were discussed with a US diplomat thereafter, still over a year and a half before the 2010 elections. This excerpt is from a leaked Wikileaks cable with the subject CHINA COUNSELS SUDANESE ENGAGEMENT, U.S. RESTRAINT IN ICC PROCEEDINGS AGAINST BASHIR, dated September 4, 2008:
2. (C) On September 3, Chinese Ambassador Li Cheng Wen briefed Charge Fernandez on Chinese Special Envoy and Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun,s recent visit to Sudan. Zhai, who is responsible for Africa and the Middle East, inaugurated the new Chinese consulate in Juba and discussed the possible ICC indictment of President Bashir with GOS officials in Khartoum. On the latter issue, Li stated that Zhai expressed grave concern about the negative effect an ICC indictment would have on resolving the Darfur crisis. Zhai found Bashir to be quite receptive.
3. (C) According to Li, SE Zhai praised the GOS for its calm handling of the matter thus far, and encouraged GOS officials to continue to mobilize internally and engage the international community, including the UN Security Council and especially the P-5. Zhai also made a "friendly suggestion" that the GOS consider communicating with the ICC itself, either directly or indirectly. Li expressed hope that such contact could influence and perhaps "curb the next steps" in the ICC process. He stated that the GOC views ICC indictment not only as a political, not a legal matter. As such, it is encouraging the GOS to pursue both legal and political solutions to the problem.
ICC Action Threatens Darfur Progress
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4. (C) Li stated that the GOC is extremely worried about how the ICC indictment will affect stability in Darfur, asserting that it has hardened the rebels’ stance towards peace. He believes that GOS officials now understand the gravity of the situation they have created over the years, and hopes they will heed GOC advice continue to engage with the international community. "Not heating up this matter is in the interest of all parties," he said.
5. (C) CDA Fernandez thanked Li for China's helpful and useful message to the GOS. He noted that while the United States shares GOC concerns about Sudan,s stability, its primary focus is achieving tangible improvements in the situation in Darfur, especially in regards to humanitarian access. He continued that while GOS contact with the ICC might influence P-5 members France and the UK, it does not by itself concern the United States, which is not a party to the ICC.
6. (C) Li concurred that the GOS could do more to speed up humanitarian access and take other positive actions but cautioned that "only pressuring the Sudanese government is no use." Continued antagonism serves to strengthen the suspicions of hardliners within the NCP that the West is plotting against Sudan, he said. Rather, "we need to engage with them" to help solve the Darfur crisis. Both agreed that there is some anecdotal evidence of regime infighting about what is the best strategy: cooperation or escalation.
7. (C) Li expressed puzzlement at perceived British and French support for ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. He stated that "whoever had a role in creating this problem will bear responsibility" if Sudan descends into chaos as a result of the ICC indictment, adding that such an outcome could have been easily forecast. He declared that destabilization of Sudan is in no one,s interest, adding that "to help Sudan is to help ourselves. I hope the British and French understand this philosophy." He observed that French companies have oil interests in Sudan as well as in Chad. CDA Fernandez agreed that an ICC indictment will present great challenges to achieving peace in Darfur, but commented that the decision to indict President Bashir was may bave been made by an overzealous prosecutor and is not the result of "high politics" or a conspiracy by the West. He noted President Bashir's sweeping claims to want to change the situation in Darfur for the better, "we want to see tangible results, not words or process."
Leading up to the April, 2010, Presidential elections in Sudan, this audio clip provides some additional background:
__________April 29, 2012 update: This audio clip can no longer be embedded. I will try to find a replacement.
Ultimately, President Bashir was named the winner in the election, claiming 68% of the vote for himself and his ruling party.
Now, beginning on Sunday, voters are supposed to vote on the status of southern Sudan.
Basically, the area shaded in light blue in the map above is where the plebiscite will take place in coming days.
From FACTBOX: South Sudan Referendum in Kenya:
January 7, 2011 (NAIROBI) – Over 15,000 Southern Sudanese are expected to turn up at eight polling stations across Kenya between 9 and 15 January to vote in a crucial referendum vote on the possible secession of their semi-autonomous region from north Sudan.
The plebiscite is the terminus of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which in 2005 ended nearly half a century of intermittent civil war between the predominantly Muslim north and the south, where most people ascribe to Christianity or traditional beliefs.
It is widely believed that southerners, being aggrieved by the years of civil war and perceived discrimination by successive governments in the north, will vote overwhelmingly for secession.
A turnout of 60% registered voters is required to render the referendum's results valid whereas the simple majority of 51% will determine the outcome.
Kenya, which shares northern borders with South Sudan, is designated as an Out of Country (OCV) voting and registration center.
Other OCV countries are Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, the UK and the US. OCV countries were selected on the basis of having a significantly large numbers of southern Sudanese people.
As this series continues, we will examine the situation in Sudan. We will look at the civil war in the south and in the west, we will consider foreign involvement in Sudan, paying special attention to China's interactions with the various players, and we will learn about the social and physical geography of the area, seeing what resources are at stake and who stands to profit from their control.
Meanwhile, may I suggest you read news from the extensive links in my sidebar? I have over two hundred international news and analysis sites linked, in addition to government, UN and non-governmental organizations, plus specialized business news sites, all of which offer perspectives on this and other matters.