Geography: Land, Demography & Environment

GEOGRAPHY

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, accounting for 8.3% of the continent’s land surface and 1.7% of the world’s. It spreads over 967,500 square miles (2,505,805 sq. km), about a quarter the size of Europe, with an eastern coastal line on the Red Sea and eastern land frontiers with Eritrea and Ethiopia. Its northern frontier borders the Mediterranean African countries of Egypt and Libya. On its western frontiers, from north southwards, are the Central African countries of Chad, Central African Republic, and Congo Democratic Republic respectively, while to the southeast are Uganda and Kenya. Sudan stretches from 4 degrees latitude north of the Equator to 23 degrees latitude north. At its longest point from north to south, Sudan stretches more than 2,250 km (1,400 mi); at the widest point from east to west, the country is about 1,730 km (or 1,075 mi).

PEOPLES & HISTORY

Sudan is racially fused with peoples from ancient Nubia (Kush) and Abyssinia, who have mixed variously with Arabs, Turks, Hungarians, Bosnians, Fulani, and tropical Africans, as well as Africans of the Savanna. However, Nubian dialects are still extant in the North. In the eastern Red Sea region, the Hamitic Beja are predominate, but centuries of Arab emigration and various fusions have given rise to some complex identities. About a fifth of the population is of West and Central African origin, including Hausa, Fulani, Songhai, and Senegalese. Western Sudan and Chad have 36 tribes in common and Sudan also shares tribal groups with Central African Republic, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Southern ethnic communities, referred to as Nilotic, include the Din-ka, which is the largest group in the South, Nuer, and Shuluk. Further South are tropical Africans, including the Bari, who are indigenous of the Southern region capital, Juba. Arabic is the lingua franca, but English is widely spoken among educated Southerners. Local dialects number 115 and despite the extensive fusion, there are 597 ethnic identities in the country.

ANTIQUITY

Recent archaeological discoveries tend to confirm oral histories common to West African ethnic communities of migration from the East. It would appear from the latest archaeological discoveries in the Western Sudan desert that
even the Bantu of South Africa originated in the upper Nile Valley. Evidence shows that, between 8-5,000 years ago, the tropical rains moved several hundred kilometers northwards and there was a Yellow Nile leading from the main Nile into Central Africa. The migration of peoples from Nubia along this river route is documented in pictures on
stone. This correlates, for example, with the tracing of Bantu roots to Cameroon or Chad.

MODERN HISTORY

Sudan was subjected to Ottoman rule during the early part of the 19th century. The Mahdist revolution in the last quarter of the 19th century liberated the country and held off Anglo-Egyptian colonialism for 14 years. The Mahdist state fell to the colonial forces in 1898 and what has been called the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium was established over Sudan. The Mahdist movement was defeated politically, but continued to thrive as an ideologically motivated religious community. In an attempt to prevent the spread of Islam and Mahdist ideology in the South, the British employed a “closed districts” policy, precluding contacts between the Muslims of the North and tropical peoples. This policy had various unfortunate dimensions and its legacy has been a North-South dichotomy and protracted hostilities between the two domains. Post colonial socio-political evolution in Sudan appears to be reaching a point where there is a broad commitment by the leading political forces to transcend the “closed districts” legacy and forge a united and integral Sudan.

RELIGION

Islam has, for the past 500 years, been the dominate religion of the savanna and desert regions of Sudan, including the upper Nile Valley. The Nilotic and tropical Africans of the South have been substantially Christianized, but
there is a significant number of Muslims and many people continue practicing traditional African religions. On the whole, Sudan claims to be about 70% Muslim. Sufism is quite pronounced in Sudan, but there are various schools of Islam interpretation.

Population in Sudan

The 1993 census recorded 25,588,429 inhabitants in Sudan. Given an average population growth rate of 2.63%, the estimated population as of 2005 is 35. 5 million. Only 3.8% of the population is over 60 years of age, while 46% is under 15. The population density of 11.7 persons per square kilometer is very low compared to international levels; however, there is a high concentration of people in the urban areas, with Khartoum State containing nearly one fifth of the population.

CLIMATE

The climate of Sudan is characterized by contrasts with desert climate dominating the north, savanna climate prevailing in the center, and tropical weather in the southern portion of the country.

FAUNA & FLORA

Vegetation is sparse in the desert zones of Sudan. Various species of acacia occur in the regions contiguous to the Nile Valley. Large forested areas are found in central Sudan, especially in the river valleys. Among the most common
trees are the hashab, talh, heglig, and several species of acacia, notably sunt, laot, and kittr.

Trees such as ebony, silag, and baobab are common in the Blue Nile Valley. Ebony, mahogany, and other varieties of timber trees are found in the White Nile Basin. Other species of indigenous vegetation include cotton, papyrus, castor-oil plants, and rubber plants.

Animal life is abundant in the plains and equatorial regions of Sudan. Elephants are numerous in the southern forests, and crocodiles and hippopotamuses abound in the rivers. Other large  animals include giraffes, leopards, and lions. Monkeys, various species of tropical birds,and poisonous reptiles are also found. Insects—especially mosquitoes,
seroot flies, and tsetse flies – infest the equatorial belt.

Animal life is abundant in the plains and equatorial regions of Sudan. Elephants are numerous in the southern forests, and crocodiles and hippopotamuses abound in the rivers. Other large animals include giraffes, leopards, and lions. Monkeys, various species of tropical birds, and poisonous reptiles are also found. Insects—especially mosquitoes,
seroot flies, and tsetse flies infest the equatorial belt.