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Country, northeastern Africa. Area: 967,499 sq mi (2,505,810 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 42,272,000. Capitals: Khartoum (executive), Omdurman (legislative). Muslim Arab and other ethnic groups live in the northern and central two-thirds of the country, while non-Muslim Dinka, Nuer, and Zande peoples live in the south. Languages: Arabic (official), Dinka, Nubian languages, Beja, Zande, English. Religions: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni); also Christianity, traditional beliefs. Currency: Sudanese dinar. The largest country in Africa, it encompasses an immense plain with the Sahara Desert in the north, sand dunes in the west, semiarid shrub lands in the south-central belt, and enormous swamps and tropical rainforests in the south. The Nile River flows through the entire length of the country. Wildlife includes lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, and zebras. Sudan has a developing mixed economy based largely on agriculture. One of the largest irrigation projects in the world provides water to farms between the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Chief cash crops are cotton, peanuts, and sesame; livestock is also important. Major industries include food processing and cotton ginning, and petroleum is the main export. The country is ruled by a military regime; the head of state and government is the president, assisted by vice presidents. Evidence of human habitation dates back tens of thousands of years. From the end of the 4th millennium BCE, Nubia (now northern Sudan) periodically came under Egyptian rule, and it was part of the kingdom of Cush from the 11th century BCE to the 4th century CE. Christian missionaries converted the area's three principal kingdoms during the 6th century CE; those black Christian kingdoms coexisted with their Muslim Arab neighbours in Egypt for centuries, until the influx of Arab immigrants brought about their collapse in the 13th–15th centuries. Egypt had conquered all of the Sudan region by 1874 and encouraged British interference there; this aroused Muslim opposition and led to the revolt of the Mahdi, who captured Khartoum in 1885 and established a Muslim theocracy in the Sudan that lasted until 1898, when his forces were defeated by the British. The British ruled, generally in partnership with Egypt, until the region achieved independence in 1956. Since then the country has fluctuated between ineffective parliamentary government and unstable military rule. The non-Muslim population of the south began rebellion against the Muslim-controlled government of the north in the early 1980s, leading to famines and the displacement of millions of people; a peace agreement was signed in 2005. Meanwhile, fighting broke out in 2003 between non-Arab Muslims in the Darfur region of western Sudan and government-backed Arab militias; tens of thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
Variants of SUDAN
Sudan officially Republic of the Sudan
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Sudan, visit Britannica.com.