Sudan is a nation of 34 million people to the South of Egypt in Africa with a North which is predominantly Islamic (about 70% of the population is Sunni Muslim) and includes part of the Sahara Desert, and a South which is animist (about 25% of the population) and Christian (about 5% of the population) and predominantly sub-Saharan. Most of the population of the country is centered in the fertile Nile Valley.
The Southerners have waged a civil war seeking independence since the 1980s. Millions died of the war itself and of the famine that resulted. The stakes were heightened in 1998, when Sudan adopted Islamic law. Peace has been seriously discussed since 2002, and a peace treaty (with autonomy that could lead to independence for the South) was signed at the end of 2004 with heavy United Nations prodding.
Sudan was a colony of Egypt until it gained independence in 1956, except for an interlude from the 1880s to 1898 in which Muhammad Ahmad, known as the "Mahdi", served as spiritual and temporal leader of a revolution that formed a partial basis for the famous science fiction novels set in Dune by Frank Herbert. From the first coup in 1969 to the present, civil war, coups and non-democratic government have predominated and the military continues to exert a strong role in the government of the country.
Sudan has been cited by many in the international community as the most recent episode of genocide in the world. There are continuing genocidal conflicts in the Darfur region in the West. The Sudanese Civil War has also been cited as an instance of the re-emergence of slavery in the modern world.
The fact that the United States and other Western nations have failed to intervene in genocide in Sudan, and before that in Rwanda, while taking a more active role where whites were present in genocidal or potentially genocide situations (such as Bosnia and Kosovo) or where oil was at stake, has lead to allegations of racism and cynical oil based motives in U.S. foreign policy.