|Country profile: Sudan|
Southern rebels said they were battling oppression and marginalisation. After two years of bargaining, they signed a comprehensive peace deal with the government to end the civil war in January 2005.
The accord provides for a high degree of autonomy for the south. The region will also share oil revenue equally with the north.
But in Darfur, pro-government Arab militias are accused of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Arab groups in the region.
The conflict has strained relations between Sudan and Chad, to the west. Both countries have accused each other of cross-border incursions. There have been fears that the Darfur conflict could lead to a wider, regional war.
Decades of fighting have left Sudan's infrastructure in tatters. With the return of millions of displaced southerners, there is a pressing need for reconstruction.
The economic dividends of peace could be great. Sudan has large areas of cultivatable land, as well as gold and cotton. Its oil reserves are ripe for further exploitation.
Sudan's name comes from the Arabic "bilad al-sudan", or land of the blacks. Arabic is the official language and Islam is the religion of the state, but the country has a large non-Arabic speaking and non-Muslim population which has rejected attempts by the government in Khartoum to impose Islamic Sharia law on the country as a whole.
President Omar al-Bashir has been locked in a power struggle with Hassan al-Turabi, his former mentor and the main ideologue of Sudan's Islamist government. Since 2001 Mr Turabi has spent periods in detention and has been accused, but not tried, over an alleged coup plot.
Military man Omar al-Bashir led an Islamist-backed coup
However, the main party representing the south, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), temporarily suspended its participation in the government in October 2007, presenting the biggest challenge to the fragile peace agreement.
The SPLM complained that key elements of the peace deal were being ignored and demanded that they be resolved by January 2008. The peace deal awarded a degree of autonomy to the south.
Omar al-Bashir took power in a June 1989 military coup against the elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.
Born in 1944 into a farming family, he joined the army as a young man and rose through the ranks. He fought in the Egyptian army in the 1973 war with Israel and led the military campaign against southern rebels.
On taking power, Mr Bashir dissolved parliament, banned political parties and set up and chaired the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation, which ruled through a civilian government.
He formed an alliance with Hassan al-Turabi, the leader of the National lslamic Front, who became the regime's ideologue and is thought to be behind the introduction of Sharia law in the north in 1991. In 1993 Mr Bashir dissolved the Revolutionary Command for National Salvation, concentrating power in his own hands.
Mr Bashir was elected president in 1996, and Hassan al-Turabi became speaker of parliament. A new constitution was drawn up and some opposition activity was permitted.
Salva Kiir leads a government in the autonomous south
President Bashir won re-election in 2000. Supporters of the National Congress Party filled the parliament. The opposition boycotted the poll, accusing Mr Bashir of vote-rigging.
In July 2008, the International Criminal Court's top prosecutor called for the arrest of President Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The appeal to the court's judges is the first ever request to the ICC for the arrest of a sitting head of state.
First vice president: Salva Kiir
Vice president: Ali Osman Taha
Sudanese broadcasting is highly restricted. State-run radio and TV reflect government policy. Sudan TV has a permanent military censor to ensure that the news reflects official views.
The private press enjoys more freedom than state broadcasters
Satellite dishes are a common sight in affluent areas and pan-Arab stations are popular among viewers.
State-run national radio networks broadcast news, music and cultural programmes. International broadcasters are also heard, including the BBC which is relayed on FM in Khartoum and other parts of the north, and in Juba in the south. Several opposition and clandestine stations broadcast to Sudan.
The private press enjoys a greater degree of freedom than the state broadcasters and offers a limited forum for opposition views, but the state retains and uses powers to influence what is published.
In the semi-autonomous south, the lack of infrastructure limits media operations. However, broadcasters and newspapers, some with foreign funding, are active. The region's president has said he wants to "create space for the media to enjoy freedom".
- Al-Ra'y al-Amm - private, mass-circulation
- Al-Ayam - established daily
- Khartoum Monitor - privately-owned, English-language
- Al-Khartoum - privately-owned
- Alwan - Khartoum daily
- Al-Sahafah - daily
- Al-Anba - government-owned
- The Juba Post - private weekly in the south
- Sudan National Broadcasting Corporation (SNBC) - government-run, operates two channels, also available via satellite
- Juba TV - government-owned TV in the south
- Sudan National Radio Corporation - government-run, national and regional networks in Arabic, English and other languages
- Mango 96 FM - private, music-based Khartoum station
- Miraya (Mirror) FM - operated by UN mission, broadcasts from southern capital of Juba
- Radio Juba - government-owned radio in the south
- Liberty FM - in Juba and Yei
Opposition and clandestine radios
- Voice of Sudan - operated by opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), broadcasts on shortwave
- Voice of Freedom and Renewal - operated by armed opposition group Sudan Alliance Forces, via shortwave