Egypt colonized Sudan in 1874 and the conquest was the first in a series of volatile and bloody attempts at establishing a stable national structure in Sudan. The Egyptian rule was short-lived, and the British soon entered the territory, helping Egypt defend Sudan against revolutionaries and establishing a jointly-ruled territory known as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The new nation experienced a period of relative stability for several decades before again falling into turmoil.
On January 1, 1956, the former Anglo-Egyptian Sudan broke its ties with Egypt and Britain and became the independent Republic of Sudan. This new republic adopted the Transitional Constitution, which attempted to create a political structure that would satisfy the nation's rival political parties. The Transitional Constitution established [PDF] a coalition government, which was promptly overthrown in a military coup. The subsequent government, headed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, removed decision-making power from the hands of Sudanese civilians and gave it instead to a group of military leaders. Shortly after, a civilian uprising led by a South Sudanese guerrilla group known as Anyanya toppled the government that established the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and again established civilian rule. The uprising was primarily motivated by differences among the Sudanese ethnic groups. The Sudanese government, located in the north, was primarily Muslim and sought to impose an Islamic national identity on southern tribes with parochial customs. The civil war between the Anyanya rebels of the south and the Sudanese government of the north lasted over a decade, ending in 1972 with the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement, which offered the south some of the autonomy it desired.
This period of relative peace in Sudan was transitory and fighting erupted again in 1983 when the Sudanese government canceled the autonomy arrangements of the Addis Ababa agreement. The south, led by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, was enraged and rebelled again against the Sudanese government. The rebellion continued for over two decades, despite occasional peace negotiations, ending with an official peace agreement signed in January 2005. The agreement, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, [PDF] sought to establish a nationwide democratic government, allow for sharing of oil revenues and establish a timetable for discussions on the possible secession of South Sudan and establishment of an independent nation. The agreement also granted regional autonomy and guaranteed political representation for the South Sudanese. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended the Sudanese Civil War but could not address the horrible human toll of the fighting.
As many as two million lives are believed to have been lost as a result of the civil wars, with a significant portion of casualties being civilian. An even greater number of Sudanese were expelled from their homes. Both sides employed child soldiers in their ranks and the 2005 peace agreement specified that all child soldiers must be demobilized and returned to their homes.