A long-running conflict between the Arab Muslim northerners of Sudan, the base of the government, and the black Africans of the south, who practise mainly Christian or animist beliefs worsened following the imposition of strict Muslim sharia law in 1983 under then-president Gaafar Nimeri. Two years later Gen. Nimeri was deposed and the new regime relaxed the application of sharia to non-Muslims in the south. However, the Sudan People's Liberation Army continued and increased its long-running attacks on the north and by the mid-1980s, the country was in full-scale civil war.
Negotiations between the government and the political wing of the SPLA took place in 1988 and 1989, but they were overtaken by events, when General Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir took power in a military coup in 1989 and banned all political parties.
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE 1990S
In 1991, Gen. al-Bashir's government gave the southern states a non- sharia legal system, and considerable autonomy in internal affairs. However, non-Muslims living in the north of the country were still subject to sharia. The last round of peace negotiations between the government and the SPLA broke down in September, 1994, over that issue. The decade saw a succession of regional efforts to broker an end to the Sudanese civil war.
In 2003, the Darfur region of Sudan exploded into violence after a rebel group began attacking government targets, saying the region was being neglected by Khartoum. The conflict, which has left at least 200,000 people dead, is a separate conflict from that in southern Sudan. HISTORIC ACCORD
The Government of Sudan and the SPLA reached an agreement in 2005 on the role of state and religion and the right of southern Sudan to self-determination. The agreement called for a general election in 2009 and a referendum in 2011 on whether to authorize independence of the south. However, in October, the SPLM accused Khartoum of failing to honour its deal with the southern rebels and suspended its involvement in the national-unity government.
Source: BBC, AllAfrica, U.S. State Department
CARE OF CUBA
In the 1960s, in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution, half the island's doctors fled the country, leaving the fledgling nation with the challenge of having to rebuild its medical system. Today, the country has an enviable ratio of one doctor to every 220 people.
Seeing an opportunity to promote its revolutionary successes abroad, Cuba jumped into the business of exporting doctors. Havana set up its first international medical brigade in 1963 and dispatched 58 doctors and health workers to newly independent Algeria. From 1963 to 2005, more than 100,000 Cuban doctors and health workers have intervened in 97 countries.
Cuba has also trained 30,000 health-care workers from developing countries at Cuban medical schools. In 1998, it established the Latin American School of Medicine for that purpose, and also began creating the machinery to send large-scale medical assistance to poor populations affected by natural disasters.
Cuba's medical aid was initially given free, but since 1977, those able to pay, such as oil-rich Libya, do so in hard currency, although at rates considerably below those charged by other nations.
The new arrangements have led to some unintended consequences: In 2005, Cuba's agreement with Venezuela - under which about 20,000 Cuban doctors and dentists work in the South American country in exchange for 90,000 barrels of oil a day - sparked protests from Venezuelan doctors who said their wages had been depressed and their jobs taken by Cubans.
Source: UCSF School of Medicine; Hernando Calvo Ospina, Le Monde Diplomatique; Julie Feinsilver, Yale University; BBC