Sudanese People and Society

The Sudanese People and Society:

There are more than 300 tribes in Sudan, including Danagla, Gaalien, and Shaigia in the north; Bija in the east; Kababish, Hamar, Nuba, Baggara, and Fur in the west; and Dinka, Newir, and Skeluk in the south.

The people come from numerous different ethnic backgrounds, mainly Arab in the north, and African in the south. About 60 per cent of the population are Muslim, 25 per cent are Animist, and 15 per cent Christian.
Arabic is the official language, but there are more than 100 tribal languages, many of which are spoken by large numbers of people.

In the dry north and west, most people are pastoralists depending on livestock for their living, and often living a nomadic lifestyle. Further south, where there is sufficient rainfall, more people are settled farmers. Each year, large numbers of men leave their families to work as laborers in cities, on commercial farms, or overseas, leaving many women at home, looking after their families and farms alone.
Hundreds of thousands of people have had to leave their homes because of war or drought, and many are living in camps around Khartoum and other big towns.

Ethnic Groups Sudan's advantageous geographic location has made It the recipient to the migrations of many people of different ethnic origins. This led some writers to call it (Mini- Africa). According to the 1995 census, the population of Sudan is 26.6 million people. Annual population growth is 2.8% Anthropologists and social scientists had identified more than a hundred languages and dialects that are used by the Sudanese. This encompassed more than fifty ethnic groups and six hundred tribes. In addition to common boundaries, Sudan is bound by complex racial and ethnic links to the countries of the region.

Throughout the centuries, groups of people and whole tribes crossed freely into the territory of Sudan, where they intermingled and culturally blended with the native population. In this respect Islam played a pivotal role in consolidating tribal unions and kingdoms, eventually creating the so called Sudanese nation in the early sixteenth century.


Today the main tribal divisions in Northern Sudan comprise:

The Baraabra (Nubian) tribes of the northern Nile valley, still maintaining the derivatives of their original Kushite language.

The Hadendawa, Bisharyiin and Bani Amer of the Red Sea Hills, speaking their own Hamitic and Semitic languages.

A central mass of "Arab" tribes, occupying the entire central belt of Sudan, including the Kababish, Kawahla, Ja'aliyin, the various Baggara pastoral tribes, etc.

Descendants of earlier peoples, such as the Nuba, Fur and Ingessana, predominantly still speaking their own language, together with Arabic.

The language that unites the whole of northern Sudan is Arabic, but even this has many considerable dialectic variations.

Southern Sudan, i.e, the territory south of 10 degrees latitude, has always been isolated from external influences by climatic and geographical barriers. Speaking a large number of different languages and dialects, some of which are limited to very small populations, inhabit it. These are classified as follows:
Sudanic, composed of the various tribal clusters west of the Nile, including the Azande and Moru-Madi. Nilotic tribes, which inhabit the river valley and swamps, such as Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk and Asholi. The Nilo-Hamitic tribes of the southern Nile valley such as Bari and Lotuka.

English, as well as rudimentary Arabic, serve as lingua franca. Many of the tribes have more or less close affinities with the tribes found in Abyssinia, Kenya, Uganda and Congo.