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Sudan - Military Personnel

In 2013 IISS placed the strength at about 240,000. Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA] Sudan and South Sudan undertook a multi-year Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration [DDR] program aimed at right-sizing their armed forces and other uniformed services. Both countries have incentives to inflate the total numbers of troops on hand, so that the number of troops remaining at the end of the process approximates the number of troops who were actually on hand to begin with.

The US Government consistently describes the Sudan Peoples Armed Forces as a 100,000-member army supported by a small air force and navy. Irregular tribal and former rebel militias and Popular Defense Forces supplement the armys strength in the field. This is a mixed force, having the additional duty of maintaining internal security. In 2007 the IISS estimated that the SAF had 104,800 personnel supported by 17,500 paramilitary personnel. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) numbered 109,300 according to 2011 IISS estimates. Jane's Information Group May 2009 that reported the army's strength as 100,000 plus militias.

The law governing military service is the National Service Act 1992. The Act was introduced in an attempt to meet the increasing personnel needs of the armed forces. National service does not always entail military service as there are alternatives to military service but those called up have no choice as to what kind of national service they do. Persons called for national service must serve in the Sudanese army, the police force, the Public Order Police, in one of the other security forces, in government departments and public projects for social and economic development. People drafted into national service are paid for their services by the Government. Men who have completed their military service receive a certificate stating their national service has been completed. The requirement that completion of national service was mandatory before entering public or private sector employment has been cancelled.

Information on the age of conscription for military service varied among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the Europa World Year Book 2006 and the United States (US) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, persons between the ages of 18 to 30 years are liable for national military service (Europa World Year Book 2006 2006, 4095; US 8 Feb. 2007). However, the Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 indicates that under Sudan's National Service Act of 1992, persons between the ages of 18 to 33 years must submit to national military service (Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 17 Nov. 2004; Denmark 2001, 68). The report also indicates that the compulsory recruitment age is 17 years for the regular armed forces and 16 years for the paramilitary Popular Defence Force (PDF), while there is no minimum age for the reserve forces and for persons volunteering in the regular armed forces (Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 17 Nov. 2004). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005 indicates that persons aged 17 to 19 were required to undergo military service (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). News and human rights sources consulted by the Research Directorate indicate that the Sudanese government is also believed to recruit children for military training (UN 2 Feb. 2007; ibid. 17 Aug. 2006; ibid. 1 July 2005; US 8 Mar. 2006; Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 17 Nov. 2004).

In order to make it easier for the military authorities to recruit students, all students' birth certificates were passed to the military authorities in May 1997. Students who have not completed their national service cannot obtain an exit visa, nor will they be issued the examination certificate which they should have received on leaving secondary school. Students are required to complete military service before they are issued with their examination certificates which are needed if they intend to go onto further education. Virtually all students at Khartoum University have thus completed their military service and many have been deployed at the front in the south.

Many students avoid military service by seeking refuge abroad, especially in Egypt, with their families. The penalty for refusing to perform military service is a fine and up to three years imprisonment. It is reportedly difficult to evade military service and a deserter from the army or PDF on being arrested by the authorities will usually be re-conscripted into the armed forces.The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised.

One common military conscription procedure was for the military authorities to send prospective conscripts their call-up papers. If those called up for military service in this way fail to report to the military authorities, they will have their pay withheld at work. If they still fail to present themselves to the military authorities, they will be dismissed from their job. This applies whether the persons concerned work in the public sector or private sector.

Not all conscripts were sent to the front. Those well-connected with the regime and other leading figures in the country can avoid military service. This also applies to people whose financial circumstances allow them to buy their way out of military service. In many cases, young men who have managed to do so are sent by their families to the USA and Europe to study.

The CIA World Factbook and the Defense and Foreign Affairs Handbook state that the length of national military service in Sudan is three years (US 8 Feb. 2007; Defense and Foreign Affairs Handbook 2006, 1890). Other sources indicate that the national military service lasts for up to two years (Europa World Year Book 2006 2006, 4095; Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 17 Nov. 2004; Denmark 1 Dec. 2001, 69). According to the National Service Act for 1992, provided in the 2001 Danish fact-finding mission report, the duration of the national service is two years; however, high school and university graduates are required to serve only 18 months and 12 months, respectively (ibid.; Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 17 Nov. 2004).

The Sudanese armed forces had not been a source of any strain on the nation's manpower resources. In 1990, there were an estimated 10,400,000 males between the ages of 16 and 49, of whom 6,500,000 were fit for military service. The number reaching the military age of eighteen annually was approximately 273,000. By 2010 In 1990, there were an estimated 5,600,000 males between the ages of 15 and 49, of whom 3,400,000 were fit for military service. The number reaching the military age of eighteen annually was approximately 530,000.

The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) estimated that, as of 1989, only 2.5 persons per 1,000 of population were in the armed forces. Among Sudan's neighbors, corresponding figures were Egypt 8.7 per 1,000, Ethiopia 5.0 per 1,000, and Libya 21.0 per 1,000.

In the first years after independence, recruitment notices reportedly attracted ten applicants for each vacancy. Poorer Sudanese, particularly westerners and southerners, were attracted to the armed forces in great numbers. Not all could be accommodated, so that selection of enlisted men was fairly strict, based on physical condition, education, and character of the applicant. Although the adult literacy rate in Sudan was then estimated to be no more than 20 percent, enlisted personnel were required to have some ability to read and write. The recruit enlisted for three years, and if his record remained good, he could reenlist for further three-year periods until he had served a total of twenty years, at which time he was retired with the highest rank he had attained. Soldiers who received technical training could be obliged to sign an understanding that they would remain on active duty for nine years.

There were reports as of the late 1980s that the morale of the army had suffered because soldiers from other areas of Sudan disliked assignment to the south, where they faced an interminable war in which they had no personal interest and in which a military victory seemed unattainable. Newer recruits, many from the west, felt isolated and threatened in the besieged garrison towns. Large numbers of government troops whose homes were in the south had reportedly deserted to the SPLA, their motivation for continuing the struggle against the insurgency drained by food shortages and lack of needed supplies. Both under the Sadiq al Mahdi government and immediately after the June 1989 coup, the leadership announced that conscription would be introduced to permit an expansion of the government's efforts in the south, but the rate of enlistments had apparently remained high enough so that it had not been necessary to impose a draft. It was possible that, in the light of widespread economic distress, the army was still regarded as a means of escape from poverty.

Pay rates of both officers and noncommissioned officers generally have been equal to or better than those of civilians of comparable status. Base pay was extremely low by United States standards; a colonel received the equivalent of about US$150 a month in 1990. Military personnel were, however, entitled to extensive additional benefits. Housing was provided for senior personnel commensurate with their office and rank, and generous housing allowances were provided for others. Free medical care was provided to all armed forces personnel and their families. Although the country was suffering from a food scarcity, essential goods were available at commissaries at subsidized prices. Items severely rationed in the civilian economy, such as tea, coffee, sugar, and soap, as well as bread produced by military bakeries, could be purchased at low prices and resold at a considerable profit.

This trade offered a welcome supplement to the incomes of the junior ranks. Officers outside Khartoum usually held second jobs. Enlisted personnel were likely to set themselves up as small farmers or traders with profits from the resale of rationed goods. Officers of field grade and above could purchase imported automobiles free of duty; higher-ranking officers were assigned full-time cars and drivers. Gasoline was also available at low prices. In addition, senior officers had numerous opportunities to travel abroad at government expense. Retirement income was virtually as high as the active duty salary, and most of the privileges of military service continued.

The behavior of government soldiers in the south and in the areas where the SPLA was active was the subject of critical reports by Amnesty International, Africa Watch, and other international human rights groups. Amnesty International described numerous incidents in which the army was responsible for the deliberate killing or mistreatment of civilians from ethnic groups suspected of supporting the SPLA. Very few SPLA prisoners of war were held by the government; many cases were documented of captured SPLA fighters, including wounded, being executed without trial.

Few if any prosecutions resulted in connection with the alleged violations. The United States Department of State has confirmed Amnesty International's conclusion that the Sadiq al Mahdi government appeared to condone human rights abuses by the military, citing the cases of generals who received promotions after service in areas where atrocities occurred. There was limited evidence of a shift in attitude by the Bashir government after it assumed power in 1989. Two of the implicated generals were forced to retire from government service, and some soldiers were relieved, although not disciplined, after a series of revenge killings and other violations against civilians in Waw.

Although the Bashir government had announced its intention of purging the armed services of women after it came to power in 1989, large-scale dismissals did not take place. As of 1991, it was reported that about 2,000 women were in uniform, 200 of them officers through the rank of lieutenant colonel. The women were assigned to a range of military duties in the medical service as nurses, dietitians, and physical therapists, and in administration, translation, military intelligence, communications, and public affairs.

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Page last modified: 15-04-2019 18:49:35 ZULU