Bahr-el-Ghazal (bär-ĕl-gäzälˈ) [key], region, NW South Sudan, divided into Western Bahr-el-Ghazal, Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, Warrab, and Lakes states. The region takes its name from a river that flows E to the Bahr el Jebel to form the White Nile. An area of swamps and ironstone plateaus, the region is inhabited mainly by the Nilotic-speaking Dinka. Subsistence agriculture, cattle raising, and game hunting are carried on.
Turko-Egyptian and European penetration of the region in the 19th cent. was followed by the development of slave trading. With the suppression of the slave trade in 1864 by the Egyptian khedive, European traders withdrew and local merchant-princes, independent of the khedive's authority, took over the trade. In 1873, al-Zubayr, the most powerful of the native merchant-princes, defeated a Turko-Egyptian force sent to reinforce the ban on slave trading. The khedive then made Bahr-el-Ghazal a nominal province of Egypt, with al-Zubayr as governor. It later became part of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Bhar-el-Ghazal was a province (later a state) of Sudan from its independence in 1956 until the country was restructured in 1996.
In 1982, the insurgent Sudanese People's Liberation Army was formed there to fight domination by the Arab-controlled northern regions of Sudan. The ensuing civil war resulted in severe famine and dislocation as refugees fled the region, but a 2005 peace agreement led to the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan in 2011.
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