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The Aids Memorial

Books, History, Bloody birth of a tragic nation

Par Jason Burke - 4 mn

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‘There is little reason to be hopeful’: a child collects water in the Sudd swamp. Andreea Campeanu/Reuters

This chilling account of the war in South Sudan gives a voice to those trapped by the brutality

First Raise a Flag: How South Sudan Won the Longest War but Lost the Peace
Peter Martell
Hurst, £25, pp320

Early in this readable, rigorous and important account of the tragedy of the world’s youngest nation, Peter Martell, a former BBC correspondent, explores the stories that the people of South Sudan have told to one another about their shared heritage.

These “fireside fables” have been handed down through the generations: accounts of war, slavery, violence, defiance and rebellion that were instrumental in giving the hugely diverse communities of South Sudan something approximating to a shared identity. Above all, they have reinforced the sense that they are people who have long been victims.

That historical suffering has been at the heart of these stories is entirely jus...