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April 1st, 2013

Book Review: South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence (2012)

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Blog Editor

April 1st, 2013

Book Review: South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence (2012)

2 comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Dr Christine Ryan of the University of Winchester describes South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence as an accessible read tracing South Sudan’s journey to self-determination.

Not since 2008 has the world seen the birth of a new country, so when South Sudan was added to that distinguished list in 2011, those unfamiliar with the history of Sudan were left curious about how “unity” had fallen apart.  LeRiche and Arnold provide us with that journey from birth to rebirth as they set out to trace the formation of Southern Sudan’s political will from Sudan’s independence in 1956, through to South Sudan’s independence.

Leriche_southsudan book

LeRiche and Arnold do not set out to cover South Sudan’s history comprehensively; rather they deliver what is key in understanding how the region and its people were compelled to vote for independence in 2011 and claim self-determination.

LeRiche and Arnold’s starting point is to expose us to the historical debate of whether Sudan should be united or separated into two states, originating with its independence in 1956.  Taking the reader through the Second Civil War (1983-2005) the authors draw our attention to the South-South violence that plagued the region and also the increasing social and political divisions among southerners.

The book engages with analysis in the second half by examining the South’s state building process.  It claims that the CPA Interim Period (2005-2011) just established a basic structure of governance, and at independence South Sudan still faced tremendous challenges being one of the most undeveloped and poor countries in the world.  In assessing the threats to South Sudan’s state unity; just as Khartoum made unity unattractive before independence, it can also cause interference for an independent South Sudan.  A further obstacle identified is that South Sudan will have to overcome switching from a single-party system to a multi-party system, while maintaining its stability and cohesion.

The authors provide us with many powerful quotes throughout the book from Dr John Garang, Joseph Lagu, Salva Kiir and Omar Bashir, which serve to give an insight to the perspective of high ranking officials and a glimpse into that time period.  This distinguishes itself from books presenting historical accounts that are far removed from their subject and gives a greater sense of engagement.  At the same time the book raises significant questions as to “what do the South Sudanese actually want to forge for themselves in their newly-won independence?” (p. 21).

In reading South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence, I was left curious about the reaction of people on the ground towards liberation.  This was particularly true in the final chapter, “The Meaning of Liberation in South Sudan”, where I wanted to hear from the citizens of a new state about what liberation meant to them.  This would have created a greater dialogue between the newly liberated and the rest of the world trying to comprehend the motivations and significance of such a monumental shift.  In addition, incorporating testimonies would have reinforced the “calls for wider political inclusivity” (p. 214) in allowing the marginalised to have a role in writing their own history.

The authors convincingly argue that for South Sudan, the “biggest threat it faces is from within” (p. 21); even when the threat may be external, how South Sudan copes with it will be an internal challenge.  Building on this idea of vulnerability, the authors claim that “the South has always been heavily manipulated by outside actors” (p. 229).  From here I was left wondering about the residual impact of international “development” aid.  Will it trickle down to those who need it most or will international aid cause more harm than good?  What will be its unforeseen consequences on state stability and will international aid contribute to anything sustainable?

This text poses critical questions about the future of South Sudan as a stable and prosperous independent state.  For those readers who want to understand the birth of South Sudan as a new state, South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence is an accessible read in exploring the journey to independence.

  • South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (27 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849041954
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849041959

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Posted In: Book Reviews | Development | International Affairs

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