Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

FIRST RAISE A FLAG by Peter Martell review

  • Written by  Geordie Torr
  • Published in Books
FIRST RAISE A FLAG by Peter Martell review
12 Jun
2019
by Peter Martell • Hurst • £25 (hardback)

On 9 July 2011, amid raucous celebrations, Africa’s largest country split in two and the nation of South Sudan was born, bringing to an end a brutal civil war that claimed millions of lives. But the surge of optimism that greeted the creation of Africa’s first new nation in almost 20 years masked a grim underlying reality.

As soon as it was created, South Sudan shot to the bottom of the global development rankings. Decades of war had destroyed much of the country’s meagre infrastructure; only one per cent of the population had access to a reliable electricity supply; water sources were polluted with toxins; the country’s entire road network could be travelled in less than an hour. The government was of little help as it quickly became mired in corruption.

But most ominously, that optimism also hid a cauldron of simmering ethnic tensions; South Sudan is home to about 70 ethnic groups, dominated by the Dinka who make up 30 per cent of the population. And, on 15 December 2013, those tensions erupted into a brutal civil war that has since claimed millions of lives.

‘The khawaja [foreigners] are always writing, it is what they do. We need someone to write all this down, so that what has happened is not forgotten.’ So says Joseph Bading, an elderly teacher living in a UN base with 125,000 other South Sudanese civilians, to author and journalist Peter Martell. Over the course of more than a decade that straddled independence day, Martell reported from Sudan and its southern offspring. He interviewed political and military leaders, Mossad spies, aid workers and the paternalistic foreign policy wonks brought in to help guide South Sudan along the path to nationhood. But he also spent a lot of time speaking to ‘ordinary’ people about the extraordinary brutality that they witnessed – he ‘gathered the stories of those who have not spoken of them before’.

Martell has placed those stories within a well-researched history that provides context, but it’s his first-person account that drives this compelling, harrowing story. His despair at the way that events have unfolded is palpable, as is his compassion for the civilians caught up in the tragedy and chaos of South Sudan’s birth and subsequent descent into conflict . This is an important and deeply moving book.

Click here to buy First Raise a Flag via Amazon

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Exhibitions

From 12 July through to 10 November, the Fondation Cartier…

Reviews

A relaxed podcast, in which actor David Oakes interviews professionals…

Exhibitions

Exploring ideas of identity, heritage and life after trauma, Bahith…

Books

by Alex Rogers • Wildfire • £20 (hardback)

Films

An ‘environmental thriller’ focusing on the lives of campaigners working…

Exhibitions

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is open to visitors…

Films

In this moving, sometimes harrowing film from director Anthony Woodley,…

Films

A brutal, hard-hitting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t hold its punches

Books

by Peter Martell • Hurst • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Dan Richards • Canongate • £19.99 (paperback)

Books

by Jeremy Purseglove • Profile Books • £14.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Peter Hessler • Profile Books • £25 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard • Little, Brown • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Robert Macfarlane • Hamish Hamilton • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Exhibitions

An exhibition at the V&A brings together innovations from across…

Books

Dead in the Water edited by Bruce Shoemakers and William…

Films

A brutally realistic film about a cruel and pointless confrontation

Books

by Mike Berners-Lee • Cambridge University Press • £9.99 (paperback)

Films

In our attempt to control the natural world, humans have…

Books

by Sudipta Sen • Yale University Press • £20 (hardback)