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South Sudan after the Civil War: "Music Keeps Us From Fighting and Killing Us"


South Sudan declared its independence ten years ago, and shortly afterwards civil war broke out. Young rappers, bands and dance groups deal with the conflicts in their music - and want to unite the torn country.

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Mood of optimism: Young musicians dance and sing in the Asylum Records Studio in Juba

Photo: Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif Item

Her parents had fought for the independence of South Sudan, the young generation should grow up in a peaceful, independent country - but the dream quickly fell apart.

In July 2011, South Sudan was able to break away from Sudan after a multi-year armed conflict, and just two years later a civil war broke out in the youngest country in the world.

The president and his vice-president incited the two largest ethnic groups in the country against each other, soldiers and militias looted villages, murdered and raped along ethnic lines. At the same time, politicians, the military and warlords cashed in with dirty deals for the country's oil resources. In 2018 there was a peace process, since the beginning of this year a new parliament has been in power, in which both representatives of the ruling party and the former rebel movement are represented. But the reconciliation is slow. Society remains torn and inter-ethnic violence flares up again and again. Today, South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world, around two thirds of its eleven million inhabitants are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Despite the uncertainty, a lively music scene has grown in recent years, especially in the southern Sudanese capital Juba - which is also pursuing a political mission.

The artists denounce abuses such as violence, corruption and poverty, but they also want to spread a positive atmosphere of optimism and reunite society.

"Music keeps us from fighting and killing ourselves," believes Rasta Jimmy, who lives in Juba.

For the singer, music is a powerful vehicle for spreading positive messages.

Traditional music and dance also bring together the communities that were hostile and lost a lot during the civil war - and it gives back a piece of their identity to the millions of people who have to flee within the country or have been displaced abroad.

The Canadian photographer Adrienne Surprenant, who lives and works in the Central African Republic, has made a foray through the South Sudanese music scene - and has documented singers, hip-hop MCs and folk dance groups with her camera.

See in the photo gallery how musicians from South Sudan are working for a better future:

This contribution is part of the Global Society project

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report under the title “Global Society”

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The reports, analyzes, photo series, videos and podcasts appear in the international section of SPIEGEL.

The project is long-term and will be supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) for three years.

A detailed FAQ with questions and answers about the project can be found here.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is supporting the project for three years with a total of around 2.3 million euros.

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The editorial content is created without the influence of the Gates Foundation.

Do other media have similar projects?


Big European media like "The Guardian" and "El País" have set up similar sections on their news sites with "Global Development" and "Planeta Futuro" with the support of the Gates Foundation.

Have there already been similar projects at SPIEGEL?

In the past few years, SPIEGEL has already implemented two projects with the European Journalism Center (EJC) and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: the “Expedition ÜberMorgen” on global sustainability goals and the journalistic refugee project “The New Arrivals” as part of this several award-winning multimedia reports on the topics of migration and flight have been produced.

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Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2021-10-11

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