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Saving South Sudan (2014)

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In February 2014, journalist Robert Young Pelton and photojournalist Tim Freccia traveled to South Sudan to investigate the reasons for its quickly devolving civil war. Sudan has been divided by war for centuries. The Arab North preyed on the black Christian South. In the early eighties oil was discovered and the war intensified. Finally, after six decades of war both sides realized they needed to find peace to take advantage of the black gold.

In July of 2011 South Sudan finally achieved its own independence and became the world's newest nation. The majority Dinka tribe was represented by former military commander and now President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The second largest group, the Nuer, was represented by Dr. Riek Machar Teny who was appointed Vice President.

Things were looking up for South Sudan and now it had an official government. It was at peace with its Northern neighbor and both were glad to capitalize on the expected flow of oil and other natural resources. But on December 15th, 2013, everything fell apart.

Fighting in South Sudan had spread outside the capital Juba after reported coup attempt. President Salva Kiir immediately accused his former Vice President of orchestrating the fighting. The coup attempt is said to have started within the presidential guard. After the fight Dinka soldiers and the militia targeted Nuer soldiers and civilians. Soon over a thousand people were dead... mostly Nuer.

The next day President Salva Kiir sent soldiers and a tank over the Riek Machar's house. Luckily Dr. Machar and his wife Angelina had escaped the night before. To the outside world it just seemed like another violence speed bump on the road to prosperity. Except Dr. Riek Machar was planning to fight back and he was going to fight back in a way that would throw South Sudan into another civil war.

Robert Young Pelton needed to find Dr. Riek Machar and get his side of the story. So he teamed up with photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Freccia and to help facilitate their journey into the bush he also invited his friend Machot Lat Thiep, a former lost boy and Nuer child soldier to return to his homeland in South Sudan.


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