The obscene horror of the fighting from 1955 to 1972 and from 1983 to 2005 was inflamed at different times by American, Israeli, Ethiopian, East German, Cuban, Libyan, and Ugandan interference.

Martell’s remarkable interviews with aging mercenaries and retired spies reveal how the CIA funded South Sudanese rebel groups in 1964 to destabilize a pro-Moscow regime in the Congo, while Mossad backed them in 1969 to undermine Egypt and Sudan, Israel’s enemies from the recent Six-Day War.

Ethiopia became the central funder of the rebels in 1984, channeling support from East Germany, Cuba, and—inevitably—Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya in order to undermine US interests, which were then linked to Sudan. Martell’s account elegantly reinforces again and again how almost none of these violent foreign interventions were about South Sudan itself.

Rory Stewart, The New York Review of Books

'A detailed, wonderfully accessible work...  

As Martell points out, “There is suffering, yes, but people also live. Parents raise families, go to work, make love, drink and laugh.” 

This is a rare reminder in the genre of books by former foreign correspondents, which often focus on conflict, poverty and disease to the neglect of the humanity of their subjects.

Martell avoids this trap, and in doing so, has written a must-read book on how South Sudan got to where it is today.

Laura Seay, The Washington Post 

The Spectator - Books of the Year 2018

As chosen by Michela Wrong

Middle East Eye, Peter Oborne, Books of the Year 2019

The long and bloody struggle for independence in South Sudan has been underreported and misunderstood. The human tragedies which surround it are as profound as those of Iraq or Afghanistan.

I was utterly gripped by Peter Martell’s superbly written First Raise a Flag: How South Sudan Won the Longest War but Lost the Peace. It’s expertly organised and holds the reader from start to finish... At the heart of his account is the South Sudanese themselves. This is a more than a very fine piece of journalism. It's a masterpiece. 

Peter Oborne.


The Observer - 'Readable, rigorous and important'

The Observer, Sunday 4 November, Jason Burke

New Statesman, February 2019

A 'striking and moving evocation', Tim Morris, British ambassador to South Sudan, 2015-217

'This book is a labour of love for the people of South

Sudan and an expression of hope for their future. He traces the

history with clarity and a sure touch in identifying the key events

and developments. He had an extraordinary experience of crisscrossing

the country off any beaten track, interviewing both leaders

and foot soldiers as well as many caught in the upheaval of war,

violence, and pillage....

'What in the end movingly comes across from Martell’s accurate analysis, description and story telling is his love for the South Sudanese people. As for all those who visit or work in the country, these are not faces in a crowd; they are those who actually live there, who, like everywhere else, want a job, to look after their families, educate their sons and daughters, and enjoy themselves. '

Tim Morris, British Ambassador to South Sudan, 2015-2017.

'Gut-wrenching chronicles of human depravity.. Martell, an intrepid journalist who covered the region for the BBC, has interviewed many of the victims, heroes, and butchers. As he shows, this was not the efficient killing of Nazi extermination camps but individual, face-to-face barbarity. 

Foreign Affairs

The Atlantic Council - top books to read -  J. Peter Pham.

'Born with so much hope and promise, the world’s newest state quickly plunged into a fratricidal conflict that has left more than half of its population displaced or in dire need of humanitarian assistance. One of those who has covered South Sudan the longest, Martell combines eyewitness reporting with extensive research to produce a solid account of this tragedy.'

J. Peter Pham, Director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, US Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, choses First Raise a Flag as a top books to read

'It is not a text book. It is not a research thesis. 

It is a work that gives voice to the experiences of the world's youngest nation.'

Daniel Wesangula, The Standard, Kenya.

‘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.’

Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society

Reader reviews on Amazon - a selection.

‘A brilliant read for both those new to South Sudan and those familiar with it’ *****

 ‘Martell tells the untold story of this shattering history with compassion, sensitivity and great insight. Writing from personal experience and an extraordinary depth of research and experience, Martell brings rigour, empathy and humanity to a story the world urgently needs to hear.’ *****

‘Can't recommend this enough. Whether you only have a passing interest in African history or have staked a career on it, First Raise a Flag is a brilliant read.’ *****

‘Peter manages the near impossible with this book: an informative and deeply nuanced history of South Sudan that remains, above-all, tremendously entertaining and accessible. Having read much of the available literature on South Sudan, both in general and academic press, I can say that quite confidently that this book is one of the best out there on the topic.’ *****

‘A gripping and moving account that brings together the written and oral elements of South Sudan's troubled history.’ *****

'A fascinating book on South Sudan.

Highly recomnend it.'

Dr Sinead Walsh, EU Ambassador to South Sudan,

Co-author of Getting to Zero - A doctor and a diplomat on the Ebola frontline

 One cannot help but feel angry at the sheer injustice of the betrayal of a dream so long and so difficult in the making. In places, the book is not easy reading. Martell doesn’t shy away from or euphemise the violence of the country’s wars, and on finishing the final pages, I found myself sitting in an angry silence which immediately recalled a memory of reading Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost many years ago. It’s a history from the ground that will leave you angry and a little haunted. And given the ocean of otherwise technocratic reports on South Sudan with statistics that fail to capture what a dream imploding feels like, that’s just about the highest praise I can give.  Richard Stupart, LSE in Africa

The Interview on FRANCE24 - watch here.

Evening Standard

Chosen by Hurst Publishers - celebrating  its fiftieth anniversary - to be among its collection of the fifty most influential titles it has published in five decades.

South Sudan: what chance of peace beyond the peace deals?

The Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, LSE & Centre for African Studies, SOAS

Date: Monday 8 October 2018
Time: 6:30- 8:00 pm
Venue: LSE Campus, New Academic Building, NAB.2.06


LSE, London

Interview on Radio Miraya, South Sudan.

Launch event, Lambeth Palace, London

Launch event at Lambeth Palace.

In all good bookshops... etc etc.

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