South Sudan declared independence 10 years ago – only to descend into civil war. Now, young rappers, bands and dance troupes are hoping that music can help bring the country together. By Sonja Peteranderl und Jean-Baptiste Hervé and Adrienne Surprenant (Photos) For our Global Societies project, reporters around the world will be writing about societal problems, sustainability and development in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The series will include features, analyses, photo essays, videos and podcasts looking behind the curtain of globalization. The project is generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their parents fought for South Sudan’s independence, and they hoped that the next generation would be able to grow up in a peaceful, independent country. But the dream was quickly dashed. Just two years after South Sudan split off from Sudan in 2011 following years of armed conflict, a civil war broke out in the world’s youngest nation. The country’s president and vice president incited the two largest ethnicities against each other, with soldiers and militia fighters plundering villagers and perpetrating both murder and rape – with all of the violence neatly divisible along ethnic lines. At the same time, politicians, military leaders and warlords enriched themselves with dubious deals involving South Sudan’s oil resources. A peace process was launched in 2018, and since the beginning of this year, the country has been governed by a parliament that includes representatives from both the governing party and from the former rebel movement. But reconciliation has been slow. Society is still marked by deep divisions and ethnic violence repeatedly flares up. Today, South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with around two-thirds of its 11 million inhabitants dependent on humanitarian aid. Despite the lack of security and the precarious economic situation in the country, a lively music scene has developed in recent years in South Sudan, mostly in the capital of Juba. And it is one that also has a political mission. The artists target problems afflicting the country – such as violence, corruption and poverty – but also seek to spread a sense of optimism and confidence in the future as a way of uniting society. “Music is keeping us from fighting and killing each other,” says Rasta Jimmy, who lives in Juba. The singer sees music as a powerful channel for spreading positivity and encouragement. Traditional music and dance also help heal societal wounds that were ripped open by the civil war. And for those who were displaced by the war or forced to flee the country, they offer a way to regain a slice of their lost identity. Canadian photographer Adrienne Surprenant, who lives and works in the Central African Republic, took a closer look at the South Sudan music scene, photographing singers, hip-hop artists and traditional folk dancing troupes.