11 Books To Help You Understand What's Happening In Sudan

If you're only just hearing about the crisis in Sudan, thanks to the #blueforSudan hashtag, you might be surprised to learn that the current political upheaval has its roots in the first Sudanese Civil War, which began in the 1950s. Because this is a complex and troublesome issue, I've picked 11 books to read to understand the Sudan crisis. Whether you remember Darfur, or weren't even aware that South Sudan was a country, the books on this list will get you up to speed.

On April 11, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was deposed after spending 30 years in power. Al-Bashir's overthrowing was the culmination of a months-long series of protests by the Sudanese people, who were eventually aided by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), the state military force. Following the coup, the SAF proceeded to turn on the civilian protesters, however.

The Republic of Sudan is currently under the control of a military junta, composed of SAF leaders and other military men, including Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a.k.a. Hemeti, who may be eyeing complete control of Sudan at this moment. Pro-democracy protesters have been killed by paramilitary forces, but junta leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has called the protesters "martyrs," and has called for new elections to be held in the next nine months.

The situation in Sudan is complex, and is inextricably linked to both its division from South Sudan and the series of wars that preceded al-Bashir's ousting. Here are 11 books you can read to help you get a better grasp on the situation.

'First Raise a Flag: How South Sudan Won the Longest War but Lost the Peace' by Peter Martell

In 2011, the largest country on the African continent split into two separate nations, Sudan and South Sudan, following a series of interconnected wars that had raged for more than half a century. Three years later, the newly liberated South Sudan was in dire straits, and war was at the Sudanese citizens' doorsteps once again. In First Raise a Flag, war reporter Peter Martell offers an on-the-ground look at what went wrong in the world's newest nation.

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'The Sudan Handbook,' edited by John Ryle, Justin Willis, Suliman Baldo, and Jok Madut Jok

For an overview of Sudan and South Sudan, you can't do better than The Sudan Handbook, which contains articles, maps, histories, and chronologies composed by experts on both nations.

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'A History of Modern Sudan' by Robert O. Collins

Spanning more than a century and a half, from 1821 to 2008, A History of Modern Sudan explores the political, historical, and social upheavals that have shaped the Sudanese region, and have led to the current instability in Sudan.

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'Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur' by Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis

Zeroing in on a village doctor's experience in the midst of the War in Darfur, Tears of the Desert presents readers with an unflinching look at the horrors of the conflict, which is still ongoing in Sudan today.

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'They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan' by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, Benjamin Ajak, and Judy A. Bernstein

In the 1980s and '90s, the Second Sudanese Civil War separated thousands of Nuer and Dinka boys from their families. These children and teens, who set off across the country in search of stability and family, became known as the Lost Boys of Sudan. In They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky, three of the Lost Boys tell their story of survival.

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'A Rope from the Sky: The Making and Unmaking of the World's Newest State' by Zach Vertin

Another book focused on post-liberation South Sudan, Zach Vertin's A Rope from the Sky examines the downward spiral of the new nation from the perspectives of both its citizens and its foreign supporters.

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'Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond' by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast

Written at the height of the War in Darfur, Don Cheadle and John Prendergast's Not on Our Watch offers readers a variety of easily implemented strategies to fight to end genocide in Sudan and other nations. Their advice is still quite relevant today.

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'Prison Notebook' by Ibrahim El-Salahi

In 1975, poet and artist Ibrahim El-Salahi was arrested and held, without trial, on false charges of aiding a revolutionary movement. Over the course of his six months in prison, El-Salahi produced the Prison Notebook — a collection of poems and illustrations that document his imprisonment in Khartoum.

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'The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars: Old Wars and New Wars' by Douglas H. Johnson

Sudan endured two decades-long civil wars prior to the War in Darfur. Douglas H. Johnson analyzes the myriad factors that have contributed to Sudan's ongoing conflict, which has extended into the formation of South Sudan, and across its borders.

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'War Child: A Child Soldier's Story' by Emmanuel Jal

Following the death of his mother, and the promotion of his father to a position of power in the Sudan People's Liberation Army, Emmanuel Jal was himself conscripted into the SPLA, one of thousands of child soldiers. Over the next several years, Jal fought in two separate wars, and survived to escape and forge a new life in Kenya.

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'Collapse of a Country: A Diplomat's Memoir of South Sudan' by Nicholas Coghlan

Nicholas Coghlan was Canada's first diplomat stationed in South Sudan, and as such, was present when a civil war ripped the newly founded country apart in 2013. As Vice-President Machar led a coup against President Kiir, the Nuer and Dinka tribes turned on one another, and South Sudan began a rapid descent back into chaos.

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