The debut non-fiction book from the very successful Dr. Jacob Dut Chol Riak, South Sudan State Formation: Failures, Shocks and Hopes, is a well-researched and informative piece of literature that details the many facets that have helped contribute (or be the detriment of) the development and formation of the South Sudan State. It also details and encompasses the aspects of South Sudanese society that have prevented the country from progressing, as well as the raw tenacity and hope that the citizens have for their home-country. As someone that is not from South Sudan and was completely unaware of the political strife and tension occurring in the state, I found this book extremely insightful and thought-provoking, each chapter increasing my knowledge on the politics and the crises occurring in pre and current South Sudan.
The book is broken down into ten separate and distinct chapters that encompass South Sudan’s state formation. Dr. Riak has provided thorough and wonderful context about the historical and modern theories of state formation, giving a fantastic academic background for his discussions on South Sudanese politics, economics, social attributes and militaristic insights. It is clear that Dr. Riak has undertaken a massive amount of research to give his book true authenticity and intelligence. He provides an almost insane number of sources that give credibility to his statements and facts; I trust what he says and explains.
My favourite aspect of this book has to be the obvious passion Dr. Riak has for this topic. From his very informative style of writing to his lengthy analyses of subjects, such as the numerous theories and perspectives he delves into and the role that the Troika countries play in South Sudanese politics, it is clear that Dr. Riak has enjoyed writing and researching this book. There is also a huge emphasis on explaining and elaborating aspects and definitions in the book, which are helpful. In particular, its section dedicated to the numerous abbreviations and acronyms he uses is intricate yet easy to read, and being able to read the book with that information ready is very handy. It is plain to see that Dr. Riak has implemented an overwhelming amount of care for this work, and it shines through.
I also enjoy the topics that he raises in his book. While often bleak and straight-to-the-point about the negative aspects surrounding South Sudan, Dr. Riak also offers glimmers of hope in his writing, showing alternate perspectives often when talking about catastrophic events and battles, such as the 15th December Political Crisis.
Whether you’re an outsider to South Sudan who just wants to learn more, or a South Sudanese citizen or researcher who wants to learn about their country, Dr. Riak’s South Sudan State Formation: Failures, Shocks and Hopes is an in-depth choice that will help you understand all of the political strife that has occurred, consolidated into a single 400-page book. I believe that it is an essential book to have if you are invested in African politics.