July 9 is Independence Day for South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. But what should be a time of celebration has instead been marred by bloodshed and fears of a possible return to war. Violence erupted recently when troops from northern Sudan seized control of Abyei, a contested border region. Civilians have been killed or displaced, and an observer from the International Rescue Committee warned this week that South Sudan will be born into crisis.
Back in December, Need to Know sent reporter George Lerner to South Sudan as its people prepared to vote after decades of civil war. Here’s his updated report, as well as a look at the country’s newfound independence through the eyes of Salva Dut, a former Sudanese refugee and “lost boy” who was separated from his family after his village was attacked by the northern army and has since returned to help rebuild his homeland.