Aidan Hartley

Beauty and the Beast

Emma's War: Love, Betrayal and Death in the Sudan


HarperCollins 389pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Emma McCune was a beautiful, languid Englishwoman who in the late 1980s became fascinated with southern Sudan. By then it was a place destroyed by war, famine, slavery and the oil industry, and Emma joined Street Kids International (one among the mob of aid agencies operating there) and assisted in their work of establishing and equipping schools. In Sudan, as elsewhere in Africa, aid workers do not fraternise much with the people they imagine they’re helping. Emma was different: She fell in love with Riek Machar, a rebel warlord and scion of a Nuer family of prophets. By ‘going native’, she earned the scorn of her do-gooder peers. Soon after the lovers married in 1991, Riek led a factional uprising against his rival John Garang. It became a tribal bloodbath, and Emma found herself quite literally in bed with a mass murderer. She knew it, too, but appears to have turned a blind eye to the truth in order to justify sticking by Emma her husband. In Sudan, feuds are sometimes named after the women blamed for starting them, and Riek’s enemies called this latest one ‘Emma’s War’. On 25 November 1993, Emma was killed in a car crash in Nairobi. She was five months pregnant and there were rumours that she had been assassinated.

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