South Sudan keeps grim company. In the world of neglected conflicts it brushes shoulders with the likes of Central African Republic, among the continent’s most unstable nations, and Yemen, where a Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthi rebels has taken a severe toll on civilians. But even then, South Sudan stands out. Its independence in 2011, after southerners overwhelmingly approved splitting from the north, came as a result of American backing. There was a big ceremony, and a lot of hope.
Dominic Nahr is a photographer working in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Follow him on Instagram: @dominicnahr
Alice Gabriner, who edited this photo essay, is TIME‘s International Photo Editor.
Andrew Katz, who wrote this article, is TIME‘s International Multimedia Editor.