South Sudan marked its third anniversary of independence yesterday, with civil war raging, the young nation divided by ethnic atrocities and on the brink of famine.
The streets of the capital Juba have been lined with banners proclaiming "One People, One Nation", with the government of President Salva Kiir due to put on a show of force with a military parade and speeches delivered to celebrate the breakaway from the repressive government in Khartoum.
"It's a sad anniversary," admitted Juba resident Gideon, 23, saying he had hoped for better three years on from the fanfare and optimism that swept the country in July 2011.
South Sudan has been wracked by war since midDecember, when presidential guards loyal to Kiir clashed with troops supporting ousted vice-president Riek Machar, who fled to the bush and rallied a huge rebel army.
The fighting has been marked by widespread atrocities against members of the Nuer people, to which Machar belongs, and revenge attacks against Kiir's Dinka group, the single largest tribe.
The most conservative estimates put the toll at 10,000 dead, although aid workers say the real figure is likely far higher.
Almost 100,000 civilians are sheltering in squalid camps inside UN bases, fearing revenge attacks if they leave.
Aid group Oxfam said South Sudan was "currently Africa's worst crisis with nearly four million - a third of the country's population - at risk of severe hunger and an aid effort that has only so far reached half of those in need".
"The world's attention is elsewhere as Africa's worst humanitarian catastrophe descends into more misery. We will be staring into the abyss and fail to avert a famine if funds do not start arriving soon to help the people of South Sudan at risk of starvation, disease and violence," said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.
On the eve of the anniversary, the departing UN representative in the country issued a scathing attack on the country's leaders, calling them a "self-serving elite" responsible for a looming "man-made famine".
Leaders were sick with "the cancer of corruption," said Hilde Johnson of the UN mission.