African business, politics and lifestyle
War child sings songs of peace
“When you see a Sudanese walking on the street there is a story,” child soldier turned hip-hop star Emmanuel Jal says.
That’s certainly true for Jal. He was sent to fight for Sudan People’s Liberation Army when he was just six years old.
The exact dates are sketchy, but in about 1987, his village in southern Sudan was attacked by soldiers loyal to the Khartoum government, during more than two decades of north-south civil war.
His mother was killed and he was taken into the SPLA and taught to fire a rifle he was barely strong enough to hold. With the help of a British aid worker, he managed to escape to neighbouring Kenya and today is known for his music and messages of peace.
More than 20,000 child soldiers have been demobilised since the war that killed 2 million people ended in 2005.
His experience was turned into a documentary, “War Child”, which he went back to Kenya from his base in London to promote.
“Kenya is my home, this is where I became known as a rapper … so I’m bringing the movie home to see what had happened into the neighbouring country, for them to know why we are refugees here,” he told Reuters Africa Journal in Kenya.
His songs draw heavily on his history and that of Africa.
One, he told Africa Journal, is a letter to the oil, diamond and gold miners: “You take the riches and you leave the people poor.”
“I talk about when it comes to Africa the world don’t care,” he said.
Nairobi resident Moses Mbaja said: “Jal gave up his anger, he gave up his hatred and now he is creating peace; he is making peace. We should all embrace it.”
(Reuters Photo: Sudanese child soldiers guard rebel military headquarters in February 2000)