Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
“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.
In the village of Leer, reminders of civil war are everywhere, such as a large hole where most of the village would crouch, hiding from bomber planes and helicopter gunships.
Look down the list of the cases the International Criminal Court is pursuing – Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur, Uganda – and it doesn’t take long to spot the connection.
Of the dozen arrest warrants the court has issued, all have been against African rebels or officials. On Monday, the court begins its first trial - of Thomas Lubanga, accused of recruiting child soldiers to wage a gruesome ethnic war in northeastern Congo. Earlier this month, former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba was in court for a decision on whether to confirm charges of ordering mass rape to terrorise civilians in the Central African Republic.
Much of the news that comes out of the Niger Delta, the vast network of creeks home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, is generated either by militant leaders claiming spectacular attacks on oil industry installations or by the military, keen to publicise its victories flushing out crude oil thieves from camps nestled deep in the mangroves.
Rarely heard are the voices of the “boys” who have taken up arms and make up the rank and file of the militant gangs. Oil theft on an industrial scale or kidnappings for ransom make some of their bosses rich. Peace negotiations see others rewarded with the veneer of political legitimacy and a comfortable new government-funded lifestyle. But the grunts tend to share little of the spoils.