Emmanual Jal: Child Soldier Turned Rapper

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Emmanual Jal defied the odds by escaping from war as a child and now is a spokesperson for the campaigns Control Arms and Make Poverty History. At the age of only seven, he was sent to train for combat to be a child soldier for Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Southern Sudan and Ethiopia. Several thousand other children were also sent with the same fate.

Emmanual was taught to speak eight different languages, but only later learned of the reason for his being there. By the age of thirteen he was an experienced soldier and had been forced to assist with unspeakable atrocities. He finally escaped with help from Emma McCune, a British aid who smuggled him out, enrolled him in school and adopted him. Unfortunately she died a year later and Emmanual was left to struggle in poverty as a refugee in Kenya. He lived in a small metal shack with no electricity or water, but he was determined and became inspired to sing and write at the age of twenty after getting involved with a church choir.

Emmanual Jal’s Music

In his music he speaks about the tensions between Christian and Muslim religions, but he turned to music as a form of therapy and believes his music is a source of healing and a good way to share common ground with enemies. Although they disagree politically, he’s observed that they still dance to his music. He believes he survived for a reason and that reason is to tell his story to touch lives. He bravely shares some of his struggles such as being so starved that he was tempted to eat his dead comrade’s flesh during battle.

Hopefully Emmanual will help people understand how easy and cheap it is to obtain firearms in Sudan and how important it is to control arms so that people aren’t shooting each other so freely.

Now he has obtained a recording contract and the opportunity to spread his message which is peace and how

  • He won an American Gospel Award and a Community Service Award in Kenya for promoting peace among young people.
  • His music has been used on three ER episodes, a National Geographic documentary and more recently in the movie Blood Diamond.
  • His album is called War Child and his music combines his African influence with present hip-hop and an inspiring message for peace.

References: Video Series, War Child, National Geographic & Emmanual Jal’s website, 2006 (Originally published on Suite101)

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