Makes 50 Cent Look Like a Pussy

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D. Phillips
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Makes 50 Cent Look Like a Pussy

Postby D. Phillips » Mon Mar 14, 2005 10:36 pm

Ex-child soldier now Kenya's hottest rapper

Emmanuel Jal was eight when he was handed an AK-47 and trained to fight. By the time he was 13, he was a veteran of two civil wars and had seen hundreds of his comrades reduced to cannibalism as they struggled to survive in the Sudanese bush.

Holy shit!--DP

Today, the former child soldier is coming to grips with his new status as Kenya's hottest rapper.

Taking a break in a Nairobi recording studio, he sprawls on a cushion and tells his remarkable tale of death, music and the British wife of a warlord who saved him.

"What I have gone through and where I have been should encourage other people to realize that they can be saved, too," he says above the throbbing bass line pumping through the studio.

Earlier this month, his debut album -Gua, which means peace in his native Nuer language - had hit No. 4 on the Kenyan charts. The songs mix messages of peace, delivered in staccato English, Arabic and Nuer, with Jal's personal tale.

Now 25, Jal was born in southern Sudan just before the region was split by civil war. In 1983, rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) began a battle against the government in Khartoum for independence and control of the region's lucrative oilfields.

Taken away by rebels

When war reached Jal's small village in the Bentiu oil field, he says SPLA commanders ordered children to be transferred to U.N.-run refugee camps in Ethiopia where they would be fed by aid agencies and offered a simple education.

Jal's father had signed up with the rebels and his mother had recently died. So the 7-year-old had little choice but to find safety in the swollen camps. He stayed in school there for only six months.

"Then we were taken away from the camp to the bush for training," he says. "The United Nations (news - web sites) had no idea what was going on."

The SPLA was using the camps to recruit soldiers. The bigger boys were handed grenade launchers. Jal could only manage an AK-47. He grins as he remembers the thrill. "I was psyched up. It was so exciting to learn how to use a gun."

He was among thousands of child soldiers who were used to prop up Mengistu Haile Mariam's communist regime, allied with Sudanese rebels, as Ethiopian rebels closed in on the capital, Addis Ababa. As one of the youngest soldiers Jal was assigned to SPLA headquarters in Ethiopia. But he would sneak away to the front line.

When Mengistu was gone, the Sudanese rebels had to return to their homeland. Jal made his way to Juba, in southern Sudan, where SPLA troops were massing for an assault. "There were thousands of young boys like me," he says. "Their work was to weaken the government defenses by running through minefields and getting right at the enemy. Because they were lighter and could run fast, they had a better chance of surviving. I was among them."

One night, Jal, then 13, and almost 400 other child soldiers simply walked out.

The children carried enough corn grain and sorghum flour for a month, the time they thought it would take to reach safety. Three months later, racked with hunger and thirst, the child soldiers and a handful of adults were still stumbling through the Sudanese bush.

Cannibalism became the only way to eat. Jal remembers his lowest moment. "There was a night when my friend died and I was tempted to eat him the next day," he says. "I was eating almost anything. Snails. And when those things were no longer there I had no choice.

"We put mines around him so that if hyenas came at night they would not be able to take the body," Jal says. "The hyenas still managed to take him."

Jal was lucky. He reached the safety of Waat, a town in southeastern Jonglei state, before he had to consider cannibalism again. But by the time the children had staggered into the town, only 12 of the original 400 runaways had survived.

He was immediately picked out from the throng of homeless children by Emma McCune, a young Briton who worked for the Canadian aid group Street Kids International. McCune had married Riek Machar, leader of one of the two rival SPLA groups. She smuggled Jal from Sudan to Nairobi in a suitcase aboard an aid flight.

'Emma's War'

McCune died in 1993 in a car accident in Nairobi, leaving her 14-year-old charge in the care of friends and other aid workers. "She was like a mum," he says. "She would take me everywhere with her and got me into school."

McCune's story of love in a war-torn state was turned into a book, Emma's War, by Deborah Scroggins. 20th Century Fox and Tony Scott, director of Top Gun, are basing a movie on the book.

Today Jal lives with Machar, who is a distant cousin. They live in Kileleshwa, one of Nairobi's more fashionable districts, where Machar is the vice chairman of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement.

Kenya's capital also is home to a thriving rap music scene. Jal turned his growing interest in African music toward hip-hop and performing to raise money for children's homes. With the support of backers in the USA and Europe, he recorded Gua last year. It reached record shops last month.

DJ Moz (the stage name of Moses Mathenge) was one of the first to play the album on Kenyan radio after seeing the rapper perform for Sudanese refugees in northern Kenya. "As well as simply being great songs, people are really getting into the lyrics, really understanding his message," says DJ Moz, who hosts a rap show on the Nairobi radio station Metro FM. "And he is a great role model for young Sudanese and Kenyan men."

Two months ago, Sudanese rebel leaders and government ministers met to agree on the final terms of a peace deal designed to end Sudan's 21-year civil war between the north and the south. It took considerable pressure from the international community, particularly the United States, to keep both sides at the talks. Government and rebels agreed on a series of power-sharing structures and on holding a referendum in six years on independence for the south.

In his Nairobi recording studio, Jal says he is optimistic about the future of his country. "There have been many peace deals that have failed before. This one looks more serious. The world is focused on it and America is really behind it, so I think it will work."

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Postby miss carol » Mon Mar 14, 2005 10:40 pm

Very very sad..

Mixmaster Shecky
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Postby Mixmaster Shecky » Tue Mar 15, 2005 1:56 am

Thank god the poor guy lived through it and is using his experiences to make music, and help out other kids.

And shed some light on the history of things like the SPLA. Those fuckers should be hung up by their balls and gang-humped by rabid hyenas.

And D, you're right - 50 Cent is a pussy compared to this guy. Fuck! I'd like to hear some of his stuff, too.

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Postby trainwreck2 » Tue Mar 15, 2005 12:01 pm

this especially makes the wankstas like fiddy look bad because they had the real deal and arent singing to brag about...its not get rich or die trying, its live or die trying...

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Postby steve-o » Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:02 pm

trainwreck2 wrote:this especially makes the wankstas like fiddy look bad because they had the real deal and arent singing to brag about...its not get rich or die trying, its live or die trying...

Yep, I've heard it said before that anyone who had lived through that kind of violence and hardship would know it's nothing to glorify. Of course, I'm just a middle-class child of the suburbs though, so take from it what you will. But I'm pretty sure we won't hear Jal rapping about Spinners and groupies.

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