Rapper enlists global stars to work on south Sudan

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (BestGrowthStock) – South Sudan’s most famous export, rapper Emmanuel Jal, hopes a little help from friends Alicia Keys, George Clooney and Kofi Annan will shine a light on Sudan’s north-south civil war and prevent further atrocities.

Jal, a former child soldier who was rescued and smuggled out of the south by a British aid worker, has since dedicated his life and music to one target: a future for his people. His new single “We Want Peace” hopes to persuade Sudan not to return to war as the oil-producing south looks to secede next year.

“No foreign government is going to be interested until the people in their country find an issue important — that’s when the diplomatic pressure will be at its highest,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday from London, where he is based.

“By raising awareness it can bring pressure to both sides to bring peace — we want a free and fair referendum,” he added.

Sudan’s north-south war ended with a 2005 peace deal but, as a separate conflict in the western Darfur region exploded, the south was neglected by the international community and north- south relations deteriorated to a point where the south is almost sure to secede in 2011.

Jal wants to extend the focus on Sudan’s more well-known conflict in Darfur to the north-south civil war, which claimed 2 million lives and created four million refugees.

Music stars Alicia Keys and Peter Gabriel, actor George Clooney, ex-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter appear in the “We Want Peace” video to help spread the message that international help is needed to avoid a return to north-south conflict in Sudan.

“When you bring light to a dark place, evil will achieve less,” Jal said. “The reason the damage has been limited in Darfur is because of the maximum awareness that was created.”

Jal’s own life reads as a testimony to the suffering of war. He saw his aunt raped by soldiers, lost most of his family including his mother, watched his house burned down and spent most of his formative years constantly fleeing violence.

His nights are still haunted by nightmares filled with screams, fire and the horrors of war. Now he dreams of returning to live in a new south Sudan.

“There’s freedom in the south — it’s hopeful, but we will have a lot of work to fight tribalism because that is the biggest beef we have there.”

Tribal conflict has dogged the south but the semi-autonomous government began a reconciliation process which offered an amnesty to militia leaders and agreed to form a national government post secession until fresh elections can be held.

Jal said the new government must delegate power to the people and invest in education, agriculture and health.

“And we need accountants (and) colleges to train people,” he said, adding the diaspora who fled the war to the West gaining valuable skills should return home to build the new country.

“You’re as horrible as the politician who is stealing the money if you don’t take responsibility and make the change.”

As for his own future: “I want to come back home, find a wife, make kids, carry on with music, and make more noise.”

Rapper enlists global stars to work on south Sudan