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Emmanuel Jal

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Emmanuel Jal (born c. 1980) is a Sudanese musician and former child soldier.

Born in the village of Tonj in Southern Sudan, he was a little boy when the civil war broke out. Emmanuel’s father joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and when he was about seven years old his mother died. Emmanuel then decided to join the thousands of children travelling to Ethiopia who had been told that they could be educated there.

However, many of the children, Emmanuel included, were recruited by the SPLA and taken to military training camps in the bush in Ethiopia. The camp was disguised as a school in front of international aid agencies and UN representatives, but behind closed doors the children were training to fight. Emmanuel spent several years fighting with the SPLA in Ethiopia, until war broke out there too and the child soldiers were forced back into Sudan by the fighting and joined the SPLA’s efforts to fight the government in the town of Juba.

When the fighting became unbearable Emmanuel and some other children decided to run away. They were on the move for three months, with many dying on the way, until they reached the town of Waat, which was the headquarter on a small group that had separated themselves from the main SPLA.

In Waat Emmanuel met Emma McCune, a British aid worker married to senior SPLA commandant Riek Machar.

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