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Sudanese Artist Says Awareness Can Prevent Mass Killings


Former child soldier turned artist Emmanuel Jal uses music to draw attention to South Sudan

Sudanese hip hop artist and activist Emmanuel Jal says the International community needs to keep its eye on Sudan as southern voters take part in a referendum on independence from the North.

Jal, a former child soldier whose parents were killed in the civil war, warns that war could break out again if the South doesn’t gain independence. A new video campaign by the activist, named the “we want peace global initiative,” features world leaders and celebrities, including Bono, Kofi Anan and Alicia Keys.

The campaign’s purpose is to bring international awareness to the situation in Sudan. Jal says he hopes it will deter any temptation by the North to derail southern Sudan’s independence. The video campaign has already gained popularity on the web because of its appeal to young people -- including what he called “Harry Potter fans.”

“We don’t want to remove our [focus] until that flag is raised up.”

He compares what took place in Bosnia over a decade ago, where a referendum was followed by war. “If the war breaks out [after July], it will be one country attacking the other,” he says.

During Sudan’s first civil war, Jal’s mother was killed, and by age 8, he had become a child soldier in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. “I was handed an AK47 and told to consider it my family,” he says.

His charity, Gua Africa, sponsors education for 40 Sudanese children and has provided more than 2,000 Sudanese with educational assistance. He just completed a one-meal-a-day fasting campaign to raise funds for a school project in southern Sudan.

He says the project was not as easy as he expected: “I thought I was a star and it would take only 60 days.” But a he says because of a combination of the economic downturn that led to fewer donations and a lack of public awareness, it took him 662 days. In the end, he was able to raise over 200,000 dollars to build a school in Juba.

As the referendum comes to an end, there are reports of violence in the disputed Abyei district, at the border between northern and southern Sudan. It’s exactly what Jaii is hoping to avoid.

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