Emmanuel Jal was born in a tiny village in Southern Sudan, only a short time before the outbreak of civil war. When his mother was killed by government soldiers, he and thousands of other children were recruited by the Sudan People's Liberation Army and trained as soldiers.
Here, at a very special session of the Sydney Writers' Festival, Emmanuel tells his amazing story, and describes how education and music turned out to be his salvation. He even gets the audience dancing.
Emmanuel Jal is a musician and the author of War Child: A Child Soldier's Story.
In 2005 he was awarded the American Gospel Music Award for best international artist. Jal is also a spokesman for the Make Poverty History campaign.
Historical region and former province, western Sudan. It was an independent kingdom from c. 2500 BCE. Its first traditional rulers, the Daju, probably traded with ancient Egypt; they were succeeded by the Tunjur. Darfur's Christian period (c. 9001200) was ended by the advance of Islam with the empire of Kanem-Bornu. In the 1870s Darfur came under Egyptian rule, and in 1916 it became a province of Sudan. Long-standing ethnic tensions between Arab nomads and sedentary Fur and other agriculturalists erupted in the late 1980s, and sporadic violence ensued. The conflict escalated in 2003, when rebels among the agriculturalist population began attacking government installations in protest of perceived neglect of non-Arabs and of the country's western region. The government responded with the creation of the Janjaweed (also spelled Jingaweit or Janjawid) militia, which attacked sedentary groups in Darfur. Despite a 2004 cease-fire and the subsequent presence of international peacekeeping troops, by 2007 hundreds of thousands of people had been killed and more than two million displaced.