April 3, 2020
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I shot a gun at nine years old. In the meet of the loud guns,
you cannot hear your gun and that sometime can be terrifying. So you come to your conscience
by seeing a gun shaking, that’s when you know
it’s actually working. Emmanuel Jal was a child soldier during the brutal Sudanese
civil war in the 1990’s. Where government forces in
the predominantly Muslim north fought rebels in the south. Taken from his home, he was beaten brainwashed and trained
by the rebels to fight. After four years of fighting, he managed an epic escape to create a new life. ♪ I believe I’ve survived for a reason, ♪ ♪ To tell my story, to touch lives. ♪ ♪ I believe I’ve survived for a reason, ♪ ♪ To tell my story, to touch lives. ♪ Mr. Jal was sent to train to be a soldier at the age of eight by his father who was the rebels’ chief of police. The training was brutal. We were welcomed with a beating. The violence that was given to us, I can’t even describe it. I look at as a psychological
way to break into us so they can mold us to what they want. He survived the training and was given a gun, ready for revenge. That war took the soul of my village, and my aunties died during that war. All my uncles died during that war. My mother was claimed by that war. As a kid, I wanted two things. To get a bike, I wanted to get a bicycle. And also to kill as many
Arabs and Muslims as possible. Mr. Jal and the other boys, had been groomed to feel
a sense of camaraderie, to fight for each other. At first, the violence was exciting. The beat of the AK-47
itself is so empowering. Violence is fun. There’s an excitement when they give you a gun into your hand, you’re excited. Memories from childhood can be hazy. And some have disputed Mr. Jal’s claims, but he says after four years of fighting he escaped the rebel commanders. In the dead of night he, and
400 other child soldiers, fled. If they were recaptured, they would’ve almost
certainly been killed. The boys trekked for three months across the country facing starvation. I call this the lowest
point I have ever been, because we drunk our own urine. Other soldiers started eating dead bodies. One of the escapees managed to reach a village and raise the alarm. Mr. Jal says only 16 of
the 400 boys survived. We got rescued and I
met a British aid worker called Emma McCune. And she’s the one that smuggled me through a plane into Kenya. That became the turning point of my life, where I was able to go to school. Mrs. McCune was married
to Mr. Jal’s uncle, the rebel leader Riek Machar. She died in a car crash
shortly afterwards. So Mr. Jal had to make his own way as a teenager in the Kenyan slums. But something saved him. As a way of dealing with the
trauma he had experienced, he started rapping and discovered hip-hop. It’s got into music because
I found music was the place I was able to become a child again. In 2004, his debut album
was a hit in Kenya. The single appeared on
a U.K. charity album and he played at Nelson
Mandela’s 90th birthday concert. In the last decade, Mr.
Jal has traveled the world performing and sharing his
experiences through his music, with the likes of Alicia
Keys and Nelly Furtado. We want peace, big love to Emmanuel Jal. He uses his music to be a political activist and peace advocate. The challenges that I’ve been
through, I accepted them. I accepted my childhood experience. Every person who has become successful, has gone through fire. Mr. Jal is one of the lucky ones. According to the U.N., tens
of thousands of children have been recruited as child soldiers across 20 countries this year alone. Children’s place should be school. Children should be taught to love. They should be taught to
explore their imagination, not to be trained to kill people, not to be exposed to violence.

Tony wyaad