War Child

Taylor W. Anderson

April 13, 2011

There are no success stories of the people that survived the Sudan Civil War, there are only those who lived and those who died. The dead lost the life they could have lived, while the living got the chance to be something.

Emmanuel Jal was born in South Sudan just before the start of the civil war in 1983. His family, like everyone in his village, lived in a straw hut close to their neighbor. Is chance to live was taken when the surrounding savannah grass was set ablaze by soldiers from the North.

Historians have said that the tactics used during the genocides in Darfur during the 2000s was perfected during the early years of the war between the Arab North and the Christian South in Sudan.

Bombs dropped from northern aircraft plagued villages throughout southern Sudan, where an estimated two million people were killed throughout the war. Four million displaced residents boated or walked to neighboring Ethiopia or Kenya for refuge.

Jal left his village after it was razed, and left on a boat of 360 refugees, well over capacity, en route to Ethiopia. The boat capsized, and all but 50 were killed.

He found out his family was killed when they failed to show up at the refugee camp, and he started living a life of solitude.

Jal became a child soldier along with 10,000 other south Sudanese children. Like the others, he thought he had literally nothing to lose, death was as good as living, so he picked up a gun and fought for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to gain the South Sudan capital of Juba.

War Child parallels a documentary that was made in 1989, where filmmakers first found Jal in a refugee camp and noticed he liked to talk the most. He seemed not to be affected by the devastation and lost lives surrounding him, so he was sought out for information. By juxtaposing old and new video footage, War Child shows that he is still living a solitary life.

He became a hip-hop singer and garnered success in the United States, where he still tours.

The civil war was a religious war. The war left the public’s eye when a ceasefire ended it in 2005, and South Sudan passed a referendum for cession from the north in January 2011. Jal returns to Sudan in 2007 for the first time since he left during the heat of the war.


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