War Child: A Child Soldier's Story
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In the mid-1980s, Emmanuel Jal was a seven year old Sudanese boy, living in a small village with his parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. But as Sudan's civil war moved closer―with the Islamic government seizing tribal lands for water, oil, and other resources―Jal's family moved again and again, seeking peace. Then, on one terrible day, Jal was separated from his mother, and later learned she had been killed; his father Simon rose to become a powerful commander in the Christian Sudanese Liberation Army, fighting for the freedom of Sudan. Soon, Jal was conscripted into that army, one of 10,000 child soldiers, and fought through two separate civil wars over nearly a decade.
But, remarkably, Jal survived, and his life began to change when he was adopted by a British aid worker. He began the journey that would lead him to change his name and to music: recording and releasing his own album, which produced the number one hip-hop single in Kenya, and from there went on to perform with Moby, Bono, Peter Gabriel, and other international music stars.
Shocking, inspiring, and finally hopeful, War Child is a memoir by a unique young man, who is determined to tell his story and in so doing bring peace to his homeland.
to smear it on the backs of smaller boys, who screamed as the burning porridge cooled on their skin before the bigger ones picked it off in sticky chunks, leaving red burns behind. Many boys were hurt like that—one so badly he had a scar on his head where his hair never grew back—but I was too quick. Instead I shoved the food into the pockets of my shorts, but was beaten when the talemgi discovered it. Then I learned how to fill my mouth with saliva and gulp down lumps of steaming porridge in
were hit by shrapnel, glass shattered, and tukuls burned as we hid in holes. After that day I became used to shelling for breakfast. The next day I was transferred to Kurki 1—even closer to the front line—and given a uniform. I had to cut it down to fit me and wished I had not lost my boots long ago. Instead I had to wear mutu khali—or die-and-leave-them—shoes made out of old tires that never wore out. But I longed to have real boots again like the big soldiers. I was finally back in the heart
before pushing the long material over her face. I couldn’t breathe as I watched. He was going to kill her. He was going to shoot her with his gun. Turning around, I started running. I had to get away, get back to the compound and find someone to help Mary. But in the next second I turned back toward the tukul. Something drove me back and I pressed my face once more to the mesh to look inside the darkness. Beside me the orphan girl was still as she too stared. I didn’t understand. The soldier
my gun, and followed Lam out of the tukul. Troops moved silently in the darkness like ants. Tying bags of maize, wrapping bullet belts around their waist, or loading bags onto their back, each had a job to do. “What’s happening?” I asked Lam as we walked toward a store. “Where are we going?” “Shhh,” he said. I looked at the bag slung over his shoulder. He must be moving out too. Anger flared inside me. I did not want Lam to go into battle without me. “Take these,” a soldier said as we arrived
Machar, Uncle Taban, and Aunt Fathna; Dr. Riek Machar, I caused you so much trouble but thank you for your patience; Maggie McCune, for giving me the most precious gift of all—education; Mr. Mehta from Brookhouse, for the same; Andrew and Jennifer Shand, for supporting a stranger far away and believing in what he had to say; Sandra Laville, for making this book possible; Andrew Ray Allam, for all your kind help; Ivan Mulcahy, everyone at St. Martin’s Press and Little Brown, for believing in my