Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Former Child Soldier with a Very Unpalatable Message about Gangs; Dying of Starvation as He Tried to Flee a Rebel Army, Emmanuel Jal Told a Friend: 'I Gonna Eat You Tomorrow'. Here He Captivates Young Londoners with His Story FRONTLINE LONDON Evening Standard Campaign

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Former Child Soldier with a Very Unpalatable Message about Gangs; Dying of Starvation as He Tried to Flee a Rebel Army, Emmanuel Jal Told a Friend: 'I Gonna Eat You Tomorrow'. Here He Captivates Young Londoners with His Story FRONTLINE LONDON Evening Standard Campaign

Article excerpt

Byline: David Cohen Campaigns Editor

ACHILD soldier from South Sudan visited a London gang forum and told the group of vulnerable teenagers: "I also used to be in a gang. The only difference is that mine was massive it was called the Sudan People's Liberation Army. My mother died when I was seven, I carried a gun at eight, by nine I was a full-blown child soldier."

Emmanuel Jal, 34, is a rapper and political activist who shares his story of survival in the face of incredible hardship with young people. "I went through difficult times, but I have changed my life," he said. "It's a question of choices. You have a choice to be in a gang or do something different."

He was giving a talk and a rap performance to a cheering room packed with 50 rambunctious south Londoners at a Kids Company streetlevel centre in Camberwell. "The lowest time in my life was when I was dying of starvation and tempted to eat my friend," said Jal. "I was 11 at the time and about 400 of us had decided to run away from the army, and we had been told it was a onemonth walk to safety, but it took us three months. My friend was dying one night and I told him, 'I gonna eat you tomorrow'.

"I looked at my friend and I smelled food. Can you imagine that? Some child soldiers had already started eating dead bodies, but I had held out. Next morning, with my friend still alive, barely, I went to try and find a dead body to eat. I prayed, 'God, if you there, give me something to eat'.

"At about 11am, a crow flew over and my comrade shot it. I ate the innards, the beak, everything. That prevented me from having to eat my friend when he died. Of the 400 who started out, only 16 of us survived."

Jal eventually reached the Sudanese town of Waat where he was rescued by British aid worker Emma McCune, who adopted him and took him to live with her in Kenya. When McCune died in a road accident months later, Jal was helped to continue his schooling by her friends and came to England.

He is now a father of three and lives in Toronto, travelling the world to deliver his message through song. His most famous number is War Child. …

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