Friday, August 7, 2009

A Challenge to Aidocrats

War Child turned Peace builder: Is Emmanuel Jal the type of Leader that the 21st century needs to look to if it is to genuinely have an impact on the multiple conflicts and disasters that, despite all the great minds and millions, continue to multiply in frequency and intensity? HDEO thinks there is a good case to bring Emmanuel (and his fellow-travellers) to the table.

Jal's hypnotic voice rises from hellish origins as a beacon of hope for those caught in seemingly endless cycles of war and despair. Jal and his ilk are arguably the real spokespeople and potential architects for development and conflict solutions.

In keeping with yesterday's post, HDEO reckons it is such knowledgeable voices - so undeniably anchored in personal experience and hard fisted reality - that can provide the real key to overcoming the monumental challenges posed by today's conflicts and disasters. The very same solutions that have eluded well-heeled, well-paid global (so-called) experts. Experts (so-called) who, more often than not, will always lean towards real politik rather than humanitarian reality.

It is time to listen to the people who have the answers. And these people are not necessarily in London, Luxemburg or Langersville. They are often in Juba, Jericho and Jalalabad. Are we ready to listen? Can we hear? Do the yearly billions spend on aid even have the right mechanisms in place which allows us to listen, learn and act? And consider such voices as worthy counterparts? And....?

For five years, young Emmanuel Jal fought as a child soldier in the Sudan. Rescued by an aid worker, he's become an international hip-hop star and an activist for kids in war zones. In words and lyrics, he tells the story of his amazing life.

Hip-hop star Emmanuel Jal first exploded into dance halls with Gua in 2005. His music has energized music lovers of all ethnicities and nations. But Jal's life story is far darker. Swept up into the Sudanese rebel army at age seven, he finally escaped with 400 fellow soldiers, 16 of whom survived, the rest succumbing to starvation, ambush and animal attacks. Rather than resort to cannibalism, Jal ate snails and vultures until he arrived at a refugee camp, where he was adopted by aid worker Emma McCune and later sent to England. Jal found an outlet for his turbulent life story in music. His lyrics tell moving and disturbing stories, but wrap them into hope and love. He is active in charity work across Africa, fighting against poverty and child warfare. War Child, his biography, was released in early 2009 along with a documentary film.

For those interested, some other articles of interest in Rolling Stone and the Guardian or, an account of an unusual day in South Sudan that I had the privilge of spending back in May 2005.

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