South Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal says police beat him

BY: Alan Boswell, McClatchy, USA
“They asked him if he was Nuer, and he said yes. Five police officers then began beating him, as perhaps as many as 15 other security personnel stood watching, Jal said.”
SEPT. 11/2012, NAIROBI, Kenya — South Sudanese hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal, a global peace activist who’s the subject of the book and movie “War Child,” said Monday that he was brutally beaten and knocked unconscious over the weekend by police in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, as he was planning a peace concert.
“I still have a headache. My left side has been numb since yesterday. I can’t feel anything on my left side,” Jal, who said he was out of the hospital recovering from his injuries, told McClatchy in a telephone interview.
The rapper said the beating occurred when he was going home after a late planning session for the upcoming show when he got lost and stopped to ask directions from a group of police officers. They told him to get out of the car and started harassing him.
“They said, ’You are drunk. How can you not know your way?’ They didn’t understand how someone could be asking directions,” he said. Most of the police were of South Sudan’s dominant Dinka tribe. They asked him if he was Nuer, and he said yes.
Five police officers then began beating him, as perhaps as many as 15 other security personnel stood watching, Jal said. One of the officers took his phone, Jal said. He said he eventually lost consciousness.
Jal, who maintains residences in Britain and Canada, is one of South Sudan’s best-known citizens. His story of surviving his country’s brutal war against the Sudanese government, first as a refugee and then as a child soldier for the rebels, has touched millions.
The rapper escaped the war after he was adopted by then-guerrilla and now-Vice President Riek Machar’s British wife, Emma McCune, who later died in Nairobi in a car accident.
Jal said Machar called him Sunday evening after he heard about the incident. Machar’s press secretary said he didn’t have details of the call. South Sudan’s government spokesperson, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, couldn’t be reached by phone for comment.
For two years, Jal ate just one meal a day to raise money to build a rural school. He’s known for writing a rap song addressed to the artist 50 Cent, complaining about his promotion of street violence. Recently, Jal released a pro-peace music video that features former President Jimmy Carter, actor George Clooney, musician Ringo Starr and others.
The reported assault highlights a major challenge facing South Sudan, where the vast security service is populated by former rebels and militia members whose training for police activities is lacking. Like Jal, many have been under arms since they were teenagers, or younger, and they lack any sort of education.
Incidents such as what happened to Jal “are no longer shocking to a lot of people in South Sudan,” said Jok Madut Jok, South Sudan’s undersecretary of culture, who’s said that he himself was tortured in December during a visit to the city of Wau, the capital of his home region. “This is happening to so many people every day across the country from the hands of the men and women in uniform.”
Jok said he’d suffered a concussion from the unprovoked attack. He said he’d never received an apology for the incident, which he wrote about publicly several days later in scalding detail: “As I was seated on the floor, being interrogated, several drunken soldiers, the ones ’protecting’ our leader, kept interrupting their officer with really disorderly behavior, and instead of the officer reprimanding them, he told me ‘You see, they may be drunk, but that is how we liberated this country,’ Jok wrote at the time. “Liberators? To what end?”
He said growing pains within the country’s security services were in some ways inevitable, given the country’s violent history, but that they were aggravated by a culture of impunity within the armed forces.
“Nothing happened. They were let go,” he said of the soldiers in his own situation.
“There are no law books for them to read. And if there were law books, they couldn’t read them because they are illiterate,” Jok said.
As for Jal, the musician said his peace concert later this month will go on as planned. He said he remained optimistic about his nation and found a ray of hope in one of the police officers yelling, “Don’t beat him,” as he was repeatedly struck.
“We are just out of war. South Sudan is like a newborn baby. And I believe it is going to grow,” Jal said.
He said the authorities told him they were still looking for those responsible.
Jal’s new album, “See Me Mama,” will be released later this month.

Boswell is a McClatchy special correspondent. His reporting is underwritten in part by a grant from Humanity United, a California-based foundation that focuses on human rights.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent those of the website.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Jal seems to be missing something in his life so disturbing. He is a great liar ever. He has been claiming to be a child soldier which is not true. If people believe in whatever this guy always says, then south Sudan will headed to 1994 Rwanda ways. I remember the time he left the country saying he is insecure in South Sudan. Two days after he returned, he making up stories. Anyway, tell those who don’t know you otherwise, you can make a better fiction a writer. Kony, RSS

  2. Anonymous says:

    i wouldn’t be surprised that Jal was beaten by police because he was a Nuer. Dinka and NUER problem will never finish even if our country is at peace at the moment but who knows. How long is going to be for peace? I’m sorry for him but it would be good if he knows those police that has committed a crime. Andrew Poth, RSS

  3. Anyangaliec says:

    Sorry Mr Jal. No one believes what you have said. Learn to speak the truth and the truth shall set you free, instead.

  4. Sebit says:

    Pure lies. Emmanuel Jal was not beaten by police or any security officers, this was meant to promote his upcoming concert. I have a different version of this false allegation, God knows how many times! The version I got from Jal is completely laughable.
    If you want to be popular in South Sudan, look for other ways, do not tarnish the name of your country for the sake of money and fame. Shame on you and I lost any respect I had for you! #

  5. SANTINO TONG says:

    It’s not good to encourage the the problem between these two mentioned Tribes. I’m really sorry to say that there are some Politicians who are trying to light the fire for their personal political interest. One thing that I must say to all of you guys is that so many youngsters are drunkards. So how can you be wise while you are under the control of Whiskey? If a policeman saw a chaotic person, they must try their best to stop him, whether you are from Nuer or Dinka tribe.

  6. Dear Readers, it seems Jal didn’t completely point a finger on Dinka as it is the case to everyone commenting on Emmanuel torture in Juba by unknown groups. The point was very clear right from the statement, that the police were dominated by Dinka, not saying Dinka were the ones beating him. it is now up to whoever wanted to collide the two mountains for the sake of his/her interest. Otherwise Jal is free from any game.

  7. Joseph says:

    Emmanuel was beaten and if you know Juba as I know you can say yes before witnessing. Those who are against Emmanuel will say he was not beaten as people said he was not a child soldier. I know him and I know Emma (the white lady) in Nasir County who grew him up, but I never met Emmanuel since 1992. Nothing can make Emmanuel Jal to lie because all media welcome him.
    Joseph Duol formar Child soldier.

  8. Dubduba says:

    I understand that one can get into a situation like that of Emmanuel Jal if one interferes with law in public places or even on your way home from a dear concert. This is the role of a police that when you break a law, the police would make you accountable for it no matter who you are especially in democratic nation, and if South Sudan police know how to carry out such duties to perfection then we would be better off. You may remember how Prince Harry of England was treated a few weeks ago when he violated the royal rule and interfered with public in his joyous night out. If Emmanuel Jal did the same there is no way that the police should only look at him and pay him respect while he is not in a right manner, so i believe that our friend and singer Emmannuel had done something wrong in public that got him into the hands of police. Now, the most shocking critics are those associated with tribal. Please do not link your mistakes to tribal, I don’t accept this at all and no many out there who would. There is no police would beat you simply because you are from a particular tribe if you have not broken any law, this is not true, such manners were occurring when Sudan was one. Now there is no Dinka and Nuer pending chapter, whoever says this is lying, they just make stories. Myself am a Nuer by tribe but disregard such views, please stay and look forward to the future of our country. I understand that there are mistakes, ups and downs in any new government or nation due to lack of knowledge, expertise and where we come from as a nation, but these are overcome as time goes by. The management of a nation develops shape over time and cannot happen as quickly as many expect them, that’s why we are suffering in many ways in South Sudan. It’s not an easy task and the only way to overcome all these challenges is by ignoring tribal critics and take responsibility individually as a citizen, and remember, do not make up stories!!!!

  9. My dear comrades, let us learn how to ask questions when dealing with policemen.

  10. Allan Boswell has never reported any truth about south Sudan. Although Jal was attacked by the policemen of the Republic of South Sudan, it could not come the way Allan has twisted the story that they asked him whether he is a Nuer or Dinka. Please, Allan, stop putting your dirty mouth into the affairs of South Sudan, we know how to handle our domestic problems. You only search for the negative stories although there a lot of positive stories about South Sudan and her government. You just rush and only pick out the loopholes. Nobody is above the law whether an Artist or whoever we must all be abide by the rule of law and respect those guys in uniform so that they can execute their duties effectively.

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