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Music

Emmanuel Jal wins Dresden peace prize

The Sudanese rapper and former child solder has been honored for his efforts to protect African children from military abuse.

Fatou Bensouda from The Gambia, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in Den Haag, gave the laudation in Dresden's Semper Opera on February 16. Children, she said, are traumatized victims, and the horrific crime of recruiting child soldiers must not go unpunished. Bensouda recognized peace activist Emmanuel Jal as an "esteemed son of humanity" and stressed that "the world needs more Emmanuel Jals."

After Jal, eight years old, was himself recruited as a child soldier, his life was hell: "If you’ve survived war, the events still go through your head like a film, over and over again. It changes life completely," he said in his acceptance speech. Bodily wounds may heal, Jal continued, but wounds to the soul last much longer. Jal eloquently called on the international community not to turn away any longer in the face of acts of cruelty. "Silence is violence," he declared.

Promoting peace

Today the 33-year-old works with Amnesty International and organizations that seek to limit weapons exports and to prevent the abuse of children as soldiers. In 2005 Jal attained pan-African stardom with his song "Gua" (Peace). In her speech Bensouda attested that Jal had found solace in music and that he delivers the message of peace, tolerance, justice and human rights. She expressed respect for his "ability to shine through adversity to be a force of good in the world."

The Dresden International Peace Prize comes with a cash award of 25,000 euros. Given for the fifth time by the Klaus Tschira Foundation in Heidelberg and the "Friends of Dresden" organization, the prize recalls the city destroyed in World War II. Earlier recipients include former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and conductor Daniel Barenboim.

suc / rf (epd/dpa)