Meet Emmanuel Jal. Musician. Activist. Former child soldier.
“Left home at the age of seven / one year later I’m carryin’ an AK-47.”
I was lucky enough to first meet Emmanuel Jal about 7 years ago when I was working with Amnesty’s student groups. He’d agreed to tour universities with us, using hip hop to put across the story of his childhood. He endured Sudan’s bloody civil war as a child and most importantly, he also fought in it – when he was just eight years old.
Like over 10,000 children in 1980s Sudan, Emmanuel was forcibly recruited by a militia group – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) – after his mother was killed. They took him to training camps disguised as schools and gave him a machine gun.
The recruitment, abduction and arming of child soldiers would be a lot harder if the arms trade was globally regulated. It’s not. At the minute, 875 million small arms – weapons like Emanuel’s AK-47 – are in circulation worldwide, many of those available to armed groups, warlords and dictators making the most of the unregulated trade.
When Emmanuel spoke and sang in 2005, he was an inspiration for thousands of students who then signed their names calling more control of the deadly arms trade. And now, in July, world leaders will draw up the first ever international Arms Trade Treaty, after decades of campaigning (including that university tour).
This treaty can make a real human impact. Right now, there are still tens of thousands of children fighting in 19 countries around the world. Men, women and children are still being maimed, tortured and killed by dictators and warlords. If this treaty makes it clear that arms must not be transferred where there is risk that they will be used to commit human rights abuses, we’ve a better chance of stopping the next human rights atrocity before it starts.
How can you help?
Take just two minutes to add your name to our petition to Cameron and demand UK commitment to an Arms Trade Treaty. If you’ve got a few more minutes, then share the petition with your friends.
You are being heard!
Right now, we need to make sure that the UK Government will do all it can to create a treaty that protects human rights.
And across the main UK political parties, politicians have declared that they are on board – in part due to public pressure from people like you.
- Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called this treaty ‘a matter of life and death’
- Labour leader Ed Milliband has said an effective Arms Treaty would ‘ultimately save lives’
- Foreign Secretary William Hague responded to your lobbying through Facebook and Twitter stating ‘the UK Government remains totally committed to securing a robust and effective Arms Trade Treaty’
Just one voice is missing
Our Prime Minister is now alone in so far refusing to publicly commit the UK to champion human rights at the final treaty negotiations in July. His silence is unacceptable.
Let the Prime Minister know that we’re relying on his leadership of a government that doesn’t compromise on human rights.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.