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30 juin 2008

Values keeping Africa leaders silent on Mugabe: rapper Jal

LONDON (AFP) — Cultural values are stopping Africa's leaders from speaking out against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's regime, Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal says.

The soft-spoken hip-hop star and former child soldier said that because Mugabe, 84, is older and has been in power longer than most African leaders, his peers are reverential towards him.

"It's difficult. Mugabe is considered like a hero," Jal told AFP in London, where he appeared at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday concert in Hyde Park on Friday in support of the former South African president's global AIDS campaign.

"He made his country get independence and he has been leading for more than twenty years and he helped most of those African countries; helped anti-apartheid in South Africa, helped Angola," he said.

"He has been helping all those other leaders and he earned respect. The saying is: 'don't bite the hand that feeds you'. So now it's difficult. Even if he wrong, those leaders won't have a chance to force him."

Mugabe was set to remain in power after a presidential run-off election Friday in which he was the only candidate on the ballot, after Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change pulled out.

Mandela, 89, Africa's most respected elder statesman, has condemned the "tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe, but held back from criticising Mugabe by name.

"Because he's one of the oldest, Mandela has the right according to African culture to speak," said the deep-thinking, dreadlocked singer, 28, who campaigns on a number of issues, including Darfur

"So with him doing that, Mugabe will have to listen. He's been given chances and he's not seeing them. I hope he's going to see. If Mugabe really loves the people of Zimbabwe then he has to come up with something to save the country."

Jal spent his childhood fighting in the Sudan People's Liberation Army in his native southern Sudan before going to Kenya in his early teens and embracing a career in music.

At the Mandela concert, Jal performed "Emma", a song from his latest album "Warchild", about late British aid worker Emma McCune -- the wife of an SPLA commander -- who freed him amongst 150 child soldiers and took him to Kenya.

Peter Gabriel introduced the rapper at the open-air gig, saying he had the "potential of a young Bob Marley".

Jal's other hits include "All We Need Is Jesus," and he has written a song, "50 Cent", taking the US rap star and others to task for sometimes glamourising crime in their lyrics.

He called the violence in Zimbabwe tragic and frustrating.

"That's how wars begin," he said.

"They begin with something small like that, you oppress the people. If you oppress somebody one day, they will start to try to react. It's hard to oppress somebody every day without them reacting back."

Jal called for neutral international negotiators to forge a solution as happened in Kenya following the disputed December 2007 election there.

"What I'm afraid of is if Mugabe is going to be isolated and put in a corner and we all pronounce negative stuff, we're going to make him into a monster," he said.
"If we do that, he's going to start cutting people and killing people: he's a soldier. It's scary. If they use force, then Zimbabwe will lose a lot."

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