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Refugee music talent

by Gloria Laker Aciro Adiiki


16-year-old Manar Janet Daniella always manages to put a smile on the face of people who hear her singing. Manar leads the music team at White Angel primary school in Kampala, Uganda’ capital city. She is the star singer of all students – but it was a long way to get there.

Manar’s singing career started while living in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city. Her family had taken refuge there. They are from South Sudan, and Manar is the youngest of nine children. The war in her home country interrupted her life. Since her childhood, the family had to move from country to country in search for safety and stability.

“At first my parents fled with us to Khartoum,” recounts Manar. “Then we moved to Uganda.”  Like thousands of other South Sudanese refugees, Manar’s parents returned after the peace agreement and the subsequent formation of a national unity government in 2011. Their children stayed in Uganda. Fresh violence broke out in 2013. In July 2016, all hopes of a peaceful life in South Sudan were shattered.

Manar says: “My parents were already rebuilding our destroyed home in Juba.” Now they are on the run again. “Some of my siblings have gone to Egypt”, Manar says.

Through all this turmoil, music gave Manar comfort. My mum sent me to Sunday school prayers in Khartoum, where I met catholic nuns who taught us children music,” Manar remembers. When her family relocated to Kampala, Uganda, another inspiring music teacher, Jessica Sonko, helped Manar to follow her passion at the White Angel primary school: “My teacher Jessica motivated me and helped me to open up, so I became more active in singing. It also helps to bring forward my leadership skills. I’m now helping younger kids to engage in music and to work hard for school.”

The school’s headmaster, Assimwe Julius, is proud of Manar and says the school can build on her talent. “She is a well-behaved girl, interested in learning, and she’s got a passion for music,” Assimwe adds.

Manar’s dream, however, is for peace to return in South Sudan. She wants to contribute to fruitful development. “I want to see a stable and peaceful South Sudan with citizens living in better houses and with enough food. And I also want to help schools in South Sudan to identify and support children with talents so that they can achieve their goals in life,” Manar says.


Gloria Laker Aciro is a former war reporter and now heads the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa. She lives in Uganda.

Twitter: @GloriaLaker