Friday, November 13, 2009

Congolese children forced to fight

Sadly, children are abused all over the world. In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo they are taken away from their families and are forced to fight in the rebel army. Rebels are doing this to boost up their numbers among the various militias.

This story is from last year but is still very much up to date. It begins with a story of a sixteen year old Jean Vierre, (His name has been changed for safety reasons.). One day Jean, six of his friends, and three teachers were kidnapped on their way home. “We were on our way back from school when we met the rebels. They made us carry some luggage for them and then told us to go with them.” When they got to the camp they were told they had to join the military. Two of the boys managed to escape but before they did, they saw other teenage boys in a similar position.

Eighteen year old Haguma (not his real name) tells us his story. He was taken from his home and told that he had to fight the government soldiers. He was wounded in the village of Mgunga when the rebel soldiers were defeated. As rebel forces were heading for Rutshuru, Haguma tried to escape and was shot by one of the rebels. Government soldiers found him and took him to Goma.

Recruitment of child soldiers is not new to DR Congo but now rebels are targeting entire schools and groups of students. Children are then forced to transport firearms and become combat fighters. In addition they are often sexually abused. Children that have been able to run away from these camps are now in the care of the UK charity Save the Children, located in Goma. No one knows how traumatized these children are or what kind of effect that his trauma will have on their lives in the long run. Save the Children is trying to reintegrate these “child soldiers” back into society. The charity tries to prepare their families for the coming back of their child for he will never be the same. The numbers of these children are huge; even before the outbreak of last year’s fighting and the new wave of kidnapping, there were 3,000 “child soldiers” in eastern DR Congo. By now the number is much higher. Some of the children will never recover from what they have been forced to go through. Fifteen year old John (not his real name) said that, “I was just waiting for the day I would die so that it would end.”

This story is just too common to Africa. Sierra Leone, Uganda, and other countries share similar stories of children being kidnapped and forced to fight. Save the Children “want international condemnation and pressure to stop the practice.” International forces cannot keep peace in every county in the world. Africa itself needs to rise up and take charge of the abuse that goes on this continent.

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