UNICEF: A Former Soldier's Story of Finding Peace

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I joined the army when I was fifteen years old. I don't know if I can say that I went willingly. I was afra...
I joined the army when I was fifteen years old. I don't know if I can say that I went willingly. I was afraid to be taken by force. I was in the Mayi-Mayi group. The Mayi-Mayi are a group of soldiers from the Congo. They unite to chase foreign forces out of the country. They mix herbs with water. Then they spread that water on their bodies. This gives them a special protection. That�s why they are called "water-water." In that group, I was in charge of communication and gathering information. I would go to look for information in the Tutsi camp and bring it to our headquarters. And then we would prepare to fight them. It was a kind of Intelligence Service. They had young children 10 years old - even younger. Those children were in charge of the medicine of the Mayi-Mayi. They would go to look for herbs and mix them. To see how many of us died and disappeared, to see how many of us were wounded, broke my heart. When we killed an American engineer named Claude, the Tutsis became very angry. They broke into people's houses, and then spread gasoline all over them. They burned the people inside and all of their things. They burned the whole village. A lot of people were killed. That village was where I was born. I really thought about my situation. I saw that it was really bad, so I decided to leave. When I arrived here in Goma, I was not with a family. I was in the street. I have some relatives here in Goma, but I was afraid to approach them. Many of them did not agree when I joined the military service. I heard that there was an association looking for people who were soldiers, to see if they could help them. When I went to get enrolled, they told me that they had many sections such brickwork, mechanics, woodwork, soldering. Among us there were many Rwandan people. People from many ethnic groups. We had Mayi-Mayi like us. We had people who came from the government, people who came from MLC, people from the RCD - All of us together The builders who were there were happy with us. They liked our work. They also liked our attitude You see, in the military service, we saw many things that destroyed our mind. How can a child with military training be helped? Take him out of the army. Teach him - as we were. Help him lose his military spirit and he will be an ordinary young man - like I have become.