Stories from children associated with fighting forces

Stories from children associated with fighting forces

"I remember the day I decided to join the mayi-mayi. It was after an attack on my village. My parents, and also my grand-father were killed and I was running. I was so scared. I lost everyone; I had nowhere to go and no food to eat. In the mayi-mayi I thought I would be protected, but it was hard. I would see others die in front of me. I was hungry very often, and I was scared. Sometimes they would whip me, sometimes very hard. They used to say that it would make me a better fighter. One day, they whipped my [11-year-old] friend to death because he had not killed the enemy. Also, what I did not like is to hear the girls, our friends, crying because the soldiers would rape them."

-Jacques, from DRC, was recruited into an insurgent group (mayi-mayi) when he was 10 years old (From AI Report: Democratic Republic of Congo: Children at War, creating hope for the future)

"They recruit in the market place. One of my friends joined up. He was ten. He banged the drums when someone had died. He said it was very scary in the camp. He held a grenade and had a gun on his shoulder."

-A young Tamil boy, interviewed in 1998, describes the recruitment of his friend by an armed opposition group in Sri Lanka some three years earlier.

"I was working on the farm and heard that soldiers were coming, so my father told me to hide. But I was caught. The soldiers tied me and beat me and took me to a barracks in Lofa County. There were many small boys in Lofa, more than the adults. Many were killed by bullets and rockets. They gave me an arm and told me how to use it… I used an AK 47; the adults used RPGs and other bigger weapons. I fired the gun but am not sure if I killed people. On the road enemy soldiers came and I tried to run away but a rocket hit my leg. Four people were wounded and some others died in the attack. Government soldiers came and took me to Phebe hospital. After a week and two days an ambulance from JFK hospital came to pick me up. At JFK they amputated my leg. The soldiers gave me a little money while I was in hospital so I paid my way to come to 'Titanic' [a center housing former government militia] from JFK. I want to go to school and start a small business."

- J.K., a 14-year-old boy from Bong County, Liberia, was captured by former government forces in June 2003 (From AI Report: Liberia: The promises of peace for 21,000 child soldiers)

"They took us as wives straightaway. We had to cook for them. If a cow was killed, we had to cook it...When they came back, they would eat and drink, then they would call for you. They were so many. It was so painful...If they went to attack somewhere or to loot, there was always someone who stayed behind. Then he'd call you. If you refused, they used sticks to whip you...We mostly stayed in the forest but sometimes we had to go with them and carry what they looted...They all had sex with me. I don't know how many people had sex with me. A man would come, then another and another. I wasn't even the youngest. Some girls were even younger than me. Even the commanders called for you. You couldn't refuse...They said they'd kill you if you ran away. Some people fled and didn't come back. We didn't know if they'd got away or had been killed."

-Following an attack on her colline [local administrative division] in Gitega province, Burundi, in 2001, F., then aged 13, was forced to accompany a group of around 30 combatants. (From AI Report: Burundi: Child soldiers-the challenge of demobilization)

"When the mayi-mayi attacked my village, we all ran away...the soldiers captured all the girls, even the very young. Once with the soldiers, you were forced to "marry" one of the soldiers…If you refused, they would kill you...They would slaughter people like chickens…. Wherever we were fighting, along the way, they would take the women and girls working in the fields...They would take young girls, remove their clothes, and then would rape them...My "husband" did not beat me too often. ..But one day, he was killed in an attack. I felt I was in danger and I should leave. On the way, as I was pregnant, I had my baby. I was alone in the bush, without medication. I still have pain from this. Then I went to the village of my "husband", but his parents rejected me and my child, after taking all my belongings. They blamed me for his death. I wanted to go to my home, but it is so far away, I was afraid the mayi-mayi would find me and capture me again."

-Jasime, from DRC, was recruited in June 2002 by an insurgent group (mayi-mayi) in South-Kivu, when she was 12. She is now 16 and has a four-month-old baby. (From AI Report: Democratic Republic of Congo: Children at War, creating hope for the future)