In May 2010 local peacebuilder Henri Ladyi rescued 35 child soldiers from a Mai-Mai rebel group living deep in the bush in eastern Congo. He gave these children training to learn a skill to support themselves, and searched for family members who could take the children into their homes. This autumn the children picked up school books, not guns. These are the stories of just two of these children.
Freddie is 11 years old, and was a medicine boy in the Mai-Mai for three and a half years. He was told that the militia would be the City of Joy. He was one of the most withdrawn and quiet children amongst the 35 rescued by Henri, but he said there were 700 other soldiers in his unit, 12 of whom were younger than him. Henri managed to find Freddie’s mother and take him home to her. This September he started at his local primary school.
Kalungu is 13 years old, he was just 11 when he first picked up a gun. He comes from a village that was attacked by militia, his parents were kidnapped and he had nowhere to go. He joined the Mai-Mai to avenge the attack on his village. Henri gave Kalungu training in hairdressing, and helped him to find an uncle who he could live with. In the evenings Kalungu earns a little money cutting hair and during the day he attends secondary school.
Freddie and Kalungu no longer have to go to battle in the middle of the night, they are no longer living in the bush, vulnerable to the demands of their commanders. They are able to go to school, to be children not soldiers. Donations from Peace Direct supporters made this possible. Thank you.
Photos © Fiona Lloyd-Davies