WCARO REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Helping former child soldiers go back to school in Pool Department, Congo
“At night, many times I cannot sleep. My dreams are full of horrible things – things I did and saw during the war. I can’t forget the Commander, who asked us to be violent and merciless. He used to say he was proud of me and called me his ‘small hot pepper’. For three years, I did everything he asked me to do. I did everything. I did very bad things, things you cannot even imagine. I killed, I raped, I burned houses, I destroyed plantations, I tortured… I was everywhere in the bush of Kibouendé and Kindamba.
After the fighting ended, the Commander took the weapons from me and my companions. With our weapons we could intimidate the farmers and obtain what we wanted. But without weapons, to eat became difficult because we couldn’t force them any longer to give us food. Finally, weakened and starving, I decided to go back home, to my native village of Louingui
The villagers welcomed me without a word, without a reproach, with some kind of indifference. At the beginning, I stayed inside the house all the time; I locked myself inside. I felt guilty and was afraid to go out. I was scared someone would point his finger at me and beat me up, or even kill me for what I had done. I felt painfully isolated and lonely; I had no one to play with and I had no one to talk to.
One day, the school headmaster came to see me. He spoke to me without blaming or menacing me. He said that, in this affair, I had been an executioner as well as a victim. I did not understand everything he said, but he made me feel better. He added that he was going to help me go back to school. The Chief of the District had told him and the other headmasters that UNICEF was going to help the children who had been involved in the fighting to go back to school.
I jumped at the opportunity and joined the volunteers. UNICEF gave us school equipment – exercise books, pencils, textbooks... Look, it is all in my UNICEF bag. I am very proud. Now I have lots of friends. And I am working very hard.
I am 15 years old, now. I lost three years of schooling. I found my parents, though, and I’m back in school. Maybe I’ll make it to become a schoolteacher, when I grow up.
I have a wish – that all children are given the opportunity to survive and grow in harmonious families and communities, that they are taught how to earn subsistence from honest jobs and that they can live in a peaceful environment.”
Frinel, 15, former child soldier, Louingui, Pool Department, Republic of the Congo
© UNICEF Congo/2006