Whether this is your first time hearing of child soldiers or not, the fact is thousands of children are abducted every year by rebel armies. They are forced to fight, to kill, to cook, to forage for food and water, to carry the brunt of nomadic life as they carry supplies for miles at a time. This is no way for children to live. The following article is taken from Change.org
Taken in the Night: Martin’s True Story of Slavery
by Amanda Kloer
Published October 21, 2009 @ 01:00PM PT
This story is originally from Reuters. While Uganda has become the most famous backdrop for stories of children trafficked to become child soldiers, it is not the only country where they are currently being exploited. Child soldiers have been used in conflicts all over Asia and Africa, including being used by the Taliban as suicide bombers. But Martin’s story represents the experience of many child soldiers in Uganda.
I was 10 years old when the Lord’s Resistance Army came to my door in the middle of the night. They ordered me to leave my home and come with them. In my district, we had heard about the atrocities they were committing, and so we were all terrified. The men looted my house, taking chickens, goats, and clothes. Then they took me. My cousins and I, along with other boys, were tied together by our hands. For one whole day we walked like that, trying to dodge the Ugandan army. We walked for a week, until we arrived in southern Sudan to begin our training.
During the day we were taught how to march and how to handle a gun. The man in charge told us we needed to be ready for battle because President Yoweri Museveni had ordered the Karamoja to come and raid all the cattle in the countryside and abuse and kill our families. We were told to overthrow the government, which would make Joseph Kony president and life better for us. The commanders told us that overthrowing the government was our main goal, a goal we should be willing to die for. The older boys were the security for the training camp — forced to kill children if they tried to escape. They did it with a wooden club, and all the children were forced to watch as the offending child was beaten to death. It was meant to be a warning to us all. You would be beaten if you broke even the simplest rules, like not eating pork or shea nut butter. But you would be killed trying to escape.
I saw my first battle at age 12. I was petrified and freezing, since we were attacking at dawn. Yet, somehow, I survived. For years I kept hopeful that someday I would be able to return home and go back to school. Maybe one day I would be chosen to be part of an operation in Uganda, and from there I could escape home. But that never happened. Instead, we moved from south Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The commanders claimed the war would be over by 2006, and we could all return home. When it didn’t I decided with three others to escape. We managed to sneak away, walking three days until we reached a place near Aba in Congo. There, we found the Congolese army, surrendered ourselves, and explained our situation. News of my escape was broadcast over the radio, and my little brother came to meet me. We were overjoyed to see each other again.
Martin is now free and hopes to go back to school to continue his education.
Photo credit: babasteve