In the territory of Nyunzu, in the heart of the Province of Tanganyika, children have abandoned their weapons, arrows, machetes and knives and are now raising a warning cry for their future.
Children victims of interethnic conflict in Tanganyika
Matthieu* (16 years old), Karl* (14 years old) and Jonathan* (11 years old) are three children from villages and different origins but with stories that are similar.
Matthieu joined the Bantu militia to avenge the death of his father, killed by the pygmy militia. “The pygmies surprised us one morning and my father was shot dead. I saw him die and I was afraid to die too. That’s why I did not hesitate for a moment when the leader of the Bantu militia came to recruit us, promising protection.”
These children saw things they never should have seen. Matthew continues, “the pygmies attacked us with their arrows and we armed ours in reply. I saw corpses lying on the ground.”
Jonathan, who is only 11, remembers the horrific memories of the fighting. “When I went to participate in my first fight I was too scared. I was given an arrow, I shot and but missed. I was given another arrow but I was too scared.”
More school, more games, more childhood
For these children, school is an old melancholy dream. Jonathan stopped studying in 5th grade. Since June 2017, only the white t-shirt of his school uniform reminds him of the school benches. “I want to go back to school to prepare for my future,” says the boy.
The most valuable rights of children are violated. Jonathan’s school was destroyed, the recreational kits that UNICEF gave to his teenage club were burned and the football team no longer exists! “Even in the village, we had balloons and tunics but everything was burned. We can not play anymore”, continues Jonathan, with sad eyes.
During the violence, the three boys lost the people responsible for them. Jonathan now lives with his maternal aunt, Matthew with his grandfather and Karl with his uncle. All live in precarious situations and are obliged to contribute to the daily bread of households. Jonathan works the land every day to earn 1,000 Congolese francs [less than 1 USD]. “If you do not go to work in the field to get paid, you do not eat,” exclaims the boy in a tense tone.
Restore normal life and go back to school
For Jonathan, Matthieu and Karl hope is reborn a little since they were identified as unaccompanied and can benefit from assistance. As part of the International Day of Child Soldiers, the three boys attended a sensitization session on the rights of the child. They can now say that they know their rights as contained in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Jonathan, the youngest, likes to recite the main line of the article that is closest to his heart: “the child has the right to education and the state must make primary education compulsory and free for all “.
In Nyunzu territory, children who have been fighting in the area are eager to resume their normal course of life and return to school.
The situation of children in Tanganyika
An interethnic conflict between groups of Pygmy and Bantu militiamen has been affecting Tanganyika Province for several years. This conflict took a new turn in June 2017, when ethnic minority militias formed an alliance to carry out attacks in the provinces of Tanganyika, South Kivu and Maniema. Children are the first victims of this violence.
Translated from French by Mariana Santos
Mandela Longa Ntutula
Ancien Enfant Reporter de Kalemie formé par l’UNICEF, Mandela Longa Ntutula est aujourd'hui journaliste et continue son combat en encadrant la nouvelle génération d’Enfants Reporters.
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