Life in an armed group: the sad story of Rachel

armed group in the east of the DRC

Children have no place in the fighting, but rather in school where they can achieve their destinies

Rachel is now 20 years old. All she ever wanted was to study to become a nurse. But her dream was stolen from her when she was abducted and recruited by force into an armed group in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“My dream was to become a nurse at the end of my studies and, later, a midwife, because I loved taking care of children. One day, as I was returning from the market, I was abducted by members of the armed group Mai Mai Simba”, Rachel explains sadly. “I, someone who wished to save lives as a nurse, was forced to take lives and cause bloodshed. I was sexually abused by my bosses, I played the role of a spy and I carried heavy pieces of baggage.”

A year after having been abducted by the armed group, Rachel became the mother of a daughter. When her daughter was two years old, Rachel decided to flee the suffering of the armed group. “The suffering had become unbearable. At the age of 18, I decided to flee whilst on a spying mission in an unknown village,” Rachel explains. “An old woman coming back from the fields agreed to take me into her home after I explained my story. The first three weeks, I stayed hidden inside her house,” recalls Rachel, who was worried that the armed group would find her.

“The old woman tried to find my family,” Rachel continues. The months went by with no sign of her family. “It was 2 years later that I finally found my parents and my family in Bunia”, Rachel explains, with tears in her eyes.

A better future is always possible

Rachel’s story should remind us to never give up hope. After having spent several years in an armed group, she now wants to return to school in order to ensure a better future for her and her baby.

In 2017, UNICEF and its partners facilitated the removal and care of 231 children, including 62 girls, previously associated with armed groups in Ituri Province. Personally, I would like the Congolese government to establish more mechanisms to facilitate the removal of children from armed groups. Particular attention should be paid to girls in order to contribute to their reinsertion and reintegration into the community so that they are not marginalised.

Children have no place in the fighting, but rather in school where they can achieve their destinies.

Written by Joyce in March 2018

Translated from French by Amber Sherman

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