Solo, 16, is a former child soldier from an armed group in the South Kivu Province, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Here is his story.
“The suffering was big”
“I was coming home from school when a colonel approached me and told me he could take me to China to take music lessons,” says Solo. As the teenager was passionate about music, he agreed to follow the colonel and got in his car. After a few hours of driving, the colonel asked Solo to get off the car and put on a military uniform. “People dressed in military uniforms came and forced me to go with them to the bush,” recalls Solo.
During 3 years, Solo stayed with the armed group. “On the battlefield, we were in front and the adults behind: we were shields and many of my friends died,” recalls Solo. Solo’s suffering was big. In the bush, without shelter to take refuge, living conditions were difficult and the disease hit hard.
My plea to fight the use of children in armed groups
Solo’s situation is similar to that of other children recruited from armed groups in South Kivu Province. This is contrary to Article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which states that children should not participate as soldiers in armed conflict. Children must be protected in the event of armed conflict.
There is no place for a child in armed groups. By recruiting a child, he is deprived of his fundamental rights. I ask the authorities of our country to put in place monitoring and control mechanisms during recruitment so that children are not recruited.
The community must accept and support the reintegration of former child soldiers as they have the right to live with their families and to study like other children of their age.
Translated from French by Sophie Bassi