The soldiers tell us to run. We are told to run everyday.
I cannot keep up with the older boys. I am much smaller than they are. I am shoved and pushed. I am hungry.
Why am I here?
Some of the boys here still cry for their families. They are taken away. I seen them this morning near the women camp. The soldiers tell us that is where all of the women and girls are. Why are those boys there?
I do not get enough to eat. I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am tired.
Why am I here?
As fast as I can, I run.
I run as if I am flying. I pray for the wind to lift me and take me away.
Back to Yani. Back to dream. Back to my mother.
“Your home is here now,” the soldiers yell to us.
We are always working and doing exercises in the camp. When we go to do errands, we have to run. We run everywhere or we will be beaten. We have work to do when we are not exercising. Some of the boys have to chop wood, others clean guns and boots. Some clean the clothes of the men. Some are told to carry messages to other camps. Some are spies. Many are soldiers.
I fetch water.
When the container is empty, my job is to fill it. If it is not filled, I am beaten. If it is full, I am beaten because the water is too hot. I am beaten when there are bugs on the water. I am beaten for standing or sitting.
I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am tired.
Two of the older boys ran away before morning exercises. Soldiers in a jeep went after them. I got to eat their bread. We were never alone again.
“You cannot go back! You can never go back.”
There is another small boy here. He is treated like a hero. I was told he had been to the war many times. Many times he come back. Some of the soldiers ride him in the jeep with them. They sometimes let him drive.
He is lucky! The soldiers feed him and I give him fresh water to drink. They sing of war. They are drinking and shouting. We are all called to the center of the camp. The older boys who ran away were there–they were bleeding.
“You see these boys here? They were spies! They are against us! They have betrayed us! What is it we do to traitors?” The boys are dragged to a platform. I hear a loud shrill from the jeeps–it was the Lucky boy. And he was dancing. He was shouting “traitors!” Again, the loud sound. Then more shouting.
They are dead. We are told to run. I could not keep up so I am struck from behind. I felt something crack in my shoulder. I fall to the ground and I am hit again.
I try to keep up. I dare not cry. I march with the other boys.
I knew nothing of life anymore. I know I will never see Yani again. I will never go to school. I will never be the man mama wanted me to be.
Now, the soldiers say they have a better job for me–much better than fetching water.
“All you have to do is run, and blow on this–here, now blow.” The soldier is holding the cold metal to my lips and when I pressed my lips to blow–I heard the same shrill before at the jeeps. Then Lucky came over to me.
The soldier says “You are with him in the morning. He will teach you how to use this.”
“Broken” is Pt 2 of a 3-part series Campaign for peace in the Congo. It follows “Fallen.”
Image credit: War Child International