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Rwandan SOS Child who became Child Soldier

The genocide in Rwanda finished over ten years ago now. Few in this small central African state did not lose relatives and friends. Child soldiers were involved in that war. Lives are still affected, but looking back helps us to understand. It also helps us to keep a balanced view as we watch atrocities and disasters unfold in other places: wars end and the slow process of recovery start. The genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of around a million people, in a period of just thirteen weeks. The genocide left about 95.000 orphans. Rwanda became known as the "land of the widows and orphans". In the massacre nine members of the SOS Children community were murdered. Many of today's SOS mothers are widows of war who lost their husbands and children and who became "mothers of others' children".

One of the SOS Children from our community in Kigali was a different kind of victim; becoming a child soldier involved in the massacre as one of the combatants, and then losing his leg to a landmine. This is his story:

I never knew my natural father and mother. As an SOS Child, I had a house, a family, food, and brothers and sisters with whom I was sharing the same destiny. This gave me much courage to stay positive. I knew that I was not alone. At first I was ashamed to tell my classmates that I was an orphan, thinking that they would start laughing at me. But, later on, I was surprised to discover that there were other children far worse off: who were orphans and unable to go to school because of lack of money. I realized that I was very lucky to be in SOS Children's Village Kigali. I knew that I was not at home with mummy and daddy but, at the same time, I had a great feeling of belonging and happiness, because of the care and love my SOS mother was giving to me.

Child Soldier reflects

I was admitted to a high school in Kigali. Then in 1994, genocide started. It was an afternoon in April, during the Easter holidays, a week before the beginning of the school term. We went to hide in a hospital, about 500 metres from the village. There, we were joined by the military who divided us in to several small groups, telling that this was to ensure us the best security. These groups were made to prepare our enrolment in the army. We had military training during approximately three weeks, then, we went to the field for the fighting. We were ordered to fight around Kigali, to "liberate the capital". I did not want to do this.

On 25 June 1994, I walked on to a minefield and I had to have my left leg amputated. This forced the military to put me aside. I was evacuated in a hospital in Byumba where I received two months treatment. After the wound healed, I was transferred in a military camp located at Butara, about 100 km from Byumba.

After the demobilisation of the child soldiers in 1997, I went back to SOS Children's Village Kigali. With the help of SOS, I decided to go back to school. I started in a secondary high school in Ruhengueri (in the North of the country) where I did the junior classes. After that, I was moved to another high school in Byumba where I am studying biochemistry. I will finish school next year and take exams to qualify for entry to university. I hope to get a good job at the end and support SOS Children myself.

You have found a house and moved out from the SOS Children's community now. What are your relationships with SOS Children?

We have very good relationships. It is SOS Children who pays my school fees. This gives me the strength to keep studying hard. I still am very close to my SOS mother who still lives at the village, although she has retired.

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Did you know? After the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, SOS Children was ready to care for unaccompanied, abandoned and orphaned children from the disaster.