A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
soldiers did indeed take place in some cases. Generally speaking, the girls were reluctant to talk about their experience in the armed movements.
Often, children were encouraged to join up voluntarily by family members or friends, who talked to them about the rebellion and inspired them with the ideology. In such a case, when the child was eventually drawn to join the rebels, the person would take them to where the rebels were, since the child would not otherwise know how to find them. In other cases, children enlisted out of despair, having perhaps witnessed the killing of family members and wanting to take revenge, perhaps having had to flee fighting with their family so often that the child gave up on the life they were trying to lead.
All the young fighters were collectively called ‘kadogo’12
But others were not
fighters as such; instead of going to the front they stayed in the camps of the armed movements as ‘wives’13 of combatants. In some cases this continued throughout the war, while in others it went on for a limited period while they were being held
preparing food. The very young ones played public believed them to be above suspicion,
the role of spies and informers; the being children, and girl children at
that. No-one could imagine that they might be connected in this way with rebellion. Young girls who enrolled also played the role of human shield. Girls
had a role in provisioning (they stole harvests from neighbouring took care of transporting the dead and wounded during attacks.
Some illustrations from the testimonies
‘We set out, and in the beginning I helped the combatants transport their luggage with the other girls. After that they forbad us to go back home and our role was to watch out for the soldiers at the place they gathered at. They told us that as we were girls we wouldn’t be suspected.’
‘In relation to work which was too hard for us, it’s true that we did this: carrying munitions, rockets, food provisions, the dead and wounded, stealing food, transporting and cooking it. They said that we kadogo should stand in front during the battles, as the bullets couldn’t touch us, that they would hit those behind instead.’
2.3 How were girls treated during the demobilisation process?
The procedure for demobilisation was that ex-combatants passed through assembly
2 A Swahili word for child soldiers
3 Though a fiction of propriety might have been maintained, the girls were generally forced into this situation