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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 49 / 125

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38

A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

because they are not responsible for the consequences of the violence that they have suffered.

KIGEME Rose

Rose was born in 1988 in Ruyigi Province, Kinyinya Commune. She is the oldest of 5 children and has one brother and three sisters. Her mother is a farmer and her father was killed during the war. She went to primary school for only one year, and is unmarried.

Rose volunteered to enlist in one of the armed movements when she was 12. She had just witnessed her father’s murder at the hands of the government army, and the only thing she wanted to do at that time was to fight to revenge her father’s death. In the beginning she was glad to be a fighter, but she became traumatised by the beatings and wounds she received as part of the training (standard practice, designed to harden the recruits up), as well as by homesickness. She took refuge in tobacco and other drugs. On her return from the rebellion, she managed to find her mother again, but her mother had remarried and Rose was unable to get along with the man her mother had married, so she went to live with her paternal uncle. With the demobilisation package she received from UNICEF, she bought 9 goats and 8 crates of beer and started a small business with them. She manages to earn enough income to meet her basic needs.

Me, I really had a lot of problems. After I’d realised that there was no point in staying at home while others were fighting for the country, for peace, I decided to join them. That was how I came to enlist in that army – I was 12 years old. When they first saw me, the people in charge tried to stop me from coming in, because I was still very young, but as I insisted, they accepted me in the end. So I started the military training. It was really tough, because the main training method was beating, so hard that I nearly died. It took me days to get my strength back. While I was convalescing they sent me to the front. The first day, it was at Mura. After Mura we went on to Bubanza, Ruyigi, Cankuzo, etc. We fought in several places, even in Bujumbura.

As for our treatment in the militia, rape was strictly forbidden and was heavily reprimanded. Anyone found guilty of rape was killed on the spot. Those who were suspected of having sexual relations were beaten heavily. We were asked to carry out work that was beyond our capacities, true – carrying arms, rockets, food, the dead and wounded, we had to steal food and cook. They called us kadogo – we were told to stand in front during the battles because the bullets wouldn’t touch us but would hit the ones behind us. No-one gave any consideration to the fact that we were girls, nor that we were kadogos. We went to the front just like the

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