A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
boys, and we fought like them because we had been given the necessary training. Considering the dangerous fights I was in, I would be dead now if it wasn’t for divine intervention. The worst things we did were those connected to the war
you can’t possibly imagine what I feel when I think about it.
The last stage was Cibitoke, but we didn’t spend much time there because the war was coming to the end by then, so after that we went to the assembly centres. I was in Karindo assembly zone, right here in Ruyigi Province. I was asked my age, and as I replied that I was 16 they put me on the list of under-18s. The ones on this list were supposed to go home, while those who had reached the age of majority stayed in the assembly zones and were eventually demobilised or integrated into the regular army.
After that, they took us to Ruyigi, where a very warm welcome awaited us. They took each one of us back to the hill we came from. Each one had to tell the administrators who accompanied us which hill they came from. As I had been very young when I left, I could hardly remember exactly where I had been born, but I did eventually remember. Unfortunately my family was no longer there. I learned that my father was dead and that my mother had re-married, and that she had taken my four brothers with her. I too, I decided to go and live with my mother’s new husband, but he made life very difficult for me. The thing we quarrelled about was my demobilisation allowance. He wanted the whole thing to go to his own family and that I should not provide any support to my paternal family. We tried to reach a sensible solution to this conflict, namely that I should share my income between the two families equally. But even then he wasn’t satisfied, and he kept on giving me a rough time of it. One day I went to visit my mother’s family and stayed there quite a long time, and he made it clear that he didn’t want me back. I understood that he was intending to chase me away. I told my uncle about what had been happening and he straight away decided to put me up with him. Now I live in peace in my uncle’s house. I am making good use of the money I was given to finance the projects I thought up – I’m selling beer. My uncle has been showing me how. He even suggested I should raise cows and goats, and up till now everything has been going well. My uncle doesn’t ask anything of me and has never tried to spirit anything away from me in any way.
The other problem I had is discrimination. When I arrived, people in the neighbourhood said no-one should go near me, because I might hit them or otherwise do them harm. I’ve tried to calm them down but the results haven’t been fantastic. For example, when I go to draw water, the others wait for me to finish before taking their turn. But I try to show them that I will wait my turn like everybody else. Now, they are beginning to understand that I’m not as dangerous as they thought and that I too am human. The other girls are afraid to talk to me. I