There are an estimated 1,045,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the Democratic Republic of Congo (GSI 2018). In 2016 several armed groups continued to abduct and forcibly recruit men, women and children as combatants and in support roles such as guards, cleaners, cooks and spies. In 2016, 184 cases of child soldiers were reported, with 1,662 children reported to have separated or escaped from armed groups. Child soldiers who manage to escape remain vulnerable to re-recruitment as adequate rehabilitation services remain unavailable to children suffering trauma, stigmatisation and the continued threat of armed groups.
Tonton’s family were living in poverty when he joined the militia thinking he would have a better life. However, he found only suffering.
Life forced me to become a soldier. At home, we were hungry. We had little to eat and few clothes to wear. I thought it would be better there, but it was worse. I found nothing there, zero.
My advice to friends here is that they shouldn’t go. They will only find suffering. And to those who are there, may God help them to come back.
At school I am behind, I can’t keep up. The other children now how to write and to speak French. I’ve missed a lot of things.
Copyright 2004 AJEDI-Ka/WITNESS
Original narrative to be found here