If my Life as a Child Soldier could be Told

 

I met him on a sunny afternoon, in our bright living room overlooking the tranquil Ottawa River. A world away from one of his most brutal memories. Searing. Not referred to that day in conversation, but read about previously in his book, “If My Life As A Child Soldier Could Be Told”:

‘As for my comrade, when the driver started, he was still on the ground, holding the side panel of the vehicle with both hands in order to get on board. And as the vehicle was already moving, I tried to hold both his hands to pull him up to us. The rebels, who could see us, shot a rocket that unfortunately hit his hip and tore his body in two. On board the vehicle, I was left with the upper part of his body – the head, hands, and torso…I was just thirteen.’

Kadogo is now a grown man. Robbed of his own childhood, he devotes himself to protect those of others, mainly through Paix Pour L’Enfance (Peace for Childhood), an NGO he founded and now runs.

As I said, that sunny afternoon in Ottawa, we never spoke of this particular memory. We touched generally on peace, on kinship. But most of all we spoke about his passion for his work, about generating funds for healing, about his reason for writing his autobiography.

“This book is a cry from the heart that I would like to send as far as it may resound,” he says in its preface, “so that the message in it shall succeed in changing the state of things in the lives of many a child who was a victim of political violence, and of many other cases of violations of the rights of children.

What is told here is the true story of what I actually went through, and when you read through it,

I would like you to do so with a mind open to understanding the great suffering that many child soldiers have been subjected to and are still being subjected to when snatched away from childhood; and for not receiving appropriate treatment after being demobilized, if they were lucky enough to survive this human adventure, which has not yet dared to say its last word…”.

The sun is now moving lower on the horizon beyond our living room window. And still we chat. He has brought with him fellow Canadians, like me, originally from Africa.

Continental kinship forms an instant bond.

No longer strangers, after so short a time.

And still, with every sip and every word and, yes, joke, the unspoken spectre of kidnapped children with guns hovers. Try as I might I cannot lift the cloud and marvel at Kadogo’s apparent serenity.

Why am I, who has not suffered his indignities and horrors, so fraught? Perhaps because hope seems elusive.

But is it really?

As Lucilie Grétry writes in the afterword of Kadogo’s autobiography, “…Beyond the cold reality of a violent enrollment and of a distressing military life, a warm message of hope can be read between the lines: to entertain love rather than hatred and to keep up the struggle until one succeeds.”

 

By: Evelyn Voigt, on meeting Junior Nzita Nsuami – Kadogo, founder of Paix Pour L’Enfance (PPE) paixpourlenfance.wordpress.com/author/paixpourlenfance/

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