The children were not always the best soldiers...He found them obedient and fearless. ---Geoffrey York, The Globe and Mail, 03-15-12
He said he did not know where his maman
lived anymore; their last mud hut was razed
to the ground, then levelled by the monsoon
like mudpacks, maybe like half-baked biscuits
they get rationed every two weeks on the run.
He pointed to the photograph I showed him,
a gift, a memento, if he told me his war story.
She will never see it anyway, even if you found
her, probably buried in that hovel, now bone-
marked grave where the firepit used to burn.
Alive, she would have to be crazy and brave
to hide this picture of me in uniform and gun.
Not allowed by mon oncle Thomas, he sneered.
What he would recount haltingly between sighs
and a raspy cough, sounds like a locker-room
tale, if he even knew what secrets a lad hid in one.
No different here. Swings at the Mission school?
We jump into springpools here from swinging
vines when we find one or ordered to clean
our behinds and our sweat-caked uniforms,
loose boots, dirty rusty kleesneekoffs* once
or twice a month out of the camps, like school
break, you know. We are strong here, no one
cries, not even when shot by mistake as a boar
in the dark at sundowns, or attacked by huge
mother birds while we took their eggs off nests
in the smallest trees you would ever see could
grow in the deserts. Like camping in the wild.
You know that nun teacher who taught me
how to wash my hands and pray before meals?
I did not bother asking her to lie down between
the bookshelves when I did it to her, bent, and
from behind, you know? Oooooo... aaahhhh...
That old fart who owned the mango trees
we stole fruit from when we last saw the Mission?
I put a hole as big as his mouth on his forehead,
for the scars he gave me when he caught me once,
on a branch, hurriedly munching on his green,
lousy mangoes. We got power here. We fight
for Fatherland, Mon Oncle Thomas says. I agree.
But the picture? My maman will only hide it.
Look, abuelo, she hallooed high from her swing,
Her giggle as raucous as those she would scream
when I bring her to the mock-jungle playground,
Mighty Jungle, and she would play Tarzan to her
baby brother’s cheetah. He would slide through
the tubes singing the new French ditty learned
from the Ecole, she bansheeing like the leader
of a hyena pack, brave, tough, and strong.
O, my children, I will give my life for this to go
on and on and on. Laugh, mon amour. Laugh!
I would rather you were in a make-believe world
than see you strong and brave, and tough, and
go home to close window shutters that hide away
your tears and a lonely, cold bed of dreams
that are not yours, nor worlds not of your making.
---Albert B. Casuga
*Kalashnikovs---Russian Machine Guns
Somewhere in Congo---Mr. Lubanga’s militia, The Union of Congolese Patriots, was one of the combatants in a vicious tribal war in 2002 and 2003 in northeastern Congo, where an estimated 60,000 people were killed.
Some of the children in Mr. Lubanga’s militia are as young as 9, witnesses testified. Some as young as 5 were placed in training camps because they would “grow up as real soldiers.” A commander said. “The depfendant stole the childhood of the victims by forcing them to kill and rape,” said the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
It was the first international criminal case to focus on the use of child soldiers, and it could lend momentum to the fight to prosecute others for similar crimes---including Joseph Kony, leader of teh Lord’s Resistance Army, the target of a wildly popular video by the nongovernmental organization Invisible Children that has gone viral in the Internet with more than 100 million viewing.
Tens of thousands of child soldiers are still conscripted or recruited in more than 25 countries around the world, including for at least 15 armed conflicts... --- War Crimes Court Convicts Militia Leader (Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga found guilty of recruiting and using children as soldiers, bodyguards, and sex slaves.)--Geoffrey York, The Globe and Mail, March 15, 2012, Johannesburg.
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