Dieu-Merci, 15, from DRC, represents child soldiers and children in armed conflict situations.
“We were on our way home from school when armed men surrounded us, shouting: ‘Sit down! Don’t try to run away or we’ll kill you!’, remembers Dieu-Merci, 15.
“The girls were taken in one direction. Us boys were marched into the forest. We kept begging the kidnappers to let us go so that we could return to our families. But they tore up our school books and set them on fire. I couldn’t stop thinking about my family, and about death.
One of the leaders said:
‘Dear children, you are going to become soldiers, for your own safety, for your families and for our country! Anyone who refuses to come will be our enemy!’
“When we were sent to capture children I always secretly tried to help them get away. I managed to save 37 children from being killed.
“We hardly got anything to eat. We would share the odd small bird, and eat leaves and wild fruit. Every day they gave us a drink that was supposed to protect us from enemy bullets.
“One night as we were fighting I tried to escape. Instead I was captured by government soldiers. When they were about to shoot me I shouted that I was just a school child who had been kidnapped.
“The organization BVES helps me forget all the terrible things I’ve been through, and I feel empowered to take charge of my own life again.”