At Murhabazi’s boys’ home in Bukavu for former child soldiers, a group of boys is preparing to return home to their families to start a new life. But first they’re going to burn their old soldier’s uniforms. One of them is 15-year-old Mutiya, who was a child soldier for two years.
“We’d just finished our last lesson one Friday. My friend Mweusi and I were on our way home. Suddenly there were three soldiers standing in front of us, who said: “You can’t pass here! If you try and run, we’ll shoot you on the spot!”.” My parents had been killed by soldiers, so I was really frightened. We started crying and my friend wet himself. We begged them to let us carry on going to school, but they just laughed and said: “We don’t care, you’re coming with us anyway!”.
The soldiers tore off our school uniforms and ripped them apart. They tore up our school books. After three days of being beaten at one of their prisons, we were given our soldier’s uniforms. Just a few days later, I was sent out to fight for the first time. Then I was trapped for two years. I survived, but five of my friends were killed. I saw so much death and blood.
I had given up dreaming that I would get to swap my soldier’s uniform for a school uniform when Murhabazi came to the military camp and saved my life. He said: “You shouldn’t be here. You’re going back to school again. Come with me.”
I’ve started school again here at BVES and now I’m going home to my older brother’s, and I’m going back to school in the village. But before we go we’re going to burn our old military uniforms. When I go back to the village, I’m going to put my school uniform on instead.”