By Fred Gashema
Dozens of former child soldiers that are currently undergoing rehabilitation and reintegration courses at the Mutobo Reintegration and Demobilization Centre have petitioned Rwandan courts to hold accountable their commander-in-chief, Paul Rusesabagina, because he ruined their lives.
The former child soldiers are 85, with the majority of them, 56 percent, being girls. They all have said they were forcibly conscripted into Rusesabagina’s MRCD-FLN terror outfit from refugee camps in DR Congo. The terror group told them they were “tasked with liberating Rwanda.”
The children, with their parents, were taken hostage by CNRD-Ubwiyunge, one of the terror outfits that contribute troops to Rusesabagina’s MRCD-FLN. They revealed that in mid 2018 when MRCD-FLN intensified attacks on Rwanda, the order went out across the refugee camps that “all children aged 15 and above should join the terror movement, regardless their gender, to back adult fighters.” These (adult fighters) were said to be launching numerous hit-and-run attacks on Rwanda.
“We were told that Rusesabagina who was living abroad was our overall commander. That he sent money,” recalled one of the child soldiers. “After being recruited and trained some of us were sent to Nyungwe Forest to attack Rwanda, but it ended in tears,” recalled one of the former child soldiers. In that attack many of the FLN terrorists lost their lives, according to reports from the scene.
Girls child recruits, it is disclosed, were specifically trained to spy, by particularly entering Rwanda and masquerading as domestic workers while collecting information to be shared with their commanders in the MRCD-FLN.
Joselyne Mukanoheli, 18, is one of the girls who vividly remembers when she was abducted into the terror outfit. “I was taken into the FLN when I was 15 and we were trained in various military disciplines, including how to use Kalashnikov guns,” she said, adding, “those that abducted us had promised that we would get military ranks after we made it to Rwanda.”
However, the children were quick to realize that they were only duped, and they were exposed to death for no good reason. The ordeals they went through while in FLN included, for the girls, rape or getting turned into sex slaves. “Some of us can’t find sleep. We can’t eat properly because of the things we have suffered. We are sick,” said one of the girls. It is a trauma she has in common with many others.
The evil deeds the children suffered, or inflicted have traumatized them. Many were injured and can barely talk without crying.
In a videotaped statement dubbed “2019 new year message” that Rusesabagina and MRCD-FLN shared at the end of 2018, Rusesabagina pledged his “unreserved support to the young women and men” who were launching terror attacks on Rwanda that claimed lives of unarmed and innocents civilians.
However, according to a petition by the former child soldiers, Rusesabagina has to be held accountable for ruining their lives and destroying their future. “The court should consider our suffering as we were taken into the terror group against our wishes,” one of the children said.
According to officials of the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC), these children have a wide range of problems, Post Traumatic Stress and Depression, among them. “They carried heavy weapons and were sent on errand to buy ammunition like bullets. Obviously subjecting a child to such things is ruining their mental health,” Valerie Nyirahabineza, the RDRC chairperson, told Rwanda Television.
“To make matters worse, they were raped by the men that recruited them; boys too were being raped,” Nyirahabineza disclosed.