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Child Soldier, I

ISSUE:  Winter 2012

Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

“When they came to camp, they asked my friend Abdi
if he was ready to join the militia. He said, no.
We were on a crowded matatu going to Dagahaley.
The van was loud with music and voices overflowing;
still I heard one say al Shabaab would give Abdi dollars.
I was already thinking it would be fun to play
war, to soldier tough and walk around with an AK.
I used to get beat in the market. The harder
I fought back, the more they would gang up.
But us cash would buy more than respect;
I would take care of my sisters. My father
every day tells me I need to do more than sit
my life away.
Before we reached the border,
they gave us uniforms and said we were now
Allah’s warriors. We had to tow ammunition.
They turned us into cattle, into human ploughs.
We laid mines and roadside bombs. We cleaned guns
as big as us. There were other boys near
my age. With them, I felt I was among brothers
I never had—one, my best friend. Kassim was sixteen, a year
older. Sometimes in the afternoon, we played soccer.”


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