Ex-child soldiers who were recently reintegrated in society by the government and given financial support are optimistic about the future.
The ex-child combatants were previously part of the DR Congo-based FDLR militia. Fiston Mugisha 23, a resident of Kinigi Sector, Musanze District, said he invested the financial support into agriculture and livestock farming.
The father of one said his life and that of his family has significantly changed.
“I was given Rwf200, 000 in the first phase and invested it in Irish potato growing. In the second phase, I received another Rwf200, 000 which I further invested in agriculture. I now own a three-room house and 18 sheep,” he said.
Another ex-child combatant, Hakizimana Nizeye, who also defected from the Democratic Forces for Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) recollects that life as a child combatant was the worst he had ever lived and commended the government for the reintegration process.
Nizeye, a member of a welders’ cooperative in Nyabihu District, said the money they were given helped them start the cooperative that has helped transform their lives.
“We are now entrepreneurs and look to the future with hope. We are committed to working hard and have a small company dealing in modern construction materials,” Nizeye said.
The former child soldier was speaking during a training workshop that attracted over 120 participants from across the country.
It was organised by the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC).
The workshop sought to discuss the challenges and achievements for ex-child combatants and their contribution toward national development and security.
Ex-child combatants shared their achievements from various activities they involved in after reintegration. Nizeye said the training reminded them their role in national development.
“We discussed various issues pertaining to national development. As youth, we were advised to join cooperatives and join efforts to ensure security which is key to development,” he said, adding that they were committed to play their role.
Over 900 children have so far been reintegrated from DR Congo jungles over the years, according to Jean Sayinzoga, the chairperson of the RDRC.
Sayinzoga said the workshop was an opportunity to share experiences and discuss ways participants can work together to contribute to national development.
All former child soldiers were given support to start business and most of them have used it well to transform their lives, he added, urging the group to keep the momentum.