Charles became a soldier in Uganda when he was just eight years old. He didn’t have any choice about it. He was taken from his home by men from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA are rebels who are ﬁghting the government in the North of Uganda.
Charles did not go through a well-planned training program. Some soldiers in the LRA have machine guns, but mostly they use machetes. The LRA does not have a uniform, and sometimes their soldiers have been known to wear stolen uniforms from the Ugandan Army. Children have to stay in the army until they manage to escape or are rescued.
Conditions are not good in the rebel army. Food is scarce and the children are badly treated. While Charles was a captive he was shot in his leg and lower back and was forced to act against his will. Charles was also regularly beaten. At times they used a machete to punish him. On one later occasion he was whipped 200 times because he left a bomb behind.
The LRA rule their child soldiers by fear, forcing them to commit acts that will haunt them for years. Charles thinks he killed three people. To stop him from escaping, he was also forced to beat someone very badly. Children are told that once they have killed someone they will never be able to go back to normal life with their families.
Charles is now 15 and is no longer a soldier. He managed to escape but he has horrible memories of his time in the army.