Pauline is 15, and grew up in the heart of Dibaya territory in Kasai Central. The region is incredibly poor, but was previously peaceful, until a conflict between a local hereditary leader and the government spiralled into widespread violence.

We need peace in the Kasais, DRC | Pauline, 15

War is at the root of all the troubles. The fighting started in August 2016, and it was March when they attacked us. Now, they tell us that we have peace.

I was sleeping at home with my parents when the battle started in March. We heard the armed men knocking from door to door. They were going into the houses and killing people.

I was sharing a bed with my little sister. We woke up, opened the door, and ran. Papa and Maman fled too; we don’t know where they went. 

We followed some merchants who were pushing their bicycles on the road to Kananga. My little sister can only walk short distances at a time, and we slept in the bush. From Kananga we went to find our grandmother.

When we arrived at our grandmother’s house, months had passed. Our grandmother told us that our Papa, Maman, and our brothers and sisters had all been killed.

I’m 15 years old, and my sister Misenga is ten. I don’t study anymore, but at home I was in 5th grade.

The militias of the Chief of the Kamunia Nsapu were at the root of all the conflict. We would just hear people say that there was going to be war, but we didn’t know how it was going to be. One day we just saw it start. And then we started hearing rumours about people being killed and beheaded.

They told us that the war would give us a good government and we’d all be able to go to school for free. They’d give us things, like notebooks and backpacks for school.

I knew some girls who joined the militia. They were my age, or even younger than me. They went off to battle to kill people and drink their blood. All with the goal of having lower prices for food, and school supplies, and getting good health care.

We all used to suffer before the war. We only ate if Mum managed to grow something in the fields, or if she did some manual labour to earn enough money to buy some flour. My Papa would cut palm nuts to sell. We ate twice a day.

Now we have peace because the armed groups met and agreed to stop. But in order to keep the peace, no one can go to war again.

We need the elections to go peacefully. When they happen, I hope whoever wins has a good character. It would be good if he can make food more affordable, so that orphans like us can live well and eat.

I’ve seen people register to vote for the elections. They said that even children should register, but when I tried to go my Grandmother said not to be silly, that they would chase me from the registration centre. If my grandma had let me go, I would have registered and if I was old enough I would vote when we have the elections.

If the war starts again, we’ll flee and find another village to go to. But right now the militia isn’t here anymore; they’ve fled. If they try to start again, we’ll share our food with them so they won’t fight anymore.

I want to serve my country and become a nun when I’m older. I hope the peace lasts.

 

*Pauline isn’t in school, but currently attends World Vision’s Child Friendly Space on the outskirts of Kananga every day. World Vision is working with a local partner organisation, Cooperative Reveil de Kananga, to open six Child Friendly Spaces that will give children affected by the conflict a safe space to play and process their experiences, as well as receive psychosocial support.