December 30, 2009
DRC 2009 © Julie Rémy
Above, a father sees his son for the first time since the child was abducted five months earlier by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, from their village in Haut-Uélé Province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One morning in May, 16-year-old Antoine* was kidnapped, along with his brother, from the family’s house. “Armed men burst into our home,” said his 54-year-old father, Louis. “They made us all get down on the ground. They took my clothes and my radio. Then they took two of my children and led them away.”
“They gave me work to do,” said Antoine. “I had to clean their clothes and do other jobs during the day. We weren’t allowed to talk. If we talked, they hit us. They hit us a lot.” Antoine had wounds from whippings and beatings with a machete. “We only ate in the evenings. And we walked all day, every day. I was barefoot.”
One evening, the kidnappers heard that enemy soldiers were approaching their positions. They told Antoine to climb a tree and see if he could spot them. “They were quite far away. I knew that I was near the road. I slid down the tree and started running. I walked all night and, at five in the morning, I arrived here at the village.” In Faradje, Haut-Uélé Province, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs a project for children who were abducted by armed groups and subsequently escaped or were released. In the first five months, MSF staff assisted 114 children, including Antoine. The boy’s family had believed he was dead. “I had become so thin,” said Louis. “I thought of my child night and day.” Now he hopes that somehow his second missing son will also return.
* Names have been changed
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)