Why Southern Sudanís peace must be passionately guarded
Last updated on 9 Jul 2012 00:00
By Kiundu Waweru
Michael Deng rises to his imposing, sinewy height and asks the girls in his communication class at St Paul’s University, Nairobi campus, not to cry when he tells his story.
They laugh him off. He smiles and starts slowly, his words unsteady. As he recollects his early life, Deng doesn’t mention playing with toys or running naked in the rain; instead he talks about his elder brother teaching him to cock, clean and load a gun — the Kalachnikov, he calls it. Later we learn from the brother that the gun was actually an AK47, so named after its designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov.
Deng was born to a large family. His father, Mach Deng, had 26 wives.
His days seemed normal, as he would, in the company of other boys and some men, go out into the field to look after cattle; except that the boys dragged kalachnikovs along.
Deng, 24, says he must have been seven years old when he engaged in a “real battle” against the Northerners (people from north Sudan).
They were out grazing when the cows’ mooing was drowned by the sound of gunshots. Women and children were screaming and running hither and thither.
Never feared death
Deng and the other boys joined the ‘front line’.
“We took the enemy by surprise; because they never saw us coming (beign tiny and sneaky). Sadly, four of us were killed,” says Deng, who had from then on become a child soldier.