Former child soldier brings his story to kids in graphic novel

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By: May Warren

Michel Chikwanine, a former child soldier, has collaborated on a new graphic novel about his experiences.

Abducted at age 5 from his school’s soccer field, Michel Chikwanine was forced to do unimaginable things as a child soldier in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Now a 27-year-old African studies student at the University of Toronto, Chikwanine has co-authored a new graphic novel about his experiences called Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War, aimed at kids 10 to 14.

Chikwanine, who wrote the book with Jessica Dee Humphreys, said he hopes it will help young people understand what being a child soldier means.

The illustrations, by Claudia Davila, allowed him to tell the story in a way that kept the emotional pull “without making it too graphic and shocking for the audience,” he said.

Chikwanine was taken by a group of rebel soldiers one day while playing with other boys behind his school.

After driving for hours in trucks down a bumpy road, the soldiers ordered the children out.

Chikwanine was blindfolded and the soldiers rubbed a mixture of cocaine and gun powder into a wound on his left wrist.

He was then forced to pull the trigger of an AK-47. That memory — of killing his best friend Kevin — still haunts him.

“He was my protector and the guy that I looked up to a lot,” Chikwanine said.

To brainwash the boys and keep them from running away, the soldiers continued to make them kill each other.

“They would put someone in front of you who was either trying to run or who was afraid or kept crying at night,” Chikwanine said.

After two weeks of “military drills,” the group was taken to a village to get food and gun supplies.

Chikwanine saw it was his only chance to escape.

Read more here.

Source: Toronto Star