The children taken into Thomas Lubanga’s militia made their own toys and played marbles when they weren’t learning to use weapons, a witness told the court today.
“They were always on the ground playing little games,” said the unnamed witness, identified as a soldier with the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) who also trained young recruits. “You could see that they were children.”
The young soldiers in training included girls as well as boys, the witness said.
“I did not see big girls in Mandro [training camp], only little girls,” he explained. “It was these girls who were doing the cooking for everyone in Mandro.”
The witness said he knew that the girls were young because they picked long blades of grass to make braids.
“A person who does this is someone who has not reached an age of maturity,” he said.
When prosecutor Manoj Sachdeva pressed to him to explain how he could tell the girls’ ages, the witness responded that he was a father.
“As a parent and a man of experience, you can determine someone’s age from their appearance and their actions and behaviors,” he responded. “…In my opinion I didn’t find any girl who was aged 17.”
The witness estimated that children comprised 75 percent of the militia.
“They had just arrived from their homes,” he explained. “Many had lost their parents [in attacks] and joined [the] army … for vengeance.”