The plight of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo is followed in a new BBC Three documentary out this autumn.
Stacey Dooley, one of the stars of the hit BBC Three series, Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts which looked at the conditions in India’s cotton fields and clothes factories turns to the East African country in follow-up series, Stacey Dooley Investigates.
The programme, set to be screened in October follows the journey of 30,000 child soldiers during the 14-year conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It depicts the terrifying complexities of war where young children have been physically and emotionally separated from their families.
It is still not known how many thousands of these child soldiers are still in the forests, enslaved by armed rebels.
With the help of local charity workers, the presenter meets children who have been soldiers and hears their personal accounts of what life as a child solider entailed. She visits a rescue centre where boys and girls arrive daily, rescued from guerrilla militia units as well as the Congolese National Army.
“I’ve worked in some challenging environments but Congo was the scariest so far,” said assistant director, Fiona Poulter.
“The war might be officially over but in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, there’s still a lot of fighting,” she told the Metro newspaper.
“There’s a real edge as it starts to get dark and there were lots of people with guns hanging about.”
Stacey Dooley meets boy soldiers and hears their terrifying experiences first hand. A local charity takes her and the film crew to a frontline Congolese National Army camp, where she witnesses the rescue of two boys. With the charity, she takes one boy home as he's reunited with his family, from whom he was stolen longer than eight years ago.
“We went with a local organisation which promotes and protects the rights of children in Congo,” said the assistant director. Director Murhabazi Namegabe planned to rescue three children, she said, but when they got there the rebels only handed over two. “When the director asked about the third, he was told not to ask again or that would be it [they would kill him]. That was intense. When you drive over the border into Rwanda, there is a sigh of relief that you are alive.”
Kids with Guns by Ricochet Productions, is on BBC Three in October.