I’m not a soldier. In fact, I would be a soldier if the civil war were still continuing. I’m a middleborn and, middleborns and lastborn were the ones forcefully recruited into the then SPLA. If there were a few firstborns recruited, then it was either there was no one else in the family to go or they joined the army voluntarily. Recruitment of soldiers was then a rotational process among relatives.
When it came, relatives used to sit down and choose who to give. The family that gave a recruit this year does not give another recruit next year when another recruitment sets in. The chance always goes to another family to give one. It was always a sad moment when the turn is yours this year. But there were conditions to take into account despite the rotational process of recruitment.
If the turn is for your family this time and it happens that your children are too small for recruitment or are all females or are abnormal, the chance skips you and goes to the family next after you. If it does not go that way, then the father of these children could be recruited if he is still strong enough to withstand the conditions of soldiery.
The chance went around and finally, it came to our turn that year. Fortunately, our father is a second born and, the chance should first go to our uncle who is a firstborn. No negotiation was done as it is something known and must be done urgently or else you could feed the soldiers for the days you spend negotiating it.
Unfortunately, our uncle had three major conditions to take into account. Firstly, he was a formidable spear master. Secondly, his children were too small for recruitment and thirdly, he was too old for recruitment. Automatically, the chance had to come to our family. In our family, not even a single condition was to be taken into account. My father was still strong for recruitment and my elder brother was too fit for the recruitment as well.
But my father did not want to go. He used his wealth to bribe the soldiers to leave him and his son, my elder brother. It was a terrible moment. Every time the soldiers felt hungry, they could visit our house and because they owed my father, my father could slaughter a goat or two for them, and in the end, he used to give them a cow, not just a cow, but a pregnant one. I tell you; they ate a number of goats in our house, and they took away a number of our cows.
But after a year, they still came back in a large number and they refused to take anything, but my brother. My brother felt so brave and told my father he is ready to go. I was too small for recruitment otherwise I was the right person to go. My father looked at me and then looked back at the soldiers. I could not relate it well. Whether or not my father was saying in his heart that if this child were a bit big, he would be the one to go, I did not know.
They took my brother. Everybody at home shed tears, with my mother crying bitterly. People immediately began telling my father to take good care of me as the life of my recruited brother was hanging between death and something else. After two years, my brother came back alive with a letter written by one of the commanders, barring the recruitment forces from recruiting my brother on an account that he is a student. When the next round of recruitment was expected to come, it was already a CPA period. At that time, I had already qualified for recruitment, but my God worked it out for me. This is how our family got not to have a soldier up to date. I would say the soldiery missed me by inches.
With the articles I write, advocating for the welfare of soldiers, people think I’m a fellow soldier. One particular article entitled “A Soldier Has Named His 5th Child Weu Aliu” has exaggerated it to the last. Well, there is nothing wrong with being a soldier, but I’m not currently a soldier. Maybe later. I’m advocating for the welfare of those who protect me and my country. I’m extremely happy that soldiers are receiving their salaries. When they smile, I smile twice. When they become angry, I become angry for one full month.
The author is a medical student, University of Juba.