Redemption Songs: Portraits

They survived. Now a fragile peace is coming to the Congo, and 12 children of war train for the fight of their lives.


How does a child survive war and enter the civilian world?

They were children or teenagers when they were ensnared by one of the dozens of rebel groups that have battled for supremacy in eastern Congo.

Now, with Congolese and United Nations forces holding out hope for an end to the perpetual battles with rebels, they are being retrained for civilian life.

In a series of portraits, one in color and a second in black and white, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Larry C. Price and The Center for Investigative Reporting, in partnership with Medium, follow 12 young adults scarred by violence as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

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James Black

At 15, he ferried ammunition to fighters during combat; later he was given a gun and ordered to fight. Now he’s training to be a mechanic.

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Mugoli Shukuru

Rebel soldiers abducted her and made her a sex slave when she was 14. Today she’s studying to be an auto mechanic.

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Gode Musore

He was given a gun at age 10 and ordered to kill enemy soldiers and civilians. Now he’s living life as a hairdresser.

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Brigitte Bazibuhe

After three months as a sex slave in a jungle camp, she escaped her captors and today she works as a restaurant server.

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Vainqueur Faida

He used his boyish innocence to become the perfect spy. Now he’s studying carpentry.

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Namegabe Baguma

These days he manages a woodworking shop. Not long ago, he carried ammunition, and cooked and fetched water for soldiers.

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Nsii Maombi

Having left the rebel militia she voluntarily joined at age 16, she’s studying restaurant management.

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Saddam Balingine

As a soldier he performed magic rituals and rose to the rank of commander. He’s since trained as an auto mechanic, but there is no work for him.

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Tatiana Lola

She escaped sex slavery for life as a seamstress with her daughter.

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Didier Asumani

Pressed into the militia at 13, he now hopes for a brighter future as a welder.

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Nathalie Kasaki Banyanga

She joined the militia and was once in charge of finding food for half the camp. She’s now a seamstress.

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Raphael Mutimanwa

He joined the militia when he was 12 and became a commander. Today he works in a welding shop.

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This story is part of the series Redemption Songs produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in the San Francisco Bay Area, in partnership with Medium.

The series was edited by Robert Salladay and copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee. Reporter Richard C. Paddock can be reached at rpaddock@cironline.org. Photographer Larry C. Price can be reached at lcprice@mac.com.

The nonprofit Eastern Congo Initiative provided logistical support for this project. It also provides funding for Let Africa Live and ETN.