My cousin said there were around 50 child soldiers in the Gossi region. In Fulani, we call them “guns at the navel”. For the last few days rumours have been flying around Bamako that young boys were taking part in the rebellion, but until now, no one was able to provide any proof to support these allegations. The photo was taken on Friday, April 6, on Gossi’s main market street. My cousin wanted to take another photo but the person who he with was afraid they would be noticed. One never knows how a child with a gun might react.
My cousin explained to me that he knew one of the two young boys he took a photo of and which fraction [groups of nomadic families who settle near a town or water source] he belonged to. Everyone knows everyone else in the Gossi region. One is maybe 13 years old and the other 14. He also told me about another child soldier who was barely 12 years old, which is the same age as his daughter. The other soldiers tried to dress him up in a uniform, but it was much too big for him. In the end, they let him keep his own clothes.
“It’s at the point where anyone can stumble across a young boy armed with a Kalashnikov on the corner of the street who will ask where you are going”
Many Tuareg adults in the area joined the rebel forces when the town was taken over. The children are merely following their parents or big brothers when they go on patrol. When a group of grown-up fighters stop at a commandeered home, it’s the children who scope out the area. It’s gotten to the point where anyone can stumble across a young boy armed with a Kalashnikov on the corner of the street who will ask where you are going.
Right now there are four different groups that lay down the law in the city of Gossi: roving groups of gangs, Arab militants who protect their peoples' business interests, Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels who claim to be a part of the MNLA. According to my cousin, the young boys seen in the photo told him they belonged to the MNLA too.