Child soldier, victim of abduction, participant in atrocities, humanitarian, survivor, international diplomat, sensitive human being, friend – now in search of asylum.
The story of Junior Nzita Nsuami speaks to everything that is both inhuman and beautiful in our world.
I met Junior in Montreaux, Switzerland in April where a movie about his story was being filmed. Junior is the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the cause of child soldiers appointed by Ban-Ki-Moon. Recent events in the Congo (DRC) precipitated his departure and when you know too much you cannot return and survive. He had an invitation to speak to the UN Security Council about the deteriorating political conditions in the DRC and the invitation included a visa to visit the USA.
Junior had an earlier opportunity to visit Obama but the timing conflicted with a commitment to speak to an auditorium full of youth in Switzerland. He decided the youth were more important!
Following the meeting at the UN Junior did meet Obama who encouraged him to enter DRC politics with US support. Junior had seen enough of violence and conflict and told Obama he would rather commit his life to humanitarian causes and Peace – politics where he comes from means only corruption and violence.
Junior then used the opportunity as encouraged by his friends to take a bus to the Canadian border and ask for political asylum. He had only one friend in Canada plus our recent acquaintance. Junior is Francophone and his friends felt that considering language and politics Canada offered the best chance at a stable future. He is now waiting for the outcome of a legal process which will hopefully give him legal status in Canada – and restores his ability to travel the world to speak about children and war.
Junior is now age 32. He was abducted from a private boarding school in the Eastern Congo at the age of 12. The teachers were killed and the boys were forced to join the unfortunate ranks of child killers. The militia which captured Junior was headed by Laurent Kabila. That group emerged as victors in the vicious civil war (Kabila became President) that reportedly killed more than 5,000,000 Congolese. All conflicts and violence against civilians are evil – but what does it say about our values and biases when many of us are only marginally aware or even unaware of the most violent conflict of our generation?
Junior was able to leave the military at Age 22. He has since devoted his life to help other surviving child soldiers regain some semblance of normal life. He has founded an organization/orphanage that gathers survivors and related children and provides shelter and the opportunity for education.
Junior has published a small book about his life titled “My Life as a Child Soldier” . The book is available in English, French, German and Dutch. It is a very tough read but targeted at youth to sensitize them to their privilege and encourage sensitivity and empathy to a less-sheltered world.
What is remarkable about Junior is his friendly and open personality and the incredible commitment to make the world more peaceful. Junior has the unusual ability to speak to Obama, the UN Security Council, convention audiences but equally effectively to a high school classroom and even children gathered at his feet on a Sunday morning.
Junior attributes a deep and profound faith not only to his physical survival but also the ability to retain a deep empathy for others. Ten years of unspeakable horror do not leave the mind undamaged. He visited the new Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg and was unable to visit some exhibits without breaking down.
How does Junior build a future out of the wreckage of his past? Some friends suggest he work toward a law degree in international human rights. With his experience, appealing personality, obvious intelligence and established connections he could aspire to make a contribution at the international level. He also needs to stabilize his life and was recently engaged to a young woman from the DRC.
In the meantime he subsists on limited but welcome assistance from the Government of Canada, accumulates friends, studies English and waits for the outcome of the legal process.
I write this story as a reminder about the potential of the human spirit to survive and even thrive against all possible odds. Some day you may hear of Junior – he still has a future!
Note: Sales of the book about the life of Junior is the primary source of income for his orphanage in Kinshasa. All proceeds of sales go to this purpose. The books are available for a price of $20.00 (USD or CDN) which includes shipping. Please note all revenue after postage goes to Junior and his project. The book is a tough but very meaningful read and a good gift. To purchase a book please contact Carol Collins by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 204-988-5605.