Child Soldier

It was around 11pm in the night when I heard the gunshots; my mother quickly trimmed down the burning kerosene lamp and told me to pick my younger sister up and carry her. My younger sister was also wide-awake and crying out of fear, my mother tried to soothe and calm her down but her attempts were to no avail. I was mad, if she continued crying, the Indonesian soldiers will surely find us but she was only three years old and could not stop. I knew she was scared, and so was I. I carried her on my back giving her a piggyback ride and went out as my mother packed the little material possessions we owned, a kerosene lamp, a few clothes, some rusty old plates and a cooking pot into her string bag.

I ran out and stood outside our makeshift house constructed from sago leaves and bush materials as the gunshots stopped. I stood listening to the silent night for more gunshots but there was a total silence, and then I heard a bang and saw a flare shot up into the dark night; I knew the Indonesian soldiers shot it up to light up the place. The red light from the flare pierced the darkness and lit up the area up to a quarter mile. From the shadows, I saw my people running into the bushes, old people too weak to move just sat beside the fire and waited for the soldiers to catch them and decide their fate. They had been running from the soldiers since they were but little kids, they had fought against the soldiers all their lives. Most have lost limbs; most had lost the will to live. They were tired of running, I heard one say as he was ushered by his grandson into the dark thick Papuan jungle.

Another flare was shot up and then a third, then nothing for some good minutes. Then the gunshots started again, continuous firing from AK47’s and AR15’s from the sound of the gunshots. The AK47’s were coming from our people, the resistance. I knew the guns because I once went to live in a training camp run by the Papuan Resistance. I stayed there for two months learning how to use a gun, handling explosives and the art of camouflaging in the jungle. The leader of the resistance said that the jungle was the only strong defense we had against the Indonesian soldiers and we must utilize it in our fight against them. We know the jungles like the back of our hand so we had an absolute advantage over the soldiers. I was going into my explosives training when my mother came and took me out of the training camp; she said I was too young for fight for the cause because I was only thirteen. That was two years ago.

We heard the gunshots continue when we were safely across the river, the gunshots died some minutes later, then we heard single shots fired from rifles. That was our men, then again no more. The flares continued going up into the dark sky, the moon did not come out that night. I think then moon did not want to witness the slaughter and blood being spilled on the land so it hid his face behind the dark clouds. We knew our resistance fighters had retreated into the forest or were sorely defeated in the battle. We made camp near a small creek and rested for the night as we had been walking for almost four hours. When I laid down, my mother said she was not feeling sleepy anymore so she would stay up until the first morning light. She had my baby sister on her lap; she sang some songs my grandmother used to sing to me when I was a child. I watched my sister suck her thumb and went her to sleep, my eyelids were heavy and eyes salty so I closed my eyes and my mind drifted to our fallen soldiers.

I woke to screams of agony and pain, most of our resistance fighters had been killed during the battle last night and a good number wounded.They were brought into our camping area on stretchers at dawn. Our women treated the wounded men while some strong men held them down. Bullets were removed from their flesh with knives and leaves from the bush placed over the wounds to cover them because we did not have first aid kits and proper medical supplies to treat wounds. After the wounded were treated, they were placed in hammocks suspended from trees and let to rest while the resistance fighters with platoon commanders gathered us to talk.

The platoon commander, a tall muscular fellow with scruffy beard wearing a Che Guevara shirt stood in front of us and gave a shot 5 minutes motivational speech about Papuans rising up to fight oppression and occupation on our land. When his speech was over, he punched the air and raised a clenched fist and shouted “Papua”, all of us responded and said “Merdeka”. He continued “Papua”, we responded “Merdeka”. One of the fighters gave out three shots from his rifle and everybody joined and kept shouting “Papua Merdeka”. Someone in the middle of the crowd started a song and everyone joined in, amid the singing, tears flowed down the cheeks of men, women and children when the Morning Star was hoisted on a tall palm tree because we did not have a flag pole.

Before our flying flag, we sang our song of freedom in tears with arms on our chests. After the small ceremony to honor the fallen and our motherland, the platoon leader once again stood before us and said he need soldiers. People were free to choose, no one was going to be forced into joining the resistance. He asked for volunteers, and without thinking, I stood and saluted the flag of West Papua. There was cheering and stamping of feet on the ground. To our people, fighting for our people and land is an honor. I turned and looked at my mother; she had tears streaming down her face. She knew she could not stop me, she also knew I was going to fight for a cause, fight for my land and my people. I was going to fight for the freedom of West Papua. I am fifteen years old now, the Western Media has labeled us as Child Soldiers, I am not child soldier, I am just a soldier ready to fight for what is mine.

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