Title: The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods
Author: Jamala Safari
Publisher: Random House Struik
Cape Town, South Africa 2012
ISBN 9781415201763 / ISBN 978-1-4152-0176-3
Softcover, 13 x 22 cm, 208 pages
Thousands or more? No one knows how many exactly. Among them, Sudanese, Colombian, Rwandan, Burmese, Sri Lankan, Congolese ... The list includes at least thirty countries. At times willingly, but most of the time abducted or forcibly recruited, child combatants are fighting for government armies, opposition forces, militias and paramilitaries in their countries or neighbouring ones. The story of Risto is emblematic of many other abruptly interrupted childhoods. It embodies one story in particular, one that has left a scar on Jamala Safari's life. Jamala (originally from the town of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and his family still await the return of their cousin. Theirs is a constant vigil, mourning with no closure. They have lived in hope and desperation, with unspoken dreams and terrors, ever since that day in 1996 when Safari's cousin, William Mwana-wa-Bene Kagayo (literally 'William Child of Others' in Mashi dialect), disappeared. Almost fulfilling the prophecy of his name, the boy refused to leave town when the warning came to evacuate. Soon afterwards he became one of the first child soldiers (known as 'Kadogo' in the DRC) to join the rebel movement of Laurent Desire Kabila, which later took over the country. Further than that, nothing is known of his fate. Recounting the intricate psychology of a child combatant, torn between innocence and damnation, the loneliness among others in the same hell, the survival mechanisms, the challenges of rehabilitation and reintegration, The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods takes us into the land of desolation that is the lot of child soldiers.