In the dying days of the Battle of Mogadishu two years ago, on the beachside base used by Ugandan African Union troops in their successful campaign to drive Al-Shabaab from the capital, I came across three new prisoners. Handcuffed, dirty and dejected, the eldest of them was 17, the youngest 15.
They were volunteers, they said, who had put their hands up when an Al-Shabaab recruiter came to their school. This had happened a fortnight before; they had surrendered when they became separated from their unit and ran out of bullets. Why, I asked, had they put their hands up in the first place? The boys all looked at each other. “We were given a piece of fruit every day,” one of them said.
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