Amaral (right) and Luis Samacumbi
Amaral Samacumbi was captured by Unita troops at the age of 14 and forced to fight against the government in Angola’s civil war. A few years later his younger brother Luis, who now works for a Christian Aid partner organisation in Angola, was also forced into action, this time by government soldiers.
It was almost 30 years before the brothers were reunited. What follows is their testimony.
‘Unita taught me how to fight. And then they put me on the frontline. Before I was kidnapped I’d never seen a gun before.
‘It was very difficult going from being a schoolboy to a soldier, especially as I was against the war. I wanted to study, not fight, but I didn’t have a choice.
‘After I’d been in the army for many years I trod on a landmine and nearly died. Doctors had to cut my leg off.
‘After nearly 30 years apart, I was happy and overwhelmed to be with Luis again. He was just a small boy when I last saw him so it was a shock to discover that he was nearly the same height as me.
‘We found out that Luis and I fought in the same battle, on the same front, against each other. I was horrified when I realised I could have killed my own brother.
‘I’m so grateful that we are together today.’
‘In 1992 I was told Amaral had died in a landmine accident and my family and I organised his funeral. When I saw him in 2004 I said: “My brother, you’ve been resurrected!”
‘I was shocked that Amaral and I fought in the same battle on opposite sides. It was terrible to find out that I could have killed my own brother. This has happened to many families in Angola - brothers have killed brothers.
‘It doesn’t matter what side he fought on or that we haven’t seen each other for nearly 30 years: we’re brothers.
‘I’ve found happiness through working with young people. I’m hopeful for the future and have committed myself to peace education, especially with young people.’
The brothers’ dramatic story is featured in a series of paintings by renowned war artist John Keane after he visited Christian Aid’s partners in Angola. Our partner IECA works with war returnees in an isolated area in southern Angola, helping them to rebuild their communities and restart farming and trading.