Senait Mehari on Life as a Child Soldier

January 13, 2024
2 mins read

By Monica Oyedele
Thursday, March 18, 2010.
Heart of Fire bears many resemblances to the biblical abandonment of the young Moses, as we learn the story of a baby girl who was left in a suitcase to die by her mother.
Senait Mehari was found in the 1970s by a neighbour with just moments to spare before death. She was taken to an orphanage where her life begins with de-illusion, death, unanswered questions and no sense of belonging.
Senait is soon re-united with her family and shows an initial reluctance when listening to authority and displays fear of the unknown. Her life takes unfortunate turns which land her in trouble time and time again, with strangers and her own family members.
When she is taken to live with her own father, she learns at an early age who to trust and what she will need to do in order to survive. Her father becomes her biggest enemy at this point, he has no time and no love for his child and she soon discovers she is alone her own family. She discovers she has two half sisters who are both in fear of their father and therefore leave her to his abusive hands.
Heart of Fire is an aptly named title for this tale of heroism. Senait is forced to join the army at a young age and before puberty she endures death, murder, theft and how to be a child solider. She is propelled into a war that will never end and where children are taught how to be adults in a rapid pace unaware of the consequences behind their actions.
Through sheer determination we learn of how she overcomes abuse and starvation to achieve her freedom and along with her step sisters, she embarks on a new life with her uncle where she learns about education.
From this day on, she continues to strive to gain as much knowledge both in the classroom and out, to leave her horrific childhood behind.
She follows her heart and stays true to her beliefs, despite the difficulties she again faces in her teens. Her life is a journey and throughout this story, you will be intrigued about the situations she encounters. One may question if trouble follows Senait or she simply chases it.
Despite the gifted musician born to an Ethiopian mother and an Eritrean father, being a product of misguided love, anger and nativity, she chooses to lead her life by her own examples, rather than the destruction she has had to face since she was born. She becomes a dictator rather than a dictator of life and hence the result is without doubt, an increased sense of happiness and personal worth.
This book is vey engaging and well written with many messages but one that stands true is ‘we can achieve anything no matter what the circumstance.’
Heart of Fire is a good book to educate our youngsters and to highlight issues to our elders. It was not what I had expected at all, it was better.
Senait Mehari released her debut novel in June 2006, and has since attracted interest from film makers as well as highlighting the plight of child soldiers. She has a successful music career as a songwriter, background singer and performer.
Speaking five languages fluently, English, Arabic, German, Tigrinya and Oromigna., she is an apt choice as spokesperson for UNICEF, campaigning against the use of child soldiers which is still a significant problem in Sudan and Uganda.
Monica Oyedele is a London-based freelance journalist.

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