BUT for the lump in his throat when he talks about the past, Reuben Maviye seems no different from any 14-year-old. And watching him toss a ball around outside his older sister's home on the outskirts of Mozambique's capital of Maputo, it is hard to believe that this youngster witnessed his parents being killed by rebels, then lived as their captive in the bush for five years, and just escaped being forced to join the guerrillas himself.
Reuben's life has taken a dramatic turn. A year ago, he and his two brothers were freed from the brutal Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo) by government forces. Through a family-tracing program launched by the social welfare department and nongovernmental relief organizations, the three have discovered an older sister, Carolina, who has given them a home.
``I never believed that I would see any of my family again,'' says Reuben, his face breaking into a big, boyish grin.
Since it started in late 1988, the program has only succeeded in returning 2,000 of an estimated 200,000 dislocated children to their families. Yet Bridget Walker, a relief worker with Save the Children, says that ``has exceeded all our wildest expectations.''
Over 100,000 people have been killed in Renamo's war against the Marxist government since 1986. A United States State Department report described the war as ``one of the most brutal holocausts against ordinary human beings since World War II.'' Renamo was sponsored first by South Africa, and now is supported by right-wing groups in Portugal, South Africa, and the US.
One-third of the country's 14 million people have been forced to relocate or flee to neighboring states. Half the population is near starvation, helped only by massive internationally funded relief efforts. Children have seen their world turned upside down.
Reuben was only nine years old when Renamo attacked his village in Mozambique's southern Gaza Province and murdered his parents. The boy, two brothers, and a sister were taken hostage. Reuben's sister escaped after three years with the rebels, but the boys remained captive for a further two years.
``We had to walk a long way from the camp to find food,'' says Reuben. ``There was never enough.''