by Jeffrey Canton
Bernard Ashley's Little Soldier explores how race hatred infiltrates into the very deepest recesses of a child's soul, fuelling the ethnic conflicts that, in this case, burns between the Kibu and Yusulu tribes in a fictionalized African country that is in part modeled on Zaire. Kaninda, "saved" by the Red Cross and taken to South London under the watchful eye of the zealous evangelical Captain Betty Rose, is just waiting for the right moment to escape and begin to make his way back to Lasai, back to Colonel Munyankindi's rebel army. He hates the Yusulu government soldiers for what they did to his family and to countless others¨he had watched his mother, father and little sister massacred by Yusulu soldier and had been left for dead himself¨and he is going back to join the Kibu rebels and do to the Yusulu president and his clansmen what they had done to his father, mother and little sister. Running parallel to his struggle is a brutal gang war that has exploded in South London after a little girl is knocked down in a hit-and-run accident. Ashley has found a powerful way to mesh the ethnic conflict in Zaire with an urban inner city conflict. Using flashbacks, he takes us into Kaninda's past and through an array of narrative voices, he explores the meaning of race hatred, gang warfare and revenge.