The crisis in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo is perhaps not receiving the coverage in the news it warrants. The war-torn province in the east of the vast country seems largely forgotten by the world’s media. Now it is emerging that ‘black magic’ or ‘juju’ is being used on boys as young as fourteen in order to convince them to enter into battle.
A report from Save the Children estimates that as many as six million children could be affected by this conflict. In 2017 the highest-ever number of child casualties was recorded, and the recruitment of children into armed groups has never been so vast.
Boy describes ‘black magic’ recruitment ceremony
A former child soldier has described the initiation process which involved ‘juju’ – a superstitious pseudo-religion similar to the voodoo of Central America and some parts of Africa. When he – at fourteen – was lured into an armed group by the promise of money, the group’s commander performed a juju procedure upon him. His skin was cut and a potion was spread over his body. He was told that the potion would make him invincible on the battlefield.
The continual fighting is affecting girls as well, even though they are not recruited to fight. Girls around the age of sixteen are regularly kidnapped during armed raids and forcibly married to their captors.
Child soldiers find it hard to reacclimatise once rescued
Child soldiers often become traumatised by what they witness in battle, and many of them describe seeing their friends killed. Even if rescued from the militia they find it almost impossible to reintegrate themselves back into their previous lives.
The conflict in North Kivu has been ongoing since 2004, although there have been outbreaks of peace between 2009 and 2012, and 2013 and 2015. The conflict began as the result of tensions between the DRC and the small neighbouring country of Rwanda.