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Recruiting children as 'witch doctors'

Published:Saturday | February 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Congo (AP): CONGOLESE CHILDREN are being lured to fight and serve as witch doctors for an armed group in volatile eastern Congo in Central Africa. This is according to human rights groups, who are calling on the United Nations to disarm fighters and stop child exploitation.

The report from the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers said children are targeted by the Mai Mai militia because the group believes their lack of sexual experience gives them special powers as witch doctors.

The children are called on to administer potions believed to make fighters invincible, the report said. In doing so, the children are often given a false sense of invincibility themselves, putting them at further risk.

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said his administration is trying to disarm such groups and punish fighters who resist.

"The government can only condemn the behaviour of armed groups like the Mai Mai militia of using child soldiers or children as their witch doctors," he said.

The report said poverty, conflict and a lack of other options in eastern Congo also compel children to voluntarily join armed groups. One 15-year-old boy quoted in the report told investigators that he joined the Mai Mai militia on the advice of his parents, who told him he would be fed regularly, with meat, an unavailable luxury in his impoverished home, if he joined.