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Published on Oct 18, 2007
GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 16 October 2007 -- Maisha (not his real name) was 15 when he joined the Mayi-Mayi militia, a loose coalition of Congolese soldiers that emerged a decade ago in opposition to the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD).
According to Jason Stearns, a Nairobi-based senior analyst in the International Crisis Group, children make up 40 to 50 per cent of the militia forces.
The Mayi-Mayi recruit children through force or manipulation. They also play on superstition to increase their ranks. 'Mayi' is a Swahili word for water, and the Mayi-Mayi say that magic powers turn bullets directed at them to water. They tell children that they, too, will become indestructible and can protect their families and communities from invaders.