Magic, militias and rare redemption: reintegrating CAR's child soldiers

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Clár Ní Chonghaile

When a boy in Central African Republic fell under the spell of a militia leader supposedly endowed with magical powers, he felt invincible. With his mentor’s death, he realised he had wasted four years – but a rehabilitation programme is helping him, and other former child soldiers like him, to resume his studies

ric Mamboué tells a story that goes to the heart of what it means to be a child soldier, perfectly capturing the anomaly of a term that applies to tens of thousands of children and teenagers across the world.

The Burkinabé head of War Child UK’s operations in Central African Republic describes a 14-year-old boy who had joined one of the so-called anti-balaka (anti-machete) militias and become close to its leader, a man said to have mystical powers that meant bullets could not harm him.

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