Several years ago, I convinced the editors of Parade magazine to let me write an article about the horrific and largely unknown war for minerals going on in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I called the article “The War at our Fingertips” because one of the exploited products, coltan, is used to create cell phones, laptops and gaming systems. In the end, Parade did not run the piece because none of the refugees I interviewed who had witnessed atrocities would allow me to use their real names for fear it would lead to lethal punishment of family members still in the DRC. So I posted it to my own web site instead.
War Witch deals with the same subject, told from the point of view of Komona (Rachel Mwanda), a 12-year-old girl who is abducted by rebels and forced to become part of their militia. Before they take her away, they force her to kill her own parents. Like all the child soldiers, Komona is fed a hallucinogenic drug. When it develops that she has visions of the presence of government troops before others see them, she is presented to the rebel leader, who designates her his “war witch.” Komona is befriended by an equally young soldier, known only as Magicien (Serge Kanyinda) and together they escape. But escaping psychopathic, greedy, drugged rebels is not so easy, and more tragedy ensues.
Unfortunately, killing, rape and forced labor are still commonplace in the eastern DRC, and the world still doesn’t consider it newsworthy. Hopefully War Witch will call more attention to this ongoing tragedy.