Cote d’Ivoire: Ouattara’s Former Child Soldiers Evolve into Vicious Criminals, M. Frindéthié

gang des microbes

“My name is H.T. I am a shoeshine boy. I belong to the gang of the Crazy Microbes. We mainly operate around the bus station of Abobo. During the civil war, the rebels recruited many of us from the street and outfitted us with weapons so we can fight on their side. Those of us who were too young to carry arms served as informers. Today, we mug unsuspecting passers-by to feed ourselves. Sometimes, we work as dock-hands to purchase drugs. Many among us would like to return to their parents, but they no longer know where to find them. Others just refuse to go back home.”

In this stunning confession published last Wednesday in Le Mandat, a paper close to the party in power, a teenager from Cote d’Ivoire explains how he and many other kids like him have morphed from former child soldiers of Alassane Ouattara’s rebel army to violent criminals. “The gang of the Microbes” is just one of several violent gangs of former child soldiers in Abidjan; others being the “the Machete gang” and “The Vonvons.” In the last few months, their activities have increased in intensity and violence. These former child soldiers turned gangsters are responsible for scores of brutal robberies and sadistic killings in Abidjan. Today, as the chickens have come home to roost, the very people who once sowed the seed of violence into these children in order to better exploit them for political power are now unable to contain them.

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