Eighteen militiamen are on trial in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on charges of raping 46 children.
Some of the victims from the village of Kavumu were just 18 months old.
The men allegedly targeted young girls between 2013 and 2016 because a spiritual adviser told them that the blood of virgins would grant them supernatural protection.
The alleged militia leader, Frederic Batumike, a provincial legislator, and the other defendants deny the charges.
Rights groups hope the trial will help to end a culture of rape as a tool of war in DR Congo.
“The start of the trial is a strong signal in the fight against impunity,” Jean Chrysostome Kijana, an activist representing the victims, told Reuters news agency.
Proceedings started 10 hours late and lasted only 20 minutes on Thursday, during which time the defendants’ names were read aloud, according to Reuters.
Advocacy groups have told Reuters that the case has been particularly difficult to investigate because the victims were so young.
“Their families were often asleep when the alleged rapes occurred,” reports says.
Villagers believed a magic powder was being used to induce sleep, investigative journalist Lauren Wolfe said.
“I thought… Could they [the attackers] be using some kind of herbal anaesthetic? It actually turned out to be true. They were.”
She said the militiamen had been illegally squatting on an “extremely fertile” plantation previously owned by a German botanist who was murdered in 2012.
The Democratic Republic of Congo was labelled “the rape capital of the world” by Margot Wallstrom, the former UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict.
Writing in The Guardian, Wolfe says that two years ago “one UN official resigned out of frustration at the UN’s continued failure to halt the atrocities”, which began in 2013 in Kavumu.
Nigeria Football Federation boss Amaju Pinnick under fresh corruption probe
Several properties belonging to top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), including its president Amaju Pinnick, have been seized in a fresh corruption probe.
The latest investigation and seizures are being carried out by the country’s Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC).
The ICPC has published a newspaper advertisement about the properties seized – half of which belong to Pinnick.
According to the statement published in the Nigerian papers one of Pinnick’s properties is in London.
It comes amidst wide-ranging claims over how money meant for football development allegedly disappeared.
“We can’t go into further details beyond the fact that many officials of the NFF are under investigation,” ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa said.
“It’s basically because what they have is in excess of what they have earned.”
The ICPC has also taken control of properties belonging to the NFF second vice-president Shehu Dikko and the general secretary Muhamed Sanusi among others.
Rwanda ban Burundi,s music star ahead of annual festival
Burundian musician Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidum, has told the BBC he is confused by Rwanda’s decision to ban him from playing at the upcoming Kigali Jazz Fusion festival.
Kidum is one of Burundi’s biggest music stars and has performed in Rwanda for the past 16 years.
But a police official phoned the musician’s manager to warn that he would only be allowed to make private visits to Rwanda.
“[My manager was told] Kidum is not supposed to perform, tell him to leave. If he comes for private visits fine, but no performances,” the musician told BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.
The mayor of Rwanda’s capital said that in this instance permission had not been sought from the authorities for him to perform at the festival in Kigali.
Kidum was a leading peace activist during Burundi’s civil war between 1993 and 2003 and used his songs to call for reconciliation.
The 44-year-old musician said he had never had problems with Rwandan authorities until recently when three of his shows were cancelled at the last minute – including one in December 2018.
That month Burundi had banned Meddy, a musician who is half-Burundian, half-Rwandan, from performing in the main city of Bujumbura.
Kidum said he was unsure if the diplomatic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda had influenced his ban.
“I don’t know, I don’t have any evidence about that. And if there was politics, I’m not a player in politics, I’m just a freelance musician based in Nairobi,” he said.
He said he would not challenge the ban: “There’s nothing I can do, I just wait until maybe the decision is changed some day.
“It’s similar to a family house and you are denied entry… so you just have to wait maybe until the head of the family decides otherwise.”
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