On mean streets, where tempers flare and garbage rots, barefoot Domain Luminda picks his way past the smoldering bodies of three executed rebels in downtown Kinshasa.
With a hand covering his nose and mouth to ward off the stench of burnt hair and flesh, the young boy gazes at one victim, his face frozen in a twisted, lifeless grimace.A homeless street kid, Domain's life in this impoverished city has never been better than a struggle for survival. Now, war batters Kinshasa's suburbs, lynch mobs roam downtown neighborhoods and death is a brutal reality for a 9-year-old boy.
From the other side of Kinshasa's June 30th Boulevard, Domain and two of his buddies watched on Saturday morning when a truck filled with troops pulled up and unloaded three captives, suspected members of a coalition force trying to oust President Laurent Kabila.
Soldiers killed two of them, and at midafternoon, the bodies of the rebels were still on a sidewalk of one of Kinshasa's busiest streets. Smoke curled up from one body.
Motorists slowed to gawk, pedestrians scurried past. And, as if standing guard, Domain and his friends circled pensively from a safe distance.
The government appears to be gaining against rebel fighters who days ago slipped past the capital's defenses and launched attacks in the eastern and western suburbs.
In the Kingasani and Masina districts near the airport, decaying corpses littered the streets, Health Minister Jean-Baptist Sondgi said.
When Kabila took power last year after toppling longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, he launched an ambitious campaign to get the kids off the streets and into schools or military training camps.
Over time, most of the younger boys fled back to the streets, complaining of harsh conditions.
Some are now afraid they have to hide from government gangs in search of new recruits for the army.