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Seven days in Kinshasa

semi-overcast 24 °C

I am back! And Kin is still as crazy as ever. I have slept for perhaps 6 hours since landing at midday on Saturday, fresh from the jungle and ready to fill my boots. And Kinshasa never disappoints.......

The journey home from the airport was essentially a 3 hour traffic jam during which I was called a whore by a Lebanese man after his car drove into ours trying to jump one car ahead in bumper to bumper traffic [he explained he was rich and if he had to physically push us off the road he would just pay the damages but we had to let him pass – get a life bro], was accosted by a group of street kids high on weed, and was greeted at home by no electricity, no water and a melting fridge. Bienvenue.
After managing the many household crises I headed out to sample the best chicken in DRC, at Mama Colonel in Mbandale [ok so Mbandale is in the red zone but it has a second restaurant in Macompagne for all the UN and NGO people who cannot handle the mean streets of Kin]. After that it was off to Black & White for a drink, then to the Annual Jazz Street Festival outside Ibiza Bar on the Rue de Jazz, then on to The Fiesta for the evening, interrupted by a 10 minute firework display in the centre of town. My boots were filling.

A lazy Sunday morning turned into madness beginning with a sugar rush of frozen yoghurt and a caffeine hit at Nicecream, and then off to the Stade des Martyrs for the Confederation Cup game between Congolese and Tanzanian clubs. We sat calmly in the salle d’honneur [VIP] for the first half and at half-time we headed to a small terrace for a drink where scrawled over all the walls is the word ‘furminoir’ [a mutation of fourmi noir – black ant]. The stadium is controlled by street kid gangs, all stands apart from the VIP and team areas, and the furminoir are a notorious gang that support Kinshasa team VitaClub and occupy the stands on the east-side of the stadium. During half-time the gangs test their members, or just show off to their peers, by encroaching into the territory of the other gangs. It’s a dangerous game – if they get caught by an opposing gang too far from the support of their allies the beatings are vicious and have been known to be fatal. My partner decides we will watch the second-half from the east-side stand’s second tier – furminoir hunting ground. It’s easily the best view in the stadium and aside from having to support the other team for 45 minutes nothing is different.......until they start to lose. Then the rocks and stones start landing on the pitch and the Police Militaire deploy to the stands, sending hundreds of kids racing down the terraces and out onto the street. The PM are notoriously ruthless and wander around the stands whipping long white canes at anyone between 5 and 25 years old. Those who fight back are rewarded with a group beating that is stopped only by an outbreak of fighting elsewhere in the stands. Occasionally the PM trap someone too brave or too slow to run, and it’s no joke. We decided to avoid the traffic and leave 5 minutes before the end. A path through the kids and military clears for us and, despite the violence just moments before, everyone moves calmly and smiles politely at me as if pretending the last 30 minutes of beatings never happened, or maybe they were hoping I hadn’t noticed. Following me out of the stands were 2 PM dragging down the concrete stairs a completely naked and heavily drunk and beaten street kid of about 17 who is likely to be having the worst week of his life in a military jail somewhere in Kinshasa. And nobody blinked.

After the afternoon reality check we found light relief at the Centre Culturel in the old Presidential Zoo at Mont-Ngaliema for a concert of African music and some even better fireworks. The line-up included the best known Congolese choral group Les Enchanteurs, Fredy Massamba singing French and Lingala blues, and the old Zaico with a special guest performance from the amusingly-named Bill Clinton. After much Tembo and makayabu fuelled merriment we finally crashed at midnight.

I had a serious case of the Lundiose in the office but it was worth it......

Posted by hobbit1 01:37 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged street kids

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