Dictatorship Rules: Life in the Congo during the Mobutu reign …
With the government failing to pay it employees, not because the country was poor but because the country was poorly managed, a lot of funny, embarrassing and degrading acts emerged from the military and the police. Here are two events I witnessed …
Story No. 1
Two of my friends were walking around town one afternoon when a policeman stopped them and asked for identity cards. The boys pulled their IDs out and give them to him,
The policeman looked at the IDs and uttered “Ooh no! These IDs are old, they don’t make these kinds any more. You are young and you have to produce another form of ID.”
The boys started shivering; the policeman asked, “Bring your student cards.”
The boys replied “we don’t go to school, sir.”
The policeman acted frustrated: “You don’t go to school! You know that it’s a crime not to go to school? Now show me your cards of baptism?"
“I am not baptized yet, sir” one boy said.
“It is against the law to walk without your card of baptism. You are under arrest boy. Yours?” looking at the other boy.
“I am a Muslim, sir.“
“What about the Muslim card?“ the officer asked.
The boy wondered and looked at the policeman like he was crazy! But he didn’t speak. He answered, “There is no such thing as a Muslim card, sir.”
The policeman, who was just forcing things to get a crime out of the boys, was done with it and told them both they were under arrest for not having proper documentation.
He finalized his arrest by asking, ”How much do you have?”
Story No. 2
My sister was traveling with her husband after getting married. Along the way, the military stopped the bus and started searching it. After a while of searching, they looked at her and asked her name. She told them the name, they then looked at each other and said to her, “Get out of the bus. You are so pretty and you need to be the general’s wife."
She cried to them: “I am married, please forgive me.”
“Where is your ring?," they asked. She showed them but that didn’t change things as they were determined to take her away.
Then she pointed at her husband and said, "that’s my husband there, please let me go.”
That just made the soldiers more angry and they ordered the husband to get off the bus as well … When they got ready to leave with the wife, the husband said, “Before you can take my wife and I, would you let me send a word to my father with this bus that’s going home?”
The soldiers asked: “Who is your father?”
“Colonel Kapango,” he replied.
After just saying that name of the Colonel, the soldiers changed their minds and started apologizing.
“Military family! Come, boy, you were supposed to say that earlier. Do you want us to get in trouble?"
Then they turned their attention to the driver, asking him to take good care of the couple. They intimidated the driver and finally, they asked my sister’s husband “Do you have some for cigarette for us?”
During these times of Mobutu, in Zaire, the armed robbers were police officers and soldiers. And this was because they were not getting paid by the government. So, their chiefs would tell them to use their guns to feed their families …