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[Gangs of Africa] “Black babies” or… disorganized crime

black babies

In Brazzaville, the peaceful capital of Congo, for six years, gangs of young people have been scaring people. The phenomenon of "black babies" is now part of the daily life of Brazzaville residents.

From Talangaï to Moungali, via the Poto-Poto district, when night falls in Brazzaville, the capital of Congo, it is better not to take the dark streets. Because in these alleys made of sand and pebbles, the "black babies" reign terror.

The "black babies" are young gangsters who roam the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Brazzaville. A phenomenon that has already been observed in Italy or the United Kingdom, with the “Baby Gangs”. On the side of the "black babies", it's total disorganization: no hierarchy and no precise objective... But with them, the acts of violence multiply and, very often, it's not even for a question of silver. But then, what motivates Congolese “black babies”?

This lack of organization and the fact that they do not have clear demands makes it very difficult for theIt is up to the police to overcome these gangs, made up of young people aged 12 to 25.

We recognize the "black babies" by their machete, the shorts and the tank top they wear, and whose colors differ according to the group. The best known is certainly “The Americans”, by Moungali.

But precisely, when the "black babies" are not at war with each other, they stand in ambush in all the alleys of Brazzaville. And attack passers-by, some being robbed while others are scarred. Groups that use large amounts of alcohol and drugs…

Omerta in Brazzaville… or vendetta

A strange modus operandi but which has its reasons: if no Brazzavillois would open his door to a "black baby", no one would denounce the members of the gang. Because the punitive expeditions of the “black babies” target the families and neighborhoods of the “libra”. There are at least 17 cases of intentional assault and battery, more than 000 mutilations and dozens of murders in 5 in Brazzaville, all attributed to these young gangsters.

Complaints against X, in the Congolese capital, are increasing, against "black babies". Problem: if this gang is not an urban legend, yet its criminal activity is far from organized. And that is a real concern. Congolese authorities may have launched several cleaning operations, nothing works. Since the appearance of "black babies" in Brazzaville in 2015, the Congolese judicial police have nevertheless arrested hundreds of alleged gang members. And if many of them are arrested in high schools, the police never venture into the most affected neighborhoods.

Norbert Massamba, policeman in Brazzaville, explains to the Journal de l'Afrique that “the patrols cannot stop them in flagrante delicto. They have lookouts and when we control them, they have already got rid of their weapons or drugs. The inhabitants of the neighborhoods do not want to testify”.

“You can't just arrest minors for hiding in the alleys at night. Sometimes we catch some of them for possession of drugs. But still it is necessary that we manage to surround them. The 'black babies' always choose neighborhoods with rough roads, ”deplores the gendarme.

As long as the "black babies" do not disturb the bourgeois...

Yet several leaders of the “black babies” have been arrested over the years. Michel Kikayou, the leader of the group "The Americans", was arrested in 2018. In his testimony, made public, he declared that originally, the "black babies" were a group of artists, whose fans, underprivileged young people, organized themselves into groups. But due to "jealousy" and the "use of magic", according to Kikayou, a war broke out between rival groups.

Three years later, a brigadier-chief of the police, Roy Soko Okamba, was also arrested in Brazzaville. According to the Interior Ministry, it was actually Okamba who was at the head of the "black babies". The policeman was convicted of armed robbery, criminal association, ten murders and dozens of rapes. However, less than a year later, in March 2022, singer DJ Boleance was in turn charged with leading the organization, after being arrested for the murder of his wife.

Anyway, ifthere is undeniably an omerta vis-à-vis "black babies", the silence is not only blamed on criminals and locals. According to a Congolese politician, who wished to remain anonymous, “there is no real will to stop the 'black babies'. Despite the violence. As long as it does not affect the 'lokumu na bozwi' (the ruling class or the bourgeois, in Brazzaville slang), the authorities prefer to avoid them. And sometimes use them.

Read: The “re-education” of criminals

Accusations which add up to the statements of the local media, several of which speak of "thugs arrested and sometimes sentenced by the courts" who "find themselves days later in the streets to attack again".

It is also necessary to note the similarities between these gangs and the “kulunas”. The latter are criminal groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), often tried for forced labor by the authorities on the other side of the river. In addition, more than 400 DRC nationals were expelled from Brazzaville in 2014, accused of being… “black babies”. Obviously, they weren't.

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