Driving from Gombe to Limete

It rained.
The roads got flooded.
Women were still on the street selling bananas and other fruits
Puddles everywhere
Police and traffic agents attempting to direct stubborn drivers
Ladies in heels walking through mud
Trying to stay impeccable
Cars parked any which way
Holes on the road getting bigger

Trying to turn right
Trying to cut through the traffic
No way
You’re stuck
Just wait
Yellow buses and taxis blocking your way
Wewas sliding in and out of lanes
No helmets
No gloves
No shoes
Suddenly it’s cleared up
You’re going at 60 km per hour
Watch out for the huge pothole
Slow down
Hit the brakes hard
Sidewalks are filthy
Trash and plastic and charcoal
A lady burning her trash
Someone selling random things on a filthy floor
The smell of frying beignets
The smell of fufu being boiled
Do you want some dried sausages?
You’ve reached the Huilerie round about
The road is shitty again

Operation Zero Holes is underway, your driver says
The governor is the one who launched it he says
A Hyundai Palisade is ahead
Your driver says it’s what the congressmen were all given
An abandoned fuel station on the left
A wewa with a child and mother zip pass your window
On your right there’s the huge Lebanese bread factory, Pain Victoire

The stadium “Stade des Martyrs” is on your left

Stade Kamanyola as it was called before
Where all of Mobutu’s politicians were executed, the martyrs

With huge Vodacom adverts

They’re building something massive up ahead
It’s some Chinese multisport complex
The government “Palais du Peuple” is on your right
Built under Mobutu

You’re now approaching the Kasavubu and Triomphale intersection
Police men and women make you nervous here
They are ruthless
Waiting for you to make a mistake
They randomly pick whom they will bother to extract a few dollars
Their intimidation techniques are legendary
They can break into your car
Smash windows
Puncture your tires
Remove your number plates
I was told someone got their wallet stolen by cops at this intersection

Surprisingly there’s no traffic
Lucky us
A wewa appears out of nowhere pushing his bike
The nth accident avoided

Driving under the famous “passerelles” built by a Tunisian company

In the distance, the “Échangeur”, a large pointed building that serves no particular purpose but is a trademark building built under Mobutu
It is one of Kinshasa’s signature landmarks

Trying to turn left
No one lets you through
You need to move forward inch by inch
Where are the traffic cops?
Use your horn to edge forward
You’ve blocked the intersection
But there still are cars moving past you
A huge black Toyota tries to intimidate you
Blocking your way
Now everyone is hooting
Screams everywhere in Lingala

An overloaded taxi with 20 bags of 50 kg of coal on it
Doors are left open
The bumpers are practically touching the ground

You pass a “quado”
One of the thousands of tyre repair workshops on the side of the roads
They’ll fix your flat tire in a second with some rubber pieces, glue and some water

You’ve turned onto a dirty, grimy street with mud and overflowing gutters
Sidewalks are packed with hawkers and vegetable sellers
As well as makeshift terrasses selling beer and coke
A lady cooks for the local workers fufu and other Congolese dishes

You’ve arrived

Only to have to go back in a few hours.

Emilio Noorani
27 October 2021
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo



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