Kinshasa : Fuel shortages, traffic and wewa godfathers

Kintambo traffic 7/9/2022

You wake up and step outside and notice a massive queue of cars around the block at the fuel station next door. You’re not sure what the cause is. You hear it is about unpaid government fuel subsidies, the war in Ukraine or some other confusing issue with fuel companies (found this tweet from The Africa Report journalist Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala explaining the issue in Lingala by a government communication officer).

In any case, you hope your tank will last until after the crisis… If not, wake up early and sit in a queue for several hours or a whole day (maybe two) and fight off the cheaters that want to skip the queue (a norm here). Don’t go with jerry cans, they won’t serve you, only vehicles. You’re told it is only unleaded fuel that’s missing. Ouf, your car is diesel.

But schools have started again.

You decide to drive from the office for lunch “nearby”. Biggest mistake of your life. Now prepare to sit in incomprehension for 1 hour and cops looking at you, wondering how they can harass you for a mistake you didn’t make.

You’re finally at the restaurant and quickly eat. Luckily, traffic today is in one direction.

Maybe you’re on the way to the airport. Someone starts hitting your door and window hard. “GIVE ME MONEY” they scream, looking drunk and angry at your foreign face. You ignore it and hope the traffic clears up and you can slowly move forward. Thank God. Let’s get out of here.

The soul-crushing, unavoidable traffic eats away at your sanity.

Maybe get on the back of a motorcycle if you really can’t stand it anymore. Don’t hit one of them though or one of the millions of pedestrians walking on the side of the roads as sidewalks are inexistent or overrun with merchants.

Maybe take a taxi or get into a bus if there’s space. Oh sorry, motorcycles are not allowed in the Gombe, officially. But unofficially they’re there until a cop decides to arrest them randomly as there are so many. I’ve heard that they are protected by unions or syndicates in case they get arrested. There are Godfathers of the “wewas” (a Tshibula (Language from the ex-Kasai provinces) nickname meaning “You there”, referring to how you call up a motorcycle taxi). A good plot for a Netflix movie.

Just google it: “Embouteillages Kinshasa”.


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Boulevard du 30 Juin
Boulevard Lumumba
24 Novembre






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