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Cleansing Kinshasa's streets with punch: popular reactions to the governmental Campaign Opération Likofi

Kristien Geenen (UGent)
Author
Organization
Abstract
A recent governmental campaign in Kinshasa, Opération Likofi, targeted the members of kolunas, gangs that had been threatening and robbing citizens in the streets since some years. Likofi means a punch in Kinshasa’s vernacular, and the term covers the feel: the police forces acted fiercely and pitilessly. Through the pervasiveness of these violent gangs, citizens had started to foster the idea that the state was no longer present, and the authorities wanted to rectify this picture by implementing a zero tolerance. Since the recent victory upon the M23 rebellions in eastern Congo, the president’s depiction had become omnipresent in Kinshasa’s public spaces and the flaunting of muscles by the Likofi campaigners was meant to underscore that the national government was still firmly in charge. Moreover, citizens were asked to actively participate in the Opération Likofi, and a 'shop a koluna' telephone line was made operational. Things soon went out of hand though, as everyone who “looked like” a koluna was harassed or imprisoned, and sometimes executed on the spot, in a previously unseen wave of violence against Kinshasa’s streetyouths in particular. Opération Likofi could be seen as a kind of punitive populism undertaken by a government which is unpopular and uncertain of its legitimacy in Kinshasa - as evidenced by attempts to link this bloody crackdown against koluna to nationalism stirred by military operations in the east. The paper discusses how those who use Kinshasa’s public spaces experienced Opération Likofi and (re)negotiated public access to the streets.
Keywords
streetgangs, public space, Kinshasa

Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Geenen, Kristien. “Cleansing Kinshasa’s Streets with Punch: Popular Reactions to the Governmental Campaign Opération Likofi.” African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference, Abstracts. 2014. Print.
APA
Geenen, Kristien. (2014). Cleansing Kinshasa’s streets with punch: popular reactions to the governmental Campaign Opération Likofi. African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference, Abstracts. Presented at the African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference.
Chicago author-date
Geenen, Kristien. 2014. “Cleansing Kinshasa’s Streets with Punch: Popular Reactions to the Governmental Campaign Opération Likofi.” In African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference, Abstracts.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Geenen, Kristien. 2014. “Cleansing Kinshasa’s Streets with Punch: Popular Reactions to the Governmental Campaign Opération Likofi.” In African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference, Abstracts.
Vancouver
1.
Geenen K. Cleansing Kinshasa’s streets with punch: popular reactions to the governmental Campaign Opération Likofi. African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference, Abstracts. 2014.
IEEE
[1]
K. Geenen, “Cleansing Kinshasa’s streets with punch: popular reactions to the governmental Campaign Opération Likofi,” in African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference, Abstracts, Brighton, UK, 2014.
@inproceedings{5702316,
  abstract     = {A recent governmental campaign in Kinshasa, Opération Likofi, targeted the members of kolunas, gangs that had been threatening and robbing citizens in the streets since some years. Likofi means a punch in Kinshasa’s vernacular, and the term covers the feel: the police forces acted fiercely and pitilessly. Through the pervasiveness of these violent gangs, citizens had started to foster the idea that the state was no longer present, and the authorities wanted to rectify this picture by implementing a zero tolerance. Since the recent victory upon the M23 rebellions in eastern Congo, the president’s depiction had become omnipresent in Kinshasa’s public spaces and the flaunting of muscles by the Likofi campaigners was meant to underscore that the national government was still firmly in charge. Moreover, citizens were asked to actively participate in the Opération Likofi, and a 'shop a koluna' telephone line was made operational. Things soon went out of hand though, as everyone who “looked like” a koluna was harassed or imprisoned, and sometimes executed on the spot, in a previously unseen wave of violence against Kinshasa’s streetyouths in particular. Opération Likofi could be seen as a kind of punitive populism undertaken by a government which is unpopular and uncertain of its legitimacy in Kinshasa - as evidenced by attempts to link this bloody crackdown against koluna to nationalism stirred by military operations in the east. The paper discusses how those who use Kinshasa’s public spaces experienced Opération Likofi and (re)negotiated public access to the streets.},
  author       = {Geenen, Kristien},
  booktitle    = {African Studies Association of the UK/ASA UK Conference, Abstracts},
  keywords     = {streetgangs,public space,Kinshasa},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Brighton, UK},
  title        = {Cleansing Kinshasa's streets with punch: popular reactions to the governmental Campaign Opération Likofi},
  year         = {2014},
}