The ‘zombies of Kinshasa’ is the name that Der Spiegel attributes to these people, victims of a new drug that is ravaging territories in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The drug, manufactured thanks to car catalysts, has left on Whatsapp and other networks images that show an unavoidable reality: men and women who walk slowly and have lost any hint of emotion in their faces.
To obtain this drug, traffickers unscrew the catalytic converter from parked cars and remove the contents of the catalytic converter, replacing it with metallic threads. A Congolese mechanic told Der Spiegel that ”several customers have given him their cars in this state”. The catalysts have some chemical compounds such as tramadol, nitrile, dolarene and ampicillin.
This drug has become an epidemic that has reached the eyes of the government of the republic. The matter is so serious that even the President, Felix Thisekedi, has held a cabinet meeting to discuss the use of this drug and to get it regulated.
A drug that penetrates into poor neighborhoods
The use of the drug has its raison d’être in territories devastated by poverty and criminality. Without going any further, Kinshasha, one of the least inhabitable cities on the planet, is one of the epicenters of this terrible occurrence due to the deplorable conditions in which its citizens live. As a result, they seek drugs as an alternative to feel better.
The drug has the appearance of a crystal with brown powder. Along with that powder, white pills are crumbled and put together. By combining the pills, young people confirm that they ”get an appetite” because otherwise they ”wouldn’t eat anything for days”.
They can consume the drug in different ways. Snorting it is the easiest way, but it can also be put inside a cigarette and smoked.
Young people say that this drug only costs one euro, so for them it is affordable and also ”makes life easier”. As trafficking has spread in these neighborhoods, police have arrested up to 100 people in recent days.
Kinshasha is one of the most populous cities in the world where the contrast between rich and poor is immense. Nearly 15 million Kinshasha residents have no steady job. The coronavirus pandemic has worsened this crisis, so many people have turned to drugs in despair of what the future holds.
The Kulumas, a gang of young gang members who commit theft and other crimes, are some of the biggest users of the drug because it puts them in an ”absolute state of bliss”.
Bombé does not produce hallucinations or states of drunkenness, but rather it plunges you into a void in which you feel indifference and nothing in your surroundings makes you unhappy. Gangs use it before street fights to feel this indifference.
Cancer and heart problems
The consequences of this drug are irreversible, and according to Patrice Kapia, leader of the Congolese addiction program, ”heart and lung problems as well as cancer” can occur. This plague has in turn left several deaths in its wake.
Some organizations have taken matters into their own hands by creating programs such as the ”Sober Communities program” in which they help those addicted to the drug to overcome it. Those affected carry out community services such as picking up trash in the streets of Kinshasha and receive money for their services, so that they have their sights set on a better world being possible.