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Machete Boys of Congo

Kulunas: Inside the brutal world of youth gangs

There is no law or moral code for youngsters in Matadi’s impoverished neighbourhoods. In their teenage years, they’ve already earned a reputation as cruel outlaws who prowl the streets, steal from locals, extort money from businesses and fight each other. They are known as Kulunas – members of youth gangs infesting Congolese cities.

Congolese youth gangs known as Kulunas
Shina Ram, a Matadi gang leader, agreed to talk to RTD about the Kulunas.

‘Sans Loi’ (Outlaws) is one of the gangs whose members, aged 15-17, terrorise local inhabitants. The teenagers hang around, take drugs and make money by charging people to use a public toilet and running protection rackets.

Matadi residents say Kulunas deserve punishment and often don’t wait for the police to enforce justice as lynching has become commonplace. In response, Kulunas like the Outlaws use magic charms for protection against rivals and eat cat meat, which they say gives them strength.

Congolese Kuluna youth gangs
Gang members are known for their use of machetes.

RTD goes to the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet the Outlaw gang members and their older mentors from another group for more about Kuluna social epidemic. Young men take us to their neighbourhoods and show how they pass time offering a shocking insight into their world of violence and drugs.