“We’re so scared of the purple berets that we hide ourselves whenever we see them”
When I saw the video, my hair stood on end, it’s like someone was doing this to my mother! What I found most shocking was that at the end of the video, you can see the guards filming each other, as if they were proud of what they had just done, and they were commending themselves openly for having forced these women to strip naked. There is no limit to what these guards will do, even going so far as to film themselves committing abuses, because they know they will not be held accountable for anything so long as the video does not go public.This is not the first time the republican guard has acted in this way; we often hear stories of public humiliations. In 2011, I was very shocked when Paul Marie Mpouélé, an opposition activist, was severely beaten and stripped naked in the streets of Brazzaville because he had tried to organise a peaceful demonstration [Editor’s note: the protest had not been granted police authorisation]. We are so scared of the purple berets that we hide whenever we see them.One of the guards, sitting in his car, gives orders to the five women.The republican guard is the best-trained force in Congo, and so I fail to understand how members of the security elite could act in such a way! It seems like this feeling of impunity has really sunk deep into the norms here. And the failure to sanction the republican guard influences the local police, who feel like they can also do the same kind of thing [Editor’s note: in April, the France 24 Observers published a video showing sexual abuse committed by Brazzaville policemen].
“These women are probably prostitutes from the DRC…the guards wanted to tell them they are not welcome here”
The republican guards were operating near the forum to “clean up” the area around the Parliamentary Palace. These women, who are very likely prostitutes, were probably mostly from the DRC. Indeed, very often, these “Zaïrians” come to Congo for economic reasons. They are typically extremely poor and make up most of the prostitutes working in Brazzaville. From the footage, it looks like the guards’ objective was to tell them they are not welcome here.This video takes place within the larger context of xenophobia towards immigrants from the DRC. These so-called “Zaïrian foreigners” are targeted by sweep operations. On July 5th, during celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the city of Oyo in northern Congo-Brazzaville, the police targeted and chased down many DRC citizens. Recently, a video published online showed the police commissioner, Jean-François N’Dengué, inciting the population to “kill Zaïrians” and, more specifically, the Kulunas, a gang from Kinshasa, in Lingala [the local language].