A thief electrocuted by the very cables he was trying to steal. Photo posted on Afrique Rédaction on Dec. 24, 2009. 

Electrocutions are becoming increasingly common in Kinshasa, where on rainy days, pedestrians risk their lives just crossing the street. The reason: electrical cables lie exposed on the ground. 

In Kinshasa, the SNEL, the national electrical company, is in charge of providing power. But the infrastructure is old and in a poor state of repair, and people regularly come across out of place cables that pop up on the roadside. In France, by contrast the average electrical cable is built 80 cm underground, covered in concrete.

At the beginning of January, a woman of 50 died of electrocution in the Lingwala area near the city centre.

According to local media, there were over 130 deaths in the capital in 2007 owing to these dangerous cables. And there is no sign that this will change despite the promises of the SNEL.

Cable thieves on trial

Posted on Flickr by "CongoBloG" in February 2008.

In Kalamu district, Kinshasa. Two people accused, one for stealing 56 metres of SNEL cable and the other for buying the stolen cable.

Faulty cables on the streets of Kinshasa

Posted on Flickr by "Congoblog".

Posted on Flickr by "Bukavuonline".

Posted on Flickr by "rdcbel".

"Despite all these troubles, we pay very high bills regularly"

Stéphanie Nyota Muliri, 50, works in PR in Kinshasa.

The cables are a daily problem. When it rains in Kinshasa, the roads are covered in huge puddles, you can't even see the electrical cables and people treading on them die on the spot from electrocution.

The electrical feed in Kinshasa is catastrophic. Sometimes we go without electricity for two or three days running. We have to manage on our own. I usually ask someone to replace a faulty cable, and they fix the problem directly from the electrical cable box. It is dangerous but we have no choice. How can you live without electricity?

The cables we buy ourselves are purchased at the market. Sometimes the SNEL agents even tell us that we have to provide the cables in order for them to fix the electrical problem. There are entire neighbourhoods who have to chip in to buy the cables.

This had led to a black market for electrical wiring. And when the current is cut off, the neighbourhoods plunge into darkness, and thieves try to make off with the wires for resale (some lose their life in the process). This problem exacerbates the safety problem.

And despite all these troubles, we pay very high bills regularly. My last bill was nearly 50 euros, even though I only had power for 15 out of 30 days!"