It’s closing time in Kinshasa

The long, loud nights of Kinshasa’s street life are likely to be shortened by the new governor of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s unruly capital, as part of a city-wide crusade against “dirtiness”.

In less than a month, the bars spilling out on to the city’s highways and byways will no longer be allowed to serve customers with beer and meat skewers before 6pm. Five hours later, the premises must close, Governor Gentiny Ngobila ordered a week ago.

Customers on the packed terraces of working-class districts such as the Huilerie, Matonge and Bandal will benefit from an extension until midnight at weekends and on public holidays after the rules take effect on August 1.

Popular rumba music can still boom out, but sales of drinks must always cease an hour before closing time, according to authorities, who believe that a “live and let live” attitude has gone too far in Africa’s third-largest metropolis.

The bid to cut down on noise and disorderly conduct is just one aspect of Ngobila’s “Kin Bopeto” — “Clean Kinshasa” — operation, which also targets alleged sex workers and delinquents.

“Sometimes you find somebody having a beer at 10 o’clock in the morning. What state will they be in by midday?” protested Didier Tenge Litho, the provincial minister of the environment.

He has exhumed “the ordinance-law of May 31 1975, which regulates the opening and closing hours of places serving [alcoholic] drinks”.

Speaking on several radio stations to spread the word, Tenge Litho said that the Kin Bopeto campaign is intended to provoke a general “change in outlook and behaviour” to “reject filth”.

Nobody knows for sure how many people live in the sprawling capital — there has been no census since 1984 — but a broad consensus estimate puts the population at 10-million. — AFP

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