After finally being moved to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following out-of-control riots in Kisangani, Joshua French and his friend, Tjostolv ‘Mike’ Moland, have written a report to share and highlight the horrors of their first weeks in the new location.
As I read through the report, the picture Joshua paints becomes more and more vivid. So many things he says demonstrates the flaws in the DRC’s justice system, from rough and humiliating physical treatment by the guards to constant loud noise, preventing even a couple of hours sleep. However, a few sentences and stories stand out as more chilling than the common reports of inmates being “roughed about a bit” in prisons in the DRC.
Half way through his first week in the new prison, Joshua describes the disturbing insight he and his cell mates were given into the existence of the mentally ill prisoners. A man was brought into a cell, near by to theirs, before being stripped naked and tied up with his hands behind his back and his ankles together. He was then left in his own faeces and vomit, howling, for the next 24 hours. During this time, a nurse came to see the man once, to inject some kind of sedative, which knocked him out for 5 hours, but still had to be told by the other prisoners to leave the man on his side, whilst unconscious to stop him choking on his own vomit. It makes you wonder what sort of training this nurse has been through.
Although Joshua managed to avoid this cruel treatment, his journey between the two prisons was not much better. Bundled into the back of a van with many other prisoners and barely room to move, Joshua and his friend were thrown about, handcuffed and unable to hold on to anything. The men were deprived of food and water throughout the whole journey, but constantly promised that it was just around the corner. However, on arrival to the prison, after being aggressively searched, the guards informed the men that food, water and a phone call would have to wait until the next day. The men left Kisangani early on Friday morning; on Saturday they bought a bottle of water each from the guards and drank for the first time since Thursday.
Almost exactly a week later, Joshua talks about, what he calls, a massacre. In the early hours of the morning, he and his cell mates are woken by the sound of automatic gun fire. The next day he finds out that a group of prisoners attempted to escape, none of which were successful. The prison guards’ reaction to this was one of panicked chaos. Joshua writes about round ricocheting of walls and roofs, intended for the escapees, but not contained to prevent collateral damage. Rumours fly around the prison of injured escapees being beaten and even executed, by the guards.
It has taken just two weeks, for Joshua to see this mistreatment. He ends the report by explaining that he has told us, just the most “important” details and promises to continue to tell his story.