The Congo Mafia

Tammy and I got a kick out of Flory’s cousin Florimond. He seems to be a well connected, important person here in the Congo. He has men who follow his orders, three cars at his disposal and even the general brought him a goat to thank him for giving him a bottle of wine. When we were sent off to Nayngezi, it was his man Justin who drove us. Justin was also responsible for staying at Nayngezi while our group was there. He walked around with a cell phone or two way radio-I couldn’t figure out which-and it made us think of the old Mafia movies in the US. Poor Justin, we started referring to him as Florimond’s Thug.

We found out later in the week that the term Thug would fit Justin in the states. He played his radio in the middle of the night, and we ignored it for a few nights until I got so angry that I got up and made him turn it off.

It was Justin who refused to let us use the generator unless we paid for the fuel. He demanded 46 dollars a day to run the generator for four hours. Flory negotiated 10 dollars a day for two hours-he didn’t ask me or tell me who was demanding the money. When we asked Florimond on Sunday he said things were just so expensive in the Congo and that the generator was not included in the price. My scowl showed my anger as I explained to Florimond that so far I have found nothing that cost more in the Congo than in the United States and that if he did not include the price of the generator than we would not have electricity because I was not paying another dollar. But the electricity continued because Flory had already paid.

On our last day, Flory came to me to let me know we had some bills to pay. There was the extortion money from the Army and the Police – standard for any Congo event. We wold also need to pay the local and regional radio stations to come cover our event. He then told me we needed to pay 60 dollars for video taping of the training and they demanded more money for the generator.

I told Flory I didn’t know I had agreed to pay for the video taping, that I had been asked if they could tape parts of it to advertise for the Center. He said he had given Justin 60 dollars for video tapes out of the translator budget. I was now angry. Flory admitted that Justin had been a problem all week demanding money and he apparently thought he was saving me the hassle by dealing with him by himself. I told Flory I had no intention of paying for video tapes unless I went home with them; and that he was not to pay another cent for the generator because he had already given 80 dollars to cover the 8 nights. Flory said he would go with me to tell Justin.

Poor Justin didn’t know what hit him. He explained how the fuel was gone, and I explained that was not our problem, that we had already paid to use the generator for 8 nights. He then tried to tell me we had already used eight nights, so I wrote it out for him to show that he actually still owed us two nights-the subject was immediately dropped since he had no intention of giving us a refund. I also told him I needed a receipt for the video tapes and the tapes themselves, and I needed a receipt from Florimond for all the expenses. Flory just smiled as we walked away. He told us later that Justin had been mistreating the women and causing other problems too. The lights came on no problem that night. Poor Justin.

Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)


  1. Denise

    Tammy and Jennifer- you two are amazing woman! Keep up
    the great work over there. They are lucky to have you. Denise

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