Electricity: The death of an elderly woman revives memories of the time when power cuts were an attack on state security

Electricity: The death of an elderly woman revives memories of the time when power cuts were an attack on state security
Electricity: The death of an elderly woman revives memories of the time when power cuts were an attack on state security

A vigil like there are almost everywhere, in the neighborhoods of Brazzaville. However, the one we are recounting was held on rue Lagué in Moungali. An elderly lady died in painful circumstances, linked to untimely power cuts. And as in all vigils, in the stories and anecdotes that fill the night, the supply of electricity was the main theme, to the point that the elders reminded the young people that there was a time in this country when the A power cut was considered an attack on state security and those responsible for the outage were questioned at State Security, or even imprisoned.

An elderly lady died after unbearable exposure to the heat wave in Brazzaville.

Suffering from asthma, the lady, aged over 70, had difficulty breathing, as the hot and stifling air which drowns the city day and night seemed to further dilate her lungs, to the point that she felt permanent suffocation. .

Her attending physician had recommended two solutions, apart from Ventolin, which the lady did not deprive herself of. Go to the village where the air is more breathable, or equip your house with an air conditioner.

Having almost no parents left in the village to take care of their mother, her two children opted to buy an air conditioner for their mother. It was installed immediately, to the great happiness of the lady who had rediscovered the joy of living. His breathing problems having been resolved.

10 days since the air conditioner was installed, and everything was fine. However, on this 11th day, around 9:30 a.m., “the power went out”, as we are now accustomed to in Congolese towns.

Assisting their grandmother while their parents were at work, the grandsons hoped for a rapid return of the electricity supply. However, as the minutes passed, the air in the house grew warmer and their grandmother panted, as if she was having trouble breathing again.

Faced with this situation, the children called their parents, reporting that the grandmother was in bad shape. When they arrived, they found their mother sweating profusely. At the Brazzaville Hospital and University Center, triage doctors recorded a body in storage. On the way between home and the hospital, life had left the lady’s body.

At the vigil, the young people were quick to blame the death of the lady on Adou Danga, the E2C director, electricity supplier, who, through his untimely cuts, had led to the death of the lady. And to sing songs like: “Kendé mama éh, Adou Danga a bomi yo. Okendé malamu mama eh, ya Adou a bomi yo eh. »

As if to corroborate the indexation made by the young people by making E2C and therefore Adou Danga its director, responsible for the death of the old lady, the elders unfold stories in which they evoke what the supply of electricity was like in their youth. .

“In our youth, there were not these sudden and unexplained power cuts. The general power cut was seen as an attempt to undermine state security. The agents on duty at the time of the outage were reported to State Security, which was the Intelligence services at the time. They had to prove and justify that it was a failure and not a deliberate act of sabotage. The director could be removed from his post for incompetence, due to his inability to anticipate a breakdown which could have serious consequences on the life of the country.

Sometimes, when a power cut occurred at night, in a specific neighborhood, before restoration just a few minutes, the rumor evoked the arrival of a high-ranking official in the said neighborhood and the power cut was a way of to remove it from the sight of the populations.

Power cuts for works were announced in advance via radio or television announcements. The SNE, the electricity company, gave the reasons and the duration of the intervention time. Power was restored at the indicated time.

When a general power outage lasted all night or most of the day, the whole city was in uproar. We were wondering what was going on. We rushed to get home, because it was a sign that bad things were in the air. A coup d’état for example.

And if by chance, the power cut was followed by the cessation of radio and television broadcasts, it was even worse.

Not far from here, rue Lagué where we are, there was an incident due to the current, in rue Mboko towards the Moungali market, in front of a restaurant which no longer exists, which was called Chez Mbouta Sam .

The year is 1976. During the rain, lightning struck a power pole and severed the cable which fell to the wet ground. Three people died. The incident was such that President Marien Ngouabi traveled to inquire about the situation. Had it not been for the lightning, SNE agents would have found themselves in prison. The State took charge of the funeral. Measures were taken to ensure that such a situation would not happen again. This shows how the production and supply of electricity were strategic sectors.

Since then, everything has gone to hell. Even the change in the name of the company has not changed anything in its practices towards its customers, such as us. As a result, we mourn the mother who died due to a power outage which rendered the air conditioner inoperable, to the point of deteriorating her state of health. »

How many others are there in this lady’s case, who die every time there is a power cut. Deaths which do not haunt the sleep of those responsible for the power outages having sent them to their own ends beyond measure. To them, everything seems normal. Common or not common for populations, this does not affect their daily lives and life goes on.

Perhaps things will change if the power outage is once again considered an attack on state security. Agents at all levels will overextend themselves, for fear of being incarcerated for attempted coup d’état.

Bertrand BOUKAKA/Les Échos du Congo-Brazzaville

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