I accompanied police as they patrolled the streets and detained those who were in contravention of the new rules as they went into effect on Wednesday evening.
With two pick-up trucks of police, we started at 6:30pm by visiting bars and restaurants, where police checked to see whether people were maintaining social distancing and wearing masks, which is now obligatory in public. Quite a few people weren’t wearing masks, but if they were cooperative, they were allowed to go. Anyone who resisted or caused problems was taken to the police station.
At 8pm, as the curfew began, police set up barricades at a main roundabout and stopped cars and pedestrians, asking people why they were still out. Most said they were on their way home from shopping, from the hospital, or from restaurants because they didn’t have facilities to cook at home.
At one point, a group of men was made to sit on the ground and their cases were heard one by one. If they were respectful and had a good explanation for being out, they were allowed to go, but those who protested or disputed were taken to the police station, where they could be fined from 20,000 to 200,000 Congolese francs ($11 to $110 at the official rate) for breaking the new lockdown laws.
In total, I saw about 20 people detained this way. After we finished, I walked home and was stopped by another police roadblock. I showed them my press pass and they let me go. I was home by 10:30pm. It was the only first night of the curfew. There were two more weeks ahead.