Anarchy and the Absurd in Central Congo – 3

The Major meets the Prophet

Major Guy and Maurice on the right
The Prophet Moses is holding his trademark cross, new testament and hankie. The fellow on his right is his “son”, Lumumba. On the other side, and looking a bit doubtful, are Major Guy and Maurice.

The Major and Maurice had a second stop to make on their way to Opala, the “holy village” of Yakoko, where the prophet Moses, self-professed “anointed one”, lives among 15,000 disciples. The Major and Maurice were not making a pilgrimage, rather they were trying to find out whether or not the “cross of death” in front of Ephrem’s door in Obenge was really put there on behalf of the prophet. It was apparently a missionary for this messiah, Moses, who traced the cross in front of our TL2 compound.

the high priest's shelter
A disciple from Equateur recognized Maurice. He is standing in front of the prophet’s outdoor throne.

In Yakoko, Maurice, who has been working with us for more than 5 years and who comes originally from Equateur province, was immediately recognized by one of the disciples, also from Equateur province. He was of another Congolese sect, the Kitawalists, whom Moses is trying to recruit — along with the followers of Patrice Lumumba – to his great cause. What is his cause??

Maurice and Guy asked just that, and this is what the prophet told them. “Fight against all un-true religions that come from abroad: Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

The prophet holds forth with a pulpit vigor.

Actually the prophet’s “true” religion seems to have gleaned a bit from his un-true antecedents. The sign at the entrance to Yawende has Christian symbolism and biblical quotes. My Jerusalem Bible gives Luke 3:2, one of the cited verses, as “And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from Heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.” OK.

And the other sign at the entrance to Yakoko says this:
“From the entrance of the Belgians in 1881 until 1921 = 40 years
Kibangu (founder of a Congolese church) from 1921 to 1961 = 40 years
After Lumumba = 40 years: 1961-2001, then Lord Olumbu Christ in Opala/Yakoko”
The Prophet got his calling and started preaching at midnight – January 1st, 2001. Forty is clearly a spiritual number.

Signs at the entrance to Yakoko.

“All armies celestial and terrestrial obey me”, he told Major Guy and Maurice. Despite this he has not gotten an audience with the governor and is thought by the Provincial Administration to be a threat –an unsavory political alternative. The Prophet, however, eschews any political ambitions – publicly at least.

map showing Yakoko
Yakoko is between Kisangani and Opala, in the Territory of Opala.

The Major and Maurice also found this out: The Prophet goes by the full name “Moses, Liberator, Patrice Lumumba, Christ, Olumbu, Living God”. Olumbu was apparently his given name. He has 80 wives and increasing. They take turns, one each night with the Liberator. The little girls stay with their parents until maturity and then start taking their turn. (In our modern world, this at least seems like typical political logic). Forbid anyone to touch one of the Liberator’s wives. A story Maurice learned on the side from his Kitawalist “buddy” was that the “son” of Lumumba, publicly always at the Prophet’s side, was once found in a most compromising situation with one of the wives. He received a serious flogging, and then was forgiven. The Liberator apparently is forgiving, benevolent, redeeming.

Solemn moment
The prophet gives a benediction with Lumumba, as always, by his side.

But from the prophet himself, were Maurice and Major Guy getting the truth? He assured them that he would never do anything illegal. How could he as the living Christ? But he did tell them that all sorts of people are amongst his followers: politicians, deserters and bandits. That at least is a truth. Perhaps spiritual enlightenment comes before moral conversion?

boy soldiers at Yakoko
Among the followers are boy soldiers, part of the prophet’s 500 strong force for spiritual liberation.

The Major and Maurice continue towards Opala without enlightenment. How much was the Prophet involved with the bandits moving into the TL2 region? Was he really trying to form a coalition with the criminal Thoms?

Maurice in frustration sent this message “Moses talks like a fool. He is incoherent and makes no sense.”

Not answers perhaps, but here is some evidence later found in the abandoned backpack of the bandit, Jacques:

jacque's mission order
An official-looking mission order from Yakoko proclaiming that the “outlaws” are “evangelists”.

letters, holy water, and a scepter
Old medicine bottles filled with holy water and letters including one from the Prophet to Colonel Thoms were in the backpack.

It was Jacques who drew the cross that was a death threat to Ephrem and all TL2 workers in Obenge. It does indeed seem that moral conversion is slower than spiritual adherence, or perhaps there is nothing much spiritual about the adherence?

For many – spiritual adherence is fun.  Below is part of the prophet’s flock dancing their enlightenment in Yawende.


  1. Tim Ashton
    Posted 2011-06-02 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    To behonest, I cannot make any sense of the Prophet.

    What are the rest of the texts he cites?


  2. john hart
    Posted 2011-06-02 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    One does not get very far trying to make sense of people like the Prophet.

    His cult has nothing to do with logic at the level you evoke. And it has even less to do with solving Congo’s problems, or even providing a basis for moral decision making.

    It is an opportunity for cohesion among poor rural peasants, and for communal expression. Most of the Prophet’s adepts are illiterate or with only a few years of limited primary schooling. Few, if any, have an understanding or expectation of a functioning society beyond their immediate experience. Indeed the Prophet is a former low level state administrator with a dubious record.

    Information of sorts trickles in to such places as the Prophet’s “Vatican”, but it is unfiltered, unverified, and does not contribute to any wider connectivity.

    The Prophet is not alone out there. Congo’s vast road less rural regions without communication and in many cases without even schools, are prime breeding grounds for such sects.

    Some of these can go a long way before they are ever reigned in. Many of Congo’s recent and current points of unrest have an element of the Prophet’s type of cult behind them.

    Indeed, a subsequent visit to the Prophet by Maurice revealed that he was in contact with a failed politician who apparently saw in Moses and his following an opportunity to build a constituency for a come back.

    Leave to the imagination what that would look like.

  3. Terese Hart
    Posted 2011-06-02 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    To me, what this means is that a massive effort is needed to bring education to the vast hinterland of DRCongo. Even if we could get back to the level it was at in the 1970s that would be an advancement over where it is now — unfortunately a large advancement.

  4. Bruno Hugel
    Posted 2011-09-05 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Ouch, obstacles can come from very unexpected sources…
    Please take good care of yourselves, who knows what could go through that “prophet’s” mind (well, not sure mind is really the right word… excuse my English 😉
    Take care

  5. Terese Hart
    Posted 2011-09-07 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Your English is fine. Again I regret that I write this blog only in English!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *