The craze for cars and exhaust fumes worries the Congolese capital

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KINSHASA, Sept 27 (Reuters) – A new craze for a drug derived from crushed vehicle exhaust filters is shaking authorities in Kinshasa, sparking a campaign to stamp out the concoction and a related rash of auto parts thefts.

In August, police rounded up and paraded nearly 100 suspected traffickers and users of the ‘bomb’, which means powerful in the local Lingala language, following a call for action by the President of the Republic Democratic Republic of the Congo, Felix Tshisekedi.

“This social phenomenon calls for collective responsibility from the whole nation,” Tshisekedi told ministers at a weekly meeting.

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In an abandoned hut in a suburb of Kinshasa, a young man in search of oblivion splits a sachet of brown powder, mixes it with a few crushed pills with the back of a spoon, before snorting the “bomb” mixture, with his friends.

Within minutes, the trio are slowly swaying, scratching into a catatonic state that Congolese experts say can keep users immobile for hours or sleepy for days.

“We used to drink very strong whiskey…we got restless and hurt people,” said Cedrick, a 26-year-old gang leader in a designer white shirt.

“But with the bomb, it calms you down, you get tired, you stay somewhere standing or sitting for a very long time. When you’re done, you go home without disturbing anyone.”

A man shows off a substance known as a ‘bomb’, a mixture of crushed honeycomb and catalytic converter pills, before snorting it, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo August 31, 2021. Picture taken on August 31 August 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Nyemba

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Car owners, police and drug experts are not so optimistic.

The brown powder is obtained by grinding the ceramic honeycomb core of automobile catalytic converters, the device that cuts off the emission of toxic gases in vehicle exhaust pipes.

Mechanics attribute the growing demand for the drug to a wave of thefts of catalytic converters, which are coated in metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.

According to Tresore Kadogo, a mechanic based in Kinshasa, between five and ten customers come to him every day with the same problem.

“We’re checking under the car and the catalytic converter is already gone, it’s cut out,” Kadogo said. “This drug bomb is hurting our customers, especially recently.”

Users mix crushed honeycomb with vitamin pills and usually add sleeping pills, sedatives, or smoke it with tobacco, but nothing is known about how it works or its long-term effects, Dandy Yela Y said. ‘Olemba, National Director of the World Federation. against drugs.

Metals in catalytic converters can cause cancer, Yela warned. “It’s not a substance made for us to consume,” Yela said. “Are we motors or are we humans?

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Reporting by Benoit Nyemba; Additional reporting and writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Bate Felix, William Maclean

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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