The current rise in insecurity in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is often attributed to urban youth gangs – the Kulunas. Embedded in Kinshasa’s neighbourhood life and partnered with local political parties and law enforcement agencies, these gangs threaten urban security in the city.

This paper examines the rise of the Kulunas from a historical and sociological perspective, and analyzes the state’s security responses to address it.

Key points:

  • Since the beginning of 2020, there has been a new surge in Kuluna activity in Kinshasa, resulting in a rise in serious crimes, including armed robbery and violent assaults.
  • Kuluna gangs are no longer solely a Kinshasa crime phenomenon but the problem has also become widespread in smaller cities.
  • Past and current policy approaches focused on violent police repression have failed, creating counterproductive consequences.
  • It is now necessary to develop a social approach focused on prevention strategies and a strong judiciary response.
  • The gang problem indicates that one of the major challenges in the DRC in the coming years will be urban security governance.