Brazilian Marxist-Humanist Correspondence: On Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe

Natália de Oliveira,
Rodrigo Maiolini Rebello Pinho

These letters from Brazilian Marxist-Humanists informally discuss the January 24th, 2022 killing of Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe, the corrupt social context for this brutality, and the social repercussions of the murder and the following outcry. Kabagambe was a Congolese refugee who had been living in Brazil since 2011, and his murder has since been a rallying point for the subproletariat of African refugees in Brazil. –Editors

Hello my friends! 

So, about Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe. He was Congolese and lived in Brazil since he was 11 or 12, I think. He had refugee status and lived there with his mother and some of his brothers. The family fled Congo and had several family members killed in Congo because of the civil war there. 

In Brazil, they lived in Rio. He worked precarious jobs to support the family and one of those jobs was as a waiter at a kiosk (which sold drinks and food) on the beach. He received around 100 reais[1] a day on very busy days at the beach. Prior to his murder, he worked two days in a row (these were very hot days, so the beach was probably full) and on the third day, after working all day yet again, he asked his boss to be paid for 3 days of unpaid work. He was beaten with a baseball bat, kicked and punched… after he was killed, he was tied up too. All this in front of the kiosk itself, with people passing by and no one doing anything. The body was exposed there for two hours. After that, the rescuers arrived (who had nothing left to do since he was already dead). Then– the police. The entire action was captured by a security camera (there are 3 hours of footage that show all the people who actually beat Moïse and all those who failed to help). The issue is even more complicated, though, as there are indications that the kiosks were “confiscated” by militiamen. (These kiosks are passed on to some people who have the right to use the kiosks to do business. Since the beach is a public space, one must go through City Hall’s process to gain permission to sell at the kiosks. However, there are cases in which the militia steals the permit of the person to whom permission was officially given and starts to illegally do business for themselves). 

 Anyway, the case only had huge repercussions once the family and the Congolese community held a demonstration a few days after Moïse’s death. G1 (a news platform) reported the demonstration, then a Brazilian comedian spoke about the case on Twitter. After that, anti-racist groups, social movements, and ordinary people started talking about it on social media. Then, the whole case made it to mainstream media. If it weren’t for the movement of the Congolese community, we might not even have known that this happened. The whole case is barbaric: a Black man being beaten and tortured in a public space with several people passing by and no one helping (“After all, if he’s a Black guy, he’s probably a criminal and deserves to be beaten.” That’s the vulgar thinking of Brazilian society. That probably wouldn’t have happened if he was a white man.), and along with that, the issue of the militia seemingly being involved in the case. The police investigation is still ongoing (and I honestly don’t know if this brings any sense of relief; the police and militia have strong and deeply corrupt ties to one another). 

Unfortunately, I did not follow the articulations of the social movements in this case. I know that there are moves in this direction and that these organizations have helped the family, but I don’t know about anything else other than the filming of the crime itself. Perhaps Brazilian friends here have news about the social and perhaps political articulations of this case? 

Best,
Natalia


Hi everybody, 

I don’t have much to add to Natalia’s description. This murder, I think, displays all the terrible aspects of what Brazil is in an intertwining of capital with state, racism, and xenophobia– all clear as day against the backdrop of Rio’s exuberant nature. Beyond the specific characteristics of this horrible murder, this kind of violence is an ever-present social reality in Brazil. Just to give you an idea of events in the last few days: on the same day of Moïse’s murder, a Black man coming home from work was killed by a policeman already inside his condominium; yesterday in São Paulo, a young Black street vendor was killed on the street while working, also by a policeman; in Rio, the massacres in the favelas persist; in Pernambuco, a few days ago, the 9-year-old son of a leader of an occupied engenho was murdered in an attack on his family house… As for the social reaction, here in São Paulo there was a demonstration for justice for Moïse at the same time as one in Rio. There was one in Salvador also. I don’t know about the reaction in other state capitals and cities.

Best,

Rodrigo 


[1] Approximately $20 USD.

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1 Comment

  1. Bill Young

    Hello Natália and Rodrigo,

    This is a shocking incident! Can you provide background and context regarding the militia and militiamen in Rio. Who are they? What are their activities? What is their class origin, race, gender? What is their relationship with the police? Thanks!

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