ANARCHY, ABJECTION, AND ABSURDITY: A CASE OF METAPHORIC MEDICINE AMONG THE TABWA OF ZAIRE
ALLEN F. ROBERTS
In memory of Minnie G. Curtis
On 10 October 1960, two young men named Kiyumba and Mulobola1 rode their bicycles from Kirungu to Chief Kaputo's village, ostensibly to purchase reed mats to resell at Kirungu market. In fact, their intention was to steal tax moneys held by the chief's clerk; Kiyumba would set fire to the chief's residence, and while everyone's attention was fixed on the blaze, Mulobola would break into the clerk's and steal the funds. Kiyumba did his part, not realizing that the chief himself was napping inside. Women saw him and sounded the alert. Mulobola, frightened by the ensuing commotion, took flight, while Kiyumba was captured by the chief's men. Kiyumba was thrashed till he admitted his plan and told where his partner would probably be waiting for him, on the road back to Kirungu. Mulobola, too, was apprehended, and both were beaten senseless. Chief Kaputo sent his car to fetch his judge, then visiting a nearby village; the judge later told me that by the time he arrived at the chief's, the thieves were in a pitiful state. He could do nothing, at that point, to alter the course of the event.
Accounts vary as to what occurred next. The official inquest 2 found that "in a paroxysm of anger," Chief Kaputo Lambo ordered that the two men be burned alive. As though summing up the event, the report concludes that "a very important detail should not be overlooked . . .: Kiyumba was found bearing an MNC Lumumba card." My informants skipped over this detail. The judge said that he saw Kanengo, the chief's counselor and a