Mayotte caught in a spiral of violence between rival gangs

Cars burned in M'Tsapere (Mayotte), after new violence between rival gangs, November 21, 2022.

“Go blues, go blues! » Around the Kawéni football field, this Saturday, November 19, the entire village of the commune of Mamoudzou stands behind its team. She faces M’Tsapéré, a village in the south of the capital, with which she maintains a historic rivalry. To the rhythm of mbiwis (traditional claves), drums and songs, the atmosphere could seem good-natured. She is electric. While the players of the two teams scarified their thighs on the dry dirt pitch full of dust, some young supporters seized every opportunity to invective the mobile gendarmes who had come to frame the high-risk meeting.

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Soldiers and young people alike know that the real battle is being played out elsewhere. Five kilometers further south, on the borders of the villages of M’Tsapéré and Doujani. A week earlier, a young man from Kawéni was killed in M’Tsapéré, killed by a gang of Doujani, in a surge of ferocious hatred. On Wednesday, it was in the north, in Majicavo, that young students from Kawéni were attacked with machetes, in a school bus immobilized by the throwing of stones by the guys from “MJK”, as this rival village is called. An emblematic attack, in a climate of increasingly intense violence in the overseas department.

The same week, south of Mamoudzou, a schoolboy had his hand cut off by an assailant who got on the bus with his machete. On the road, when the bands do not clash, the violent rackets of motorists and two-wheeled drivers multiply. If, two years ago, stones were the main tool of young violent people, now using machetes seems to have become the rule.

This Saturday, while some are thinking about football in Kawéni, nearly 200 young people from the village are taking the warpath, with their sharp weapons and their masks. We must avenge, at all costs, the dead and the injured, during what many inhabitants of Mayotte call “the return match”. In small groups, by the road or the hills that surround the capital, the fighters thwart the surveillance of the police, however increased by the latest events.

A dozen homes burned

An alliance of circumstance was formed with the village of M’Tsapéré, also at war with Doujani. In the middle of the morning, everyone gets together, lurking in the surrounding countryside. When the first assault is launched, the bands of Doujani who were waiting for this moment respond with force. When one group flees, the other sets fire behind it.

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