A real bad boy, in the true sense of the word, is an outlaw. A boy who comes from the back streets. He is against society. Abou Bourguiba, ex-boss of the Mapless, one of the main gangs in Treichville
The gloglo (ownership of a nouchi)
Abidjan is made up of ten areas, simply referred to as nouchi, in the language of the young thugsí, and is distinct from the more affluent areas like Cocody, Le Plateau, Marcory (the residential part) and the poorer areas like Treichville, Adjame, Atecoube, Koumassi, Marcory (those without power lines), Abobo, Port-Bouet, Yopougon . All these contain shantytowns and drug trafficking zones which the police don’t visit. It is in these places that the « bad boy « tries to establish his territory the gloglo, generally a little way away from where he stays. Without gloglo, there’s no legitimacy for the gang. The “bad boy” system rests upon occupation with territory. Thus the family of Farem establishes itself in the Boston area in Marcory.
To be able to control a gloglo, all week we exercise even so, we beat each other among ourselves to have good djatti (muscles), we meet one another and we hang-out in the area. When we arrive there is hostility. This makes us take the most well known roads and we hit all the guys. Once, twice and then its over, the ambassador is ready says Tchoré.
Once they have a territory, the gangsters have to defend themselves against other gangs. There are many gangs: the Siciliens from Marcory, Black Power and Mapless from Treichville, New Black from Abobo… The fights don’t stop. They try to prove their strength by those who are able to cross the most gloglos. The gloglo is a type of adventure where they break the laws of the country, within which the gangsters can play at being the gang leaders. Its an easy way to escape the police. Its also a haven where girls, money and drugs seem to be within reach.
“We extort money from people but we do it in style because that’s part of being a bad boy. People are enjaillés (happy) with the movement, it’s them we rip off. They are obliged to give to us because they know that the day they face brakata (problems) they come to us. So we know they will pay,” says Spencer.
When we arrive in a place, we don’t sell just because of our reputation as « bad boys. We sell the feeling, the look, everything.» says Bony Farem.
The style of the “bad boy,” is firstly in his physical appearance. He must have an impressive muscular stature, which at first glance gives the impression of a warrior. His muscular body contributes to his specific way of walking.
To prove you are strong there is a noble walk. When you walk you knock yourself on the side by lifting your shoulders a little, you bend your leg to show that you are supple and that at any time you are ready to swing around and take aim.
You also show that there is strength in your arms by lifting your chest, your head up high and then you move on, says Tchoré.
Finally, the bad boys has clothes and a hair-style, which is not seen in the Ivory Coast, often inspired by the black American gangs, which are expensive imported clothes and shoes. So they distinguish themselves twice as much by distancing themselves from the nouchi and confirming – in the true sense of the term – that they are not tramps. The « bad boys « create their own image. This became so strong that at the beginning of the 90’s, it even took over from the image to which they initially made reference. Every guy that is well built, dressed in tight jeans and has a shaven head and earrings could pass for a bad boy.
It’s the left hand that washes the right. You have the bucks and I have the strength. You need protection from me and I come. But in exchange you’ll give me bucks says Bony Farem.
It is accepted now that bad boys assume the service of guards as events happen or that they work as bodyguards for which they are paid. To be a bad boy has become an occupation in itself. The employers close their eyes to the disturbances of the employees in a particular way knowing that they are not able to control them even if they use them. A fragile balance is established.
In 1989, the big bad boys with an average age of 25 years, begin to aspire to a more tranquil way of life. Especially since they understood that their interests are no longer in the streets. This becomes more and more risky. Criminality has reached frightening proportions. The police have received orders to shoot all troublemakers on sight if they are caught in the act. The residents organize their own militia in the area. Often the bad boys are involved with thieves when they decide to get out of the thug system. At the initiative of those close to power a security company, ‘Force One’, was created. It included many of the bad boys, namely Abou Bourguiba, who was head of a big gang from Treichville, the Mapless. Although this company itself would have a short life span, the idea will be circulated and this will have important repercussions in very high places.
1990, the year of the elections, was a turning point. The 30th of April after many months of protests, looting, strikes and mutinies, the multiparty democracy was authorised in the Ivory Coast. The main opposition party is the FPI (Ivorian Popular Front). The presidency is afraid of the thugsí being taken on by the opposition, and the 9th of May, President Houphouet-Boigny received a delegation of bad boys at his private residence. In the days that followed a ‘march of support’ was organized. Six hundred bad boys were wearing t-shirts in the procession saying bad boys of the President. A monthly salary of 50 000 CFA francs was proposed to them. In return they must accept to be attached to the presidency, to the judiciary, as well as the Ministry of Interior. The S.V (Voluntary Security) system was put in place.
We don’t get involved in politics. We always go for bucks. We are not the PDCI or something else. We have a big family to take care of, says Farem Junior.
The bad boys believed that they would be able to play the political parties and the government. Compromised and booed by public opinion, too visible all of a sudden, the gangsters found themselves with a very weak system. The bosses have withdrawn, the gangs have become wild themselves. Individualism has replaced the family spirit. Financial abundance that represents the Voluntary Security system has made a new generation of bad boys attracted by rapid short-term gain, which does not necessarily go with the gangster spirit.
A real man, is someone who fights with his two arms and two legs with which he is born. But now everything has changed in this country. The guys move around with knives, pistols and all of that. These people want to rule but can not count on their own strength. I would say that physically the Ivorian youth is weak, but mentally they have become worse than before, says Tchoré.
Enriched by the S.V. system many of these bad boys try to emigrate. Paris, London, New York…. In these cities, far from their past, the former gangsters try to buy themselves new direction. The majority of them who stay become vigils in the innumerable security companies, who themselves become very important during these criminal times. In the area of Plateau, which represents the largest concentration of luxury business and banks, there is not one road where one doesn’t see them, dressed in uniforms with ranger boots, truncheons and walkie-talkies in their hands. The R.A.S., group of singers, continue to recycle the mythology of gangster life in a commercial afro-dance where their harsh looks and their inherited street games create a furore.
The 7th of December, 1993, the death of President Houphouet-Boigny rang the last bell for the S.V. system. No longer the quickest way to paradise, the « bad boys system stopped by itself. Of course some bad boys remain there, the nostalgic ones or the stubborn ones as John Pollolo who killed a boy with bare hands because he decided his time was up. Today, in Abidjan, the masters of the streets are called hijackers – robbers – and dealers. In these intensifying circumstances violence can only increase. At what point will this explode?