If Serving is Below You, Leadership is Beyond You

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Tram 83 by Mujila takes place within a dysfunctional City-State of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This dysfunction manifests itself in the form of inadequate governance, belly politics, and corruption.

One of the most prevalent images that we get throughout this novel is that of the train and the railroads. The first image that is created of the railway station is one of incompletion,

“It was essentially an unfinished metal structure, gutted by artillery, train tracks, and locomotives that called to mind the railroad built by Stanley…” (1).

The image of the railroad is an analogy for the City-State and the bizarre failing system that it appears to be. The train station itself shows scars of violence from artillery, and the reference to Stanley is regarding colonialism and wars of the past. The trains themselves have an uncertainty and unpredictability about them because no body knows when they will arrive. In addition, the trains primary purpose is to export goods, not to provide transport for the people who live there. To create a parallel to the City-State, there is not much governance for those who inhabit the area, the primary focus is profit and the people who live there seem to fall to the side.

Other example is that big company tycoons started to ration the amount of resources that people could receive each day in order to increase their profit by using the resources for tourists. For example, the electrical companies would ration the people so that they would only have 5 hours of electricity per day, then they would cut it down to 2. The people would experience “black outs” throughout the city because there would be no source of electricity because it would be used for someone else’s benefit.

“If you do not restore running water and electrical power, we shall burn the tracks, the trains, the churches, and the copper mines. If the dissident general persists, we shall burn the central prison, the police stations, and the seventh wife’s house.” (136). 

The people who govern are more concerned with catering to the tourists and others who don’t inhabit that area, as oppose to those who live there. It’s the same concept with the trains; the trains primarily focus on exporting goods, not servicing the people as a form of transportation.


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