Police are investigating the killing of a 24-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who, according to his family, was beaten to death after he demanded overdue wages from his boss in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Moise Kabagambe, 24, died on January 24 at the bar where he working in the upscale neighbourhood of Barra da Tijuca, according to authorities.
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The O Globo newspaper reported that an autopsy showed that Kabagambe had died from blunt trauma to his chest. His family has told local media that police have shown them a video showing a group of men, including Kabagambe’s boss, assaulting him and beating him with wood and a baseball bat, while also using a cord to tie him up.
Police reportedly released security camera footage of the attack on Wednesday, with segments published by local news outlets and circulating on social media. Authorities said three people had been arrested.
“They killed him like an animal,” Kabagambe’s mother Ivana Lay told the Extra daily newspaper.
“They killed my son because he was Black, because he was African,” she said.
Kabagambe had worked in the beach town at the stall before and during the pandemic and “knew everybody” she said.
“Brazilians have always been good people. But today, I don’t know any more,” she said.
The victim’s brother, Sammy Kabagambe, told the AFP news agency the confrontation started after his sibling demanded to be paid his overdue wages – the agency said he had asked for two days of back pay.
“He wanted his money and they didn’t want to pay him. That’s when the argument started. The manager grabbed a piece of wood to hit him. He (Kabagambe) grabbed a chair to defend himself,” the immigrant’s brother, Sammy Kabagambe, 28, told the AFP.
His family has told local media that Kabagambe had arrived in Brazil when he was 11, fleeing fighting between Hemu and Lendu ethnic groups in the eastern DRC that killed many of their relatives.
— Camila Moreno (@camilamoreno13_) February 1, 2022
The UNHCR confirmed that Kabagambe and his family had been recognised as refugees by the Brazilian government.
In a joint statement with UNHCR and the IOM, PARES Caritas RJ, a refugee support group in Rio, said their team had watched Kabagambe grow and integrate into Brazilian society.
The groups said they would continue to follow the investigation.
‘Unacceptable and revolting’
The killing has triggered outrage across Brazil, where many have called for reckoning on how refugees and asylum seekers are treated in the country.
The country of 212 million is home to more than 73,000 registered refugees and more than 231,000 asylum seekers, according to the UNHCR. Those fleeing the DRC make up just a small fraction of those numbers, with only 1,826 registered by the agency.
On Tuesday, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes called the killing “unacceptable and revolting”, adding he was confident police would bring the attackers to justice.
— Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams (@JAGhedini) February 2, 2022
Legendary Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso said on Instagram the case had brought him to tears and decried the “pain of seeing a refugee from violence find such violence in Brazil”.
“This is not the Rio I love,” tweeted football star Gabigol of local club Flamengo.
“We want justice. We cannot normalise crimes like this.”
Kabagambe’s mother told Extra the family had come to Brazil “thinking that everyone is going to live together. That everyone is the same, but no.”
“I just want justice,” she said. “And I ask: Please help me.”