DRC: Coup attempt or manipulation in Kinshasa?

DRC: Coup attempt or manipulation in Kinshasa?

Should we expect a major purge in the security services after armed men attacked Vital Kamerhe's house and the Palace of the Nation?

New layer in the political-surrealist mille-feuille of the Democratic Republic of Congo under the presidency of Félix Tshisekedi.

This Sunday, May 19, around thirty armed men burst onto social networks at the end of the night, parading in the empty corridors of the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, the working residence of the President of the Republic. One of the seats of power in the DRC, inherited from the colonial period when the disproportionate place, built at the end of the 1950s on the banks of the Congo River, was the place of residence of the governor general, the representative of the King, in the colony.

Since that time, the palace has mainly housed the parliament before it moved a few kilometers away in the early 2000s.

But the President of the Republic is not staying in this Palace of the Nation, which raises questions about the objectives of the mutineers who seized the place where they were able to lower the Congolese colors to flutter in the wind – not yet raised – the Zairian flag, without ever endangering the power in place in the DRC.

The leader of the movement, Christian Malanga, shot dead late in the morning after its debacle, was at the head of a political party called New Zaire. This member of the Congolese diaspora was passing through Belgium around ten years ago to present his movement and explain, with an overplayed American accent, that he intended to restore order in the country by overthrowing the power of “the “Kabila usurper”.

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This Sunday, May 19, in the few words spoken on social networks, Christian Malanga, also presented as a former soldier, repeated his determination to put an end to the power in place and to revive Zaire. His adventure only lasted a handful of hours. At the end of the morning, the photo of his body lying in the grass began to circulate on social networks. The forty men who accompanied him were taken prisoner, most having tried to hide in the tall grass and mud of the Congo River. Among the attackers, two Americans, a Briton, Christian Malanga's own son, Congolese from the diaspora and Congolese from several regions of the DRC.


According to several testimonies, the operation began in the Binza Pigeon district, on the heights of Kinshasa, around 2:30 in the morning. The mutineers passed through the neighborhoods of Delvaux and Kitambo Magasin where they carjacked vehicles. They then passed by the home of Vital Kamerhe, outgoing Minister of the Economy, designated candidate of the presidential movement for the presidency of the National Assembly. There, gunfire was exchanged. Two members of the Kamerhe family's security were shot dead, as well as an attacker, without them attempting to enter the building. This “plot” is only a few hundred meters from the Palais de la Nation where the mutineers then entered without encountering any real resistance. There, they staged their coup and broadcast several messages on social networks. This is also where this adventure ended for Christian Malanga, found shot dead, while all his men were arrested.

The targets

Vital Kamerhe, President Tshisekedi's former running mate in 2018, was the only personality really targeted by these “putschists”. The man, a former strongman in the Kabila regime, is a divisive personality in the current presidential majority. “The visit of these mutineers appears to be a warning to this man whose presidential ambitions have never been completely erased”, explains a diplomat in Kinshasa. “He pledged allegiance to Félix Tshisekedi but he did not convince everyone in the Tshisekedi family. insists a regular in power circles in Kinshasa. “Whatever the exact scope of this maneuver, it is a serious political fact”, explains Bob Kabamba, political scientist from the University of Liège. “This shows that there is a real crisis between the different components of power, he continues, and it is also a snub for the security services. How can we explain that armed men can walk around Kinshasa without being disturbed for a long time?”

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According to the army, the mutineers also targeted Prime Minister Judith Suminwa Tuluka and Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba. But not knowing the address of the first and knowing the second absent, they would have fallen back on the home of Vital Kamerhe. A scenario which, if it were to be confirmed, would demonstrate the immense amateurism of these mutineers.

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We must expect a major clean-up in the security services,” continues Bob Kabamba. “We must not forget that these events are occurring while the country is at war in the east, that a state of siege is still decreed in two provinces and that tensions are palpable in many regions but also in all circles policies of an overwhelming majority which fails to establish either the office of the National Assembly or the government. What happened with Vital Kamerhe can be seen as a warning. How to explain that the mutineers arrived at the door of the house but did not enter. Odd. This can be seen as a message to all members of the majority. From now on, you follow the music whistled by the presidency or you expose yourself to serious problems.”

These events, on the eve of Pentecost, also remember the martyrs of this Christian festival. Four politicians arrested on Pentecost and sentenced to death a few days later for trying to plan the overthrow of Marshal Mobutu. A certain Etienne Tshisekedi was then Minister of the Interior and one of the fiercest supporters of the execution of these men despite calls for clemency from Washington, Brussels and Paris.

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