Coup d’état or assassination attempt? Inquiries abound as Kinshasa investigates attack

A week after the failed coup d’état in Kinshasa, many questions are being raised but the answers are not forthcoming. Congolese authorities have simply said that investigations are ongoing.

Peter Kazadi, deputy prime minister in charge of the Ministry of Interior and Security, said that the coup plotters who “attacked Vital Kamerhe’s residence and the presidential palace came from Angola to enter Kongo Central with the help of accomplices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” “.

Kongo Central is the province where the capital Kinshasa is located. Kamerhe is an ally of President Felix Tshisekedi and the incident occurred before the elections in which he was elected president of the National Assembly.

Accusing Angolan citizens can be damaging. Nothing from Kinshasa has indicated, as of the close of this week, that relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring Angola have soured.

Angola is important because it has been trying to negotiate peace between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in relation to the conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Luanda is widely seen as a neutral arbiter.

But Angola is not the only country whose citizens have been charged. In the wake of Sunday’s events, images emerged of people believed to be Americans. Security officers showed what appeared to be passports confiscated from those arrested.

Lucy Tamlyn, the US ambassador in Kinshasa, condemned the incident and offered to work with Congolese authorities to catch the culprits.

“I am shocked by the events this morning and very concerned by reports of American citizens allegedly involved,” she said.

“Please be assured that we will cooperate with the DRC authorities to the fullest extent as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any U.S. citizens involved in criminal acts.”

The US State Department then called President Tshisekedi.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the attack on the presidential palace and offered U.S. support for investigations as well as efforts to alleviate suffering in eastern Congo.

Kinshasa has not stated whether it would be open to that offer. But officials seem wary of most foreigners. Americans have not been especially welcome lately, as Kinshasa pursues what it calls “conflict minerals,” accusing some American companies of profiting from the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

How the DRC’s relations with the United States and other foreign entities develop from here may depend largely on what President Tshisekedi says next, in the wake of the coup attempt.

Some Americans who paraded after the arrests have been identified as businessmen.

They used “rudimentary” rifles and aimed at one of the most guarded places in Kinshasa: the national palace where the president resides. They were led by Christian Malanga, who involved his son Marcel Malanga, 21, a US citizen, in the operation. Her mother, Britney Sawyer, who remains in the United States, said that her son “is simply an innocent man, manipulated by her father.”

Coup leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

A man dressed in a military uniform speaks as others stand next to him inside the Palace of the Nation during a coup attempt in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on May 19, 2024 in this screenshot from a social media video .

Photo author: Reuters

Christian Malanga was murdered when he tried to flee after failing to reach the presidential palace. Four of his men were killed and others were arrested.

Born in Kinshasa, he trained in the United States of America. He then returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and joined the army in the early 2000s. Various sources claim that he held the rank of captain. But his family had settled in the United States.

In videos released after the incident, he spoke English, used profanities and also spoke Lingala whose accent was not local. They waved Zairean flags, linking their ideology to the old Congolese name and insignia.

Since 2011, Malanga has been involved in politics and attempted to run in the 2011 legislative elections. She also founded the United Congolese Party in the United States.

On May 17, 2017, he formed a “government in exile” and announced that the New Zaire had been born.

Since then, he has been intensifying his weapons training. After years without visible action, Malanga reappeared on May 19 in the coup attempt. He said he wanted to “overthrow the scam in power and restore Zaire.”

According to the Congolese army’s account, around 4 a.m. on Sunday, Malanga and his small group of armed men headed to the home of the new prime minister, Judith Suminwa.

That’s when things started to go wrong for them. The coup plotters were unable to locate the exact address and retreated to the villa of the Minister of Defense, Jean-Pierre Bemba. Unable to find him at home, the group attacked Kamerhe’s residence. They tried to kill him, but Kamerhe managed to hide.

Why did they target Kamerhe? At the time of the events, Kamerhe was simply a deputy, the only candidate of the majority party for the position of president of the National Assembly. He was elected to the position on Wednesday.

“How is it that Vital Kamerhe is a target that would affect the institutions of the Republic more than President Tshisekedi?” said Nicaise Kibel, an expert on military issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Why rush to an empty presidential office on a Sunday morning, knowing that the Head of State would not be there and without making sure to go to strategic places?” The local press also intervened.

Litsani Choukran, a human rights activist, added: “How do you explain that people who rob a citizen, steal his car and kill him are going to stage a coup? They were going to commit a murder. It’s as simple as that.”