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Questions swirl a day after DR Congo 'coup attempt'

By AFP

May 20, 2024 08:22 PM


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A day after the army in DR Congo said it had thwarted an attempted coup involving several Americans and a British man, many in Kinshasa had questions on Monday about the attackers' motives and how they were able to access key government sites.

The coup bid took place in the early hours of Sunday outside the residence of Economy Minister Vital Kamerhe in the northern Gombe area of the capital.

The group then went to the Palais de la Nation that houses President Felix Tshisekedi's offices, brandishing flags of Zaire, the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo under ex-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997.

Shots were heard near the building, according to several sources.

An army spokesman later announced in a message broadcast on national TV that defence and security forces had stopped "an attempted coup d'etat".

Kamerhe, who is a candidate for National Assembly president, and his family were unharmed but two members of their security detail were killed.

The attack "aimed to assassinate" the minister, his team said on Monday, showing reporters where the bullets had hit vehicles and his residence's walls, and broken windows.

While daily activity resumed as normal in Gombe on Monday, many questions remained.

"It (the government) is trying to divert our attention from social and security problems," Joel, a civil servant, told AFP.

"I don't think that in the city centre of the capital attackers could storm a minister's house or the Palais de la Nation without the authorities being informed," he said.

 'Not afraid' 

 The group had planned to attack the home of new Prime Minister Judith Suminwa and the residence of Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba, army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge said late on Sunday.

But they "could not identify the home" of Suminwa and had not been able to find Bemba at his residence, leading them to Kamerhe's home and the Palais de la Nation, he added.

"Politicians stop distracting us, life is already very hard in this country," Maman Ndosi, a bread and avocado seller told AFP, sitting in front of her merchandise in Gombe district.

"I'm not afraid, because I've already seen more than this joke!" added the mother who, like many Congolese people, is very sceptical of official information.

The plot was led by Christian Malanga, a Congolese man who was a "naturalised American" and who was killed by security forces, Ekenge said.

"We also have a naturalised British subject, the number two of the group," Ekenge said.

He said the group was made up of "several nationalities" and that around 40 of the attackers had been arrested and four -- including Malanga -- killed.

Malanga's son, Marcel Malanga, was also amongst the assailants.

But it is still unclear what were the exact motives of the group behind the coup bid.

 Condemnation 

 The government said it condemned the "attempted destabilisation of the institutions".

"I am shocked by the events this morning and very worried by the reports of American citizens allegedly being involved," US ambassador to the DRC Lucy Tamlyn posted on X, formerly Twitter.

"Rest assured that we are cooperating with authorities in DRC to the fullest extent possible, as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any American citizen involved."

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union both condemned the attempted coup.

African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat is also following events with "great concern", the AU said in a statement.

It comes five months after Tshisekedi was re-elected in elections in December with more than 70 percent of votes in the first round.

He became president in 2019 promising to improve living conditions in DRC -- which boasts mineral riches but has a largely impoverished population -- and to put an end to 25 years of bloodshed in the east.

The parties backing Tshisekedi won around 90 percent of seats in the parliamentary elections held the same day.


AFP


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