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DR Congo – The prophet’s coup

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 Only 17 days after the signature of a peace agreement with the main rebel movement, an unexpected insurrection in several towns of the country showed that the DRC was far from being stabilised.

cong2Many Congolese were expecting that the signature of a peace agreement in Nairobi on the last 12 December between the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels and the Kinshasa government would be a major step forward towards the return of peace in the country. The M23 signed a declaration announcing the end of the armed struggle whereas the government announced the forthcoming vote by the parliament of an amnesty for the rebels, excluding however individuals accused of crimes against humanity. Kinshasa also committed itself to the disarmament, the demobilization and the social reinsertion of the rebels, excluding however their reintegration into the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But only 17 days later, on the 29 December, Kinshasa was awakened by shootings against the national radio, the Ndjili international airport and the Tshatshi military camp. In a radio broadcast the rebels claim responsibility for the attack in the name of a Reverend Gideon Mukungubila, the so-called leader of the Church of Lord Jesus Christ and a former presidential candidate in 2006.
cong3The rebels who were equipped with AK 47 rifles, grenades and RPG launchers said they came to free Congo from “Rwandan slavery”. In their view, the government made too much concessions to the M23. The recent appointment as head of the Congolese police by Kabila at the end of December of Gen Charles Bisengimana, a Congolese Tutsi, who belonged to the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy former rebellion, may have also triggered that feeling. Moreover, Bisengimana replaced the Katanguese general, John Numbi Banza Tambo, a former mentor of President Joseph Kabila, which have strengthened that feeling among the rebels whose leader, Paul Joseph Mukungubila Mutombo by his real name, is also Katanguese. He was born near Kalemie, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and belongs to the holobolo tribe and claims on a youtube video that Katanga is upper Egypt and has influenced the prophet and Israel, pointing out that a statue of the god Osiris was discovered in Katanga.
It is not really a coincidence that the last uprising had a Katanguese connection, since the mining rich province is undergoing serious troubles for quite a long time, which deserved little attention from the Kinshasa authorities and the UN, owing to the ongoing crisis in Kivu.
cong4The attacks took place simultaneously in Kinshasa and in Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga. The first shots were heard when then the police tried to arrest Mukungubila at his Lubumbashi home and when his supporters fired back. Mukungubila managed to escape but other incidents occurred in the province, in the mining town of Kolwezi and also, in the capital of the Maniema province, Kindu, where another group of followers of Rev. Gideon tried without success to takeover the airport.
By midday, the situation was under control in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. But the toll is heavy : 103 deaths including 95 rebels and 8 soldiers, according to the government and over 150 rebels were captured. But according sources in Lubumbashi, 168 people died only in this town including 52 in the Bongonga neighbourhood where an arms cache was discovered in a house owned by Rev. Gideon and where 30 people were arrested.
Once again, the government was taken by surprise although the ANR intelligence had spotted a few days ago in Kolwezi the circulation of T-shirts bearing the inscription “30 June, Mukungubila President- the end of the foreigners’ power”, insinuating that Kabila is from Rwandan origin and is “betraying” Congo on behalf of Kigali. Moreover, the story was somewhat foretold. According to the military intelligence in Lubumbashi, the prophet’s supporters had announced shortly before the Kinshasa attack that they would take control of the capital of Katanga.  In fact, the “prophet” has been capitalizing on the frustration of the Katanga and more particularly of the underdeveloped northern part of the province, which has been neglected by all regimes in Kinshasa.cong6People there are quite desperate because they fear they can become even poorer if the province is split in four parts as agreed in the 2006 constitution because it will be deprived from the resources of the mining rich southern part of the province. The fairly good synchronisation of the attacks, in Kinshasa and in Katanga, including the presence of Mai Mai rebels among the prophet’s supporters also fuelled speculations about a manipulation from some former high-ranking officials who wish to send a strong message to Kabila meaning he must promote them or face havoc. Many sources mention the General Numbi’s name because he is the nephew of Mai Mai chief Makabe but he strongly denied that he ever had contacts with Mukungubila and his supporters on the UN-sponsored Radio Okapi.

Bakata Katanga

The prophet’s rebellion may also be another sign of panic from Katanguese who fear that they will loose their political control over the central power in Kinshasa. President Kabila is not allowed by the constitution to run for a third term in 2016. Rather than loose their influence in Kinshasa, many Katanguese intellectuals prefer to set up their own secessionist state. Over the last tow years, several attacks from secessionists armed groups such as the “Bakata Katanga” (meaning cut Katanga from the rest of Congo) and the Coordination of the referendum for Katanga’s self-determination (Corak).  
Attraction for secessionist is boosted by the feeling that the province contributes far more to the national budget than it benefits from it and by the Kinshasa authorities’ refusal to implement constitutional provisions which authorize province to keep 40 percent of tax revenues for themselves. cong5Some of these worries however were taken into consideration by Kabila who finds himself in a catch 22 situation. By end October, he announced the formation of a government of a “national cohesion”,  meaning he would broaden the base of it and give some more space to the people of other provinces which consider that Katanga with the President himself and seven ministers holding key portfolios has the lion share. But so far, Joseph Kabila has not yet reshuffled the government in order not to antagonize Katanguese politicians but risks now to create more frustrations in the other provinces.  The future looks stormy. More than ten days after the incidents, all tensions were not defused in Katanga. During the week-end of the 4 and 5 January, an armed group launched another attack against President Kabila’s farm, at several dozens kilometers from Lubumbashi on the road to Zambia but it was immediately repelled by the presidential guard. Two nights later, fightings were reported in the Kiziba village, 30 kms from the Lubumbashi village, injuring several soldiers. Meanwhile, the situation cannot be described as calm in North Kivu. A tremendous blow to the morale of the Congolese army was struck with the assassination of Colonel Mamadou Ndala Moustapha, the hero of the victory against the M23 rebels, on the 2nd January near the city of Beni.  At first, the government claimed his jeep had been hit by a rocket launched by the Ugandan rebels of the ADF-NALU group. But the version was contradicted by the colonel’s own driver who claimed that the killers were wearing old green Congolese army uniforms. And a couple of days later, the military command announced the arrest of the commander of the city of Beni, Lt-Colonel Tito Bizuru, as suspect for the murder.

François Misser

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