DRC army foils ‘coup attempt’ as gunmen target State officials homes

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The army in the Democratic Republic of Congo says it foiled an attempted coup after gunmen tried to attack homes of senior government officials, including that of President Felix Tshisekedi.

It said gunmen in military uniform entered the Palais de la Nation, the residence of the President in Kinshasa, vowing to uproot President Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, a close ally of the Congolese President, and the sole candidate for the Speaker of National Assembly.

Witnesses reported fierce gunfire as the assailants raised the flag of Zaire in places around the Palais de la Nation (State House). Zaire is the former name of the DRC.

The Congolese army said this was “an attempted coup d’état that was nipped in the bud by the defence and security forces”, according to Maj-Gen Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesman. The attempt was carried out by “Congolese and foreigners who were put out of action, including their leader”, he added.

“Pending a detailed report on the incidents that took place in the commune of Gombe on the night of Sunday 19 May 2024, we would like to reassure the national and international community that our defence and security forces promptly restored public order, which had been disrupted by armed men.

“The population is therefore urged to remain calm and to go about their business freely”, declared Peter Kazadi, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Interior and Security.

The incident awoke Kinshasa very early. Images of the assailants are currently going viral on social media.

They show an armed man in military uniform with a Zaire crest and flag shouting: “Félix, get out, we soldiers are tired of suffering. Today, we wake up with a new country. We can no longer continue with Félix or Kamerhe”.

The man was later identified Christian Malanga. He claims to have grown up abroad. The fighting claimed several lives, but the official toll is not yet known.

The attack on the Palais de la Nation was carried out simultaneously with another attack on the home of Vital Kamerhe, one of President Félix Tshisekedi’s allies. In the clashes at Kamerhe’s residence, two police officers were killed and one of the assailants was also killed.

News of a coup attempt in the DRC came five months after the election in which Tshisekedi earned his second term.

But there is still no new government in place. The ruling coalition (which has a large majority in parliament) has had internal squabbles to deal with.

The National Assembly, which must validate the next government, is still waiting to elect its speaker.

Vital Kamerhe, whose home was attacked on Sunday by gunmen, is the only candidate. But he is still not guaranteed victory since even those in the ruling coalition have fought him.

Meanwhile, the Congolese economy is in a tailspin. The local currency is depreciating further against the US dollar.

The war in the east of the country is also going on unabated just as has been the reports of the embezzlement of millions of dollars continues from government coffees. Civil servants are being paid very late every month.

These issues may have fueled the underground formation of this challenge to the government.

All eyes and ears will be on President Felix Tshisekedi’s expected comments in reaction to Sunday events.

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