Pro-Mobutu squad in ‘coup attempt’ was a sad show of ideas, ineptitude

The Guardian
Published at 08:00 AM May 23 2024
Mobutu Sese Seko ruled DR Congo, then Zaire, for more than 30 years
Photo: File
Mobutu Sese Seko ruled DR Congo, then Zaire, for more than 30 years

LEADERS who have cared to comment on recent events in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have condemned all those behind a coup attempt at the weekend in the capital, Kinshasa.

It was not surprising that the bid was nipped in the bud by presidential guard units, as the assailants chiefly sought to attack the nerve centre of power while it is only an expression of societal power which they did not even stare in the face.

One cannot even say that there was a real coup attempt, outside a bizarre attack on public offices and key residences, to absolutely no avail.

Indeed, it is not likely that many people will even remember that event. Sending 50 or so armed attackers to the residence of the next parliamentary Speaker and waking up to go to the presidential palace was little more than a sordid experiment in a putsch.

There are small countries in Africa where in the 1960s and sometime into the 1970 a mercenary group of that number could remove the government in this or that state, which is no longer the case. 

It is bewildering how 50 armed men, not even commandos, could have expected results.

Reports said that Sunday afternoon saw the group raid the residence of Vital Kamerhe, a federal legislator and candidate for Speaker of the National Assembly, the Lower House of the country’s bicameral Parliament.

Two policemen and one attacker are reported to have died in the initial fighting, with the remaining attackers then breaking into the State House. Three and their leader, identified as a Congolese-American citizen, were killed.

Some 40 other people reportedly involved in the attack, including several Americans, were arrested, saved from death only after being fooled into an adventure.

What revealed the attackers’ origins and ideas was the fact that they were dressed in military uniforms and displayed the Zaire flag, clearly a relic.

DRC was once known as Congo Leopoldville, then the capital was renamed Kinshasa, and after then army chief Col Joseph-Desire Mobutu overthrew a motley government with provinces on each other’s throat. It was renamed Zaire, an ancient name of certain parts of West Africa on the Atlantic Coast.

Reports said the virtually suicidal squad claimed in videos circulating on social media that they wanted to change things in the management of the republic.

There appears to be excessive haste in the manner in which the putsch group tragically conducted themselves, which is comprehensible as one dwells on the details of the leader.

Thew group’s leader is said to have formed the United Congolese Party (UCP) in 2010, militating for restoration of the name Zaire.

As if that was not enough in day dreaming, he created a so-called government in exile in Brussels in 2017, in aspiring for the ‘New Zaire’.

The Sunday putsch was thus effectively the moment of ‘rapture’ and, as in the macabre adventures of Jim Jomes, Kibwetere and lately Mackenzie Nthenge near Malindi on the Kenyan coastline, ‘rapture’ becomes pre-announced death. It was a crudely hard sell.