Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Attack on state installations in Kinshasa - Coup attempt?

Two groups of men armed with machetes and machine guns attacked the Kokolo military camp and the residence of President Joseph Kabila on early Sunday afternoon in Kinshasa. According to reports, at least six soldiers had been killed, including several in the Congolese army. Up to eight of the attackers have been captured, and two are currently being interrogated at a DEMIAP (military intelligence) camp in the capital. The situation in Kinshasa is now calm.

The minister of information is currently calling the incident a coup attempt. Was it? The situation is fluid and information is still coming in, but we know that the attackers were coordinated enough to pull off two simultaneous attacks, to enter into the presidential compound and to kill several guards. On the other hand, they it was a pretty ramshackle group of soldiers: many of them were only armed with machetes - could there be a serious coup attempt carried out by people with a few guns and machetes?

It is too early to say for sure, but I doubt this was a coup attempt, which would have required the defection of a large part of the military command. At most, this was an assassination attempt against Joseph Kabila - I don't think several dozens soldiers could have taken over the state apparatus.

It does seem possible that this was an  attempt on the president's life. Over the past week, there have been reports from people in the opposition and government that a small group of men has been organizing to launch an attack. A source within the national security service said that people and guns had been coming across the Congo river, including former members of Mobutu's army and of the Enyele militia.

A leading MLC member told me that his party had been contacted by state officials this week, who accused former soldiers in Jean-Pierre Bemba's bodyguard of preparing a rebellion in Kinshasa. When the MLC official I spoke with looked into it, it turned out that some youths and former MLC soldiers had indeed been organizing, buying machetes and plotting an attack, but that it was small group of perhaps 40 to 60 people and was allegedly unconnected to the MLC political leadership. According to this source, before the MLC could do anything about it, the attack was launched.

The whole thing does smack somewhat of amateurism. If there really was a high-level conspiracy to kill the president or to even take over the state, wouldn't it have been better organized? There are,  expectedly, conjectures that this incident was staged in order to justify a crack-down on the opposition. After all, this is the second time in as many weeks after the attack on Lubumbashi's airport that a state installation has been attacked. The MLC official I spoke with said: "The security services told us that they had infiltrated this group and knew that it included ex-MLC soldiers. If this is true, why didn't they just shut this operation down before it got this far?"

But if it really was a fake attempt, would they have gone so far as to kill soldiers and attack Kabila's house?

In any case, more questions than answers for now. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is probably going to stay in the realm of conjecture given his bodyguards were foolish enough to kill the assailants.

And ofcourse, this just gives this already paranoid government more room to engage in rogue behavior and for the opposition in the country- rightly recognizing this year’s elections will be rigged- to continue to try knock off this regime via targeted killings.

Either way, we are moving towards more instability in the Congo.

Melissa

Anonymous said...

Once again, congolese fighters have shown mediocrity in conducting their operations. If, of course, what is being said happened. Rashid was a real MAN!

Anonymous said...

Like your sister in lobby colette braeckman who sees MBEMBA people in libya. You see JP BEMBA's shadow everywhere. Every time you made up your story, your source is always a "MLC official". Stop this Jason. look your liar:"some youths and former MLC soldiers had indeed been organizing, buying machetes and plotting an attack,but that was a small group of perhaps 40 to 60 people was allegedly unconnected to the MLC political leadership. According to this source,before the MLC could do anything about it,the attack was launched...,really dear expert!!! that says BEMBA even wrongly detained in la hague still a very dangerous man, must stay in ICC(injustice colonial court) forever.
STOP TALKINF ABOUT MLC and its leader. continue your lobby for your proteges(kagame, nkunda, bosco, hypollite kanambe aka joseph kabila and other)

james said...

Jason,

Lambert Mende told me yesterday he thinks it wasn't a coup attempt but a terrorist action. He also said Republican Guards arrested 16 assailants and the attackers were heavily armed (rpg's, mortars, AK-47)
A well informed source also told me president Kabila was evacuated from the residence during the attack and was later advised to fly to Lubumbashi which he apparently did, according to my source.
Other sources said the attack had something to do with army units which haven't been paid for months...
Time will tell, I hope

Anonymous said...

This is very simple to solve: if Kabila now starts throwing in jail members of the opposition then it will be clear that it was a fake coup.

Simone Salvatori

Anonymous said...

Jason, you need to be plagmatic on what you reporting. I m senior Officer within FARDC and commanding unit in Kinshasa. This was attack of some bandits may be have a link with some politicians, and i cant accept.to put this stupidity attack to FARDC. We are loyal to the President and Commander in Chief. How dont know the capacity of GR? Do u think a.normal soldier can attack with machette to someone who have materials like u know ur self. Remember when Nkunda was approaching Goma, who stop him? Any FARDC soldiers in Kinshasa cant do that. Only bandits and they go to pay it seriously.

Glenys said...

I too find the "amateurism" puzzling. It's just so, so VERY amateur -- even for amateurs, if you know what I mean.

I guess we sit tight until more information becomes available.

That said, it's another signpost on the road to greater instability with the elections still 8 months away...

Jean-marie said...

This may have been staged by KABILA and if not ,only the M.L.C can do some thing this stupid. i remember during the last elections how after loosing ,JP BEMBA started putting his rebels inside buildings all around the Gombe district and at the cimetery in Gombe to prepare for the so called KENNEDY style assassination on KABILA.
if this was not staged by the KABILA regime,it looks very much like an M.L.C( D.S.P mobutist) coup atteimpt.

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