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A failed coup with an American twist

Congolese troops shot dead an exiled politician and arrested three US citizens after an attack on the home of the deputy prime minister

President Félix Tshisekedi’s officials say that the Congolese army foiled an attempted coup in the early hours of Sunday morning, after armed men attacked the house of Vital Kamerhe, the economy minister and deputy prime minister, and a close ally of the president.

Tshisekedi’s spokesperson Sylvain Ekenge named Christian Malanga, a Congolese politician who has been in exile in the United States, as the leader of the attempted coup.

He added that around 50 people including three American citizens had been arrested and were being interrogated.

Malanga was shot dead at the presidential palace after he resisted arrest by security forces, Ekenge said, adding that his son, Marcel Malanga, was among the three American nationals arrested.

It is not clear what the motive of Malanga’s group was, but the American link could complicate the US government’s attempts to increase access to Congo-K’s minerals.

‘Rest assured that we will cooperate with the DR Congo authorities to the fullest extent possible as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any US citizen involved,’ the US ambassador to Congo-K, Lucy Tamlyn, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

After harbouring his own ambitions to replace former president Joseph Kabila, Kamerhe emerged at the heart of Tshisekedi’s successful presidential bid in December 2018 and was appointed as his chief of staff. That was derailed by a June 2020 conviction and 20-year jail sentence for embezzling $48 million in funding for public projects, though Kamerhe was acquitted on appeal in 2022 and returned to government in March 2023 (AC Vol 61 No 8, Prosecutors arrest bigwigs & Dispatches 28/3/24, President Tshisekedi lines up his campaign team).

He had been expected to be elected as Speaker of the Assemblée nationale, a post he had previously held between 2006 and 2009, in an election scheduled for 18 May which was delayed by Tshisekedi (Dispatches 16/1/24, Tshisekedi's ruling coalition strengthened after election).

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