Coup Attempt in The DRC, Three US Nationals Arrested

Three United States nationals and up to 20 Congolese have been arrested following an attempted coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) early Sunday morning.

What You Need to Know:

At around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, armed men led by Christian Malanga, a former Congolese politician and founder of the ‘New Zaire’ government in exile, attempted to storm the Kinshasa residence of President Felix Tshisekedi as well as the residence of the DRC’s Deputy Prime Minister of Economy, Vital Kamerhe.

According to Kamerhe’s spokesperson, Michel Muhima, “Two of the police officers assigned to his guard, as well as one of the attackers, lost their lives. The honorable Vital Kamerhe and his family are safe and sound; their security has been reinforced.”

Malanga was subsequently neutralized while resisting arrest at the Presidential Palace, according to the Associated Press. Malanga’s son, who was captured on video wearing an American flag patch, an unidentified American National, and another American national assumed to be Benjamin Rueben Zalman Polun, were arrested.

Malanga’s son and another US national surrounded by security forces. Source: James Porrazzo/X
Benjamin Polun, with the New Zaire flag behind him, is the third American national assumed to have been captured by DRC forces. Source: Steve Wembi/X
The passport of Benjamin Polun, allegedly taken during his capture after the failed coup. Source: Steve Wembi/X

US Ambassador to the DRC, Lucy Tamlyn, in a statement on X stated, “I am shocked by the events of this morning and very concerned by reports of American citizens allegedly involved. Please be assured that we will cooperate with the DRC authorities to the fullest extent as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any U.S. citizen involved in criminal acts.”

A statement by the Ministry of Communication after the incident then claimed that a “shell coming from Kinshasa accidentally fell in Brazzaville, in the district 2 Bacongo, precisely M’Pissa district in the so-called Trois Francs area.”

Continuing, “a few people were lightly injured, one of them having been transported to the Brazzaville army hospital for treatment by health services.”

The Details:

The orchestrator of the attempted coup, Christian Malanga Musumari, was a former Captain in the DRC’s Army, President of the United Congolese Party (UCP), and founder of the Brussels-based ‘New Zaire’ government in exile.

Upon retiring from military service, Malanga ran against President Joseph Kabila, an action for which he was detained and held for two weeks.

As a result, Malanga relocated to the United States in 2012 and focused the efforts of the UCP on the Congolese diaspora.

Currently, it is unknown what prompted Malanga, his son, and another American national to attempt the coup, although it is likely that President Felix Tshisekedi’s recent comments that allies China and Russia “behave better towards his country than Westerners” may have acted as a catalyst, as great power rivalry on the continent has reignited in recent years.

So, What Now?:

From all available information, it is clear that Malanga and his forces were heavily under-equipped, under-manned, and under-trained, with one New Zaire member captured on video wearing flip flops before the attempt to storm the Presidential Palace.

As such, this coup attempt can be understood as a desperate attempt by a self-exiled opposition leader to change the path the DRC is walking. Currently, war rages in the east of the country, with M23 rebels making gains by the day, including the capture of the strategic mining town of Robaya earlier this month.

The conflict has displaced millions and killed thousands, with the SADC mission in the country, alongside the DRC’s security services, struggling to effectively combat the various rebel groups operating in the country’s eastern regions.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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