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In the early hours of Sunday, the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched a coup attempt against the government of President Felix Tshisekedi. The attacks resulted in at least three deaths in Kinshasa, with several attackers, including foreigners, being taken into custody. The assailants targeted the residence of Vital Kamerhe, an ally of Tshisekedi, and breached the Palais de la Nation, the official residence of the president. Despite the violence, Tshisekedi was not present at the time of the attack.

One of the key figures behind the coup attempt was Captain Christian Malanga Musumari, a wealthy businessman, politician, and former military captain in the Congolese army. Malanga, who resided in the United States, had previously been detained under former President Joseph Kabila’s regime before founding the opposition United Congolese Party. Malanga had attempted a coup in 2017 and during Sunday’s attack, he threatened the president and chanted “New Zaire!” The attackers occupied the president’s offices for about three hours before being repelled by security forces.

Interestingly, at least three American citizens were among those arrested during the failed coup attempt. One of them was Malanga’s young son, while another, Benjamin Zalman-Polun, was identified as a cannabis entrepreneur and business associate of Malanga in a 2022 article. The US ambassador to the DRC expressed shock and concern over the incident and pledged to cooperate with Congolese authorities in investigating the involvement of any US citizens in criminal acts.

The backdrop to Sunday’s attack in the DRC is the country’s wealth in mineral resources, particularly cobalt and coltan, used in electronics production. The ongoing conflict with the M23 rebel group in the eastern part of the country has resulted in displacement and casualties, with allegations of funding from Rwanda. Internal divisions within Tshisekedi’s ruling coalition also led to the postponement of parliamentary elections, adding to the political turmoil in the country since Tshisekedi’s controversial re-election in December.

President Tshisekedi has not yet publicly commented on the coup attempt, raising questions about the security breach at the presidential palace. The African Union condemned the attack and praised the Congolese military for their response. The incident in the DRC adds to a wave of military takeovers across Africa since 2020, with at least five countries in West Africa experiencing similar upheavals. The situation in the DRC remains tense as authorities investigate the attempted coup and work towards stabilizing the political landscape.

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