Security has been increased across Democratic Republic of Congo as the government starts investigating attacks by followers of a man who calls himself a religious prophet in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country.
The clashes left 103 people dead in the capital Kinshasa and in southern Katanga province, Media Minister Lambert Mende said in an e-mailed statement today.
“The objective was to terrorize people” before New Year celebrations, Mende said in an earlier phone interview. “A warrant of arrest has been issued against the one who has claimed responsibility.” About 100 people have been arrested, he said.
Armed attackers stormed the airport and the headquarters of the state broadcaster in Kinshasa yesterday, forcing Radio Television Nationale Congolaise off the air. Among the victims were 54 people killed in Kinshasa including one army colonel, Mende said in the statement. In Lubumbashi in Katanga, 45 people were killed, he said.
Order has been restored since late yesterday, the airport is open, and there are no threats to security either in Kinshasa or Lubumbashi, Mende said.
Former presidential candidate Joseph Mukungubila, who calls himself Prophet of the Lord on a website for his Ministry of Restoration and is also known as Gideon, said the fighting was instigated by his followers after his own supporters were attacked on Dec. 29 and early yesterday, according to a statement on an unverified Facebook page for the ministry.
The attacks “weren’t planned,” Mukungubila said by phone from a location he declined to disclose. “It was an expression of anger.”
A video published on YouTube of the takeover of RTNC showed young men wearing t-shirts standing behind two hosts of a morning talk show called le Panier, or the Basket. They answered calls on mobile phones, had sticks and a trumpet, the video showed.
“They were unarmed,” Mukungubila said. The religious leader’s followers have been attacked several times since he ran in the presidential election in 2006, he said. Yesterday’s attacks came after an assault on the home of one of his supporters in Lubumbashi, which left a woman injured, Mukungubila said. President Joseph Kabila “must go,” he said.
What sets Mukungubila and his followers “apart from other rebels are their unrealistic ambitions and delusions of grandeur,” Austin, Texas-based analysis company Stratfor said in an e-mailed statement. “These are probably what motivated them to attempt a coup that was probably doomed to fail at its inception.”
Congo is the biggest source of cobalt, which is used in rechargeable batteries, and the continent’s largest tin producer. The country is the world’s eighth-largest producer of copper. Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (ANG) operate the Kibali gold project, while Glencore Xstrata Plc (GLEN) mines copper in Congo.
The country has experienced almost two decades of conflict, mostly in the mineral-rich east. Kabila’s second five-year term ends in 2016. M23 rebels ended a 20-month rebellion on Nov. 5 after Congo’s army seized key positions and the insurgents’ stronghold of Bunagana. Moise Katumbi, governor of the copper-rich Katanga province, said he expects money for the region’s development after the end of the fighting.
“While Kinshasa has seen several coups throughout its history, the extremely limited support base of Mukungubila means his rebellion is likely to be an anomaly rather than a political trend,” according to Stratfor.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kamlesh Bhuckory in Johannesburg at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at firstname.lastname@example.org