Congo-Kinshasa: Congo After M23 - the Prophet Mukungubila and the Death of Colonel Mamadou

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Although the confusion of people fleeing and rumours circulating lasted for hours, the police were able to control the situation quite quickly.

Later that day there were skirmishes and riots in Lubumbashi, Kindu and Kisangani. On New Year's Eve, the government declared that more than 100 people had died in the incidents.

The attackers were eventually identified as being followers of a religious leader claiming to be the 'Prophet of the Eternal', Paul Joseph Mukungubila.

This self-declared spiritual leader lives in Lubumbashi and is a former (rather unsuccessful) presidential candidate (59,228 votes in 2006) whose heavenly messages are heavily mixed with anti-Kabila and anti-Tutsi hate speech.

At this point it is very difficult to understand exactly what happened and why. The government has done its best to reduce the incident and its relevance to the Prophet's narrative and present it as an isolated action of religious zealots.

But Congo is a country with an outspoken taste for rumour and conspiracy theories. Even before the incident was over, it had been called a coup attempt with much speculation about who exactly within the political or military elite was behind it.

The incident happened only two days after the official confirmation of Charles Bisengimana as Chief of the National Police. Bisengimana, a Tutsi who was part of the rebellion of Laurent Kabila in 1996-1997, had been acting Chief since General John Numbi was suspended due to his possible involvement in the assassination of senior human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in June 2010.

Whilst an important part of Congolese and international public opinion believes that Numbi was responsible for Chebeya's death, the Katangan General has never been accused and even less tried. Numbi, until his suspension, was one of the key personalities of the regime and was hoping for official rehabilitation.

The Katanga track

For many years, tension has been palpable within the Katangan circles that surround President Kabila. The cement holding the group together is fundamentally economic and based on common interests.

Katanga is not only the economic heart of Congo - producing the bulk of the central government's tax revenue - it is also the stronghold of the Kabila regime.

The government that Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo (himself from Maniema) has lead since April 2012, consists of 2 deputy prime ministers, 25 ministers and 11 vice-ministers.

One deputy prime minister and eight ministers come from Katanga. We should remember that Congo has been waiting for a government reshuffle since the end of the national consultations in September 2012.

It is important to see the actions of a Katangan prophet and his followers in the context of a powerful Katanga, worried about losing space and influence in Congo.

This is especially the case after the disappearance of its two key leaders: Numbi's suspension in 2010 was followed by the death in a plane crash by Augustin Katumba Mwanke in February 2012. The prophet's march was not a coup attempt but rather a sign that the Katangan pillar of power in Congo is not reassured that Kabila is serving their interests well.

The death of Colonel Mamadou

Three days after the incident with Mukungubila's followers, on January 2nd Colonel Mamadou Ndala was killed in an ambush near Beni. The colonel was in charge of military operations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and had played a crucial role in the military victory against M23. For an important part of the population, the Colonel represented the new found efficiency and discipline which had allowed the Congolese army to defeat M23. The reactions were emotional all over Congo, but in particular in North Kivu.

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