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Was there a coup attempt in the DRC this weekend?

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Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

(Read caption) In this June 30, 2010 file photo, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Joseph Kabila arrives for the yearly national parade in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Armed gunmen with machetes attacked Congo's presidential residence Sunday, and at least nine people were killed during nearly an hour of gunfire, a witness said. The president and his wife were not home at the time of the attack.

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Two groups of men armed with machetes and machine guns attacked the Kokolo military camp and the residence of President Joseph Kabila on early Sunday afternoon in Kinshasa. According to reports, at least six soldiers had been killed, including several in the Congolese army. Up to eight of the attackers have been captured, and two are currently being interrogated at a DEMIAP (military intelligence) camp in the capital. The situation in Kinshasa is now calm.

The minister of information is currently calling the incident a coup attempt. Was it? The situation is fluid and information is still coming in, but we know that the attackers were coordinated enough to pull off two simultaneous attacks, to enter into the presidential compound and to kill several guards. On the other hand, it was a pretty ramshackle group of soldiers: many of them were only armed with machetes – could there be a serious coup attempt carried out by people with a few guns and machetes?

It is too early to say for sure, but I doubt this was a coup attempt, which would have required the defection of a large part of the military command. At most, this was an assassination attempt against Joseph Kabila – I don't think several dozens soldiers could have taken over the state apparatus.

It does seem possible that this was an attempt on the president's life. Over the past week, there have been reports from people in the opposition and government that a small group of men has been organizing to launch an attack. A source within the national security service said that people and guns had been coming across the Congo river, including former members of Mobutu's army and of the Enyele militia.


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