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DRC Coup

Written by Hareem Amna 6:30 pm Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Published Content

Coup in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): A Recurring Event

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country devastated by decades of war, insurgencies, and exploitation. Since gaining its independence from Belgium in 1960, the resource-rich state has seen its fair share of coups, making the recent coup attempt on President Tshisekedi just another destabilizing event in an already unstable country.
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Hareem Amna graduated with a degree in applied psychology from GCUF and a post-graduation certification in clinical psychology from Kinnaird College. She is an aspiring writer focused on writing about current issues.

An Overview of the History of the DRC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as the “DRC,” is a Central African state. The country, even though abundant in various natural resources, has almost always been on the troubled side of history. Despite having the resources, DRC is one of the poorest states existing today. Most of the country is poverty-ridden, with every one person out of six living in extremely impoverished conditions.

Like every other nation that was later colonized, the DRC was once a state ruled by kings and emperors. The Kongo Empire was ruling this part of Africa when the Portuguese explorers arrived. Their advent marked the beginning of the slave trade in Central Africa. They captured and transported millions of Africans to the “New World” as slaves. After the Kongo kingdom fell, the Kuba kingdom took over in the 1800s.

However, their rule was cut short when the colonial conquest was started by Belgian King Leopold II. He established the Congo Free State under his proprietorship. The natives were enslaved for brutal labor to serve him. He committed other gruesome atrocities that were criticized by the Europeans. Due to mass criticism, the king had to give up his possession of the Congo Free State to the Belgian state. Hence, Congo officially became a European colony in 1908.

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The Belgian Congo, as it came to be known after colonization, remained a colony until it acquired independence in 1960. The condition of the Belgian Congo remained pretty much the same after colonization. There was still forced labor and brutality that natives were subjected to. Harsh labor legislation made the natives rebel and protest against the colonizers.

In the wake of resistance, the people of Congo formed their first political party in 1958. As the protest grew wider, the Belgian government announced its plan to transfer power to the Congolese people after the elections. Elections were held in May 1960, and the Congolese National Movement (MNC), the first political party in Congo, won a sweeping majority. Shortly after, in June 1960, the Belgian Congo became an independent state.

The DRC Post-independence

Like every other colony, the colonizers left the natives unstable and in a lot of debt. The leader of the first-ever Congolese political party, Patrice Lumumba, took charge as the first prime minister of the newly independent state. From the very start, the members of other political parties tried to destabilize the newly formed government by halting the smooth transfer of power. The prime minister asked the UN for its help in expelling the Belgian army.

Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected prime minister of the DRC.

While that was happening, a rival of Lumumba, Moise Tshombe started a movement to secede the province of Katanga from the Congo. In this trivia, the prime minister was ousted, and the military took over after the coup in September 1960. However, the power was given back to the civilian government a year later, and the president became the head of the state. The first prime minister of the country was killed, and Tshombe became the new prime minister.

The power struggle between the president and the prime minister led to another military coup in 1965. The military commander Mobutu Sese Seko, who assumed the role of president, ruled Congo for almost 32 years. His authoritarian rule was barbarian, which resulted in destabilizing the political, economic, and social fabric of the state even further. In 1997, the rebels took over and Mobutu fled the country, ending 32 years of military rule. Nonetheless, the situation deteriorated even further as the country entered the Second Congo War. It’s also known as ‘The African World War’.

In 2001, another coup attempt was made but it failed. The war continued till 2003, killing millions of people. After the war, the country’s first elections in nearly 40 years were held in 2006. Joseph Kabila assumed the presidency and remained in power till 2019. His presidency was marked by many alleged failed coup attempts in 2004, and 2011. His governance wasn’t free from violence and rebellion.

From 2012 to 2013, a rebellion movement called the March 23 Movement or M23 was launched against the Congolese government. In 2019, Felix Tshisekedi became president. Although the integrity of the elections was questioned, this was the smoothest transition of power that the country witnessed since 1960.

Current Situation: The Insurgency and the Coup Attempt

After laying low for a few years, the M23 insurgents re-appeared in 2022. It is believed that M23 is a Rwandan-backed insurgency. This insurgent group, along with various others, is preventing the country from attaining peace. They are involved in multiple war crimes. They are expanding their territory within the DRC. The tension between Rwanda and DRC has flared up due to this insurgency. Both countries are involved in cross-border clashes.

The unrest has killed and displaced many Congolese people. Apart from political motives, the insurgent group also wants a hold on the diamond and gold mines. In 2023, Tshisekedi was elected for another presidential term, although the validity of the elections was questioned by the opposition and the people. The Rwanda-DRC conflict escalated even further after the president gave Rwanda a threat of war.

In 2024, the M23 rebels moved closer to the city of Goma for the sake of expanding their control. In addition to that, there was an attempted coup against the president and his allies on 19th May 2024. Although the attempt failed, it was meant to kill the DRC president and his close allies. Security forces intervened at the right time and killed the leader of the group and three other people.

Felix Tshisekedi
Felix Tshisekedi with President Biden at the G20 Summit in 2021

Christian Malanga, the leader of the group, was an American Congolese who previously threatened to topple the DRC government. In an unverified video, Malanga identifies himself as a militant tired of the DRC’s president. Almost 50 other people in the group were arrested and detained, some of whom were identified as US citizens. Even though the US has announced that it will wholly cooperate with the DRC administration, there are allegations of the CIA’s involvement in the alleged attempt.

Albeit the analysts are calling it an avocational attack, there could be a lot of reasons in the backdrop that are worth considering. The mistrust over the current administration, the criticism by the opposition, the rise of insurgency and foreign involvement, clashes with Rwanda, and dire sociopolitical and economic conditions could be the reasons behind an attempted coup.

What’s Next for the DRC?

This coup attempt paints a very bleak picture of the DRC’s current situation. It shows that the country is quite vulnerable to security threats; however, it also shows the foreign powers that toppling the Congolese administration won’t be easy. Nonetheless, DRC faces the looming threat of M23 expansion, another massive security and political concern.

The DRC has been a conflict zone ever since it gained independence. These multiple conflicts have affected more than 5 million people. The country is facing the worst humanitarian crisis, yet the world doesn’t even know about it. The Congo administration needs to get its house in order, address its economic concerns, and fortify its security to prevent any such attempt against the government in the future.


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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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