JOHANNESBURG — 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 Africa’s largest country.
The clashes left 101 people dead in at least three cities, Media Minister Lambert Mende said in a mobile phone interview today from the capital, Kinshasa. About 100 people have been arrested, he said.
“The objective was to terrorize people” before New Year’s celebrations, Mende said. “A warrant of arrest has been issued against the one who has claimed responsibility.”
Armed attackers stormed the airport and the headquarters of the state broadcaster in Kinshasa Sunday, forcing Radio Television Nationale Congolaise off the air. In the city, 55 people died including one army colonel, Mende said. In Lubumbashi, 45 people were killed and one person died in Kolwezi, he said. Both are in the southern Katanga province.
Former Congolese 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. A call made to a mobile phone for Mukungubila provided by the site didn’t connect.
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, were armed with sticks and had a trumpet, the video showed.
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.
The landlocked country has experienced almost two decades of conflict, mostly in the mineral-rich east. President Joseph Kabila’s second five-year term ends in 2016.
“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.
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