By: Rpf Gakwerere
DR Congo’s accidental president Felix Tshisekedi has replaced DR Congo’s sanctioned Army chief with his deputy who is also sanctioned for human rights abuses.
On Friday, 17th July 2020, Democratic Republic of Congo’s accidental President Felix Tshisekedi appointed a new head of the army to replace General John Numbi Tambo Banza.
Felix Tshisekedi appointed Gen John Numbi’s deputy, General Gabriel Amisi Kumba to lead FARDC – Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo (The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Both Gen John Numbi Tambo Banza and his successor, General Gabriel Amisi Kumba, are under U.S. and European Union sanctions for repression and abuses directed against opposition figures and protesters under former president Joseph Kabila.
Since last month, there have been rising tensions in the ruling coalition between supporters of Tshisekedi and those of Kabila, who maintains extensive power through his parliamentary majority, control of most cabinet ministries, and influence in the army.
In DR Congo, the newly appointed Chief of defence staff Gen Gabriel Amisi Kumba is known as Joseph Kabila loyalist and his appointment to head FARDC has baffled military observers in the region, especially at a time when there is tension between the ruling coalition, with supporters of Tshisekedi and those of former president, Joseph Kabila countering each other at every opportunity.
The newly appointed CDF – General Gabriel Amisi Kumba is widely known by his former radio call signal ‘Tango Four’, and his a controversial figure.
While General Gabriel Amisi Kumba has always been a loyal ally to Kabila, he was accused in 2010 by a UN Experts Group Report on Congo for selling weapons to rebel groups responsible for massacring civilians in the East and ‘profiting from blood gold’. After the release of this report, General Kumba was suspended as Army Chief of Staff and arrested. However, he was immediately released after the Military High Court found him innocent of all charges. And President Kabila reinstated him back in the army, appointing him to head the 1st defence zone consisting of provinces of Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Equateur and Kinshasa.
Accidental president Felix Tshisekedi has appointed new defence zone commanders.
When were defence zones created? How many defence zones?
Former president Joseph Kabila created three military defence zones in DR Congo. In September 2014, the then president, Joseph Kabila reorganised the military operation structures of FARDC, putting military regions in three different zones. In this military restructuring, the three military zones were to be headed by someone at the rank of a Lieutenant General and above.
In 2014 military restructuring, military region commanders were made to report and operate under their respective military zone commanders. Military zone commanders became overall operation commanders in their respective zones of operation.
The three military defence zones are,
* First Military Zone, provinces of Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Equateur and Kinshasa.
* Second Military Zone, provinces of Kasais region (Kasai Occidental, Kasai central and Kasai oriental) and Katanga region.
* Third Military zone, provinces of South and North Kivu, Oriental and Maniema.
For DR Congo’s ex-president, Joseph Kabila, this military restructuring was a strategy to maintain military control of the army through his most trusted officers within the army hierarchy, rather than managing local threats across the country’s regions. From the chief of defence staff, to the heads of three defence zones and military region commanders, president Joseph Kabila had created a chain of loyalist military commanders.
On Friday, 17th July 20, after appointing General Gabriel Amisi Kumba as a new chief of defence staff, DR Congo’s accidental president appointed new military zone commanders.
* Lugoya Kashama Jony was promoted from a Maj General to a Lt General and appointed the commander of the 1st military zone, the first Military defence zone controls provinces of Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Equateur and Kinshasa.
* Masunzu Pacifique was promoted from a Maj General to a Lt General and appointed the commander of the 2nd military zone, the second Military defence zone controls provinces of Kasais region (Kasai Occidental, Kasai central and Kasai oriental) and Katanga region.
* Yav Philemon was promoted from a Maj General to a Lt General and appointed the commander of the 3rd military zone, the third military defence zone controls provinces of South and North Kivu, Oriental and Maniema. Lt Gen Yav Philemon is known within the FARDC as the “le Tigre de Kabila”.
The 22nd April 20, military reshuffle within DR Congo’s Republican Guard.
The Friday, 17th July 20, military reshuffle came at the back of a significant military reshuffle that took place on 22nd April 20, within the Republican Guard (RG). In the DR Congo, the Republican Guard, is the presidential guard.
On 22 April 20, DR Congo’s accidental president, Felix Tshisekedi surprised everyone by appointing and entrusting the command of the Republican Guard to Major General Christian Tshiwewe Songesha. Political observers in Kinshasa referred to this appointment as a ‘high stake poker game.’ A poker game that Felix Tshisekedi is currently playing with former president Joseph Kabila. Félix Tshisekedi surprised political and military commentators in Kinshasa by dismissing General Gaston Hugues Ilunga Kampete, and appointing his deputy, Major General Christian Tshiwewe Songesha as the new commander of the Republican Guard (RG).
To be appointed as the head of the presidential guard, a highly strategic position requires the total confidence of the Head of State. The appointment of Major General Christian Tshiwewe to take charge of presidential security was a sign of the confidence that accidental President has in him.
Maj Gen Christian Tshiwewe is appreciated by troops, mostly Katangese military personnel, who consider him to be a good military leader, humane, courteous and disciplined.
N.B: you can follow me at – Robert Patrick Fati Gakwerere page (Facebook page), @RGakwerere (tweeter) or my blog – rpfgakwerere.org.
However, for those in the enclave – Rwanda, the blog rpfgakwerere.org was blocked by the junta regime, it can’t be accessed unless you are using VPN.