Sources in Bukavu, South-Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) tell AfroAmerica Network that the most influential member of the Congolese Parliament, Augustin Katumba Mwanke has died in a plane crash today on February 12, 2012. The crash happened in South Kivu, while the plane was about to land at the Airport of Bukavu, but missed and ended in a river nearby. A former Government of South-Kivu has also died in the crash. Other Congolese personalities that were on the plane are in the serious conditions. These include the Presidential envoy Antoine Ghonda, the Minister of Finances Matata Ponyo and the current governor of South Kivu, Marcellin Cishambo, a close confident of Katumba Mwanke.
The death of Katumba Mwanke is a serious blow to the Congolese government of President Kabila, and especially to Joseph Kabila himself. Katumba Mwanke, who hails from the same Katanga province as Joseph Kabila has been the real power behind the throne since Joseph Kabila ascended to to the Presidency in 2001, following his father Laurent Desire Kabila’s assassination.
According to the cables from the US Embassy in Kinshasa leaked by Wikileaks, Katumba Mwanke has been the most important figure in Joseph Kabila’s DRC. He was the Minister of the Presidency in 2002 when the UN accused him of corruption and illegal exploitation of Congolese natural resources. He was then officially removed from the presidency, but he kept the role unofficially and became even more powerful. He continued to have his office within the presidential palace.
He has been the powerbroker among the powerbrokers around Kabila, managing his relations from those with South African president Thabo Mbeki, to Zimbabwean Robert Mugabe, to Angola’s president Dos Santos. He had surrounded himself with a team of trusted friends including John Numbi, the disgraced Chief of Police and the actor of Kimia I, II and Umoja Wetu, Samba Kaputo, Dennis Kalume and Marcellin Cishambo.
Katumba Mwanke was the one who gave order to attack the disarmed Rwandan combatants and their dependents regrouped in Kamina in November 2002, overriding the decisions by Internal Security Minister Mwenze Kongolo, also from Katanga and Vital Kamerhe, who was the chief negotiator. He later reconciled with Vital Kamerhe for the elections of 2006 while managing to sideline and later ease out Mwenze Kongolo from the Congolese government and from Joseph Kabila’s circle. Mwenze Kongolo, a close confident of Laurent Desire Kabila has since openly declared his opposition to Joseph Kabila.
The death of Katumba Mwanke will likely change the political equation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially after the November 28, 2011 controversial elections, the instability of Joseph Kabila’s government and the overall insecurity around the country. Katumba Mwanke dies when Joseph Kabila needs him the most. His death may embolden the opposition and further weaken Joseph Kabila. Maybe this major event will open a dialogue among the Congolese protagonists.
©2012 AfroAmerica Network