‘Coup involving foreigners’ thwarted in Democratic Republic of Congo

A police vehicle obstructs a street
A security cordon in Kinshasa on Sunday after the reported coup - Samy Ntumba Shambuyi/AP

The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says it has thwarted an attempted coup involving “foreigners and Congolese”.

The coup bid took place in the early hours of Sunday in Kinshasa, outside the residence of Vital Kamerhe, the economy minister, and near the offices of President Felix Tshisekedi.

“An attempted coup d’etat has been stopped by the defence and security forces,” said General Sylvain Ekenge in a message broadcast on national television.

He added that the “foreigners and Congolese” behind the attack, “including their leader”, would “all no longer cause any harm”.

Gen Ekenge did not give any more details on the incident, which took place in the Gombe region in the north of the capital city. Shots were also heard near the Palais de la Nation, according to a number of sources.

Mr Kamerhe holds a microphone in front of a poster of DRC's president
Vital Kamerhe, the economy minister, was said to be unharmed - Arsene Mpiana/AFP

Lucy Tamlyn, the US ambassador to the DRC, said: “I am shocked by the events this morning and very worried by the reports of American citizens allegedly involved.

“Rest assured that we are cooperating with authorities in DRC to the fullest extent possible, as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any American citizen involved.”

A number of people were also injured when a shell from Kinshasa fell in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, which sits just across the Congo river from the DRC.

“A few people have been lightly injured, one of whom has been transported to the army hospital of Brazzaville for treatment by the health service,” said Thierry Moungalla, the Republic of Congo’s communication minister.

Reports began to circulate on social media early on Sunday morning of an attack on Mr Kamerhe’s home by armed men, some of whom then went to the Palais de la Nation.

The two men are standing in an open car, wearing white and waving to a press of people
Mr Kamerhe (L) campaigning with Felix Tshisekedi, who is now president - John Wessels/AFP

Japan’s ambassador to Kinshasa, Hidetoshi Ogawa, said there had been “an armed attack” at the minister’s residence. He added: “Mr Kamerhe was not harmed [but] two policemen and an assailant were killed, according to sources.”

France’s ambassador reported automatic weapons fire in the area and urged French nationals to stay away.

Videos on social media appeared to show men in fatigues at the Palais de la Nation, brandishing the flag of Zaire. The DRC was known by that name under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997.

Mr Tshisekedi was re-elected at the end of December with more than 70 per cent of votes in the first round but is yet to form a government, some five months after the elections.