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Palace intrigues in Kinshasa

Once again, the éminence grise at the presidency, Katumba Mwanke, is in the headlines in Kinshasa. This time, he is allegedly engaged in a row with Théodore Mugalu, the head of the Maison civile du Chef de l’État.

What happened?

According to several sources close to the national security council, Mugalu submitted a complaint at the end of May this year, alleging that someone had been spying on him and stealing documents from his office. He pointed the finger at Augustin Katumba Mwanke, the former head of the AMP presidential coalition and financial right hand man to the president.

Then, over the past several weeks, a document has been going around on the internet, also allegedly signed by Mugalu, titled: « Security information for President Joseph Kabila. » The memo says that Katumba has been plotting an assassination attempt against Kabila for some time together with Speaker of the National Assembly Evariste Boshab and Minister for the State Portfolio, Jeannine Mabunda. The document also included some bank account numbers in Europe that Katumba allegedly uses to transfer state funds to private accounts.

According to the same sources close to the national security council, Mugalu and Katumba have been at loggerheads for quite some time. Mugalu was a close friend of Laurent Désiré Kabila since his rebel days in the 1970s & 80s and knew his family well. When LD Kabila came to power in 1997, Mugalu was named ambassador to Tanzania; after his assassination in 2001, Jospeh Kabila brought Mugalu back to Kinshasa to look over his personal affairs. The Maison Civile du Chef de l’État does just this: it takes care of all of the financial and political arrangements necessary for the president’s family (and deals with all the people who claim to be Joseph Kabila’s relatives).

Mugalu was apparently not happy that Katumba’s star had risen so quickly over the past couple of years. The young man from southern Katanga (Mugalu is from the north of the province) is the custodian of many of the state’s most important financial dealings, even though since he resigned as secretary-general of the AMP, he has not had an official position other than MP from the district of Pweto.

It is therefore not surprising that Mugalu would accuse Katumba of overstepping his limits and trying to get involved on his turf. As for the documents cited above, it is not clear whether they are real or fake. Mugalu himself gave a press conference last Thursday in Kinshasa, denying that he had ever signed any such document, although people in the know continue to insist that Mugalu has been accusing Katumba of espionage. Both were apparently interrogated by the intelligence service this week.

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