Christian Malanga is planning on regime change in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


It was a busy Friday afternoon. We were putting the finishing touches to our Boat Show special, which was appearing the next day. My mobile phone rang: it was Alejandro Bellapart, a leading local lawyer. He said to me: "I will pass you over to Christian Malanga, the president of the United Congolese Party." They were both in Rome where Malanga was being honoured in the Vatican alongside Monseñor Mandio Akuma, the Congolese representative to the Vatican. It was a call which would bring Malanga and Monseñor Akuma to Palma and give us an insight into the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). This country, rich in natural resources but one of the poorest in the world, is in crisis and Malanga believes that he is the man who can restore its fortunes by toppling its "evil" dictator, Joseph Kabila.

Malanga is a young man but he has had a long career for a man of such short years. Educated in the US, he was a military officer in the Congolese Army and then entered politics. He was arrested and tortured and was forced to flee his beloved country. But now he wants to return.

"My country needs help. Life could be so good in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have resources, but my people, especially the women, are being persecuted. Rape is a major problem. I want to give the women their voice so that they can help change the country," he said at the OD Hotel in Portals, shortly after arriving on the island. "I want to build the necessary framework so that big international companies can invest and create jobs and prosperity. At the moment we have one of the highest rates of unemployment of any country in the world."

He is convinced that he can oust the present regime in a bloodless takeover. "The people will decide," the former army officer said. He has strong support from an unusual ally, the Catholic Church. About 90 per cent of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo are Catholic. Monseñor Mandio Akuma is adamant in his support for the Congolese opposition politician.

"When I arrive back the people will join us on the march to Kinshasa (the capital). This will be a people's crusade," he said, adding that he wanted to avoid bloodshed at all costs.

"We could be such a great country but we need to look forwards, not backwards. Our elders failed us but I do not want to blame anyone, not the former colonial power (Belgium) or the West. Now is the time for change. I want to educate my people. Re-open schools, give people hope for the future. We need hospitals, we need universities but I am confident that the Western world will help us."

"There should have been elections last year but they were simply cancelled. The people are angry, the army has not been paid for six months. The army is the people. If they see that the people want change they will join us," he added.

Malanga is planning to return home at the end of next month alongside the Monseñor. It will be a dangerous mission. If he is captured he says that he is pretty sure that he will be executed. The stakes are high. "We will cross into my country from the north and gradually work our way down, gathering support as we go."

The Congolese politician is convinced that the West will support him. He says that his country is ripe for regime change. Looking back on the interview, it was rather surreal really. Discussing African politics in a glamorous hotel in one of the most upmarket areas of Majorca, surrounded by bikini-clad tourists at tables nearby.

I thanked Bellapart for the interview and he said that this could be the start of a new dawn for the Republic of the Congo. I agreed. Now, I am old enough and have been a journalist for too long to know that African politics can be a very messy affair. Leaders come and go quicker than countries in that old and beautiful continent change their names. But looking at Malanga and Monseñor Akuma I did get the impression that they meant every word they said. Perhaps I had just witnessed the start of something.


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