DRC: Why President Tshisekedi dropped Army Chief in new military reshuffle

    DR Congo President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi has over the last few weeks been restructuring his military command in preparation for a large offensive against rebel movements in Eastern Congo.

    Tshisekedi on Monday issued a series of executive orders on national

    television (RTNC), including major changes in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC).

    Lieutenant General Christian Tshiwewe Songesha was  appointed Chief of the General Staff of the FARDC, replacing Army General Mbala Musiense.

    Prior to his appointment, Christian Tshiwewe, a 3-star General, was the Commander of the Republican Guard where he has worked since the beginning of his military career, rising through the ranks in recognition of his bravery in various command positions.

    Mbala was reportedly removed from office for failing to contain the M23 rebel movement in North Kivu.

    Gen Mbala and his delegation holding bilateral discussions with the Rwanda Defence Force Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Jean Bosco Kazura at RDF Headquarters, Kimihurura in November 2021 (File photo)

    The rebels continue to occupy Bunagana border town despite Tshisekedi giving Mbala ample resources to defeat the rebel movement.

    Lt Gen Tshiwewe will be assisted by two Deputy Chiefs of Staff: Jacques Ishale Gonza (in charge of military operations) and Léon Richard Kasonga, the former FARDC spokesman (in charge of administration and logistics).

    In a separate order, three Assistant Chiefs of Staff were appointed: Major General Ndaywell is the head of intelligence, replacing Delphin Kahimbi; Major General Shiko Jérôme is in charge of military operations (he was previously in charge of operations in the Republican Guard); Major General Thomas Kisezo is in charge of administration and Major General Kipongo Bora is in charge of logistics.

    Sources said Tshisekedi realised that the army commanders had literally fallen short of defeating militia groups in DRC, undermining his presidency.

    Several regional leaders told Tshisekedi that until he overhauled his military command to stamp out corruption and inefficiency, he would never return peace to the easetern part of the country.

    DRC has been under pressure from Rwanda to stop integrating the genocidal militia group, FDLR, in its military ranks.

    FDLR fighters brandishing weapons in Eastern Congo (Internet photo)

    While Tshisekedi was informed that FARDC had never used FDLR in the war against M23 rebels, Kigali provided evidence showing the militias’ members fighting alongside Congolese troops in North Kivu.

    “Tshisekedi was being misled on the situation in North Kivu. The military commanders were pursuing their own objectives, complicating efforts to restore relations with Rwanda,” said another source.

    Republican Guard

    In the series of executive orders issued on Monday evening, President Tshisekedi appointed Major General Ephraim Kabi Kiriza as Commander of the Republican Guard (GR).

    As Chief of Staff of this special presidential protection unit, 2-star General Ephraim Kabi Kiriza is assisted by Brigadier General Christophe Iyengeli, in charge of operations and intelligence, Brigadier General Desiré Mulumba Kabanangi, in charge of administration and logistics, and Colonel Maloba, Chief of Staff of the GR, a position that was recently occupied by the new GR commander.

    The strengthening of the Republican Guard comes months after a planned coup was foiled in Kinshasa, leading to the arrest of Tshisekedi’s senior security advisor, Francois Beya.

    Tshisekedi also needs a new breed of army officers to work closely with Kenya, Uganda and Burundi which are deploying troops in North and South Kivu to fight militia groups.

    Tshisekedi also appointed new Brigadier Generals, including Sassa Nzita, Mulume Muderhwa, Fabrice Mbuyu Kongolo, Mulumba Kabanangi, Muyumba Malango and Christophe Ilengeli.

    “This series of appointments stem from President Tshisekedi’s desire to continue reforming the army,” said FARDC.

    Tshisekedi is expected to seek presidential re-election in 2023.


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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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