On May 17, 2018, AfroAmerica Network published an analysis of the Congolese army, known as the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo or FARDC. The article, titled Are Moïse Katumbi, John Numbi and M23 Rebels Joining Forces Against Joseph Kabila?, mentionned three factions: The Republican Guard, responding directly to the "not so benevolent baby dictator" Joseph Kabila, a powerful faction responding the the rutless Gen John Numbi, and a third ragtag faction, under the irrelevant Gen Etumba.
In the article, AfroAmerica Network predicted that Gen Etumba will be forced to retire, very soon. Well, the predictions have been realized.
Joseph Kabila had made Gen John Numbi even more powerful. He just appointed him the General Inspector of the FARDC, or as some in Kinshasa observe, the de facto Chief of Staff of the FARDC. At the same time, Joseph Kabila has forced Gen Etumba into retirement and replaced him with an unknown officer, Lt Gen Céléstin Mbala Munsense. Joseph Kabila took the opportunity to make changes at the top of the FARDC military leadership.
Why the changes?
As expected, Joseph Kabila is terrified by the independence and increasing power of Gen John Numbi, who has been working with the Rwandan Military leaders, especially the Minister of Defence, Gen James Kabarebe, and Congolese ex-M23 rebels to plan a coup against him. By appointing Gen John Numbi the de facto FARDC Chief of Staff, Joseph Kabarebe hopes to achieve two goals: appease and keep in check.
Accused by several human rights organizations of the assassination of Floribert Chebeya, the former head of the NGO Voice of Voices, and his driver, Fidèle Bazana, in 2010, Gen John Numbi is also under the sanctions by the United States and the European Union, for massacring civilians during 2016 protests asking for Joseph Kabila to step down, at the end of his constitutional term. Since then Gen John Numbi wanted a kind of cleansing and he seems to be getting it. Following the sanctions, Joseph Kabila removed him from the leadership of the National Police but he had recently discreetly returned back to his previous role in the army and had started regaining his influence. According to sources close to Gen John Numbi, some of the motivations to work with Rwandan Chief Staff, Gen James Kabarebe and ex-M23 rebels to plan for the coup against John Kabila, while leaking such collaboration to the media, including AfroAmerica Network, was to force Joseph Kabila to bow down and cleanse and reinstate him.
Keep in Check
Gen John Numbi's faction within FARDC is composed of troops mostly from Katanga, where he is as, if not more, popular as Joseph Kabila, and former M23 rebels and soldiers from other friendly or proxy armed groups who have being reintegrated in the army. Despite the alleged assurances from Gen John Numbi regarding saveguarding the interests of Joseph Kabila, there appears to be no trust among them. By appointing Gen Numbi General Inspector of FARDC, and de facto Chief of Staff, the two will be closer and hence, it will be easier, for Joseph Kabila, to watch Gen Numbi's every move.
However, according to AfroAmerica Network sources, Joseph Kabila may be rather setting himself for a suicidal gamble. Gen John Numbi does not trust Joseph Kabila and appears to stick to his planned collaboration with Rwandan military leaders.
Gen John Numbi's plan
Gen John Numbi, with the support of ex-M23 rebels already with FARDC, under John Numbi's faction, and some FARDC deserters will stage a coup-d'etat against Joseph Kabila. The pretext of the coup will be the invasion by Rwandan military armed and trained ex-M23 rebels. Gen John Numbi wil justify the coup by accusing Joseph Kabila of being unable to stop ex-M23 rebels and bring peace in the country.
If the coup succeeds, Gen John Numbi will then propose a transitional government of 3 to 5 years. Moise Katumbi will be part of the new government and then will run for President, following the transition.