DRC: Philemon The ‘Tiger’ Yav arrested

By Anna Sylvestre-Treiner
Posted on Thursday, 22 September 2022 11:25

Review of soldiers by Lieutenant-General Philemon Yav during an official visit to Bijombo, in South Kivu province, 10 October 2020. ©Alexis Huguet/AFP

The lieutenant-general, the strongman of the Congolese army for 25 years, commanded the third defence zone, which includes five provinces in the country’s east. The reason for his arrest is not yet known.

Philemon Yav has already experienced a few debacles in his long career as a military commander. This one seems to rank among the most serious. The lieutenant-general was arrested on 20 September in Kinshasa and placed in detention in Makala. Although the reason for this arrest is not yet known, it could be serious, given his stature.

Between the East and Katanga

Since 2020, Philemon Yav had been reassigned to the east of the country and, last July, he was appointed commander of the third defence zone of the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), which covers the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Maniema and Tshopo. In this capacity, he was responsible for the fight against armed groups, including the offensive coordinated with Uganda against the M23 rebellion, which resumed its attacks on Congolese soil last November.

“I master that terrain”, he told Jeune Afrique in 2015, speaking of Kivu. “The Tiger”, as he is nicknamed in reference to the Katangese gendarmes of Moïse Tshombe, has indeed spent his entire career between the east and Katanga (south), where the family of this man of about sixty, born in Angola, hails from.

Kabila’s man of confidence

Before being a point man in Félix Tshisekedi’s military system, Yav was above all close to Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and then to his son, Joseph Kabila, whom he knew in the 1990s within the Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo (AFDL).

When Kabila became president, Yav was considered one of his most trusted and loyal men. Assigned in the mid-2000s to the east, he was accused of having supplied arms to the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in a UN report. The DRC’s alleged support for the FDLR  is, even today, one of the subjects causing tension between Congo and its Rwandan neighbour.

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