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It is a high-stakes game of power poker.
On 22 April, when he made public the new organisation of the Republican Guard (GR), Félix Tshisekedi surprised by dismissing General Gaston Hugues Ilunga Kampete.
A key security ally of Joseph Kabila, placed under sanction by the European Union, Kampete had been heading this unit of the armed forces responsible for ensuring the security of the president and his family since 2014.
The Congolese President surprised once again by announcing his replacement: Christian Tshiwewe Songesha, 51 years old.
Presented as a reserved, confident, loyal, and above all very efficient man, the new “Mr. Security” of the President of the Republic has the full confidence of Felix Tshisekedi.
“This highly strategic position requires the total confidence of the Head of State,” commented a source in Congolese intelligence. “The appointment of Major General Christian Tshiwewe to take charge of presidential security is a sign of the confidence that the President has in him,” added a member of Felix Tshisekedi’s entourage.
“He is appreciated by the troops, mostly Katangese, who consider him to be a good military leader, humane, courteous and disciplined. On the basis of these elements, we can say that he has the profile to lead the RG, of which he was number 2 before his appointment,” says Jean-Jacques Wondo, analyst of military issues.
From Commander to Major General
Christian Tshiwewe Songesha was born on 27 October 1968 in Lubumbashi, in what is now the province of Haut-Katanga. He is originally from the province of Lualaba. At the age of thirty, in 1998, he was one of the first ranger officers trained in Sudan after the departure of Mobutu, driven from power by Laurent Désiré Kabila.
From 1999 to 2000, he attended the “Mura” (the other name for the Republican Guard) staff command course in Likasi, in what is now the province of Haut-Katanga, and received the staff certificate for his studies in Angola.
Back in the DRC, he was among the sharper students who participated in the Brigade Commander course at the Higher Military Centre in Kinshasa between 2003 and 2004. Trained in counter-terrorism by Israelis in Angola, Christian Tshiwewe Songesha took classes in the College of Higher Military Studies and Defence Strategies in Kinshasa.
At the same time, he patiently climbed up the military hierarchy.
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Appointed commander of the 10th Mura Brigade in Kinshasa in 2003, he was appointed commander of the 13th Republican Guard Regiment in Lubumbashi from 2007 to 2011. Upon his return to Kinshasa in 2011, he was appointed second in command in charge of operations and intelligence of the RG from 2014 to 2020, until Félix Tshisekedi promoted him to the rank of Major General.
Loyalty and Accountability
Félix Tshisekedi noticed this when he arranged for the President of the Republic to travel, mainly to the city of Kinshasa.
“Confidence has grown over the days and weeks. And even within the president’s biological family, he has support,” says another source in the president’s entourage.
“The challenge for Tshisekedi was to entrust security to a man he trusts. Although Tshiwewe has no particular history with the president in the past, the fact that he is appointed by the president gives him obligations of loyalty and accountability,” says another intelligence source.
“His loyalty to the new president will be expected in the event of a conflict between Félix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila. [The latter] allowed him to be in charge of RG operations and intelligence during a very critical period, between 2014 and 2020, during which the RG was directly accused of serious human rights violations,” says Jean-Jacques Wondo.
Since coming to power, Félix Tshisekedi has been trying to regain control of the army, whose leaders were appointed by Joseph Kabila. Since the beginning of 2020, several military cadres have been subjected to hearings and even dismissal.
This was the case, in particular, of General Delphin Kahimbi, head of military intelligence, who died on 29 February in circumstances that remain unclear and are still under investigation, and of General Muhindo Akili Mundos.
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