'British citizen' and three Americans facing death penalty in DR Congo after failed coup attempt

An empty street

An empty street is pictured in the Neighborhood of Gombe in Kinshasafollowing a failed coup

George Bunn

By George Bunn

Published: 28/05/2024

- 09:52

A ban on capital punishment was recently lifted for convictions linked to the conflict in the east of the DRC

A man said to be a British citizen, alongside three Americans, may face the death penalty after a failed coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ezangi Youssouf, alongside Marcel Malanga, Tyler Thompson, Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun was part of the doomed putsch led by Christian ­Malanga, a self-styled opposition figure.

A military spokesman, Major General Sylvain Ekenge said an interrogation into the men continues and that they will be "handed to a military tribunal" as opposed to a regular court.

It comes after a ban on the death penalty was recently lifted for convictions linked to the conflict in the east of the country.

Police block a road the day after the attempted coup

Police block a road the day after the attempted coup


In the early hours of May 19, a group of around 50 men armed in camouflage attacked the residences of the prime minister, the defence minister, and a senior politician in the capital Kinshasa.

Soon after, security forces moved in, killing the group's leader, US-based Congolese politician Christian Malanga, and three others. Around 40 others were arrested, the army said.

Congo authorities said participants in the coup attempt included foreigners and Congolese citizens. Three US citizens, including Malanga's son, were among those detained, Ekenge said.

One of the assailants was US citizen Benjamin Zalman-Polun. Local media described him as a medical marijuana entrepreneur who was also involved in mining interests with Malanga.


Police block a road

The coup attempt was quickly quashed by police in Kinshasa


US Ambassador Lucy Tamlyn said in a post on social media that she was "very concerned" by reports that American citizens had allegedly been involved in the events.

"Please be assured that we will cooperate with the DRC authorities to the fullest extent as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any US citizen involved in criminal acts."

In footage of his arrest, Youssouf, referred to by the Congolese authorities as a British citizen, said he had been told by Christian Malanga that their plan had "American backing."

Ezangi, who lives in London, was "particularly co-operative" with ­interrogators, Ekenge said. Marcel Malanga and Thompson were fished out of the Congo River as they attempted to swim to freedom.

The drama comes at a delicate time for President Tshisekedi, who is struggling to curb a two-year offensive by Rwanda-backed rebels in eastern Congo that threatens to spill over into a broader conflict.

Five months after Tshisekedi's disputed re-election, the ruling coalition has failed to form a government due to internal rivalries over jobs, despite a large majority in parliament.

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