President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has named Major General Christian Tshiwewe Songesha as the new commander of the 10,000-strong Republic Guard, a branch of the Congolese armed forces tasked with ensuring the safety of the head of state and his family, a week after sacking the former commander, General Gaston Hugues Ilunga Kampete.
Placed under sanction by the European Union and United States for the Republican Guard’s involvement in the suppression of anti-Kabila protests that resulted in over a dozen dead, Kampete was dismissed by Tshisekedi on April 22 in an effort to bolster Congolese relations with the United States.
Joseph Kabila continues to wield political influence behind the scenes.
Washington has insisted that improving ties is predicated on the president removing military officers currently sanctioned by either the United States or its European allies, a requirement that threatens to drive a wedge between Tshisekedi and former president Joseph Kabila, who appointed most of these officers and has continued to wield political influence behind the scenes. This new replacement for the Republic Guard follows a pattern of Tshisekedi reforming the DRC’s armed forces to solidify both his legitimacy and control.