Who is the self-proclaimed prophet who launched a coup on Congolese breakfast TV?

Soldiers en route to the TV station.
Soldiers en route to the TV station.
Image: Reuters/Jean Robert N'Kengo
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Viewers of the Congolese breakfast TV show Le Panier (“The Breadbasket”) got a rude shock yesterday when the studio of the state broadcaster was stormed by armed disciples of a religious leader in an abortive overthrow of the government, resulting in the death of around 100 people.

The show’s presenters were taken hostage in a scene of “utter confusion,” France24 reported. At one point, “a vuvuzela incongruously appeared on the set,” as men with machetes and sticks tried to broadcast a message on behalf of Paul Joseph “Gideon” Mukungubila, an evangelical preacher who unsuccessfully ran for president of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006. Power to the station was eventually cut and soldiers retook control of the capital city, Kinshasa, by the end of the day.

Mukungubila, 66, has built an extensive following via radio and TV broadcasts and calls himself “the prophet of the eternal.” He rails against current president Joseph Kabila, alleging that he is Rwandan instead of Congolese—tapping into anti-Rwanda sentiment in a country that has a contentious relationship with its vastly smaller neighbor. Kabila’s father, the late Laurent Kabila, came to power in 1997 with the military backing of the post-genocide Rwandan government, part of a massive regional war that displaced millions.

“Paul Mukungubila is the prophet of God, by whom the creator is speaking to us on this world today on this last stage Christ ministry after the saint land had been profaned by unbelievers,” reads a statement on his group’s website. Mukungubila is from the southeastern province of Katanga, and has criticized the government’s peace deal with the M23 rebels, who recently agreed to lay down arms.

He told foreign press outlets that the storming of the state broadcaster and concurrent attacks by his followers on the Kinshasa airport and several military buildings were provoked by a government attack on his residence. He is now in hiding at an undisclosed location, from where he told France24, “We are going to show what we are capable of.”