(PHOTO: Cops on the beat in Kinshasa)
A persistent rumor on Kinshasa Radio-Trottoir, or Sidewalk Radio, the grapevine of the Congolese capital, has it that a group of rogue thieving military paymasters planned to bump President Joseph Kabila some time between mid-October--at the close of the Francophony Summit--and early November.
But the assassination attempt and the coup were somewhat foiled.
Radio-Trottoir alleges that there is a wave of discontent sweeping the top brass of the FARDC and, to a lesser degree, police--especially among commanding officers whose command duties also involve handling payrolls of their troops.
The discontent was sparked by the expansion to the military and the police in October of the system of pay to civil servants via individual bank accounts as well as mobile banking.
That system, introduced in August by Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, netted the government a not-so-unexplainable cash remainder of more than $1m in the city of Kinshasa alone!
Indeed, the cash remainder came from fictitious employees stuffed into payrolls by thieving paymasters.
Radio-Trottoir alleges that FARDC generals, whose net monthly pay is a paltry 70,000 Congolese Francs (the equivalent of $70!), see their lucrative thieving livelihoods threatened by the new system.
It seems there was an unsaid agreement starting under Mobutu to bloat military payrolls with fictitious soldiers to offset the insignificant salaries of commanding officers.
At the end of the month of October, when the banking pay for the military and the police had to be implemented in Kinshasa before being broadened countrywide, there were "unexplained" glitches that have delayed the implementation of the flagship program for another month and even for several months, according to police sources.
While police sources blame those problems on the carelessness of many police officers who'd lost their biometric IDs--thus forcing their paymasters to "optically" identify them--Radio-Trottoir claims instead that the operation hit snags thrown in by uncooperative paymasters.
The rumor of the assassination attempt seems however far-fetched, though Radio-Trottoir insists that the vast nightly cordon and search operation in the night of November 5 to the morning of November 6 in the Kinshasa Yolo-Nord and Kauka quarters was intended to nab coup plotters and seize their weapons.
"Why would DEMIAP be involved otherwise in the cordon and search operation?" a Radio-Trottoir source snarled at me when I doubted his version of the rumor.
DEMIAP, or Détection Militaire des Activités Anti-Patrie (Military Detection of Anti-Homeland Activities), is the Congolese military intelligence.
Incidentally, Yolo-Nord and Kauka are bastions of machete-wielding kuluneurs. And the cordon and search operation in that "kulunaland"--jointly conducted by the police, the civilian intelligence service (ANR) and DEMIAP--allowed law enforcement to arrest dozens of those bandits.
PHOTO: Alex Engwete