Coup in Congo Fails, 3 Americans Detained Among 50

( – A coup occurs when a group tries to violently overtake an existing government. That recently happened in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an African country that has seen an uptick in violence, particularly related to politics. When all was said and done, approximately 50 people were in custody, including three Americans.

The coup attempt occurred on Sunday, May 19. A small group of around 50 assailants stormed the presidential palace in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital city, dressed in camouflage and armed with automatic weapons. Their goal: to overthrow the existing government. Christian Malanga, a Congolese opposition politician, was the alleged leader. He had appeared in a livestream video addressing President Felix Tshisekedi, telling him “We are coming for you.”

At the end of the skirmish, Malanga was dead after resisting arrest, and his 21-year-old son, Marcel, who was born in the US, was in handcuffs. Two other Americans were reportedly involved in the coup and arrested as well. Lucy Tamlyn, US ambassador to the Congo, said she was “shocked by the events … and very concerned by reports of American citizens allegedly involved.” She said they would cooperate with Congolese authorities.

Media reports later named the two other American men: Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun and Taylor Thomson. It’s not clear what role, if any, they played.

The Congolese Army spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Sylvain Ekenge, said early Sunday that the coup was “nipped in the bud” and “the situation is under control.” The attempt to overthrow the government comes on the heels of Tshisekedi’s re-election. Many Congolese people believe the election lacked transparency. There’s also concern that the president hasn’t appointed a government yet and delayed a parliament election that was scheduled for the day prior to the coup attempt.

Brittney Sawyer, Marcel Malanga’s mother, wrote to The Associated Press, saying her “son is innocent,” but declined to address how he went from living in Utah to being part of a group trying to unseat Congo’s leader.

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