DRC Coup Attempt No Historical Exception

cc Alfani Franck, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APalais_du_peuple_%28Assembl%C3%A9e_Nationale%29.jpg

In May 2024, an attempted coup was thwarted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Among the coup leaders were three US citizens. The DRC, like many nations in Africa, has a history of coups and violently contested elections. Interestingly, several African coups have been led by naturalized US citizens or foreign nationals who return to their home countries to overthrow the government.

The coup was led by Christian Malanga, a naturalized US citizen born in the DRC in 1983. An opponent of the Congolese government, Malanga had lived in self-imposed exile in Utah and harbored political ambitions to replace the current regime. He declared himself president of the shadow “New Zaire” government in exile. Malanga was accompanied by three US citizens: his 21-year-old son Marcel; Marcel’s high school football teammate, Tyler Thompson Jr.; and Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun, a convicted cannabis trafficker who had previously engaged in business dealings with Malanga, including a gold mining venture.

The mother of Marcel, Brittney Sawyer, blames Christian for their son’s involvement, saying he was simply following his father. Marcel then recruited his son’s friend Tyler Thompson Jr. who, according to Tyler’s mother, had never been out of the country before and had never shown any interest in politics. According to Daniel Gonzalez, another classmate and football teammate of the two, both he and Tyler had been offered up to $100,000 to aid Malanga in what had been described as a “security job.” The third American, Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun, was most likely recruited by Christian, as the two had done business together in the past.


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