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Congo Civil War - Kasai - Background

Since 2015, a new law on the status of customary chiefs had entered into force. It provides for the remuneration of the chiefs and the publication of a decree recognizing the status of each chief. The regime of Joseph Kabila is accused of using this new law for political purposes to establish its control over this land of opposition. Since colonization, no regime - neither Mobutu nor Laurent-Désiré Kabila - had affected the customary power in the space of Grand Kasai. Like their subjects, the customary chiefs are impoverished. Some, accused of being purchased by the regime in place, obtain recognition of their status without difficulty.

At the end of 2012 Jean-Prince Mpandi became the 6th "Kamuina Nsapu", that is to say one of the main customary chiefs of the territory of Dibaya, in Kasaï-Central. He was 46 years old. His predecessor, Anaclet Kabeya Mupala, was a colonel of the Zairian Armed Forces (FAZ), the army of the former regime. He died a few months earlier in circumstances that his relatives had always found suspicious.

For the Congolese authorities, Jean-Prince Mpandi was an adventurer, a criminal who had spent his early years between Tshikapa, Lubumbashi, Zambia and South Africa. It is difficult to trace its course. He studied agricultural technics in Lubumbashi, Katanga. He would not have finished them. In the years 2004-2005, he reappears in Tshikapa in Kasaï. He set up a traditional clinic and said that he had learned medicine from Chinese practitioners. Sometimes he even said he went to China. At other times, he presented himself as a veterinarian. But already, he had a speech with political accents and talked about uniting his ethnicity, the Bajila Kasanga in the same movement. No one knew his political affiliation, but he was said to have contacts with South Africa.

In December 2014, Évariste Boshab was appointed by Joseph Kabila as Deputy Prime Minister of the Interior and became the principal interlocutor of Kamuina Nsapu. The head of national security is accused by his detractors of multiplying the decrees granting the status of customary chief to his political affidates, thus creating duplicates or new customary entities. He even appointed his own brother as the head of the Kasai-Occidental Customers' Association.

According to the Kinshasa regime, Jean-Prince Mpandi would have insisted on the need to restore customary powers, "natural emanations of nationality", would have called "all young people" to erect barricades and chase out foreigners from Grand Kasai, With the exception of "diplomats". Still according to the power, he would have launched an ultimatum for 31 December 2015 at midnight. Nothing happened, but Chief Ntenda, a cousin, accused him of fomenting an insurgency.

The influence of Kamuina Nsapu was growing. Not only because of his protesting speeches before the Tshiota, the sacred fire, but also because of the ceremonies he organizes, especially baptism, where a potion was supposed to make it stronger, even invincible to bullets. According to a security official, these ceremonies, coupled with politically acclaimed speeches, were already taking place before April 3, 2016. That day, while Kamuina Nsapu is in South Africa, Police conducted a robust search at his home.

On July 23, 2016, suspected followers of Kamuina Nsapu launched a punitive operation against Ntenda, Jean-Prince Mpandi's neighbor and rival. About a hundred huts are burned and at least six people killed. Chief Kamuina Nsapu denied being the cause of the attack and accuses chief Ntenda of provoking one of his neighbors by installing barricades.




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