By Henry D Gombya
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s President Joseph Kabila has suffered a severe blow after many of his confidants were killed in a plane crash in Goma Sunday. Reports reaching our news desk say among those killed in the crash was Ambassador Augustine Katumba Mwanke, nicknamed ‘AK-47’ and who is said to have been the right arm of President Kabila, DRC Finance Minister Matata Ponyo, South Kivu Governor Cishambo Marcellin and roving ambassador Antoine Ghonda.
Reports say the President’s entourage were aboard a Gulfstream private jet that missed the landing at Goma Airport on Sunday morning. Katumba Mwanke, said to have been President Kabila’s most powerful advisor, is said to have died on the spot while others either died in ambulances that tried to drive them to hospitals or on the way to hospitals in South Africa aboard air ambulances. But later reports seem to suggest all died at the spot even though there were attempts to take them to hospital.
Since he took power in 2001 after the assassination of his father President Laurent Kabila, the younger Kabila is said to have placed most of his trust in Katumba Mwanke who many likened to the bond former US President George W Bush had with Vice President Dick Cheney.
The aircraft is said to have taken off from Kinshasa and was attempting to land at Goma Airport when it missed the landing and ended up close to the Bukavu Lukanga River. A son of the former director of the late President Mobutu’s office, Bertrand Bisengimana was said to have been among the victims.
“It is a very big loss. He was considered a pillar of the presidential entourage,” Lambert Mende, DRC government spokesman said. Katumba Mwanke, 58, was seen by many as the power behind the throne. He retained a major influence in the country’s mineral sector and was held responsible by the Kabila government for the bad press that emanated from the 2009 WikiLeaks reports surrounding a US$9 billion mines-for-infrastructure deal with the People’s Republic of China.
Eight passengers are said to have been aboard a Gulfstream G-IV corporate jet. None of the flight crew are said to have survived. The G-IV is said to have the ability to obtain access into some of the most difficult airports.