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The curious life of Marcel Malanga: From American dream to involvement in failed DRC coup

In a twist of fate that defies the typical American success story, Marcel Malanga, the 21-year-old son of the late Christian Malanga, was arrested for his involvement in a failed coup in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Marcel was arrested along with two other Americans after a shootout in Kinshasa on May 19.

Marcel Malanga
Marcel Malanga with his late father, Christian Malanga, during the failed coup of May 19. PHOTO | POOL

Viral videos circulating on social media after the failed coup show Marcel and another man, a Caucasian allegedly involved in the coup, pleading for mercy as government forces surround them.

Hours before these videos were posted, Malanga went live on Facebook from the presidential palace (Palais de la Nation), where he can be seen surrounded by several people in military uniform walking around in the middle of the night.

He was later killed while resisting arrest, according to the Congolese authorities.

His son was seen in the video armed, with an American flag patch on his military uniform.

Marcel Malanga
Marcel Malanga with his late father, Christian Malanga, before the failed coup of May 19. PHOTO | POOL

The US ambassador to the DRC, Lucy Tamlyn, expressed shock and concern at the involvement of American citizens. “Rest assured, we are cooperating fully with the DRC authorities as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any American citizens involved,” she said on the X platform, formerly Twitter.

“This was an innocent boy following his father. I’m so tired of all the videos being posted everywhere and sent to me. God will take care of you guys!” Marcel’s mother, Brittney Sawyer, insisted in a Facebook post.

The mother regularly posted photos of her son sharing in on the tender moments with his family as well as celebratory ones at his high school, especially with his football team. Other pictures showed him lifting weights, boxing and dancing.

Marcel’s father is a former refugee who became a naturalised American, moving to the US from the Congo in the late 1990s as part of a refugee resettlement programme and working as a car salesman.

As for Marcel, he was born in the US and lived in Utah, where his life seemed to take a different path, one filled with promise and opportunity.

After high school, he played for the Utah Islanders, a team that helps develop players for college football.


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He had been offered an athletic scholarship to Missouri Valley College in 2020, an achievement he proudly shared on social media, expressing his gratitude and excitement.

His social media presence paints a picture of a young man enjoying a charmed life.

Marcel’s TikTok, Instagram and X accounts are filled with moments from his life: from being crowned prom king to road trips, skiing holidays and philanthropic efforts in Mozambique. But amid these posts, there have been glimpses of his political leanings and connections to his father’s legacy.

Marcel Malanga
Marcel Malanga shows off his charmed life in Utah. PHOTO | POOL

In a heartfelt post dated June 19, 2023, Marcel shared a photo of his father with the caption, “Honoured to have you as my earthly father. Can’t wait to change the world with you”.

Marcel, who often referred to himself as ‘Warcel’, shared a video of himself and his dad at a shooting range and captioned it: “Check Out My Father and I Shooting”.

Another tweet from June 2022 shared his political plans as he campaigned: ‘We need to get this man in office, he’s trying to stop all the terrible tragedies in the DRC,’ referring to his father.

Despite these noble aspirations, Marcel’s social media also showed a more controversial side. He flaunted his wealth, posting videos with wads of cash and firearms.


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The arrest has drawn mixed responses from his followers, with some expressing support and others criticizing his involvement in the coup.

One friend remarked, “Damn, blud was out here chasing an NFL dream before he was picking up an AK and trying to overthrow an entire government with 20 other guys.”

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