In this poignant testimony, he shares the highlights of his life.
Mining & Business Magazine: Good morning, Grand Admiral. Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Grand Admiral Baudouin Liwanga: I am Baudouin LIWANGA MataNYAUNYOBO, born in Mbandaka on 27 July 1950. The eldest son of Joseph NYAMUNYOBO and Marie NYAMOKWENYE. Both of them preceded us into the afterlife. My parents were from Bodjinga, a village in Kungu Territory, South Ubangi province, after the division of the former Equateur Province. On this subject, I did not return to this village that I wanted to know until about 1995.
M&B: What did your father do?
BL: He was a fisherman by profession! My mum too! Before they became itinerant traders between Mbandaka and Kinshasa to sell their fish products.
M&B: What pushed the young Baudouin towards a military career?
BL: Since we were very young in the city of Mbandaka, which was the capital of Equateur Province, we had fun playing war games with the young people of the neighbourhood. I was one of the leaders of one of the groups.
(laughs) M&B: What about when you joined the army?
BL: That was in 1973. I was 23 years old. I enrolled at the officer training school in Kananga. This was the first time civilians could be promoted to become officers; before then, only noncommissioned officers were accepted. There were 227 candidates. Two years later, we ended up with 55 second lieutenants.
M&B: Was there military cooperation at the time?
BL: Yes there was, with Belgium. The Belgian army trained us with some Zairian troops at the time.
M&B: And why did you choose the navy?
BL: I chose the navy because we are “water people”. My first option was the navy. My second option, the navy. The third, you have to be a military genius.
M&B: What about the rest of your career?
BL: We finished training in 1975, the year that the famous Kamanyola division, which we would lead, was created. After the EFO (Officer Training School), I went to Belgium to Lombardsijde (1976 - 1977) to become a “Bridge Officer”. And from 1982 - 1983, I trained at the Staff Command School, 10th Class (ECEM 10) to become TEM (Staff Technician).
M&B: How did regime change impact you in 1997?
BL: I was Chief of Staff of the Naval Force. Towards the end of 1996, I went on an operation in Mbandaka to try to stop the movements of soldiers fleeing the fighting from Kisangani. In February 1997, I received an invitation from the South African Navy to go to Durban to celebrate 75 years since its creation. In Johannesburg, on my way back, I learned that I had been appointed Governor of Lower Zaire (now Kongo Central). That was a real surprise, as the appointment was made at the sole discretion of the Supreme Commander, Marshal Mobutu, at the time. And that’s how I ended up as Governor!
M&B: And the arrival of the AFDL?
BL: On the 17th of February, the Mze, having already proclaimed the liberation of the Republic, took the oath as Head of State of the DRC. On the 18th of February, I wrote to the new President of the Republic, who was in Lubumbashi, to inform him that I had noted his swearing in and was awaiting his instructions.
M&B: And the first face-toface meeting with Laurent Désiré Kabila?
BL: It was June 16, 1997, at the prime minister’s office. We talked face-to-face for over an hour. He said to me, “Listen, little one, you’re going to work with me,’ despite the fact that at that time, I was an ex-FAZ and had no responsibility in the army.
M&B: What about the first meeting with President Joseph Kabila?
BL: I met him after I joined the army. I was used by his father, but without any official function. At the time, I was working in Lubumbashi at the research centre for defence problems. President Laurent Désiré Kabila had appointed me Vice-Admiral and Commander of the Naval Force. There, I met Joseph Kabila, who was the Chief of the General Staff.
Grand-admiral key dates?
Baudouin Liwanga july 27, 1950: My date of birth! (laughs): In Mbandaka You know, I don’t even know my parents’ dates of birth. But these parents, who were just fishermen, made me what I am by taking me to school. It’s a beautiful thing. 28 July 1988: I became Chief of Staff of the Naval Force. I had turned 38 the day before. And the next day, to my great surprise, I became captain and Chief of Staff of the Naval Force. June 16, 1997: The first meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office where I worked with President Laurent-Désiré KABILA. November 3, 2011: The date of my civil and religious marriage. A great memory, because my father was there. It should be noted that in order to marry, the consent of the Head of State as Supreme Commander must be obtained.