DR Congo`s Kabila brings opposition into long-delayed govt
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Monday named a government that includes several opposition members, more than a year after promising to appoint a cabinet of national unity.
The new team, which will be headed by incumbent Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and include 47 other members, will still be dominated by the ruling party.
But it also includes figures from the political opposition, notably the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) founded as a rebel force by businessman Jean-Pierre Bemba to fight the Kinshasa regime and its troops during the Second Congo War (1998-2003).
After a peace deal was cut among the Congolese foes and foreign countries backing rival sides, Bemba turned his movement into a political party. He made an unsuccessful challenge to Kabila at the polls in 2006, which led to violence.
Today Bemba is on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the MLC army in Central African Republic.
Despite being in custody, Bemba participated in consultations to form the new government, along with Senate President Leon Kengo wa Dondo, a bitter foe of the president`s rebel father Laurent-Desire Kabila, who took power after ousting kleptocratic dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.
Joseph Kabila, a soldier hastily made head of state by Kinshasa politicians in wartime after his father was assassinated in January 2001, rules over a nation two-thirds the size of Western Europe.
The DRC has vast, widely coveted mineral resources, but years of neglect dating from Mobutu`s era have left infrastructure and basic services in ruins, while serious unrest prevails in the east.
Business sources have complained that economic activity has been stalled by a lame-duck cabinet since Kabila first pledged in October 2013 to name a unity government, following talks with the opposition and leaders of civil society.
Kabila, who has himself come under fire for plans to tamper with the constitution so that he can run for a third term in 2016, has brought several heavyweight politicians from the presidential majority back into the new government.
Prime Minister Ponyo`s team includes three deputy prime ministers, two ministers of state, 32 ministers and 10 deputy ministers.
Leading the big guns from Kabila`s People`s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) is Evariste Boshab, a former speaker of the national assembly and PPRD secretary-general. Boshab has been made minister of the interior and a deputy prime minister.
Former foreign minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba has been appointed justice minister, while Olivier Kamitatu retains the national planning portfolio.
Henri Yav Mulang, the deputy director of Kabila`s personal cabinet, has been placed in charge of the finance ministry.
A deputy prime minister from the opposition is the secretary-general of the MLC, Thomas Luhaka, who has been entrusted with the postal service, telecommunications and new information technology.
Kengo, an advocate of free-market economics who several times served as prime minister under Mobutu, obtained the key budget portfolio for Michel Bongongo of the opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC).
The new government includes one job for a member of parliament from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the foremost opposition party first created to contest Mobutu`s rule, but today riven with internal dissent.