* Adviser was seen as "the power behind the throne"
* Deputy PM says finance minister hurt, four others killed
* Kabila bracing for coalition government talks
(Adds quotes from deputy PM saying finance minister injuries do
not appear to be life-threatening)
By Jonny Hogg
KINSHASA, Feb 12 Democratic Republic of
Congo President Joseph Kabila's chief adviser was killed and his
finance minister injured in an airplane crash near the eastern
town of Bukavu on Sunday, government officials said.
The accident, the latest in a country with one of the
world's worst air safety records, comes as Kabila braces for
negotiations to form a new coalition government after his
disputed victory in a chaotic election in November.
Adviser Augustin Katumba Mwanke, 58, was regarded by many as
"the power behind the throne", according to a leaked 2009 U.S.
diplomatic cable. He was a former governor of the copper-rich
province of Katanga and retained major influence in the
country's minerals sector.
Summing up Katumba's power, one Congolese senator said on
condition of anonymity: "If you wanted to negotiate business and
Kabila said 'yes', that was 50 percent, but if Katumba said
'yes', that was 100 percent."
Government spokesman Lambert Mende confirmed Katumba's
death, saying: "It's a very big loss, he was considered a pillar
of the presidential majority."
Four others died in the crash - both American pilots and two
people who were hit by the wreckage - Deputy Prime Minister
Adolphe Lumanu told reporters.
Lumanu said Finance Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon, roving
ambassador Antoine Ghonda and South Kivu governor Marcellin
Chisambo Rohuya were also hurt, although their injuries did not
appear to be life threatening.
Government spokesman Lambert earlier said the finance
minister and Ghonda had been "heavily wounded" in the crash.
A United Nations spokesman earlier said the plane appeared
to have overshot the runway.
"The plane ended up in a ravine where there are fields,
there are two bodies still lying under the plane," Lumanu said.
The plane was a privately owned Gulfstream jet, said Lumanu,
who was speaking after a crisis meeting of high ranking members
of Kabila's political movement in the capital Kinshasa.
Katumba was seen as someone who pushed for power to be held
by an inner circle around Kabila and his demise is an
unpredictable new element in forthcoming coalition talks with
opposition parties who rejected Kabila's poll victory as
It could also herald major changes in the way Congo handles
it huge resources, ranging from copper to gold, oil, diamonds
and tin, and in the way it conducts business with international
donors and investors.
The 2009 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks noted that
Katumba had been blamed within the government for bad press
surrounding a $9 billion mines-for-infrastructure deal with
China. The deal, criticised by the International Monetary Fund
and others for selling the country's assets short, was
eventually revised down to $6 billion in volume.
He had earlier been named in a 2002 report by the U.N.
monitoring Group of Experts as being part of an organisation
that illegally seized control of billions of dollars' worth of
state mining assets. He was briefly suspended from government
following the report.
Kabila has been in power since a 2006 vote that drew a line
under years of war and chaos in the central African country. But
progress in developing its wealth has been slow and critics say
corruption remains rampant.
Kabila was inaugurated for a new term in December despite
broad misgivings over the Nov. 28 poll, which was marred by bad
organisation and evidence of irregularities that sparked
protests. Human Rights Watch said at least 24 people have been
killed by security forces since results were announced.
Kabila's ruling party has also emerged in the lead from
parliamentary elections held on the same day, but it won fewer
seats than it had before, complicating the president's task of
forming a solid coalition government.
(Additional reporting by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya in Kinshasa
and Mark John in Dakar; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Ben
Harding and Alessandra Rizzo)