KINSHASA Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila announced the formation of a new government on Sunday in a shake-up apparently aimed at broadening his political base ahead of a possible constitutional showdown.
The vast central African country has secured some democratic gains in the last decade after more than 30 years of autocratic rule, but it is weighed down by civil conflict centered on its eastern borders.
Kabila came to power in 2001 following the assassination of his father. Western governments have warned him against any attempt to change the constitution before elections in 2016 to stay in office beyond the end of his two-term mandate.
The government, announced on state television, brings members of two opposition parties to key posts, including Thomas Luhaka, the secretary-general of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo. He will serve as one of three vice-prime ministers.
Kabila elevated to the same role ally Evariste Boshab, secretary-general of his People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy. Boshab has pushed for a constitutional amendment to allow Kabila to run for a third term.
Some analysts say the government could weaken an already fractured opposition, which has been led for decades by Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress.
"The big question is whether this is part of a larger strategy of delaying elections," said Jason Stearns, a Congo analyst at the Rift Valley Institute. "Everyone who is in this new government has a vested interest in staying in government as long as possible."
Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, who has led the outgoing government since April 2012, retains his post.
Congo is rich in gold, diamonds and copper but has failed to benefit from its resources in part because of corruption, insecurity and lack of infrastructure.
Kabila promised a government of national cohesion in October 2013 after a national dialogue with opposition and civil society groups. Donors and investors say the delay has fostered uncertainty and stalled reform.
(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Nick Zieminski)