Congo lawmakers vote to oust prime minister in win for president

Democratic Republic of the Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi speaks during a video conference meeting during the "One Planet Summit" on biodiversity which is part of the World Nature Day at The Elysee Palace in Paris, France, January 11, 2021. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Democratic Republic of Congo voted on Wednesday to oust Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, collapsing the government and handing President Felix Tshisekedi a chance to appoint loyalists to key ministries.

Last month, Tshisekedi moved to end a coalition formed with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, that had constrained Tshisekedi’s authority since he took office in January 2019.

That culminated in Wednesday’s no-confidence vote against the prime minister, one of the last vestiges of Kabila’s hold on government. It passed with 367 of 377 votes.

“The government of Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba is deemed to have resigned. The prime minister is required to submit the resignation of his government within 24 hours,” said Mboso Nkodia Puanga, interim speaker of the lower house of parliament.

Kabila’s allies, including Ilunga, boycotted the vote, saying the interim speaker did not have the constitutional authority to oversee a motion of no confidence.

In a letter to the president on Wednesday, Ilunga said he would not resign before the appointment of a permanent speaker. Elections for the post are being held next week.

Tshisekedi’s new political alliance, known as the Sacred Union, will give the president a large legislative majority and unshackle him from an alliance with his powerful predecessor - although Kabila will retain influence over the country’s security services.

Tshisekedi may find it difficult, however, to juggle the diverging interests of the coalition, which will likely comprise more than 20 parties.

The coalition “is more a heterogeneous assembly based on interests and haggling,” said Onesphore Sematumba from the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. “This Sacred Union has the same fragilities as the previous coalition.”

Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Edward McAllister, Richard Chang and Peter Cooney