Congo prime minister accepts no confidence vote, freeing president from alliance

Congo's President Felix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi gestures during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo’s Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba said on Thursday he accepted parliament’s vote of no confidence in his government, opening the way for President Felix Tshisekedi to appoint his loyalists to key ministries.

The departure of Ilunga, an ally of former President Joseph Kabila, cements Tshisekedi’s break from a power-sharing pact that had been forced on him when he came to power two years ago because Kabila’s allies still controlled parliament.

The awkward alliance, which forced Tshisekedi to bargain with his predecessor over any policy shift, added to challenges facing his government as it sought to quell violence in Congo’s eastern mining heartland, reform the judiciary and win financial help from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The presidency said on Twitter that 391 lawmakers out of 500 in Congo’s lower house now backed Tshisekedi’s new political alliance known as the Sacred Union.

Tshisekedi had launched talks last month with political, religious and civil society leaders to broaden support for his government, helping him secure the parliamentary majority.

He now faces the challenge of juggling the interests of the 20 or so diverse political parties that back him. He also needs to secure the help of Kabila appointees who still run major institutions, such as the central bank and security services.

Ilunga, who had 24 hours to respond to Wednesday’s successful parliamentary motion against him, said he acknowledged the legitimacy of the vote, after previously calling it into question.

“I await notification of the decision to fulfil my duties in accordance with the constitution,” he said in a statement.

It was unclear how soon Ilunga would be formally notified of no-confidence vote, which would trigger his resignation.

Reporting by Stanis Bujakera and Hereward Holland; Writing by Alessandra Prentice and Bate Felix; Editing by Aaron Ross and Kevin Liffey