KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday named a new transitional government, state television said, defying opponents who rejected the cabinet, saying it violated a previous agreement.
Kabila, in power since 2001, struck a deal in December with Congo’s main opposition bloc to stay on after his mandate expired provided he held elections by the end of 2017. But talks to implement the deal broke down in March when Kabila refused to commit to the bloc’s choice of prime minister.
Despite resistance to Kabila’s remaining in power, he has successfully co-opted large portions of the opposition.
The new prime minister Bruno Tshibala, whom he named last month, is a former member of the country’s largest opposition party and other opposition leaders received ministerial posts too.
The main opposition bloc, however, immediately criticized Tuesday’s announcement and called on Kabila to name a government that respects the December agreement.
“This government is illegitimate and we don’t recognize it,” Martin Fayulu, president of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development(ECIDE) party, told Reuters.
“There is no other roadmap besides the accord,” he said. “If the accord is dead, Kabila has to leave.”
The roughly 60 ministers and vice-ministers read out on state TV are mainly holdovers from the previous government and key ministries - including foreign affairs, interior, justice and mines - remain in the hands of Kabila loyalists.
Political tensions are high after security forces killed dozens during protests over election delays last year. Worsening militia violence in recent months has also raised fears of a backslide toward the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions.
Kabila’s opponents suspect he intends to repeatedly delay elections until he can organize a referendum to let himself stand for a third term, as his counterparts in neighboring Congo Republic and Rwanda have done.
Kabila denies those accusations, saying the election delays are due to challenges registering millions of voters and budgetary constraints.
The new government faces a number of stern tests. Congo’s franc currency has lost half its value since last year and authorities are struggling to mobilize the resources needed to hold the election by the end of the year.
It will also enter office amid controversy over the burial of longtime opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in Belgium in February.
His political party, the UDPS, planned to bury him on Friday at its headquarters in the capital Kinshasa. But the provincial government has rejected the planned site and the president of the UDPS’s Brussels wing, Katumba Tchiowa Ngoy, told Reuters the party would delay repatriating the body in “12 to 15 days”.
Additional reporting by Clement Rossignol in Brussels; Editing by Tom Heneghan