Congo names new Cabinet, cementing president's power over predecessor

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo’s Prime Minister announced a new Cabinet on Monday, completing a government overhaul by President Felix Tshisekedi that strengthens his hold on power.

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi delivers a speech at the opening of talks about Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam at the Fleuve Congo Hotel in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo April 4, 2021.REUTERS/Hereward Holland

The new government is a further blow to Tshisekedi’s predecessor and former coalition partner, Joseph Kabila, who stepped down in January 2019 but maintained control of some ministries, the legislature, judiciary and security services.

Since announcing the end of their alliance in December, Tshisekedi has succeeded in replacing Kabila’s allies at the head of the parliament and senate, as well as the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, himself appointed in February, named economist Nicolas Kazadi as finance minister, former civil society activist Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi as mining minister and retired general Daniel Aselo Okito as interior minister, said Tshisekedi’s spokesman Kasongo Mwema.

More than a quarter of the 56-member Cabinet are under 40 years old, and only 10 have been re-appointed, Lukonde told journalists after the announcement. The presence of many lesser-known figures suggests a desire for control from above, political analysts said.

“The ministerial appointments likely indicate a top-heavy policymaking model,” said Indigo Ellis from Africa Matters, a risk consultancy firm.

The government includes allies of Moise Katumbi and Jean-Piere Bemba, two political heavyweights whose support Tshisekedi relied upon to unseat Kabila loyalists.

Katumbi and Bemba remain outside government. They may become challengers when Tshisekedi seeks to renew his mandate in 2023.

“Both will therefore retain a significant level of autonomy and if necessary distance themselves from government policy,” said Alexandre Raymakers, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

“Their allegiance to the president is in many ways circumstantial, and dictated by conditions or a desire to curtail Kabila’s influence and power. Not exactly the most solid foundations for a reformist government.”

Reporting by Stanis Bujakera and Hereward Holland, Edward McAllister; editing by Toby Chopra and Grant McCool