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Congo's Kabila replaces interior minister amid declining security

FILE PHOTO - Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila prepares to receive Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso and Angola's new President Joao Lourenco at the State House in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila appointed the head of his political party as interior minister on Tuesday to oversee security in the face of rising militia violence and unrest over delayed elections.

Henri Mova Sakanyi, secretary-general of Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy, replaces Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari, another senior PPRD official, who had served in the post since December 2016.

The reason for the change, announced in a communique read on national television, was not immediately clear.

Ramazani is considered a staunch Kabila loyalist and has overseen the security forces’ deadly crackdowns on protesters who have demonstrated against repeated delays to a presidential election meant to choose Kabila’s successor.

Kabila’s second and final constitutional term expired in December 2016 but he has refused to step down or commit to not changing the constitution to allow himself to stand for a third term in an election currently scheduled for this December.

Security forces have killed dozens of anti-Kabila protesters over the past two years and uncertainty about Kabila’s future has also fueled militia violence, particularly near Congo’s eastern borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

Ramazani was sanctioned last May by the European Union over alleged human rights abuses committed by security forces under his authority. Congo’s government denies any systematic abuses.

Ramazani’s predecessor as interior minister, Evariste Boshab, was also hit with both EU and U.S. sanctions for alleged human rights abuses by Congolese forces.

Reporting by Amedee Mwarabu; writing by Aaron Ross; editing by Mark Heinrich