African countries are becoming increasingly open to visitors from across the continent, with most countries making “steady progress” in terms of visa openness, according to the Africa Visa Openness Index presented by the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank at the Africa Investment Forum (AIF) in Johannesburg last week.
DRC appointments to Gécamines and the SNCC still blocked
The appointments of Albert Yuma as head of DRC's state-owned mining company Gécamines and Gabriel Kyungu Wa Kumwanza as head of the SNCC, announced two weeks ago, are still not effective.
While the former DRC president and his successor effectively cohabit in power, tensions between the grassroots militants of their respective formations are at their height. In Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Mbuji Mayi, among others, activists from Tshisekedi’s Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) have set fire to the offices of Kabila’s Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD).
Among the reasons for the UDPS activists’ anger are the debates held in the National Assembly at the instigation of MPs loyal to Kabila questioning appointments to the boards of public companies, particularly Gécamines and the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Congo (SNCC).
In the writs Tshisekedi signed on 4 June, Albert Yuma Mulimbi – a relative of Kabila’s – was reappointed as chairman of the board at Gécamines, while Gabriel Kyungu Wa Kumwanza – a relative of oppositionist Moïse Katumbi – was appointed head of the SNCC. But, almost two weeks later, these appointments are still not effective.
A source at Kabila’s Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) coalition party who requested anonymity shed some light on the delays: Wivine Mumba Matipa, a PPRD executive and current portfolio minister, “was instructed by her party to block these appointments by refusing to notify those concerned”. The Minister refused to confirm or deny this: “I never deal with state affairs in the public arena,” she said.
The FCC says the appointments are not acceptable for three reasons:
- It says they were never debated in the Council of Ministers, and were countersigned by a resigning prime minister, Bruno Tshibala.
- It says they don’t comply with the conditions of the agreement between the two formations.
- And it says Tshisekedi “did not respect regional balances”. “More than 80% of the new appointees come from Katanga,” says an official of Kabila’s party.
The FCC says that, in addition to Kyungu Wa Kumwanza at the SNCC, several other relatives of the former governor of Katanga have been appointed to the Gécamines management. “Albert Yuma is surrounded by Moïse Katumbi’s relatives,” complains an FCC official.
The Tshisekedi clan denies the allegations of tribalism, naming other board members of the two companies who come from South Kivu, Kasaï-Occidental and Kwilu provinces.
“These appointments reflect the will of the FCC-CACH coalition to move towards national reconciliation,” a source at the presidency insists. However, the source added that the fact that that former province of Katanga is now split into four provinces was “taken into account”.
The new provinces – where much of the country’s mining activity is concentrated – are all represented in the new appointments, from Sama Lukonde (Haut-Katanga, appointed CEO of Gécamines) and Fabien Mutomb (Lualaba, appointed CEO of the SNCC) to Yuma (Tanganyika) and Coco Mulongo (Haut-Lomami, appointed to the board of the SNCC).
Doubts about the timing
A source at Cap pour le Changement (CACH), Tshisekedi’s coalition, said: “New managers are appointed with the objective of implementing the vision for change advocated by the head of state. The aim is to relaunch Gécamines and the SNCC, but also to restore good governance.” The source requested anonymity so as not to undermine the difficult negotiations under way with Kabila’s coalition.
As for the debate held in the National Assembly on the relevance of these appointments, it was Tshisekedi himself who insisted on setting the record straight. On 11 June, on the eve of his departure for Libreville, the President received the Speaker, Jeanine Mabunda. According to the report that the latter issued during a closed session before the deputies, Tshisekedi asked her to “respect the Constitution” and stressed that “the President of the Republic does not have to answer directly to Parliament for his decisions”.
But while the Tshisekedi camp is defending the appointments tooth and nail, some have doubts about the timing. According to several sources in the presidency, Vital Kamerhe, Tshisekedi’s chief of staff, has expressed reservations about the timeliness and urgency of these appointments.
Relations between the two supposedly allied parties are already tense. The election of several dozen MPs – the majority of whom come from the opposition ranks – have been invalidated, and negotiations for the formation of the government since Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba’s appointment as prime minister are not going well.
“There is a clear gap in the design, approach and implementation of the FCC-CACH coalition agreement at the grassroots level,” says Guy Matondo Mafuta, an FCC executive. He recommends “de-escalation” and “the establishment of a permanent consultation framework,” adding: “Let us avoid the agony of divorce for our people.”