big boys club

DRC 2023: Matata Ponyo Mapon’s inner circle

By The Africa Report

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Posted on June 27, 2023 14:45

 © Matata Ponyo Mapon’s allies. Montage TAR
Matata Ponyo Mapon’s allies. Montage TAR

As a candidate in the upcoming 20 December DRC presidential elections, ex-president Joseph Kabila’s former prime minister Matata Ponyo Mapon will be one of the opposition’s front-runners, backed by long-standing collaborators from the political, economic and judicial worlds.

Ponyo was, for a time, on Kabila’s list of his potential successors in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election. Since then, the senator from Maniema, centre-east DRC, has distanced himself from Kabila’s political family.

He has focused part of his activities on his consultancy firm, Congo Challenge, through which he also cultivates his relationships within palaces of the elite.

After officially slamming the door on the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) in March 2021, Mapon launched his own movement, the Leadership and Governance for Development (LGD) on 3 May 2022. He also, simultaneously, announced that he would be a candidate for the country’s highest office. Will he go all the way?

For several months now, Ponyo has been holding talks with three other leaders of the opposition to Félix Tshisekedi: Moïse Katumbi, Martin Fayulu and Delly Sesanga. While the question of a unity candidate remains to be answered, everyone is aware that it will be difficult to run in a disorganised manner.

In the meantime, the former prime minister also has a battle on the judicial front. After many twists and turns, the Bukanga Lonzo case, in which he is accused of misappropriating public funds, has been referred to the Constitutional Court. However, as with the political front, he can count on a handful of supporters.

The LGD’s secretary general is the former prime minister’s main intermediary within the party. Originally from Kasai Oriental, this ex-member of the Alliance des forces démocratiques du Congo (AFDC), the party of current senate president, Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, coordinates the movement’s strategy, which he manages on a day-to-day basis.

Between 2015 and 2016, he was also deputy minister for planning.

This national MP, elected from Maniema province – Ponyo’s stronghold – has long been one of the presidential candidate’s most trusted confidants. He was his director of cabinet at the prime minister’s office from 2012 to 2016 and is now a member of the LGD strategy committee.

Appointed minister of the civil service in the Ponyo government in 2015, this university professor has remained close to him. Pascal Isumbisho Mwapu is also a member of the LGD strategy committee.

Jean-Baptiste Ntagoma Kushinganine is also a teacher by profession and a member of the strategic committee of Ponyo’s party, where he was adviser on economic strategies and prospects at the prime minister’s office. He also works as a senior expert for Congo Challenge, as does Jean-Paul Tsasa, who performs the same duties for both the party and the consultancy.

A former technical assistant to Ponyo when the latter was prime minister, Michel-Ange Lokota is the managing director of Congo Challenge. Launched in 2017, in the wake of Ponyo’s departure from the prime minister’s office, this firm, which describes itself as a think tank, has enabled the former head of government to gain international stature. Congo Challenge worked with the Guinean government under Alpha Condé and with the current Togolese president, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé.

A communications consultant with the Mapon Foundation and Congo Challenge since September 2019, this former translator worked as a photojournalist at Télé 50 from 2010 to 2018, where he was editor-in-chief.

Counsel to Ponyo, he represented him in the Bukanga Lonzo case, which was referred by the Court of Cassation to the Constitutional Court, which declared itself competent to hear the case. Registered with the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2008, he was senior counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha (2000-2007).

Songa was also part of the Congolese group defending former president Kabila after the publication of the ‘Congo Hold-Up’ investigation’s findings – by an international consortium of journalists – into the embezzlement of more than $138m in public money. He is also advising François Beya, Tshisekedi’s former security man, whose trial was opened (before being suspended) before the High Military Court on charges of ‘plotting’ against the chief executive. He also represented Vital Kamerhe, Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff.

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