As chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, US Congress representative Karen Bass (Democrat-California) has the tricky ... task of threading the needle on the proper congressional response to the conflict in Tigray. She also represents part of Los Angeles, home to the nation’s second-largest Ethiopian diaspora community after Washington, DC.
It has been more than four months since DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi and former president Joseph Kabila’s coalition ended. The wait has been long and the negotiations laborious. But after several weeks of promises and false hopes, prime minister Sama Lukonde Kyenge finally unveiled his new government on 12 April.
The head of government announced it after a long meeting with the head of state, and the presidential spokesman Kasongo Mwema Yamba Yamba read out the names of the people who would be joining it.
The composition of this new government is the culmination of several weeks of negotiations that had been held ever since Kyenge was appointed prime minister on 15 February. The prime minister has given his assurances that this government, which is smaller than the previous one, is more “representative” and “inclusive”, as there are more women and youth in positions of power.
The new administration is composed of 57 members (compared to 66 previously), including a prime minister, four deputy prime ministers, nine ministers of state, 31 ministers, one minister delegate and 11 deputy ministers. This government, with an average age of 47 years, is 27% women and 80% new faces, according to the prime minister. In total, 10 members of former prime minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba’s government were reappointed.
UDPS, AFDC, UNC… Who got what?
Tshisekedi’s Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS), which has 32 of the national assembly’s 500 deputies, managed to retain some strategic positions. The post of deputy prime minister in charge of the interior has been entrusted to Daniel Aselo, who until now was the deputy secretary-general in charge of legal and strategic issues within the presidential party.
Adèle Kayinda – a member of the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques du Congo (AFDC) of Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, president of the senate and a pillar of the Union Sacrée – was given the position of minister for state-owned enterprises.
Four members of Kabila’s Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD) got posts, including Jean-Pierre Lihau, who is the new deputy prime minister in charge of the civil service.
The justice portfolio, formerly in the hands of the PPRD, has gone to Rose Mutombo Kiesse, president of the Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise and a member of civil society.
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The head of state has also secured control of several important portfolios, including key ministry positions. Nicolas Kazadi, one of his influential advisers and until now an ambassador at large, will now be in charge of the finance ministry.
Bemba’s and Katumbi’s supporters
The new government also marks the return of the political formations of two opposition leaders, Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba. Katumbi’s Ensemble pour la République, which has 70 deputies in the assembly, gets five ministry positions, although several colleagues of the former governor of Katanga were hoping for eight.
Among the new ministers are Christophe Lutundula, who is the new deputy prime minister in charge of foreign affairs, Christian Mwando, at the planning ministry, and Chérubin Okende, author of the motion of censure against former prime minister Ilunkamba, who is the new minister of transport.
The Mouvement de Libération du Congo, led by Bemba, has been awarded the post of deputy prime minister in charge of the environment, which will be occupied by Eve Bazaiba, the party’s secretary-general.
Tshisekedi’s main coalition partner during the 2018 election, Vital Kamerhe’s Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC), retains four ministry positions, including that of the budget, which has been entrusted to Aimé Boji, the party’s interim secretary-general. He is replacing Jean-Baudouin Mayo, also from the UNC.
Molendo Sakombi remains minister of land affairs, while Eustache Muhanzi becomes minister of small and medium-sized enterprises. However, the UNC lost the position of government spokesperson to Patrick Muyaya from the Parti Lumumbiste Unifié.
The keys to the puzzle
Forming the first government of one of the broadest – and most heterogeneous – political coalitions in the country’s history was a difficult task for the head of state. After choosing a prime minister with a rather modest political weight, Tshisekedi had to respond to several imperatives and try to limit the frustration felt within the parties that had helped him scupper the parliamentary majority formerly held by Kabila.
This was a political requirement for the Congolese president, who wanted to protect himself as much as possible from potential obstructions. Kyenge was also careful to specify that those who were not appointed could serve “in other sectors”.
In addition to the dissidents from the Front Commun pour le Congo – Kabila’s coalition – who are in the majority, the Union Sacrée also relies on Katumbi and Bemba, two heavyweights from the opposition, as well as the UDPS and the UNC.
Several criteria were applied when deciding how to allocate posts, from ensuring geographical balance to gender parity. The later explains the delay in forming the government, as the number of women proposed by the various parties was too low.
The political weight of each party also was taken into account, as the presence of a minimum of eight deputies was required to secure a ministerial portfolio. That being said, these criteria also had to be weighed against the promises and commitments made to the various groups, notably by the task force led by Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund, the UDPS’ interim president.
An overly large team
Tshisekedi’s objective was to reduce the size of the new government significantly in order to reduce state expenditure. The Kyenge made a similar commitment on the day of his appointment.
Initially, Kyenge had planned on forming a government composed of about 40 members. However, it is clear that the difficulties encountered during the negotiations led the head of government to revise this figure upwards to 56 ministerial positions. That is 10 fewer members than that of the previous government.
There has been no government since the end of January, and the DRC’s economy has been sluggish for months. This situation is reminiscent of the start of Tshisekedi’s presidential term, which began in January 2019. At the time, it took eight months to form a government.
In a statement issued on 1 April, the Observatoire de la Dépense Publique was alarmed at the consequences of such a blockage at the most senior levels of government, denouncing “violations of the finance law”, “a budget overrun by 113%” at the presidency and “investments at a standstill”. The economic situation is all the more delicate due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Reforms to be carried out
There has been no council of ministers meetings since 16 October 2020, and Tshisekedi wants advance his reform agenda. His government will first have to appear before parliament to be sworn in – a vote that will serve as a first indication of whether the composition of the new government is acceptable to all.
Although Tshisekedi now has a free hand, he will have to unite the various political forces of the Union Sacrée, which until now have focused on sharing positions.
Key issues, such as the framework for the next elections and the reforms to be carried out within the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (Ceni) will be at the heart of the debate.
Many of those close to Katumbi are not hiding their scepticism. “The problem is that depending on the interests of each and the issues on the agenda, the majority will be more or less stable,” said one of Katubi’s allies late last week.
The first test was on 13 April and involved examining the proposed reforms of the Ceni. This was carried out by Lutundula, the new foreign affairs minister.
Sama Lukonde Kyenge’s government:
– Deputy prime ministers:
Interior, security, decentralisation and customary affairs: Mr Asselo Okito Wankoy Daniel
Environment and sustainable development: Mrs Eve Bazaiba Masudi
Foreign affairs: Mr Lutundula Apala Christophe
Public service, modernisation of the administration and innovation of the public service: Mr Lihau Ebua Jean-Pierre
– Ministers of state:
Justice: Mrs Mutombo Kiese Rose
Infrastructure and public works: Mr Gizaro Muvuni Alexis
State-owned enterprises: Mrs Kahinda Mayina Adèle
Planning: Mr Mwando Nsimba Christian
Budget: Mr Boji Sangara Aimé
Urbanism and housing: Mr Muabilu Mbayu Mukala Pius
Rural development: Mr Rubota Masumbuko François
Entrepreneurship, small and medium-sized enterprises: Mr Muhanzi Mubembe Eustache
Town and country planning: Mr Loando Mboyo Guy
– Ministers :
National defence and veterans: Mr Kabanda Rukemba Gilbert
Primary, secondary and technical education: Mr Mwaba Kazadi Tony
Public health, hygiene and prevention: Mr Bungani Mbanda Jean-Jacques
Finance: Mr Kazadi Kadima Nicolas
Transport, communication and linkages: Mr Okende Senga Cherubin
Agriculture: Mr Nzinga Bilihanze Désire
Fisheries and livestock: Mr Bokele Djema Adrien
National economy: Mr Kalumba Yuma Jean-Marie
Industry: Mr Paluku Kahongya Julien
Regional integration: Mr Mazenga Mukanzu Didier
Higher education and universities: Mr Muhindo Nzangi
Scientific research and technological innovation: Mr Mpanda Kabangu José
Hydrocarbons: Mr Budimbu Ntubuanga Didier
Posts, telecommunications, new information and communication technologies: Mr Kibassa Maliba Lubalala Augustin
Digital: Mr Kolongele Eberande Désiré-Cashmir
Employment, labour and social welfare: Mrs Ndusi Ntembe
Land: Mr Sakombi Molendo Aimé
Water resources and electricity: Mr Mwenze Mukaleng Olivier
Human rights: Mr Puela Albert Fabrice
Gender, family and children: Ms Ndaya Luseba Gisèle
Foreign trade: Mr Bussa Tongba Jean Lucien
Mines: Mrs Nsamba Kalambayi Antoinnette
Communication and media, government spokesperson: Mr Muyaya Katembwe Patrick
Social Affairs, humanitarian actions and national solidarity: Mr Mutinga Mutushayi Modeste
Vocational training and trades: Ms Kipulu Kabenga Antoinette
Youth and national cohesion: Mr Bunkulu Zola Yves
Sport and leisure: Mr Tshembo Nkonde Serge
Tourism: Nsimba Matondo Modero
Culture, arts and heritage: Mrs Katumbu Furaha Cathérine
Parliament relations: Mrs Karume Bakaneme Anne-Marie
Minister to the president of the republic: Mrs Manuanina Kihimba Nana
Minister delegate to the social affairs minister, humanitarian action and national solidarity in charge of people with disabilities and other vulnerable persons: Mrs Esambo Diata Irène
– Deputy ministers :
Interior, security, decentralisation and customary affairs: Mr Molipe Mandongo Jean-Claude
Foreign affairs: Mr Adubango Ahoto Samy
Justice: Bahibazire Mirindi Amato
Planning: Mr Mbadu Panzu Crispin
Budget: Mrs Bokumuamua Maposo Elysée
National defence: Ms Tulugu Kutuna Seraphine
Primary, secondary and technical education: Ms Namasiya Bazego Aminata
Public health and prevention: Ms Kilumba Nkulu Véronique
Finance: Ms Onyege Nsele
Transport and communication: Mr Ekila Likombio Marc
Mining: Mr Motemona Gibolum Godard
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