The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo named a former member of the largest opposition party as prime minister on Friday, a move likely to further divide Joseph Kabila’s opponents after talks to negotiate his exit from power broke down last week.
A statement from the presidency named Bruno Tshibala the prime minister of a new transitional government meant to organise a presidential election by the end of this year following Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate expired in December.
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Tshibala replaces Samy Badibanga, who resigned on Thursday.
Polls were not held last year because of what the government said were budgetary constraints, sparking violent protests at the end of last year in which security forces killed at least 40 people.
Critics say Kabila deliberately delayed elections in order to remain in power.
DRC’s conference of Catholic bishops (CENCO) helped to negotiate a December 31 deal aimed at avoiding a political crisis by ensuring an election this year to elect Kabila’s successor.
The bishops stepped aside last week after progress on the deal stalled.
Congolese police fired rounds into the air and launched tear gas canisters to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters in the capital Kinshasa after the negotiations broke down.
Nomination ‘departure from accord’
Tshibala was expelled from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), Congo’s largest opposition party, last month after he contested the designation of successors to veteran leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in February.
Tshibala’s nomination as prime minister escalates tensions ahead of a mass march on April 10, called for by the UDPS in Kinshasa to protest delays in implementing the deal.
Under the December political agreement, the opposition coalition known as the Rassemblement was to pick a prime minister, but divisions within the coalition complicated efforts to choose a candidate.
Kabila’s announcement on Friday came two days after the president said he would name a new prime minister if the opposition could not agree on a candidate.
Tshisekedi’s son, Felix, who replaced his father as president of the Rassemblement, said Kabila violated the deal by not naming a candidate of the alliance’s choosing.
“We continue to demand the application of the December 31, 2016 accord,” he told Reuters news agency. “The nomination of Bruno Tshibala is a departure from the accord.”
Tshibala will be confronted immediately with stern security and economic tests.
Congo’s franc currency has lost nearly half its value since last year and violence has worsened across the country in the wake of Kabila’s decision to stay in power.
The country, which suffered through two wars between 1996 and 2003, has not had a democratic transition of power since its independence from Belgium in 1960.