DR Congo ends impasse to appoint new government

Five-month delay since election featured an attempted coup as conflict rages in mineral-rich east.

Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi speaks during a news conference on April 30, 2024 [Christophe Ena/Pool via Reuters]

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has unveiled a new government, ending more than five months of deep uncertainty.

Wednesday’s announcement about the new cabinet’s appointment signalled the end of the long impasse that followed President Felix Tshisekedi’s re-election in December. The formation of the government comes 10 days after an attempted coup was foiled.

Government spokesperson Tina Salama announced the formation of the new 54-member cabinet on state broadcaster RTNC.

Guy Kabombo Muadiamvita’s appointment as defence minister is seen as key. He will play a pivotal role given the coup attempt less than two weeks ago and the conflict that is raging between the Congolese army and Rwanda-backed M23 (March 23 Movement) rebels in the mineral-rich east of the country.

Delays

Tshisekedi, the son of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, came to power in 2019, promising to turn DRC into “the Germany of Africa”.

He was re-elected in the first round of presidential elections in December, with more than 70 percent of the vote, but his “Sacred Union of the Nation” platform was still unable to form a government immediately.

The president’s communications director, Erik Nyindu, said the formation of the government had been delayed because it took time for the different parties in the ruling coalition to find a compromise.

“Better that than a country full of conflict,” he said on RTNC.

Last month, the president named Judith Suminwa as DRC’s first female prime minister. Earlier this month, he appointed his ex-chief of staff convicted for embezzlement Vital Kamerhe as parliament speaker.

However, he has resisted pressure to reduce costs, downsizing the new cabinet from 57 to 54 ministers.

Bleeding wealth

Tshisekedi has been criticised for failing to harness the nation’s vast mineral wealth – an estimated $24 trillion in untapped resources like cobalt and coltan – and improve the lot of his people, who live in grinding poverty.

Analysts say vast amounts of money have been pouring into state coffers, with no trickle-down to the population of about 100 million. DRC is among the five poorest nations on earth, according to the World Bank.

The country is also bleeding wealth as a result of the war in the east, a spillover from the Rwandan genocide, which has dragged on for nearly three decades.

As many as 200 armed groups, including the M23, which UN experts say is backed by Rwanda, are tussling for a slice of the mineral wealth pie.

Last year, the Congolese government said the country’s economy was losing $1bn a year due to illicit trade, which sees large amounts of minerals like coltan – vital for the manufacturing of mobile phones and car batteries – smuggled to Rwanda.

The failed coup on May 19 saw armed Congolese and foreign nationals led by United States-based DRC opposition figure Christian Malanga attack a minister’s home before entering the Palais de la Nation that houses Tshisekedi’s offices in the capital Kinshasa.

Several people, including Malanga himself, two security guards and a civilian, were killed, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The rights group has urged the government to prosecute participants fairly, noting that the putsch followed a “prolonged” crackdown on “rights to free expression, media freedom, and peaceful assembly” dating back to 2020.

“The Congolese government needs to treat this crisis as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights and the rule of law,” said Lewis Mudge, HRW’s Central Africa director, in a statement issued on Monday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies