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Heavyweights compete for top positions in Congolese government

Last December, while the diplomatic community was up in arms over the electoral fiasco in the Congo, a friend in Kabila’s government pointed out: “You’ll see, pretty soon the elected MPs will be more worried about jockeying for positions in the new government than this mess of an election.”

It seems that he might be right. Since the repression of the Catholic Church’s demonstration on February 16, the opposition seems unlikely to bring pressure through popular mobilization. Their institutional leverage is also feeble, as the UDPS’ boycott of parliament is unlikely to muster more than 40-60 MPs, and while the Kabila coalition is deeply fractured, they will have at least enough seats to convene and to debate laws. Finally, donors have not been able to either muster the political will to take a tough stance or figure out what the alternative to just accepting fraudulent elections could be (these two failures feed off each other).

So attention has turned elsewhere: to the naming of a new government and a new leadership for the national assembly. On Saturday, Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito officially submitted the resignation of his government to President Kabila, paving the way for a new government. So who is in the running?

The Kinshasa papers put forward several candidates for prime minister. On Monday, Le Potentiel, probably the biggest daily, ran a title page with the pictures of Adolphe Muzito, Louis Koyagialo, Evariste Boshab and Pierre Lumbi. Meanwhile, Le Palmarès pointed to four parties vying for the presidency of the national assembly: Evariste Boshab’s PPRD, Olivier Kamitatu’s ARC, Pierre Lumbi’s MSR, and Bahati Lukwebo’s AFDC.

In 2007, there were criteria for becoming prime minister. You had to belong to a party that Kabila could not take for granted and that, in an ideal world, would bolster his legitimacy. Coming from the West of the country was an additional plus. Antoine Gizenga’s PALU, with 34 seats and a strong base in Bandundu province, was an ideal choice. But these same criteria would exclude some of the names listed by Le Potentiel: Pierre Lumbi is from Maniema and Louis Koyagialo does not head an important political party. Boshab would appear to qualify (he’s from Kasai and heads the PPRD), but he is currently fighting off allegations of corruption from when he was president of the national assembly. And no one can really imagine Muzito being re-named prime minister after the accusations of corruption and poor leadership lodged against him.

For the PM position, Kabila has to decide whether he wants to solidify support among his regime’s stalwarts – especially in the wake of the death of his close advisor Katumba Mwanke, which sparked unrest – or to court opposition members. If it is the former, he might pick Lumbi or Boshab, or, if he doesn’t want to take sides in the struggle among his inner circle, he might go to a second circle candidate, like Olivier Kamitatu or Aubin Minaku. If it’s the latter and he reaches out to the opposition, which is apparently unlikely, he could reach out to Kengo wa Dondo or even someone from the MLC.

As for the national assembly, in 2007 the most important criteria was the number of seats had. But the PPRD, by far the strongest party with 62 seats, is led by Boshab, who in addition to the corruption allegations has to deal with a general sense of dissatisfaction from MPs with his management of the assembly. To top it off, under his guidance the PPRD has been diminished from 111 to 62 seats. Olivier Kamitatu, on the other hand, is from Bandundu and popular among diplomats, but his ARC party is only the eighth strongest with 16 seats. Bahati Lukwebo is an easterner and only has 15 seats.

Here, it will be difficult for someone to get through who does not lead an important political party. So it’s down to Boshab, Lumbi, Kamitatu, Bahati or someone from PALU (Gizenga, who is 86, will not take this job).

As one can see, the same names come up for both jobs, which means there will be horse-trading for positions. Also, given how fragmented the national assembly is, and the messy struggle for power following Katumba’s death, we could be in for a long delay before the government is formed.

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