DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Monday named Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge, head of the state mining giant Gecamines, as prime minister following a prolonged tussle for power with allies of his predecessor.
Sama Lukonde, 43, whose appointment was announced in a decree read on nationwide TV, succeeds Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, who was forced out after a coalition between supporters of Tshisekedi and former president Joseph Kabila broke down.
The months-long crisis was seeded in the outcome of elections in December 2018 that led to the first peaceful transition of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s history.
Tshisekedi, the son of a veteran opposition leader, was declared the winner but was forced into a governing coalition with Kabila supporters who at the time wielded a huge majority in parliament.
Tensions boiled over last year when Tshisekedi declared that power-sharing was blocking his agenda for reform, vowing to seek a new majority in parliament.
In a series of moves, he won over many Kabila legislators, gaining the perceived support of almost 400 out of 500 members of the National Assembly — a group he has named the Sacred Union of the Nation.
The new majority enabled him to force out Ilunga as well as the pro-Kabila speakers of both houses of parliament.
– ‘Heavy responsibilities’ –
Sub-Saharan’s biggest country, a nation the size of continental western Europe, the DRC has a notorious reputation for corruption, poor governance and inequality, despite its mineral riches.
Tshisekedi campaigned on promises to change this and improve the country’s poor record on human rights.
But his first two years in power were largely overshadowed by his predecessor.
Kabila took the helm of the country in 2001, succeeding his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was assassinated by a bodyguard.
His 18 years in power enabled him to build a powerful web of support in politics, the economy and military.
Sama Lukonde, who hails from the mining region of Katanga, previously served as a sports minister under Kabila.
He is a member of a small political party called Congo’s Future (ACO), which was once allied to Katanga power-broker and tycoon Moise Katumbi but supported Tshisekedi in the runup to the 2018 elections.
He was named managing director of Gecamines by Tshisekedi in June 2019.
Katumbi, who moved closer to Tshisekedi in the past few months as the president strengthened his position, threw his weight behind the new appointment, saying he wished Sama Lukonde “every success in his heavy responsibilities, among which peace and security for all Congolese remain the major challenge.”
Separately, Floribert Anzuluni, coordinator of a citizens’ campaign group called Filimbi, said the appointment was “the symbol of the renewal of the ruling class” in DR Congo.