/ 27 October 2008

Kabila names new DRC government

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila named a new government of “combat and reconstruction” on Monday in a bid to pacify the giant Central African country, shaken by an upsurge in rebel violence.

Kabila sacked his defence and interior ministers in an apparent bid to shake up the military’s response to the increasing threat posed by rebels in the eastern DRC, close to neighbouring Rwanda.

New Defence Minister Charles Mwando will have the task of taking the fight to the rebel movement led by former army general Laurent Nkunda, whose forces overran a key defence forces camp at the weekend. Celestin Mbuyu was named interior minister.

“It’s a combat team to which has been assigned the essential missions of security and reconstruction,” according to a statement from Kabila on the formation of the third government since his election in 2006.

Nkunda’s rebels captured a strategic camp in the east of the country from government forces in fighting at the weekend in the vast Virunga National Park. The camp is an important army base in Nord-Kivu, about 50km north of the provincial capital, Goma.

The government will be led by Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito (51), named by Kabila earlier this month following the resignation in September of 83-year-old Antoine Gizenga, who said he was no longer strong enough for the job.

Apart from the conflict, Muzito, who was budget minister in the outgoing government, faces immense economic challenges in a country where 75% of the 60-million population lives on less than a dollar a day.

The economic struggles have continued despite the country’s vast natural resources, including 34% of the world’s known cobalt reserves and 10% of all copper.

The size of his new administration came in for press criticism on Monday.

Comprising three deputy prime ministers, 37 ministers and 13 deputy ministers, it was described as “elephantine” by the daily Le Potentiel, which said the size of the government would have a negative impact on the state budget.

“Austerity must begin at the summit of the state, at government level,” the daily said. — AFP