Kabila names new DRC government despite agreement on elections

The move seems at variance with his commitment to hold elections before year-end. (AP/J. Bompeng)

The move seems at variance with his commitment to hold elections before year-end. (AP/J. Bompeng)

A list of 60 ministers and deputy ministers was announced on state television in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday.

President Joseph Kabila kept the same people from his previous government in charge of key ministries, including foreign affairs, interior, justice and mines.

In an agreement signed with the opposition last December, Kabila was allowed to stay in power beyond the end of his term that month, so long as he held elections before the end of 2017.

READ MORE: Now is not the time for the UN to run from the DRC

In response to Tuesday’s announcement, the main opposition bloc immediately called on Kabila to name a government that respected that December agreement. “This government is illegitimate and we don’t recognise it,” Martin Fayulu, president of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development (ECIDE) party, told Reuters. “There is no other roadmap besides the accord,” he said. “If the accord is dead, Kabila has to leave,” Fayulu added.

A premier named instead of election day?
Last month Kabila named Bruno Tshibala, a former member of the country’s largest opposition party, as his new prime minister. In March, talks with the opposition had broken down when Kabila refused to confirm the bloc’s choice for prime minister.

Last year, there were violent protests over the agreement for the election delay and security forces killed dozens of people. There are concerns that the DRC could slip back into the civil wars of 20 years ago which left hundreds of thousands dead.

Kabila has been president of the DRC since January 2001 when he took over 10 days after his father, President Laurent Kabila was shot dead by one of his teenage bodyguards. Kabila won elections in 2006 and 2011 and his term was due to expire last December but in September, electoral authorities announced elections would not be held until early 2018.

Ongoing conflict, child soldiers and refugees
Uganda and Rwanda have long been accused of supporting rebel forces acting against Kabila. Rival militias with varying loyalties have been active for decades, particularly in the mineral-rich east of the country, but there has been increasing violence in the Kasai region in central Congo in recent months.

READ MORE: DRC crisis worsens as UN mulls MONUSCO’s mandate

Rein Paulsen, who heads operations in the DRC for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said on Monday there had been a sharp increase in the number of civilians displaced by fighting over the last 15 months, to a total of 3.7-million. Nearly 1.9-million children under five years of age are severely malnourished in the DRC, Paulsen said.

Two UN researchers and their Congolese interpreter went missing in March when they were looking into recent large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups. Their bodies were found two weeks later in Kasai-Central province.

The UN has almost 19 000 troops deployed in Congo, its largest and costliest peacekeeping mission.

The DRC is a major source of minerals, including diamonds, gold, cobalt, zinc and tin, especially in the east where they are extracted in small mines, many of them under the control of armed groups.

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