Congo President Changes Cabinet as Attacks in East Continue

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila named a new government, including opposition members, in a bid to restore confidence amid continuing insecurity in the country’s east.

The changes, which include replacing the country’s finance, defense and interior ministers and three vice-prime ministers, were announced by Kabila on national television yesterday, more than a year after he promised the formation of a government of “national cohesion.”

Kabila’s delay in naming a new government was “a major sign of his regime’s vulnerability,” Kris Berwouts, an independent Congo analyst, said by e-mail. “The fact that the government is finally there and contains some of the main political heavyweights reinforces the regime.”

The shake-up comes amid increasing violence in eastern Congo, where more than 200 civilians have died in attacks by suspected Uganda-based rebels since October. In the latest incident, more than 30 people were killed in attacks near the eastern city of Beni on Dec. 6, United Nations-backed Radio Okapi reported.

Kabila, who’s serving his second presidential term, has visited the region to appeal for confidence in the authorities. The UN which has about 20,000 peacekeepers in Congo, has stepped up joint patrols with the country’s military in the east.

New Ministers

Henri Yav Mulang was named finance minister, while Thomas Luhaka, a member of the opposition Congo Liberation Movement, was appointed as a vice-prime minister. Evariste Boshab was named as interior minister, replacing Richard Muyej, and Aime Ngoy Mukena, a former provincial governor, became defense minister. Boshab was also appointed as a vice-prime minister, along with Willy Makiashi. Premier Augustin Matata Ponyo retained his post.

Kabila, who took office in 2001, 10 days after his father, Laurent, was assassinated, has been accused by the country’s political opposition of planning a third term, a move forbidden by the constitution. Congo is the world’s largest producer of cobalt, and the sixth-largest producer of copper.

The changes in government will do little to alter Congo’s political stalemate, according to Oscar Lugendo, a former government spokesman who’s now secretary-general of the opposition Popular Front.

“It’s not the first time Kabila has undertaken changes he doesn’t have the right to make,” he said.

(A previous version of this story corrected ministerial positions starting in the first paragraph.)

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