Who takes the wheel? – DRC and its new PM
After almost six months of impasse, it appears that the DRC president, Felix Tshisekedi can go about the business of forming his government; though the former president Joseph Kabila’s continuing influence has been confirmed.
An agreement has finally been reached on the nomination of a prime minister: Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, long-standing loyalist of Kabila .
Ilunkamba is also an accomplished economist who has held various linked ministerial posts over the past three decades . He is therefore associated with one key achievement early on in the reign of Kabila, reform and privatisation of state institutions.
Former president Joseph Kabila has placed himself very well to retain effective control: he is head of the senate, his loyalists have a strong majority in both houses of parliament and he strong-armed Tshisekedi into a coalition of sorts. Such is the extent of Kabila’s reach that it was he (Kabila) that the new PM thanked upon his appointment rather than Tshisekedi.
Some on the ground sources are displaying surprise at the lack of protest against the situation from leading opposition figures. For example, the only remaining, largely critical voice is that of the official loser of the December polls , Martin Fayulu who continues to attempt to find avenues to overturn the result despite having exhausted all domestic legal options. One explanation offered locally is that: “opposition members are making the best of a bad situation and are hoping that they can force some level of compromise out of the current administration, even with Kabila effectively at the helm.”
Going some way to placating opposition members will be the return of Moise Katumbi, the exiled (former) leading opposition figure on 20th May. Charges brought against him in two criminal cases were dropped in April paving the way for his triumphant return. Added to this is the confirmation of the funeral of former opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi (father of current president, Felix), which has finally been slated for 1st June. He died in February 2017 in Belgium but his body has not been able to be repatriated due to political wrangling in the run-up to last year’s elections.
Ilunkamba’s appointment, Katumbi’s return and Tshisekedi the elder’s funeral will go some way in influencing populace and members of the international community, that the current administration is willing to put ill wills of the past behind them and work on the vital reforms that are needed across all areas of government.
However, the progress is not yet enough for the US and EU to withdraw sanctions against senior Kabila-era officials – it is likely that this will wait until the true intentions of Kabila concerning a return are made clear (he has been non-committal thus far)
Having a seasoned economist as PM is positive amid a flagging economy, though structural reforms of the civil service will be needed to incentivise and motivate and underpaid and apathetic workforce.
Looking at the actions of Tshisekedi so far (primarily road construction in Kinshasa thus far ), we can see that infrastructural development will be a central pillar of his tenure in office. Indeed, much of the work carried out in Kinshasa came under his emergency program for his first 100 days in office, a potential bellweather of what is to come.
Tshisekedi has already struck up a good working relationship with his peers in neighbouring countries; one step facilitating the commencement of works on the 39,000MW Inga dam on the Congo river
*image commons wikimedia: President Felix Tshisekedi