Kabila appoints new PM

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila of Congo has named a former leading member of the main opposition coalition as his prime minister, but the appointment seems unlikely to resolve the country’s political crisis or satisfy the opposition, analysts say.

Late last year, Kabila reached a compromise agreement with the opposition under which he would step down and hold free elections by the end of this year. Under term limits, he should have left office in December 2016.

But not long after that deal was reached, one of the prime negotiators and the main opposition leader, Étienne Tshisekedi, died, and a power struggle erupted over who should succeed him atop the opposition coalition, known as Rassemblement.

On Friday, Mr. Kabila appointed Bruno Tshibala as prime minister in a transitional government that is to organise the next presidential election. Tshibala had been a key player in the opposition coalition but was ousted after he clashed with Tshisekedi’s son and successor, Felix.

Israel Mutala, a political analyst, said Tshibala’s appointment “risks exacerbating” the political crisis and was likely to increase divisions within the opposition.  Kabila’s move “gave power to a fringe minority” of the opposition, Mutala said, and seemed to undermine the spirit of the agreement reached in December, the details of which have still not been fully carried out.

The deal had called for the opposition coalition to pick the prime minister, but  Kabila said this past week that he would appoint someone to the post because of internal divisions in the coalition.

The appointment of Tshibala seems to be a further departure from the deal.

A presidential spokesman, Alain-André Atundu, praised the appointment of  Tshibala, saying that Kabila was demonstrating his “determination to standardise the electoral process” and live up to the December agreement.

But divisions within the coalition over the appointment could further delay efforts to organise an election and help Kabila fend off challenges to his power.

On Saturday, a European Union delegation in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Kabila’s move was “contrary to the letter and spirit” of the compromise agreement.

The delegation’s statement noted the “lack of consensus on this appointment” and expressed “great concern” over the matter.

“The restoration of a broad national consensus for a government mandated for elections before the end of the year is at the heart of the agreement,” the statement said.

Maître Peter Kazadi, who was an adviser to Étienne Tshisekedi, said Kabila “has shown his willingness to remain in power beyond the agreed period,” and he called for demonstrations on Monday to protest delays in organizing the election.  AFP.

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