Cabinet reshuffle in DRC: Bemba at Defense, Kamerhe at Economy

Jean-Pierre Bemba inherits the portfolio of Minister of Defence in the new Sama Lukonde government. AFP/File

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A reshuffle of the government was announced in the night from Thursday to Friday in the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde in office but redrawing the ministerial team nine months before the next presidential election.


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Among the new heavyweights of the government is, in Defense, the former vice-president (2003-2006) Jean-Pierre Bemba. Former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed in the Central African Republic before being acquitted on appeal in 2018, after ten years in prison.

He was appointed deputy prime minister and defense minister, as the DRC, which has been grappling with armed violence for nearly 30 years in its eastern part, is experiencing a peak of tension with its neighbor Rwanda, accused of supporting the M23 rebellion that has occupied large swathes of North Kivu province since last year.

Another return to grace, Vital Kamerhe, former chief of staff of President Felix Tshisekedi, sentenced in 2020 to 20 years in prison for embezzlement before being acquitted on appeal in 2022, is appointed to the Economy, also at the rank of Deputy Prime Minister - there are five Deputy Prime Minister positions.

A reshuffle had been presented as imminent for three months, after the resignation at the end of December of three ministers members of the party of businessman Moïse Katumbi, candidate for the next presidential election, who had left the government in solidarity with their political movement breaking with the ruling coalition.

The presidency warned early Thursday evening of an "important communication" to come, before a spokeswoman for Felix Tshikedi appeared on national television after midnight to read the composition of the new government.

The next presidential election is scheduled for December 20. Felix Tshisekedi, in power since January 2019, has announced for months that he will be a candidate for re-election.

Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde has been Prime Minister since February 2021. President Tshisekedi had appointed him to consolidate his majority after ending the coalition he formed at the top of the state with his predecessor Joseph Kabila.

(With AFP)

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