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DR Congo appoints new prime minister

17 November 2016, 21:43

Kinshasa, Nov 17, 2016 (AFP) -DR Congo's president Thursday named an opposition lawmaker and former diamond dealer as prime minister under a controversial power-sharing deal that effectively extends President Joseph Kabila's term in office.

Samy Badibanga will be the country's next prime minister, according to a presidential decree read on state television.

Paving the way for his nomination, former premier Augustin Matata resigned Monday.

The move is part of an October deal between the government and fringe opposition groups that was slammed by the main opposition coalition as a Kabila ploy to remain in office.

The deal, which emerged following a "national dialogue", aimed to calm soaring political tensions but will extend Kabila's term to at least late 2017. He was due to leave office next month.

"The deal currently represents the only roadmap put in place by the Congolese themselves," said Kabila during a defiant speech to parliamentarians in the capital Kinshasa on Tuesday.

He added that he was ready to defend against any attempt to take over the country by force, pledging that elections would be organised in the coming months.

- 'Open air prison' -

The bulk of Kabila's political foes have formed a "Gathering" around the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party founded by veteran Etienne Tshisekedi.

He has called himself the country's "president elect" since the last presidential poll in 2011.

Badibanga's appointment has come as a surprise as Vital Kamerhe, who led the fringe opposition that participated in the national dialogue, had been cited as the favourite to succeed Matata as premier.

Badibanga, a former businessman who had interests in Congo's lucrative mining sector, was Kamerhe's deputy in representing the fringe opposition during the national dialogue.

The 54-year-old represents a constituency in the capital Kinshasa and was among opposition figures who in early 2015 put their name to a statement branding Congo an "open air prison" after access to text messaging, mobile internet and radio stations were blocked.

Among his first tasks on taking office will be to organise elections in the vast country, a former Belgian colony which has one of Africa's richest mineral reserves but has been wracked by unrest, misrule and corruption since independence.

A source close to the leadership of the UDPS, of which Badabinga used to be a leading member until he defied orders not to form a group in parliament, said that his nomination was a "non-event".

Kinshasa university political analyst Philemon Mwamba described Badibanga as "a shadow of himself, nobody knew him before 2011" and warned that "history was repeating itself".

The country has been in a state of crisis since disputed elections in 2011 returned Kabila to office for a second term. A 2006 constitutional provision limits the presidency to two terms.

Violent anti-Kabila protests in September triggered by the political instability claimed 53 lives, according to the UN.

Kabila took power in 2001, 10 days after the assassination of his father, the then-president, Laurent Kabila.

- AFP

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