By Jean Damascène Hakuzimana
President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been trying since his election to office in January 2019 to gain control over institutions loyal to his multi-term predecessor, President Joseph Kabila. On February 15, 2021, Tshisekedi achieved a major victory by successfully installing Sama Lukonde Kyenge as prime minister. Kyenge takes over the vacancy left by Ilunga Ilunkamba, who earned a vote of no confidence in parliament last month. Ilunkamba was considered pro-Kabila, and thus stood in the way of Tshisekedi’s agenda, according to Al Jazeera. Kyenge is the director general of the state mining company Gacamines.
The appointment of Kyenge is expected to help President Tshisekedi develop a more loyal cabinet – one that will help him advance his policies, rather than thwart them. Tshisekedi has long complained that the power sharing agreement he brokered with Kabila’s political party has blocked his ability to move the country forward. He publicly broke with the pro-Kabila group in December 2020, and has been forging alliances to help him gain the majority in both parliament and cabinet ever since.
The appointment of a new prime minister is a second victory for President Tshisekedi, whose first was the removal of Jeannine Mabunda as speaker in parliament on December 10, 2020. The speaker was loyal to Kabila and was an obstacle for Tshisekedi. Christophe Mboso, an ally of President Tshisekedi, was voted in as interim speaker of the Assembly, according to Radio Okapi.
Bolstered by two powerful new allies – the speaker and the prime minister – Tsisekedi’s political platform, known as Sacred Union, is gaining strength. The president intends to continue forming alliances until he has a wide majority to advance his agenda. The strategic skill Tshisekedi is demonstrating by sidelining Kabila’s allies is a surprise to many, though he still lacks control over security forces, according to Deutsche Welle.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is in dire need of leadership to tackle multiple security and health crises, such as the Ebola outbreak that is resurgent in the country. Four cases of Ebola were announced in the region of Butembo on February 7, and the World Health Organization started a vaccination campaign in the region on February 15. On a positive note, President Tshisekedi was elected African Union Chairperson during the 34th Session of the African Union Summit, which closed on February 7, 2021.