Congo president names new prime minister, increases control

KINSHASA, Congo — Congo’s president has appointed a new prime minister, further strengthening his control of the government over which his predecessor used to hold considerable influence.

President Felix Tshisekedi appointed the 43-year-old Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge to be the new prime minister on Monday. Lukonde had been head of the state mining company.

Lukonde succeeds Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, who resigned on Jan. 28 after a no-confidence vote in the parliament. Ilunkamba was a close ally of former president Joseph Kabila, the strongman who governed the impoverished Central African nation for 18 years.

The appointment of a new prime minister brings an ally into Tshisekedi’s government, which should help him install a more loyal Cabinet.

In 2015 Lukonde was the Cabinet minister of youth and sport for nine months, and later became the director-general of Gecamines, the state-owned mining giant. He is an engineer by training and was a member of the Future of Congo political party.

Tshisekedi won the 2019 election despite widespread allegations of large-scale fraud by Kabila to keep his party in power. Tshisekedi became president, but Kabila’s party initially retained control of the legislature. Tshisekedi dissolved the coalition late last year and has mustered enough support to sideline Kabila’s party.