Tshisekedi names an ally of Kabila as prime minister

Saturday May 25 2019

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi (right) shakes hand with newly appointed prime minister Prof Sylvestre Ilunkamba Ilunga on May 20, 2019. PHOTO | DRC PRESIDENCY


Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi has finally named veteran technocrat Prof Sylvestre Ilunkamba Ilunga as the prime minister but his choice has not only brought friction within the ruling coalition but also raised doubts among the opposition.

First, Prof Ilunga, who has worked with former presidents Mobutu Sese Seko, Laurent Kabila and Joseph Kabila is seen as a frontman for the younger Kabila.

Prince Buloko, a member of Congolese civil society, told The EastAfrican that Prof Ilunga will be likely to take orders from Mr Kabila and not President Tshisekedi, with the potential of derailing most of the reforms the new president had planned.

Second, there is friction within the Common Front for the Congo (FCC) coalition of President Tshisekedi and former president Joseph Kabila the latter’s People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) is taking all leadership positions without considering smaller partners.

Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDC) officials said Mr Kabila’s PPRD has taken the Speaker of the National Assembly, the PM and is now angling for the presidency of the Senate without considering other partners in the FCC Coalition.

With only the Senatorial presidency remaining, Mike Nendaka of AFDC asserted that his party is the second largest political force in the country and deserve to be considered for one of the three leadership potions.


In the opposition, Eve Bazaiba, the secretary general of Jean Pierre Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) expressed doubts about the ability of Prof Ilunga to bring change desired by the Congolese.

Tainted image

She pointed out on her Twitter handle that Mr Ilunga has been tainted by his tenure as the general manager of the National Railway Company of Congo (SNCC), which he left with salary arrears of workers amounting to 150 months.

Last month, President Tshisekedi rejected Albert Yuma Mulimb as prime minister. His name had been forwarded by Mr Kabila’s FCC. Mr Mulimbi, 64, is a prominent businessman and chairperson of Federation of Congo Employers.

Stephanie Wolters, the head of the Peace and Security Research Programme at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, told The EastAfrican that Mr Kabila had earlier wanted to pick close allies in the FCC but this would have made President Tsisekedi appear not to be in full control.

“It appears they have compromised to pick somebody with very little political influence of his own, but he will be easily influenced and controlled by Mr Kabila. This means that he won’t have a firm grip on the Cabinet and yet the PM is supposed to give coherence to government policies,” she said.

Ms Wolters added that somebody as weak as Mr Ilunga would mean that ministries could pull in different directions and that a fair amount of infighting would take place.

“President Tsisekedi has to look like he is different from the previous regime and can't be seen to be completely controlled by the Kabila camp.

Therefore it is a concession on the part of Kabila because he previously did not give room in the gubernatorial and Senatorial elections,” said Ms Wolters.

Previously, Prof Ilunga was the director of Cabinet at the Ministry of Planning in the Mobutu regime between 1979 and 1980.

He also served as director of Co-operation and International Relations at the Rectorate of National University of Zaire; deputy minister for the economy, industry and foreign affairs; deputy minister for planning.

In 2003, he was be appointed by Mr Kabila as the executive secretary of the Steering Committee for the Reform of State Portfolio Companies, a position he held until 2014 before being appointed general manager of the SNCC in March 2014.