After his appointment by President Félix Tshisekedi on February 15, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde began the fundamental work of constituting his government. He knows, however, he is now President Tshisekedi’s new sail to steer his boat out of the rocky waters of coalition politics.
Lukonde will have to get down to finishing composition of the new government ahead of approval by the National Assembly as soon as the parliamentary term begins, March 15.
President Tshisekedi said “now the work will begin” after naming Mr Lukonde and the new prime minister said his priority will be addressing insecurity in the east where massacres occur almost daily, but also in Haut-Katanga in the south which has witnessed a series of militant attacks.
Prime Minister Lukonde specified that his team will be made up of “people of good character.”
He knows he was chosen to be the symbol of the break with the FCC-CACH government, the coalition between Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila. The coalition collapsed in December 2020.
Until the day of his appointment, Sama Lukonde was the managing director of Gécamines, the largest public mining company in the DRC.
He was a member of the Avenir du Congo party, and is from the camp of Moïse Katumbi, former governor of greater Katanga, before joining the Tshisekedi camp in 2018.
The attraction to Tshisekedi has also infected Katumbi himself, as he has recently met with the president and discussed unity politics. The former governor said he was happy with Lukonde’s choice as PM.
Given his youthful appearance, Prime Minister Lukonde has also been welcomed by a majority of the political class. Even the camp of the outgoing prime minister Sylvestre Ilunga, has endorsed Lukonde.
Patrick Nkanga, adviser to Mr Ilunga, and member of Kabila's party the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) said: “I think Sama Lukonde has the assets for the job.’’
“We hope he will enjoy the fullness of his constitutional prerogatives unhindered and will not be the scapegoat on difficult days,” he said.
At 44 years old, Sama Lukonde will have the heavy task of leading public affairs including the organisation of elections in 2023 in his sights.
Politically, it is clear the prime minister will work under better conditions than his predecessor. President Tshisekedi has a majority in the National Assembly and Sama Lukonde is also from his camp. The choice of Lukonde was dictated by the president’s double.
By choosing Lukonde, the president wants at all costs to mark a symbolic break with the old political class, deemed corrupt and poor managers.
It also appeared that he chose Mr Lukonde because of his low political weight and as prime minister, he will not overshadow the Head of State.
Without doubt, the new prime minister could be the perfect working partner for President Tshisekedi. A former Sports minister under Kabila, Lukonde left the ministry in 2015 following a disagreement between his political party and the president’s.
His party, close to Moïse Katumbi at the time, had written to Kabila asking him not to run for a third term. This letter was the basis of a political upheaval.
On the other hand, in terms of government efficiency, the performance of the Sama Lukonde’s team may be more scrutinised by the presidency. Social expectations are such that, in case of failure, discontent will soon erupt.
The new Prime Minister said on Thursday he is aware of the “immensity of the task” that awaits him and he counts on the support of the nation to face the many challenges of the hour in a context marked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Son of Stéphane Lukonde Kyenge, an emblematic figure of Katanga politics who was assassinated in 2001, Sama Lukonde arrived very young in DR Congo politics. In 2003, two years after the assassination of his father, Sama Lukonde entered active politics. He was elected three years later as a national deputy.
He graduated with a degree in 1996 in Industrial Chemistry at the Technical Institute of Mutoshi in Kolwezi, (southern DRC), attained another degree in 2000 in Computer Science and Information Technology in South Africa as well as from the University of Lubumbashi in Chemistry (Inorganic Option and Metallurgy) in 2006.