Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Monday appointed the head of the state mining company Sama Lukonde Kyenge as the new prime minister, capping a series of victories for Tshisekedi over his once-dominant predecessor Joseph Kabila.
Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, a close confident of Kabila, resigned from the post on January 28 following a vote of no confidence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament.
The appointment of Lukonde, director general of Gecamines and an ally of the president, should help Tshisekedi install a more loyal cabinet to push through his agenda.
In recent months, Tshisekedi has chipped away at the influence of Kabila, with whom he formed an awkward power-sharing deal following a disputed 2018 election.
The alliance, which forced Tshisekedi to bargain with his predecessor over any policy shift, added to challenges facing his government, such as corruption, two Ebola epidemics and spiralling violence in the mineral-rich east.
Son of leading political figure in Congo’s south-east mining heartland, Lukonde trained as an engineer and spent many years in Congo’s mining industry before joining parliament in 2006.
He served as minister of sports but in 2015 quit in protest at Kabila’s abortive bid to run for a third term.
He followed his party, Avenir du Congo (ACO), in joining Tshisekedi’s political alliance ahead of the December 2018 election and was subsequently placed at the top of Gecamines.
“I wish him full success in his heavy duties, among which peace and security for all Congolese remain the major challenge of government action,” wrote Moise Katumbi, a political heavyweight who is said to have turned down the job, on Twitter.
The choice of Lukonde will reassure people from the south east that Kabila’s waning power will not leave them marginalized.
It will also comfort mining companies which will have a friendly face at the highest level of government.