Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi named mining executive and ally Sama Lukonde Kyenge as prime minister of the world’s biggest cobalt producer.
The appointment entrenches the president’s break with predecessor Joseph Kabila, whose allies Tshisekedi has accused of blocking his political and economic reform program. It’s likely to result in the overhaul of the central African nation’s cabinet in the coming weeks.
Lukonde is currently the chief executive officer of Gecamines, Congo’s state-controlled copper and cobalt mining company. Tshisekedi’s spokesman Kasongo Mwema Yamba Yamba confirmed his appointment as premier in a text message Monday.
Lukonde, 43, previously served as minister of youth and sports and as a representative to parliament, according to the Twitter account of Congo’s presidency. The premier didn’t immediately respond to a message requesting comment.
The immediate challenge for the new government is its need to raise more revenue to support an expansion of social programs, particularly in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Lukonde said Monday after meeting Tshisekedi in Kinshasa, the capital. His remarks were broadcast over the Twitter feed of Congolese media outlet Actualite.cd.
The appointment comes after the previous prime minister and Kabila ally, Sylvestre Ilunga, was forced to resign last month after lawmakers passed a motion of censure against his administration.
Tshisekedi, who took over from Kabila in 2019 after a disputed election, has struggled to implement his agenda in the face of pushback from the former president’s supporters, who dominated most of the country’s institutions of government after the vote.
In recent months, allies of Tshisekedi have been appointed to the Constitutional Court and the leadership of the National Assembly. The country’s Senate head — another Kabila ally — was also forced to resign.