Kabila shuffles his cabinet: analysis

After months of waiting and rumor-mongering, President finally shuffled his cabinet today. (A full list of the new cabinet can be found here.) He trimmed it down from 54 to 43 members, mostly by cutting down on vice-ministers (many weren’t sure what they did anyway), but otherwise the most important aspect of this shuffle is what did not happen.The embattled Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito was not fired, as many had suspected, for charges of corruption and ineffectiveness. The important ministries of defense, mining, foreign affairs, information and planning were not changed. And, above all, the Kabila alliance between his AMP coalition, Antoine Gizenga’s PALU and Nzanga Mobutu’s UDEMO has not been affected. I can understand keeping Muzito around and maintaining the alliance with PALU, as they do have a decent electoral machine in Kinshasa and Bandundu, but UDEMO? Nzanga Mobutu was barely able to bring any MPs with him into alliance, and only a few per cent of Equateur voted for him.

The other thing that did not happen was that the CNDP did not get any ministerial positions. Not even a vice-minister, apparently. The one Tutsi minister who had been in the cabinet, the former CNDP sympathizer Safi Adili, was fired after only 14 months from the Ministry of Rural Development and replaced by a Katangan who as recently as 2003 was an mid-level assistant in the ministry. The CNDP has been banking on getting at least one ministry as part of their deal with Kabila to dismantle the parallel administration – this may affect the peace process in the East.

The new nominations are a bit lackluster, I must say. The government used to have three vice prime ministers, one for security, another for reconstruction and the last for social needs. They got rid of the reconstruction one and replaced him with one for post and telecommunications. That’s right – the Congo now has a vice PM for the post office. Has anyone ever been to a post office in the Congo recently? Not exactly functional. But mobile phones are one of the biggest industries, so maybe that’s why. The guy that Kabila nominated, Simon BULUPIY GALATI, is a relative unknown former MP from Haut Uele.

The other big changes are: MATATA PONYO MAPON replaces Athanasa Matenda at the ministry of finance – not a huge change there, as he used to be the head of BCECO, the procurement office that attributes most contracts for foreign assistance managed by the Congolese. He has the trust of the World Bank and IMF.

Kabila took advantage of the shuffle to reconfigure his own personal cabinet. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the new-found importance of oil. Since his chief of staff Adolphe Lumanu is now the powerful vice PM for security, he named a new one, another Kasaian: Gustave Beya, who had been at the oil ministry before. Just goes to show how important oil is becoming in the Congo’s future (see other blog postings about oil here – and that’s just offshore oil, not to mention the reserves in Lake Albert). Along the same lines, the former Minister of Interior, Celestin Mbuyu, a close Kabila ally, has been named as the new minister of oil.

Also newly named was Kabila’s national security adviser, a position that has in the past wielded huge control over the intelligence services in the country. That position has now been filled by a Kivutian, Pierre Lumbi, (it used to be headed by a Katangan) who used to be the minister of reconstruction and is credited for having negotiated the $9 billion Chinese reconstruction deal. Lumbi, now 60 years old, is the godfather of the civil society movement in South Kivu; let’s see if he remembers his roots.