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KAMERHE OR BEMBA: Who Will Be DR Congo’s Next Prime Minister?

Who will be appointed as the Prime Minister of Tshisekedi? The question which is currently lingering around is worth its weight in gold and the Congolese capital is currently buzzing with rumours.

On Thursday February 22, in front of the press, President Félix Tshisekedi declared that he was awaiting the report of the informant Augustin Kabuya before appointing the next Prime Minister who will be responsible for forming the new government.

However, we know from past experiences how this exercise in the DRC will depend on several factors, some of which are the following;

  • The Balance of Power Within the Sacred Union

Indeed, the presidential platform brings together more than 250 deputies out of 500, from various political backgrounds, some who are defectors from the regime of former President Joseph Kabila.

Moreover, there is no clear consensus on the choice of Prime Minister, who must come from the parliamentary majority, according to the Constitution.

This means that each party or political group claims its share of the pie, depending on its electoral weight, its regional representation or indeed its proximity to President Tshisekedi.

  • The profile of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister must be a personality capable of leading the government, coordinating public action, ability to dialogue with international partners as well as managing any crisis that may arise.

A prime minister must also be loyal to President Tshisekedi, without being a simple executive and finally be accepted by the opposition, which demands an inclusive dialogue and a political transition.

  • President Tshisekedi’s strategy

President Tshisekedi, who begins a second term in office this 2024, must choose a Prime Minister who will allow him to strengthen and multiply his popularity, fulfill his electoral promises and consolidate his time power.

The prime minister must also take into account the aspirations of his allies, who hope to obtain key positions or guarantees for the future.

Lastly, the prime minister must avoid alienating his adversaries, who could challenge their legitimacy or hinder their action.

  • Strengths and Handicaps

According to political analysts, Jean-Pierre Bemba and Vital Kamerhe have strengths worthy to take the post of Prime Minister but they also possess weaknesses. ,

On this point, here are some elements of comparison;

Jean-Pierre Bemba has the advantage of being the leader of a structured party, the MLC, which has a solid electoral base in northern DRC.

Bemba also has political and military experience, which gives him a certain credibility on security and defense issues.

He also has international stature, having been acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2018, following a conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002- 2003.

However, it will be remembered that the appointment of Jean-Pierre Bemba and Vital Kamerhe as ministers in the Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde government sparked much speculation about their political ambitions and their chances of being appointed prime minister.

However, according to some analysts, Tshisekedi would have chosen to integrate Bemba and Kamerhe into his team to strengthen his electoral platform, the Sacred Union of the Nation, ahead of the presidential election held in December 2023.

By entrusting them with strategic portfolios, the Economy for Kamerhe and Defense for Bemba, the head of state would also hope to retain their loyalty and dissuade them from running against him or joining the opposition.

However, it is not certain that this strategy was sufficient to guarantee the loyalty of Bemba and Kamerhe who retain presidential aspirations.

  • Loyalty Kamerhe, who was Tshisekedi’s campaign director in the 2018 polls, before being dismissed and imprisoned for corruption, could seek revenge or negotiate a better position within the Sacred Union.

Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who had been Joseph Kabila’s main rival in 2006 before being convicted and acquitted by the International Criminal Court, could take advantage of his popularity in the north of the country to position himself as a credible alternative to Tshisekedi.

  • Prime Minister, a crucial role in a failing country

The question of the appointment of the Prime Minister is therefore crucial for the political balance in the DRC.

The position had been occupied by Sama Lukonde, a close friend of Tshisekedi from the south-east mining region of Katanga, who handles current affairs at the will of the president.

Sama Lukonde has submitted his resignation and will join the National Assembly.

If the president decided to replace him with Bemba or Kamerhe, he would take the risk of dissatisfying the other partners of the Sacred Union, in particular the former members of the Kabila regime, who are demanding greater representativeness.

He could also expose himself to internal competition, or even betrayal, from these two ambitious people, who could use the position of Prime Minister as a springboard for the presidential election in 2028.

In conclusion, it is difficult to assess the chances of both Bemba and Kamerhe to be appointed Prime Minister of the DRC as it depends on several factors, such as the will of the president, the dynamics of the Sacred Union, the security and economic situation as well as the public opinion.

It is likely that Tshisekedi will wait until the last moment to make his decision, depending on the evolution of the political context and the balance of power.

On the other hand, it is also possible that Tshisekedi could change his mind depending on opportunities and risks.

It would therefore be prudent to remain attentive to signals and possible scenarios over this topic, without relying much on appearances or rumors.

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