- President Joseph Kabila of Congo Kinshasa today announced a major cabinet reshuffle, firing 11 ministers. Some were fired over corruption charges. The Kinshasa Ministry of Defence is to remain under of the ex-rebel group RCD-Goma, which was sponsored by Rwanda and whose members are waging a mutiny in eastern Congo.
Congo's powerful ex-rebels RCD-Goma remain in control of the Kinshasa Ministry of Defence despite its current Minister being fired. Adolphe Onusumba - one of the leading members of RCD-Goma - is to take over the Ministry of Defence after his predecessor allegedly had fallen out with the RCD-Goma leadership during the last months.
Also Finance Minister fell victim to the wrangling within the party, which in 2003 was created from a Rwandan-backed rebel group based in eastern Congo. A new RCD-Goma member was given the powerful post in the transitional government.
A spokesman of President Kabila made the announcement of the cabinet reshuffle while the Head of State is visiting the eastern Congolese city of Kisangani. The sacking of 11 ministers marks the most significant change since the transitional government was set up in June 2003. The transitional government unites Mr Kabila's former military government, several rebel groups of the east and north and ordinary political parties.
In addition to the changes is the RCD-Goma led ministries, the largest number of changes was made within the ranks of ministers earlier suspended on corruption charges. Six former ministers in November were accused of embezzling funds and suspended and all of them were now sacked by President Kabila.
The six ministers had been accused of stealing funds from state owned companies by a parliamentary report published in November. The ministers thus suspended and now sacked include those of energy, higher education, mines, public works, trade and transport.
President Kabila has been under strong pressure from parliament and the press to clean up his cabinet after the November suspensions. The Congolese leader however has had a delicate task in reshuffling a transitional government that has been based on a strict power-sharing deal between a large number of forces.
While the reshuffling principally is seen as a victory in the fight against rampant corruption in Congo Kinshasa, it is also a signal of confidence in the former rebels of RCD-Goma. The military powerful ex-rebel party has seen months of internal conflict on how to adapt to the Congolese transition process.
A large group of former fighters of RCD-Goma, which are now integrated in the Congolese army, have staged a mutiny in eastern Congo's North Kivu province, possibly with the support of Rwandan authorities. Fighting in North Kivu has threatened to stall the Congolese peace and transition process and spark a new war between Congo Kinshasa and Rwanda.
The RCD-Goma leadership in Kinshasa has however maintained that it has no control of its former fighters staging a mutiny in North Kivu. The control over Congo's regular army will remain with leaders of RCD-Goma, represented by Minister Onusumba. Together with President Kabila, the Minister will have to facilitate an end to the rebellion of the former RCD-Goma fighters.
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