DR Congo lawmakers on Wednesday approved a motion to force out Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, handing President Felix Tshisekedi a key victory in his bid to sideline allies of his predecessor.
The National Assembly approved a motion of censure against Ilunga Ilunkamba and his government by 367 votes to seven.
Under the Democratic Republic of Congo’s constitution, parliamentary censure requires the prime minister to step down within 24 hours.
But Ilunga Ilunkamba has denounced the censure motion, and Francois Nzekuye, an MP for a party that backs former president Joseph Kabila, told AFP that “the prime minister will not resign”.
The vote marks the latest episode in a power struggle that has roiled sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest nation for months, pitching Tshisekedi against loyalists of Kabila, who ruled the DRC for 18 years.
On taking office in January 2019, Tshisekedi agreed to a power-sharing agreement with the pro-Kabila camp, which wielded a majority in the 500-seat National Assembly.
But tensions quickly developed, before erupting into the open last year.
They climaxed with an announcement by Tshisekedi on December 6 that he was putting an end to the coalition and would seek a new “national majority of sacred union” — a move that led to brawls among MPs in the National Assembly building a few days later.
PM slams ‘notorious motion’
Ilunga Ilunkamba was absent from Wednesday’s debate as were other pro-Kabila cabinet members, but pro-Tshisekedi ministers attended.
On Monday, the prime minister flew to the southeastern city of Lubumbashi for talks with Kabila.
In a letter posted on his office’s website, Ilunga Ilunkamba hit out at the National Assembly’s provisional bureau, which oversees parliamentary procedure.
He lashed the “notorious motion of censure” as “no more than a political manoeuvre with no basis in fact, flouting the requirements of the state of law.”
He accused the bureau of lacking the legal authority to enable debate on the motion.
The debate was scheduled to have started on Tuesday, but was postponed by a day.
In another blow for the Kabila camp, Pastor Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, a close ally to the former president, was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in jail.
The pastor, who led the country’s electoral commission under Kabila in the early 2010s, was sentenced for “endangering state security, inciting tribal hatred and spreading false rumours,” said Georges Kapiamba, head of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ).
The pastor’s lawyer Me Jean Mbuyu slammed the ruling, telling AFP it was delivered overnight in the absence of the defendant or his defence team.
First peaceful transition
Tshisekedi won a controversial presidential election on December 30, 2018, on a platform vowing to fight corruption, reduce inequalities and improve government.
But he says his campaign of reform has been thwarted by Kabila’s lieutenants, who account for two-thirds of the vast 65-member coalition government.
Still only 49 years old despite his 18 years in office, Kabila retains clout through allies in politics, the military and business.
He took the helm of the DRC in 2001, succeeding his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, after he was assassinated by a bodyguard.
The younger Kabila’s rule was fiercely criticised for corruption and poor governance.
But it ended peacefully when he stepped down, in the DRC’s first-ever bloodless transition since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.