New senior "combat and reconstruction" posts have been created and the defence and interior ministers sacked in an apparent attempt to strengthen the military's hand against rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
DRC President Laurent Kabila named a new government of "combat and reconstruction" on Monday in a bid to pacify the giant central African country, shaken by an upsurge in rebel violence.
Kabila sacked his defence and interior ministers in an apparent bid to shake up the military's response to the increasing threat posed by rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo close to neighbouring Rwanda.
New Defence Minister Charles Mwando will have the task of taking the fight to the rebel movement led by former army general Laurent Nkunda, whose forces overran a key defence forces camp at the weekend. Celestin Mbuyu was named interior minister.
"It's a combat team to which has been assigned the essential missions of security and reconstruction," according to a statement from Kabila on the formation of the third government since his election in 2006.
Nkunda's rebels captured a strategic camp in the east of the country from government forces in fighting at the weekend in the vast Virunga National Park. The camp is an important army base in Nord-Kivu, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the provincial capital Goma.
The government will be led by Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito, 51, named by Kabila earlier this month following the resignation in September of 83-year-old Antoine Gizenga, who said he was no longer strong enough for the job.
Apart from the conflict, Muzito, who was budget minister in the outgoing government, faces immense economic challenges in a country where 75 percent of the 60 million population lives on less than a dollar a day.
The economic struggles have continued despite the country's vast natural resources, including 34 percent of the world's known cobalt reserves and 10 percent of all copper.
The size of his new administration came in for press criticism on Monday.
Comprising three deputy prime ministers, 37 ministers and 13 deputy ministers, it was described as "elephantine" by the daily Le Potentiel, which said the size of the government would have a negative impact on the state budget.
"Austerity must begin at the summit of the state, at government level," the daily said.
Date created : 2008-10-27