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Cabinet reshuffles an attempt to entrench Kabila's power, critics say

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KINSHASA, 13 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila's replacement of some civilians in his cabinet and provincial governors with military officers is an attempt to entrench himself in power, critics said on Thursday.

"It is clear that efforts are being made to have Kabila lead the country again," said Floribert Chebeya, president of the NGO, la Voix des Sans voix (Voice of the Voiceless) based in Kinshasa, the capital.

"This militarisation is worrying and in a way confirms the strong suspicion of a possible coup and kidnappings before, during and after the elections," Chebeya said.

Supporters of Kabila's main rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba, also said the appointments were an attempt to pack the outgoing transitional government with Kabila supporters.

"The maintainance of order in Kinshasa and the need to keep the peace during the election period justify the decision to have one general heading the Interior Ministry and another one as the governor of Kinshasa," Vital Kamerhe, secretary-general of Kabila's Parti du peuple pour la reconstruction et la démocratie, said.

Other politicians also expressed disquiet over the appointment of the two military officers.

"The militarisation of these institutions is not good for democracy," Yves Kisombe, a Member of Parliament of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo, said.

The changes were announced on state-owned television on Wednesday. Army General Denis Kalume and Admiral Liwanga Numbi were named as Interior Minister and governor of Kinshasa, respectively.

Kalume had been Kabila's military adviser and replaces Theophile Mbemba and Numbi takes over from Mazunga Kimbembe. These nominations come just ahead of the start of campaigning for the country's second-round presidential election due to begin on Friday, and two weeks after the start of campaigns for provincial elections.

"The maintenance of security in the country is a constant requirement during this election period as it is during the post-election period and in peace time," Kamerhe said, explaining the reason for the timing and composition of the new cabinet.

"Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, will become the shame of the whole of Africa if there is anarchy when no one will take orders, when some are going left and others right. We need to have someone capable of restoring order to the country. We need security at all times," Kamerhe said.

There has been political tension between Kabila and his rival, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, since the first-round election. On 23 August, the personal guards of both men fought each other for three days in Kinshasa, sometimes using heavy weapons, just ahead of the declaration of the results of the first round of elections.

The fighting stopped after the intervention of MONUC and the European force, EUFOR. Twenty-three people were killed.

However, the deputy spokesman of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), Jean-Tobbie Okala, said the nominations would not affect its plan to provide security for the second-round poll. MONUC has deployed at least 1,700 UN troops to ensure a trouble-free second round. This force is being backed by about 800 EUFOR troops in Kinshasa.

ei/oss/mw


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