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DRC President Names First Post-War Prime Minister

VOA News | Published on December 31, 2006

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The Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila has named life-long opposition leader Antoine Gizenga as the country's new prime minister in a presidential decree read on state-owned television late Saturday. Joe Bavier is in the capital, Kinshasa, and has more for VOA.

The selection of Antoine Gizenga as prime minister had been expected ever since Joseph Kabila was sworn in earlier this month (12/6/06) as the Congo's first democratically elected president in more than 40 years.

Mr. Gizenga - the 81-year-old leader of the Unified Lumumbist Party, known as PALU - finished third in the first round of presidential elections in July. Before the runoff election in October, he signed an agreement with Kabila's political coalition in which he promised his support in exchange for a guarantee that the eventual prime minister would emerge from his party.

Shortly after the presidential decree on Saturday, Godefroid Mayobo, Mr. Gizenga's spokesman, said that PALU was extremely happy with his selection.

Mr. Gizenga served as deputy to Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first prime minister following its independence from Belgium in June 1960.

Following a coup led by Mobutu Sese Seko, Gizenga headed a rebel government of Lumumba's supporters in Kisangani, in the country's northeast. But he was eventually arrested and then driven into exile for nearly three decades.

The newly named prime minister has not served in an official government post since 1960.

This year's elections in Congo were meant to draw a line under a 1998-2003 war blamed for the deaths of an estimated four million Congolese, most from starvation and disease.

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