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Reshuffle at Congo state miner further entrenches Tshisekedi’s authority

PUBLISHED: Fri, 05 Feb 2021 12:51:10 GMT

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By Hereward Holland

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb 5 (Reuters) – C ongo’s state mining company Gecamines has replaced its secretary general and other senior positions, an internal memo showed, bolstering the influence of President Felix Tshisekedi at the expense of his predecessor Joseph Kabila.

The reshuffle sidelines allies of Kabila, allowing Tshisekedi to exert more authority over the company that controls minority stakes in most of Congo’s largest copper and cobalt projects.

Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s top copper producer and the world’s biggest miner of cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries.

Mining industry lawyer Patrice Pungwe, a former adviser in the Prime Minister’s office, replaces Déogratias Ngele Masudi, an ally of Gecamines Chairman Albert Yuma, as secretary general, a Jan 22 letter seen by Reuters shows.

Yuma is a close associate of Kabila.

Gecamines’ board decided on the new roles as part of a “revitalisation” of the company’s upper management, Gecamines Director General Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge wrote in the letter.

Lukonde took over as director-general in June last year, one of Tshisekedi’s nominees for the company.

“There is new management [at Gecamines] – and it goes without saying that the new managers would make some adjustments,” Pungwe said over the phone.

He declined to comment on whether the reshuffle was driven by Tshisekedi’s broader push to consolidate power.

“Control over Gécamines – the key power centre in Congo’s mining sector – has been an aspect of the power struggle between Tshisekedi and Kabila since 2019. And just as Tshisekedi asserts control over parliament, this is another win for him,” said Vincent Rouget, an analyst at London-based risk consultancy Control Risks.

“The restructuring strengthens the influence of Lukonde, the director-general whom Tshisekedi appointed, and isolates Yuma, who loses some of his closest associates.” (Reporting by Hereward Holland, additional reporting by Helen Reid; editing by Bate Felix and Jason Neely)

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