The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a female head of government for the first time. Judith Suminwa Tuluka is a former confidant of President Félix Tshisekedi.

A woman and a man shake hands

New Prime Minister Judith Suminwa Tuluka following her appointment by President Felix Tshisekedi, 1 April 2024 Photo: President DRC

SEDAN taz | A good quarter of a year after the re-election of President Félix Tshisekedi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo now has a new government. Judith Suminwa Tuluka, former Planning Minister, was appointed on Monday night. appointed new Prime Minister.

Suminwa is the first woman to hold such a high position in the country of 110 million people and her appointment is being hailed as the latest feat for the head of state. President Tshisekedi has thus proven to be a “defender of positive masculinity,” said Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba, so far the most prominent woman in the Congolese government, and humbly thanked Tshisekedi: “Thanks to your political will, my fight to promote women's rights finds meaning.”

The new head of government must now form a new cabinet, which is not an easy task. His appointment came six weeks after his predecessor, Sama Lukonde, resigned on February 20 and the Government has only been in place since then. Exploratory talks have since been led by Augustin Kabuya, secretary general of Tshisekedi's UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) party, which has been the strongest force in parliament since the 2023 elections.

The UDPS only has 70 of the 500 seats in the lower house of the Congolese parliament, but is the largest component of Tshisekedi's USN (Holy Union of the Nation) party alliance, to which about 90 percent of everyone belongs. the parliamentarians. There is almost no effective opposition in Congo's institutions after Tshisekedi's predecessor Joseph Kabila and his allies boycotted the elections and main opposition Moïse Katumbi and his Ensemble party alliance performed much worse than expected in the elections. official election results. His supporters attribute it to massive electoral fraud.

Growing claim to power by the presidential party

The UDPS is now bringing Kabila and Katumbi closer to the M23 rebel movement (March 23 Movement), which is growing in the east of the country and responds to criticism with increasing fragility. The fact that the new Prime Minister, unlike her predecessor, belongs to the UDPS is proof of the presidential party's growing claim to power. She wants to have a free hand to govern during Tshisekedi's second term.

Suminwa, 56, continues to surprise, because previously the UDPS always mentioned different names. She is a friend of President Félix Tshisekedi from Brussels, where they both studied in the 1990s. After the end of the Congo War in 2003, she initially worked for the UN development program UNDP, which at the time was developing poverty reduction programmes. poverty. In 2020, she joined Tshisekedi's entourage as deputy coordinator of the Presidential Strategic Oversight Committee, a political advisory body.

In 2023, the Ministry of Planning of the Congo took over, which draws up development plans, cooperates closely with the UNDP and is the first point of contact for foreign donors in development cooperation. He is therefore a familiar face for European partners.

It is still unclear how far Sumina's power will extend. Within the UDPS, his promotion will probably produce more disappointed people than satisfied ones. However, his brief connection to the president will probably serve him well in a fairly informal system of government in which central decisions are made in the president's inner circle and ministries are more executive than creative bodies.

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