By Stanis Bujakera and Giulia Paravicini
KINSHASA/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Former Congolese President Joseph Kabila wanted his successor, Felix Tshisekedi, to appoint Albert Yuma, a Kabila ally and chairman of state mining company Gecamines, as prime minister, but Tshisekedi refused, sources familiar with the matter said.
Yuma backed a new mining code adopted last year under Kabila that raised taxes on companies operating in Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s leading cobalt miner and Africa’s top copper producer.
The companies, which include Glencore and Barrick, have been lobbying the government to reconsider the law. Tshisekedi’s administration, which took office in January, has said the law will remain in place but that it is open to dialogue with the companies.
Tshisekedi has yet to name a prime minister. Under Congo’s constitution, his choice must come from the ranks of the parliamentary majority, Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), following consultations with the FCC.
Kabila proposed Yuma several weeks ago, but Tshisekedi cited Yuma’s chequered international reputation in turning him down, according to a source close to the presidency, two sources from Tshisekedi’s CACH coalition and one from FCC.
“The president told Kabila that Yuma was not an option, as he is compromised,” the source close to the presidency said. “The president, however, clarified that this did not mean the end of their coalition,” the source said, referring to an agreement between the FCC and CACH to govern together.
Two foreign diplomats based in Kinshasa said the United States and European Union urged Tshisekedi not to nominate Yuma.
Under Yuma’s leadership, Gecamines has faced repeated allegations of corruption by local and international watchdogs, including the misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yuma has always denied the accusations and says he is being targeted because of his hard line against foreign investors. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The three CACH and FCC sources said Kabila has since proposed three names to Tshisekedi: Yuma, Finance Minister Henri Yav and Jean Mbuyu, Kabila’s national security advisor.
Tshisekedi’s office said the selection process was continuing and declined to comment on specific candidates.
Kabila’s coalition won parliamentary majorities in December’s elections, even though then-opposition leader Tshisekedi defeated Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, leading to Congo’s first transfer of power via the ballot box.
The runner-up in the election, Martin Fayulu, alleges that Kabila struck a deal with Tshisekedi to rig the vote in Tshisekedi’s favour and deny victory to Fayulu, who was considered more hostile to Kabila’s interests.
Kabila and Tshisekedi’s camps deny they struck any deal before the results were announced.
Since then, they have said they intend to govern as a coalition, although signs of tension have emerged.
In public comments during a visit last week to the United States, Tshisekedi said he intended to “kick out the dictatorial system that was in place”.
The FCC responded in a statement on Monday, accusing Tshisekedi of launching “gratuitous attacks and unfounded allegations”.
(Additional reporting and writing by Aaron Ross, editing by Larry King)