KINSHASA, DR Congo (AFP) — DRC President Laurent Kabila named a new government of "combat and reconstruction" on Monday in a bid to pacify the giant central African country, hit by an upsurge in rebel violence.
Kabila sacked his defence and interior ministers in an apparent bid to shake up the military's response to the increasing threat posed by rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo bordering Rwanda.
New Defence Minister Charles Mwando will have the task of taking the fight to the rebel movement led by former army general Laurent Nkunda, whose forces continued an offensive Monday and inched closer Goma, the capital of Nord-Kivu province. Celestin Mbuyu was named interior minister.
The overhaul stemmed from the resignation in September of 83-year-old former prime minister Antoine Gizenga, who said he was no longer strong enough for the job.
He was appointed two years ago after Kabila won the country's first democratic elections in 40 years.
"It's a combat team to which has been assigned the essential missions of security and reconstruction," said a statement from Kabila on the formation of the third government since his 2006 election.
As many as 20,000 civilians fled fresh fighting in the eastern DRCongo Monday, forming long columns heading towards Goma on foot, an AFP journalist reported.
Men, women and children were streaming out of the Kibumba area around 35 kilometres (20 miles) north of the regional capital, the correspondent said, after fresh fighting flared early Monday between forces loyal to rebel general Laurent Nkunda and government troops.
The rebels seized a strategic military camp on Sunday at Rumangabo, around 50 kilometres north of Goma.
The new government will be led by Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito, 51, named by Kabila earlier this month following the September resignation of Gizenga.
Kabila's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), the biggest party in the Alliance of the Presidential Majority (AMP), took the lion's share of the ministerial posts, particularly those linked to security, reconstruction and the economy.
Alexis Tambwe Muamba, an independent with links to the AMP, was named foreign minister.
Another notable name was that of Francois-Joseph Nzonga Mobutu, the son of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko who was overthrown in 1997 in a rebellion led by Kabila's father.
Mobutu was named deputy prime minister with responsibility for social needs.
The main opposition Movement for the Liberation of Congo leader Francois Muamba told AFP the new government line-up was simply a continuation which "won't be able to tackle the short-term challenges like the war in the east of the country."
Apart from the conflict, Muzito, who was budget minister in the outgoing government, faces immense economic challenges in a country where 75 percent of the 60 million population lives on less than a dollar a day.
The economic struggles have continued despite the country's vast natural resources, including 34 percent of the world's known cobalt reserves and 10 percent of all copper.
The size of his new administration also came in for criticism.
Comprising three deputy prime ministers, 37 ministers and 13 deputy ministers, it was described as "elephantine" by the daily Le Potentiel, which said the size of the government would have a negative impact on the state budget.
"Austerity must begin at the summit of the state, at government level," the daily said.
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