Democratic Republic of Congo's President Mr Felix Tshisekedi has appointed DRC’s state owned mining company Gecamines head 43 year old Mr Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge as Prime Minister replacing Mr Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, who was ousted at the end of January.
The Congolese president’s appointment of Mr Lukonde is a strategic choice in more ways than one. Tshisekedi sought to give priority to a figure from the Greater Katanga region in order to appease a disgruntled faction of the province’s political elite, one that fears being sidelined after the end of the power-sharing agreement with Joseph Kabila and the ouster of Ilunga, also a Katanga native. The son of Stéphane Lukonde Kyenge, a familiar face in Katanga’s political scene but who was assassinated in 2001, Sama launched his own political career in 2003. Three years later, he landed a national parliament seat representing the Likasi district in Haut-Katanga Province. A member of the Avenir du Congo political party, whose president, Dany Banza, currently serves as Tshisekedi’s ambassador-at-large and was also under consideration to fill the prime minister post, Mr Lukonde went on to lead the youth and sports ministry under Kabila. He resigned from this position in 2015, aligning himself with his party’s opposition to Kabila’s failed third term bid. A former member of Katumbi’s G7 opposition party coalition, he left the alliance to support Tshisekedi ahead of the 2018 presidential election and has been central to the Congolese president’s strategy ever since. In June 2019, Tshisekedi appointed him to lead the state-owned mining company Générale des carrières et des mines, sparking the ire of Kabila supporters who interpreted the choice as a strategy to quash the influence of Albert Yuma, a Kabila ally and the all-powerful chairman of the board of Gécamines since 2010.
Mr Lukonde is currently the chief executive officer of Gecamines, Congo’s state-controlled copper and cobalt mining company. Gecamines is a Congolese commodity trading and mining company headquartered in Lubumbashi, in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a state-controlled corporation founded in 1966 and a successor to the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga. Gecamines is engaged in the exploration, research, exploitation and production of mineral deposits including copper and cobalt. One of the largest mining companies in Africa, and the biggest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gécamines sits on the world's greatest deposit of cobalt and has some of the world's largest deposits of copper. Copper mines in which Gécamines has a major interests include, but are not limited to, Kambove, Kipushi, Kamfundwa and Kolwezi.