The Democratic Republic of Congo’s newly appointed government under Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo faces urgent economic and security challenges.
It is also leaner and decidedly technocratic. The Cabinet has 36 ministers compared to the outgoing one which had 47. There are seven women in the new team.
Clearly, the new Prime Minister wanted a small but performing team. A good number of the newcomers have worked with international institutions such as the World Bank or the UNDP. Mr Ponyo himself was, for a long time, with the DRC Central Bank before becoming Finance minister.
He did not appoint a substantive Finance minister, but delegated to that portfolio a bureaucrat attached to the his office.
In effect, the Prime Minister will be overseeing this docket directly.
The other critical docket Mr Ponyo’s office has embraced is Defence. This translates to his determination to put an end to the activities of armed groups activities in Eastern DRC.
One of the Prime Minister’s tasks is to implement the IMF’s recommendations on reforming the economy. As he told reporters last week, the national currency has been sufficiently stabilised since 2010.
“Such a policy is to be continued, sustained and reinforced,” he declared.
Mr Ponyo evidently enjoys the confidence of President Joseph Kabila. The President has been expounding a policy called “the five pillars of the Republic,” the most prominent being the improvement of the infrastructure, which is sorely poor DRC.
That includes the improvement of major roads linking main cities such as Kinshasa, Kikwit, Kananga, Mbujimayi and Lubumbashi in the south, and Kisangani, Beni, Butembo, Goma and Bukavu in the eastern.
The goal is to facilitate the flow of agricultural products from remote areas to national cities.
The rehabilitation of hospitals and schools constitutes another policy pillar.
However, for the general population, the main concern is the social sector. The ordinary people are bound to remain skeptical until they see some tangible changes in their daily living.
“For us, the evidence of the performance of the new government should be seen through consistency of what we eat daily and the purchasing power of ordinary civil servants,” says Ms Mamisa Chibalonza, a school teacher.
“Otherwise, you can improve roads, schools and hospitals, but if people don’t have something to eat, such high performances at the state level may not have noticeable impact at lower level,” she adds.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is in the security sector. The eastern part of the country is currently undergoing renewed rebellion.
Both President Kabila and his late father Laurent never overcame the armed groups in eastern DRC.
When Mr Ponyo announced his government, Walikale District in North Kivu Province was facing attacks from rebel troops allied to renegade general Bosco Ntaganda against the loyal army.
These troops, exclusively belonging to the Tutsi ethnic community, deserted the national army in protest against the international pressure on the DRC Government to transfer Gen Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which has issued an arrest warrant for him.
North Kivu is famed for its mineral and agricultural resources. But due to the everlasting insecurity there, these resources remain underutilised.