Congo’s Sassou abolishes PM post

Congo Republic’s re-elected President Denis Sassou-Nguesso named his new government late yesterday, abolishing the controversial post of prime minister and replacing the nation’s oil minister.
The foreign, interior and mines ministry jobs remain unchanged. The agriculture minister, who will oversee changes to a planned multi-million hectare land deal with South African farmers, also remains in his post, according to state media.
Sassou-Nguesso, who has been in and out of power in Africa’s No. 5 oil producer since a 1979 coup, won the July 12 election with 78 % of the vote, securing himself another seven years in power. The opposition boycotted the poll and had their complaints of fraud rejected by the nation’s top court, Reuters reports.
The decision to revoke the post of prime minister follows heavy criticism from the opposition for the inclusion of the job in the previous government as it is not permitted according the country’s constitution. No reason was given for the change.
Ten new faces join the new team of 37 ministers, including Andre Raphael Loemba, who takes over the oil portfolio. Basile Ikouebe, Raymond Zephirin Mboulou and Pierre Oba remain in their posts as foreign, interior and mines ministers, respectively.
Congo is traditionally dependent on its oil revenues but the country’s reserves are starting to dwindle and the president says he wants to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on food imports by modernising its agricultural industry.
Rigobert Maboundou, who remains in his post as agriculture minister, and Pierre Mabiala, the new land affairs minister, are likely to be given the task of amending the terms of the land deal with South African farmers.
The deal, initially meant to give South African farmers 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) of land to grow maize and soya beans, raise poultry and run dairy farms, was delayed by Congo’s elections.
Last month, the central African nation said the deal needed to be changed as there were misunderstandings and the project risked depriving local farmers of land.

Pic: President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Congo