Congo's Sassou Nguesso turns to inner circle for new government

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Congo's veteran President Denis Sassou Nguesso, fresh from his latest election victory, has drawn on loyalists and family members to form a new government for the small debt-ridden oil state.

The 77-year-old, whose total of 37 years in power makes him one of the world's longest-serving rulers, was sworn in for a new five-year term on April 16.

On May 15, he named as his prime minister Anatole Collinet Makosso, 56, who was chief of staff to First Lady Antoinette Sassou Nguesso before joining the presidential cabinet in 2008, holding several ministerial posts since.

Even closer to home is the president's son, Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, who was appointed to head the newly created international cooperation ministry.

The 46-year-old will also be responsible for promoting public-private partnerships in the former French colony.

- 'Philanthropist' -

The young Sassou Nguesso occupied top positions with the state oil company SNPC from 2005 to 2016.

Many see him as his father's heir-apparent.

On his Facebook page, he presents himself as a "philanthropist" after having "officiated in the world of oil".

Opposition figures, however, suspect him of dirty dealings.

"While acknowledging the principle of the presumption of innocence, it must be recognised that the president's son... is cited in numerous economic and financial scandals," Clement Mierassa of the Congolese Social Democratic Party told AFP.

"This must be of concern to justice and above all to those in power," he said.

Last July, Global Witness, an investigative NGO, said US federal prosecutors were probing the younger Sassou Nguesso for allegedly embezzling several million dollars from the SNPC.

Human rights campaigner Roch Euloge Nzobo said the cabinet appointment was a way "of preparing him to occupy the highest office and of granting him immunity."

The Sassou Nguesso family is also the subject of an investigation into lavish properties in France.

Transparency International classed Congo 165th out of 179 countries in its 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Defending the appointment, Donald Mobobola, youth leader in the presidential party, said the president's son enjoys "the same rights as everyone else" as a Congolese citizen.

"His name can in no way be a criterion for excluding a rise to the highest positions of the state," he said.

Other members of the clan have also entered the government, including Jean-Jacques Bouya -- a cousin who was given the infrastructure portfolio.

Staying on in government is a figure who is among the closest to the president, Pierre Oba, who has retained the strategic mining industries portfolio.

Hugues Ngouelondele, a son-in-law who was mayor of the capital Brazzaville from 2003 to 2017, is sports minister once again, with the added portfolio of employment.

Sassou Nguesso's sister Claudia Ikia, 49, has been managing presidential communications since 2007.

- Economic problems -

The main challenges facing the government are economic and social, with salary and pension arrears at the top of the agenda.

Service providers and other staff at major hospitals in Brazzaville, oil hub Pointe-Noire and third city Dolisie have been on strike to demand back pay.

Recurring cuts in water and electricity supply have begun to hit Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, the two cities which are home to more than half of the country's five million inhabitants.

The Congolese economy is heavily dependent on oil, which represents 85 percent of exports.

It suffered from dwindling oil prices starting in 2014 before being hit badly by the Covid pandemic.

Public debt was more than 87 percent of GDP in 2020 before the pandemic, a level considered unsustainable by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

lmm/mbb/hba/gd/ri

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting