Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has appointed former militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba as minister of defence in a government reshuffle, as the nation struggles with armed conflict in its restive eastern region.
Bemba, who served as vice president from 2003 to 2006, had been jailed by the International Criminal Court for 10 years over crimes committed by rebels under his command, but in 2018, the court overturned his sentence.
He will replace the current defence minister Gilbert Kabanda.Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff, Vital Kamerhe, was appointed as minister of economy, after being convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was later acquitted in the following year.
Both appointees are not from President Tshisekedi’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).
The move comes as the country prepares for elections in December this year in which the president is widely expected to seek a re-election.
Announcing the appointments on national television on Thursday night, a spokesperson for Mr Tshisekedi said the cabinet reshuffle was ‘’very important’’ for the country given the ‘’expertise’’ of the newly appointed ministers.