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Democratic Republic of  Congo Prime Minister Resigns


The prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, veteran independence leader and former rebel Antoine Gizenga, has resigned. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Congolese Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga announced his resignation on national radio. The 83-year-old leader said although his spirit was healthy and willing, the human body had its limits.

He added that the task of rebuilding the country known as Congo/Kinshasa was immense after decades of misrule, rebellion and civil war, but he said the country was beginning to recover.

An analyst with London's Chatham House, Munong Kodi, says there had been rising criticism of the Gizenga government.

"A lot of people thought there was not effective coordination and vision on the part of the government," he said. "That's the main reason why people wanted change."

Gizenga was appointed prime minister by President Joseph Kabila nearly two years ago following national elections aimed at ending years of dictatorship and civil war.

The veteran politician was a deputy to Congo's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, following independence and served briefly as prime minister.

But he joined a breakaway government in Stanleyville, northeastern Congo, after Lumumba was dismissed and subsequently assassinated. At the height of the cold war, this government was recognized by nearly two dozen governments.

The rebellions were ended under the government of the late president Mobutu Sese Seko who ruled with an iron hand for more than three decades. Gizenga spent most of these years in exile, but returned to Congo in the early 1990s following the legalization of opposition political parties.

He participated in the negotiations in the late 1990s aimed at ending the civil wars of 1996 and 1997 that deposed Mobutu and brought another rebel leader, Laurent Kabila, to power. Kabila was killed by a guard in 2001 and replaced by his son, the current president.

Gizenga, who heads the Unified Lumumbist Party or PALU, came in third in presidential elections two years ago. He subsequently entered into a coalition with Mr. Kabila who won the run-off vote.

Gizenga's appointment as prime minister was aimed at appeasing the restive northeastern Congo, which long resented the central government in Kinshasa, half-a continent away, and where several small rebellions continued to fester.

A network of 83 aid agencies said, in a report issued Thursday by Human Rights Watch, that a resumption of fighting in eastern Congo's Kivu regions had displaced more than one million people and caused a drastic deterioration in the humanitarian situation.

Experts say people hoped that Gizenga would move more quickly to rebuild Congo, whose economy and infrastructure were devastated by the decades of war, rebellion and misrule.

Kodi of Chatham House says it will be difficult to see any kind of lasting legacy from Gizenga's tenure as head of government.

"The Congo is all but a failed state in which everything is a priority and the means to live up to the expectations of the people are very limited," he said. "So it's a situation that requires vision, that requires stamina. And these things lacked in the government that left power just now."

Kodi expects a major cabinet re-shuffle which would see changes in some key ministries.

The Kabila government has moved to revitalize Congo's mining industry, historically the backbone of its economy. But these efforts have been slow and the benefits have yet to reach most of Congo's 65 million people who continue to suffer from unemployment, malnutrition and a lack of social services.

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