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Congo President Chooses New PM

Democratic Republic of Congo's newly-appointed Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon, during a press conference in Kinshasa, April 19, 2012.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila has chosen a new prime minister, Matata Ponyo Mapon. The announcement on Wednesday came a month after the previous government resigned and five months after the president's victory in elections which were criticized by international observers for widespread irregularities.

Matata Ponyo Mapon was finance minister in the previous government and has handled flows of foreign aid to the Congo for the past 10 years. In that time he's built a reputation for being a hard worker and competent when dealing with the country's business environment.

He's also avoided getting entangled in corruption scandals, according to Mike Mukebayi, editor of the independent Kinshasa newspaper Congo News.

Mukebayi says that the reaction to Prime Minister Ponyo's appointment has been generally positive, and that he's been able to present himself as a new man, not compromised by corruption, despite having been finance minister for two-and-a-half years.

But he also said that the new prime minister is unpopular with many civil servants whose pay he has sometimes frozen to keep the government finances in order. He's been a good pupil of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, according to Mukebayi.

Commentary on Congolese websites has generally been favorable to Ponyo since the announcement, with many people saying he's one of the best choices available. One commentator says he was the only minister in the last government who insisted on holding an exam for new recruits to his ministry.

But some complain that he was appointed because his province voted heavily for the president, and others say that he won't be able to change the entrenched culture of corruption in the Congo.

Mukebayi agrees that Ponyo alone won't be able to change a culture of corrupt relations between government insiders and some foreign investors.

Mukebayi said that changing that culture won't be part of Ponyo's job, as that is a task for the president Joseph Kabila. But he said the death of the president's former adviser Augustin Katumba Mwanke in a recent air crash could be an opportunity for the president to make fundamental changes in the business environment.

Ponyo survived that same air crash, sustaining minor injuries. He now has to recommend a new government to the president, and draw up this year's budget.