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Congo Opposition Party Expels Leader for Joining Unity Government

Democratic Republic of Congo's second-largest opposition party, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), expelled its leader and two other senior officials on Monday, a day after they agreed to join a new national unity government.

MLC Secretary-General Thomas Luhaka was named as one of three vice-prime ministers in the new government, while parliamentarians Germain Kambinga and Omer Egwake were awarded ministerial posts.

In a statement announcing their expulsion, the MLC criticized the three men for “behavior manifestly contrary to the political line adopted by the party”.

The statement was signed by the MLC's four deputy secretaries-general in the name of its president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel leader who unsuccessfully ran against Kabila in the 2006 presidential election.

Bemba, a former vice-president in an interim government that followed a 1998-2003 war in Congo, is detained in The Hague awaiting a verdict on charges of crimes against humanity over his alleged role in a conflict in neighboring Central African Republic.

The participation of MLC members in President Joseph Kabila's long-delayed national unity government was widely expected after the party participated in talks that led to the promise of a shake up of the cabinet in October 2013.

The new cabinet, which includes several members of moderate opposition groups alongside trusted loyalists, has been greeted by analysts as an effort by Kabila to shore up his position ahead of a possible constitutional showdown in Africa's largest copper producer.

Kabila's opponents accuse him of seeking to hold onto power in the mineral-rich central African state beyond the end of his two-term mandate in 2016. Kabila has refused to comment on these allegations, while his spokesman has rejected them.