First Female Prime Minister Appointed In Congo Amid Escalating Violence In The East

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On Monday, President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo appointed the country’s first female prime minister, fulfilling a campaign pledge and taking a significant step towards forming a new government after being reelected late last year.

Former planning minister Judith Suminwa Tuluka will take up the position at a time of increasing violence in the country’s mineral-rich east, which borders Rwanda.

According to the United Nations, the long-running violence has displaced more than 7 million people, ranking as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

In her first statement on official television after being appointed, Tuluka committed to work for peace and development. Still, it could take months to create a new administration because the process needs extensive negotiations with the various political groups.

“My thoughts go out to the east and to all corners of the country, which today are facing conflicts with enemies who are sometimes hidden,” she said, referring to the conflict that involves many armed groups including some believed to be backed by Rwanda’s military. “I’m thinking of all these people, and my heart goes out to them.”

In eastern Congo, more than 120 armed groups vie for control of the region’s gold and other resources, leading to mass killings.

The government has asked both regional and U.N. peacekeepers to leave, accusing them of failing to resolve the conflict. With their withdrawal underway, violence has escalated.

Bintou Keita, the top U.N. envoy to Congo, reported to the U.N. Security Council that the prominent rebel group M23 had seized significant territory in the east, exacerbating violence and displacing more people.

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Tshisekedi has blamed neighboring Rwanda for providing military support to the rebels. Rwanda denies the claim but U.N. experts have said there is substantial evidence of their forces in Congo.

Last month, the United States urged Congo and Rwanda to walk back from the brink of war.

The U.S. State Department also said Rwanda should withdraw troops and surface-to-air missile systems from eastern Congo and criticized M23, calling it a “Rwanda-backed” armed group.

Last month, the Rwandan Foreign Ministry stated that Rwandan troops are safeguarding Rwandan territory in response to a significant military buildup by Congo near the border.

Melissa Enoch

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