GOMA (Reuters) - Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on Thursday struck a heavy blow against his predecessor and political rival Joseph Kabila as his allies ousted the governor of Tanganyika province.
It was the latest move by Tshisekedi's supporters to seize levers of power from Kabila, whose younger brother Zoe Kabila has run the southeastern territory for the last two years and was the only governor refusing to align himself with Tshisekedi.
In October, Tshisekedi appointed three judges to Democratic Republic of Congo's constitutional court, the first in a series of manoeuvres that unshackled him from Kabila, then his coalition partner.
Tshisekedi formed a new coalition in December and went on to remove Kabila’s allies at the head of both houses of parliament, along with the prime minister.
On Thursday, 13 lawmakers in Tanganyika voted to oust Zoe Kabila, while another 10 were not present, and none voted against, said Nkulu Nemba, president of the local assembly.
They accused Zoe Kabila, among other things, of bad governance and misappropriating $1.9 million of unpaid salaries and other funds, according to the motion. Zoe Kabila declined to comment on the allegations.
"We had the presence of a strong governor instead of having a strong government," said Cyrille Kimpu, the provincial assembly's rapporteur.
Roughly the size of England, Tanganyika province often witnesses violent clashes between its different communities, driven by social tensions and land disputes.
"The governorship is of course a very important position, politically and for economic interests," said Onesphore Sematumba from the International Crisis Group, noting that the next presidential election was only two years away.
"I think this is being done with an eye on 2023."
(Reporting by Fiston Mahamba, Stanis Bujakera and Hereward Holland; writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Kevin Liffey)