[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 4 March 2007, 11:38 GMT
DRC sacking over 'ghost minister'
Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga
Mr Gizenga is investigating the affair
A party leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo who proposed an apparently fictitious person for a post in the new cabinet has been sacked.

The so-called case of the "phantom" government minister, Andre Kasongo Ilunga, has puzzled politicians in the war-torn African nation in recent days.

The case came to light when Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga began to appoint ministers to his new cabinet.

The elusive Mr Ilunga got the post of trade but resigned before taking it up.

The party's leader, Honorius Kisimba Ngoy, leader of Unafec, a party allied to President Joseph Kabila, allegedly invented Mr Ilunga in the hope that submitting the name of an unknown along with his own would ensure he was appointed to the cabinet.

The stunt apparently backfired when the prime minister appointed Mr Ilunga.

'Irresponsible and unacceptable'

And in a new twist to the case, Mr Kisimba was reportedly replaced as Unafec president by a national convention of the party.

It's just bizarre - nowhere else in the world could you attempt to swear in a ghost
Charles Yoshad
Civil servant

In a declaration quoted by AFP news agency, participants in the convention accused Mr Kisimba of "irresponsible and unacceptable behaviour ... by proposing a person fictitious and unknown to party structures for the post of foreign trade minister".

Representations would be made to the prime minister with a view to giving back to Unafec the post it was entitled to, the statement said.

Mr Kisimba denies the charges and maintains that Mr Ilunga does indeed exist.

In the minister's absence, several other people called Ilunga had stepped forward to try to claim the job.

Resignation letter

Mr Ilunga seemed to have everything going for him. Despite his relative youth - 34 years old - he was appointed trade minister.

But he never appeared, and when officials asked where he was, they were told by his party that he had resigned.

The reasons for his decision, they were told, were secret and were contained in a letter to the prime minister.

But journalists in the capital, Kinshasa, did not let such a bizarre development drop, and they were soon dubbing Mr Ilunga "the phantom minister".

Correspondents say the affair has tarnished the image of the government which people hope will rebuild the country after the devastating 1998-2003 war.

"It's just bizarre. Nowhere else in the world could you attempt to swear in a ghost," civil servant Charles Yoshad told Reuters news agency.

Prime Minister Gizenga has launched an investigation, saying Mr Ilunga will remain in his post until he resigns in person.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific