Congo government faces no-confidence vote

By Jonny Hogg

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congo's government will face a vote of no confidence by Monday after nearly a third of parliamentarians signed a motion to censure the prime minister, piling pressure on President Joseph Kabila's coalition.

Democratic Republic of Congo has lurched from crisis to crisis since Kabila was re-elected in controversial polls in late 2011, and the motion is the latest sign of splits within a notoriously fractious governing elite.

Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo has been praised by donors for keeping the economy of the mineral-rich nation on track, despite an expensive and largely unsuccessful war against rebels in the eastern provinces.

But 137 out of 500 parliamentarians - enough to trigger a vote of no confidence - signed a motion accusing him of violations including interfering with the judiciary and misusing state funds. The motion was filed late on Thursday and a vote could happen over the weekend or on Monday.

Although it is unlikely Matata Ponyo will lose, given the size of his coalition in parliament, the debate will be a chance for his enemies to pressure him, as well as Kabila, said Philippe Biyoya, a politics professor at Kinshasa University.

According to Baudoin Mayo, the opposition politician behind the censure, most of the signatures are from the opposition but some members of the ruling coalition - who hold just over 300 seats - have also added their names. Bringing down the government requires an absolute majority.

"The country is badly governed. President Kabila needs to keep looking for the right team to govern because this isn't it," Mayo told Reuters on Friday.

Biyoya said Matata Ponyo's efforts to cut off illegal revenue streams within Congo's endemically corrupt state machinery had made him powerful enemies.

"He's controlling everything, even in areas where people could help themselves before. He's not a problem for those people earning a little, but he's become a problem for those who were making a lot off the state," he said.

Congo is ranked fifth worst in the world for doing business by the World Bank. Late last year the IMF pulled out of a loan agreement with Kinshasa, citing concerns over transparency in the booming but murky mining sector.

Kabila's administration has also been buffeted by complaints over his inability to end years of turmoil in the east, where separate rebel groups have attacked two provincial capitals since late last year, including the normally secure copper mining capital Lubumbashi in Katanga.

Despite the problems, government spokesman Lambert Mende said they were confident the government would survive.

"If (President Kabila) wants to change the government he'll do it himself," Mende added.

(Editing by Jason Webb)