August 20, 2011 / 7:24 PM / in 6 years

DR Congo power board to be sacked after blackouts

KINSHASA, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The board of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned energy supplier SNEL will be sacked for mismanagement after power cuts in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, the government said on Saturday.

The sackings come months ahead of polls, in which President Joseph Kabila is set to face re-election but is likely to struggle to win over voters in the teeming city of 10 million.

“The document must be signed by the president but they have been officially told to leave their offices,” Communications Minister Lambert Mende told Reuters by telephone, adding that a new board would be appointed in the coming days.

Kinshasa has recently been hit by severe power-cuts, which SNEL blamed on technical failures and low water levels at a hydro-electric plant on the Congo river.

A demonstration against the power cuts is due to take place on Sunday.

Earlier this week, the company said it was carrying out repairs to mend broken equipment that would cost $50 million.

Congo, with its vast network of rivers, has huge hydropower potential, but only 11 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2009, leaving just under 60 million in the dark, according to the International Energy Agency.

In the 2006 election, Kabila won most votes in his eastern strongholds but struggled in much of the mainly pro-opposition west of the country, a trend that is unlikely to be reversed as social progress since the last poll has been limited. (Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by David Lewis and Mike Nesbit)

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