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Congo appoints new head for debt-ridden state oil company

Republic of the Congo

Congo Republic has appointed a new head for the state-run oil company. President Denis Sassou Nguesso named Maixent Raoul Ominga with immediate effect, as general manager of Societe National des Petroles du Congo (SNPC), as the company struggles to pay its creditors.

According to Bloomberg, the appointment was confirmed by communications minister Thierry Moungalla by phone on Wednesday, from the capital Brazzaville.

Ominga replaces Jerome Koko, who is expected to become director of Congo’s Treasury following the departure of Albert Ngondo eight months ago, Moungalla said.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Congo which is considering a bailout owes creditors $9.14 billion, equivalent to about 110 percent of gross domestic product.

While the advocacy group Global Witness says debt has more than tripled since 2010 because of a series of SNPC oil pre-financing deals – which involve loans that are paid back in crude instead of cash – that have been used by people who are close to or part of Sassou Nguesso’s family as vehicles for corruption.

Ominga reportedly has close ties with the president’s family and is a lawmaker for the ruling Congolese Workers Party in Oyo 2 constituency, home to president Sassou Nguesso.

He was the the deputy general manager in charge of finance and accounting at SNPC.

SNPC is set to hold debt-relief talks with trading houses after borrowing $2 billion from companies including Glencore and Trafigura Beheer B, Reuters reported.

Crude accounts for three-quarters of output in Congo’s $7.8 billion economy, which has contracted for the past two years after a slump in prices, according to IMF data.

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