In Congo, a New Plan to Fight Ebola Follows a Government Power Struggle

Close to 200,000 doses of the Merck vaccine have been distributed. The company has plans to produce 800,000, but some experts fear shortages, especially if the virus escapes into South Sudan, which is as dysfunctional and war-torn as eastern Congo.

Johnson & Johnson has offered 500,000 doses; the vaccine is easier to store and has been tested for safety on 6,000 human volunteers, but has not been deployed in the field.

At its core, the political struggle within Congo pitted Dr. Ilunga, 59, who had been a minister since 2016, against Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director-general of the country’s National Institute for Biomedical Research.

It also was a struggle between President Tshisekedi and his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, 48. After 18 contentious years in office, Mr. Kabila stepped down last year and is now a senator for life. In December, Mr. Tshisekedi won a disputed election, beating Mr. Kabila’s chosen successor. But since then, he has only slowly replaced Mr. Kabila’s cabinet ministers.

Dr. Ilunga, who visited the outbreak area several times, is respected by some Ebola experts. The head of one international agency, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid involvement in another country’s dispute, called him “principled and data-driven.”

Dr. Muyembe, 77, is an internationally respected authority on Ebola who has helped fight every outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976, when the country was named Zaire.

The report by the commission led by Dr. Muyembe accused Dr. Ilunga of “weak governance, weak leadership and a hyper-centralized response” that failed to coordinate with other ministries, including the police and army.