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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
DR Congo peace hopes in doubt
MLC troops
DR Congo rebels are split over sharing power
A key mediator has cast doubt on whether a peace deal can be struck between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel groups.

If they continue to argue... we can forget about coming to a conclusion that can be deemed final.

Sir Ketumile Masire
Sir Ketumile Masire, a former president of Botswana, told journalists that with talks in the final stages, the two sides could not agree on power-sharing.

The aim of the talks, in the South African resort of Sun City, is to end DR Congo's four-year civil war and make plans for a transitional government, eventually leading to elections.

The talks, which began in February, were originally due to end last week but have been extended until Thursday.


Sir Ketumile accused both the Kinshasa government and rebel groups of intransigence.

Sir Ketumile Masire, the facilitator
Sir Ketumile Masire wants a response to the South African peace plan
"If they continue to argue like they have for weeks then we can forget about coming to a conclusion that can be deemed final," he told AFP news agency.

He particularly criticised the government of President Joseph Kabila for failing to respond to a peace plan put forward by the South African president, Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Mbeki's plan would allow President Kabila to remain in office for another two-and-a-half years, while bringing rebel leaders into a council of state.

The leaders of the two main rebel groups - the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the Ugandan-backed Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) - would be vice-presidents and a prime minister would be drawn from the DR Congo's civilian opposition.

The rebel leaders would be in charge of the army, the economy, the interior and of organising the country's first elections since independence from Belgium in 1960.


Reports say Kinshasa has struck a deal with the MLC, giving its leader Jean-Pierre Bemba the prime minister's job as long as Mr Kabila can remain president.

But the RCD says there will be no peace if it is excluded in this way.

It is opposed to any deal that involves Mr Kabila remaining in power.

Broad agreement has been reached on the integration of rebel and government forces, but differences remain over the composition of a transitional government.

The Congolese Government and rebel factions are now under considerable pressure - the South Africans, the European Union and the United States are all urging them to reach an agreement.

The civil war began in 1998, with an attempt to topple the government of the late Laurent Kabila.

Neighbouring countries stepped in, with Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe on the government's side and Uganda and Rwanda backing the rebels.

A ceasefire was agreed a year ago, but has repeatedly been broken - most recently in the eastern town of Moliro last month.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | Africa
'Kabila party' formed in DR Congo
12 Apr 02 | Africa
Hopes rise for DR Congo peace
11 Apr 02 | Africa
DR Congo peace talks extended
16 Mar 02 | Africa
Fighting flares in DR Congo
14 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo peace talks hit by walk-out
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