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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 10:59 GMT
Deal to end Africa's worst war
RCD rebels
Rebel forces get key posts in the new government
The Democratic Republic of Congo Government and its key rebel opponents have signed a power-sharing agreement to end Africa's biggest war.

More than two million people are estimated to have died from hunger and disease during the four year conflict which several foreign armies joined in.

Now nobody can go back to war. Ever.

RCD rebel negotiator Azarias Ruberwa
Under a complex deal, President Joseph Kabila will stay in his post, but rebel forces will be given government posts.

However, the BBC's correspondent in DR Congo, Mark Dummett, says that many people - including privately, some of the negotiators - believe the complicated and ambitious plan is unworkable.

The agreement stipulates that President Kabila will remain head of state until general elections are held in two years time.

Four vice-presidential posts are being created - which will be divided between supporters of the president, the two main rebel movements and the political opposition. Each of the four blocs will also have seven ministerial posts.

Congo's many warring political parties have been in negotiations for almost a year and a half to draw up this power-sharing agreement.

Open in new window : War survivors
DR Congo's displaced generation

'We ask forgiveness'

South African negotiator Sisa Ngombane hailed the deal as a "major breakthrough".

"It is the most broad-based government that the Congolese can hope for," he said, after the deal was signed in the South African city of Pretoria.

DR CONGO'S WAR
Impoverished child in DR Congo
Four years
Seven foreign armies
At least 2 million dead
Disease and abuses widespread

Chief negotiator for the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) Olivier Kamitatu said that for all their lives the participants in the war must carry the stigma and responsibility with them

"To all the innocent victims, we ask forgiveness."

Azarias Ruberwa, the delegation head for the other main rebel group, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), said they had made concessions to sign the deal and one of them was to stop fighting.

"Now nobody can go back to war. Ever."

Officials said the transitional government should be in place early next year.

Wait and see

The Congo war started in 1998 with an uprising in the east of Africa's third biggest country.

At the height of the civil war, there were well over 50,000 troops from seven different African states fighting along with the Congolese army and numerous rebel factions and tribal militias.

Joseph Kabila
Kabila: Remains head of state
Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda all said they were supporting the rebels because the Congolese government was backing insurgents attacking their own countries.

Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola, who backed the government, gained valuable mineral concessions in return for their support.

But after painstaking negotiations, foreign troops recently withdrew the bulk of their forces.

Our Kinshasa correspondent says that if the deal is implemented it could go a long way towards ending the war, but he says faith in the country's leaders is at an all-time low, and most Congolese will be waiting to see how and when the deal is put into practice before celebrating.


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See also:

04 Dec 02 | Africa
01 Nov 02 | Africa
26 Oct 02 | Africa
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