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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 21:48 GMT
Congo rebels consider response
Congolese in rebel stronghold of Goma
Congolese in rebel stronghold of Goma waiting for news
By BBC News Online's Damian Zane

The Congolese rebels have been quick to deny that they had anything to do with the assassination of President Laurent Kabila.

But they will not be sorry that he has gone, seeing it as an opportunity to resolve the two-and-a-half year conflict.

Rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba
Jean Pierre Bemba: Congolese should unite through dialogue
The Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma says it will not take advantage of Kabila's death by launching a new offensive. Instead, it called on the interim Congolese President Joseph Kabila to end the war.

A spokesman for another faction of the RCD, Claver Pashi, said that events in Kinshasa could mark the beginning of a new era.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the newly formed Congolese Liberation Front, Jean Pierre Bemba, hoped that the Congolese people could unite through national dialogue.

The rebel backers

It is the response of Rwanda and Uganda that is more significant. The rebels are largely proxy armies for these two countries.

Map of DRC
So far there has been no official word from Rwanda. But the country has always said that it was fighting a defensive war against the Kabila-backed Interhamwe militia. Without this support the possibility of peace is there.

The Ugandans have always blamed Kabila for stalling the 1999 Lusaka peace process aimed at ending the conflict. Ugandan diplomat, James Wapakabulo said Kabila's demise would make it easier for the Lusaka process to go ahead, as he was its main opponent.

It is not surprising that the rebels and their backers blame Laurent Kabila for Congo's problems.

But the occupation of eastern Congo by Uganda and Rwanda has enabled those countries to exploit the region's mineral wealth. That is something that the two countries will be reluctant to let go of.

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