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Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Congo rebels 'agree to UN deployment'
UN troops
The UN hopes to deploy its peacekeepers on Friday
By Mark Dummett in Kinshasa

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo are reported to have dropped their objections to the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in the country's third largest city, Kisangani.

The British ambassador to DR Congo said the agreement came at talks between the leadership of the rebel RCD group and diplomats representing the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in the rebel capital, Goma, on Wednesday.

Congolese rebels
Rebel opposition has been an obstacle to peace
Over the weekend an aeroplane carrying the peacekeepers was refused permission to land in Kisangani, creating the biggest obstacle yet to the peace process in Congo.

Speaking on his return from the rebel headquarters, British Ambassador Jim Atkinson said the deployment would go ahead on Friday.

UN confirmation

The rebels had blocked the 120 Moroccan peacekeeping soldiers at the last minute on Sunday, saying the UN mission in Congo verifying the withdrawal of all belligerents must first condemn ceasefire violations carried out by government forces.

The UN in Kinshasa had said all along that their job was not to condemn anyone and that the two issues were not linked.

Mr Atkinson said it was exactly this message that the ambassadors took to Goma.

The UN has indeed confirmed that some of the reported ceasefire violations did take place - a village was burnt and several people were reported to be raped or killed.

But the rebels were said to be satisfied that the UN was treating the case as was laid down and agreed by all sides to the conflict.

Peace process continues

According to Ambassador Atkinson, the rebels said they did not want to threaten the momentum of the peace process in DR Congo.

The RCD and the ambassadors also agreed to set up a joint commission to prevent the problem from recurring.

Other problems that have dogged the relationship between the rebels and the UN were also resolved. These concerned where the UN personnel already based in the rebel half of the country bought their supplies.

The rebels were unhappy that their food and, more importantly, their petrol and aviation fuel were not bought locally.

The establishment of the commission and the agreement over Kisangani, an important trading centre, are a significant boost to the UN mission.

Senior UN officials have become increasingly frustrated by the obstacles put in their path by the rebels. Others are amazed the peace process has got as far as it has.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | Africa
UN alleges DR Congo exploitation
15 Apr 01 | Africa
Congo ceasefire 'broken'
16 Jan 01 | Africa
DR Congo's troubled history
26 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
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