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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Congo talks deadlocked
DR Congo government representative She Okitundu and Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the MLC rebel group
The government and Uganda-backed rebels have put their names to an accord
Tallks between the different factions in the Democratic Republic of Congo are entering a fourth day in Botswana with no sign of a breakthrough on the withdrawal of foreign troops.

The presence of Rwandan troops in the DR Congo - there, Rwanda says, to protect its borders from extremist militias - is the major sticking point.

The Rwandan-backed Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebels are refusing to discuss the issue, holding up an agreement which could pave the way for a political settlement of the long-running civil war.

Dr Adolphe Onusumba
RCD leader Dr Adolphe Onusumba is refusing to discuss the issue
On Wednesday, representatives of the Congo Government, rebel factions and other civic groups said they were close to signing an agreement to free all political prisoners and prisoners of war, and to return all seized goods and property.

The agreement would also stipulate that people and goods should be able to circulate freely throughout the DR Congo, and that arbitrary arrests should end.

It is the first time for many years that all factions from the DR Congo have come close to anything like a nationwide consensus.

The talks follow the deployment in recent months of UN peacekeepers who are helping monitor a ceasefire between the warring parties.


Earlier, rebels criticised government plans not to hold elections for the next three years.

Child on Kamina Island near Kinshasa
Fighting has left the DR Congo facing a humanitarian crisis

They said the proposal was a government attempt to stay in power.

The announcement was made on Tuesday by the Congolese foreign minister at the talks.

The minister, Leonard She Okitundu, said a new census and a constitution agreed by referendum were needed before elections could be held.

"We want elections to be held as soon as possible... but realistically it will take another two to three years," he said.

The talks themselves are not without their critics.

First are those excluded, from women's groups to exiled former generals, and then there are those who question the sincerity of the many foreign countries involved in the war.

Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi back the rebels, and Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia support the government.

All have a stake in what happens next, but they are not at the talks.

See also:

17 Jul 01 | Africa
UN praises Congo advances
04 Jul 01 | Africa
Kabila in peace talks
26 Jan 01 | Africa
Kabila promises peace efforts
24 Jul 01 | Africa
Congo rejects UN co-ordinator
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