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Saturday, 25 August, 2001, 03:58 GMT 04:58 UK
DR Congo maps future
DR Congo rebel soldiers
The aim is to end three years of fighting
By Mark Dummett in Gaberone

A week of talks held by the warring factions of the Democratic Republic of Congo has just ended.

For the first time since war broke out three years ago, the government met with rebel factions as well as political parties and civil society groups to start mapping out a peaceful and democratic future for their country.

The sides agreed after a week of talks in the Botswanan capital, Gaberone, on a series of confidence-building initiatives and to hold a further and decisive round of talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in October.

The Botswanan facilitator for the talks, former president Sir Ketumile Masire, hailed the week as a true beginning for democracy for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Actions not words

It has been no mean achievement for a country racked by three years of bloody war, two different rebellions and the involvement of at least six different foreign armies.

Children's hospital in DR Congo
Children were also victims of the war
The government, rebels, political parties and civic groups agreed on a number of measures designed to start a process whereby all of Congo's 50 million inhabitants will be protected by the same laws.

Most notable were agreements by the many different sides, who up until now have only concerned themselves with the areas they control, to release political prisoners.

They also agreed to respect human rights and allow people and goods to move freely throughout the country.

But however symbolically important these decisions are, it remains to be seen whether they will be implemented, and how truly committed the different sides are to peaceful co-existence.

On top of that is the particular failure of the talks to deal with the issue of the continued presence of so many foreign armies on Congolese soil, and indeed the fighting that continues to go on in much of the country, and continues to make millions of Congolese people's lives a misery.

See also:

24 Aug 01 | Africa
DR Congo talks build peace
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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