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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
'Kabila party' formed in DR Congo
Joseph Kabila
Kabila has not joined the party - yet
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By the BBC's Mark Dummett
Supporters of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo have set up a new political party.

The birth of the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) comes as representatives from the government, the opposition, as well as civic groups and rebel forces, are meeting in South Africa to try to pave the way for elections.

"We want to show the international community that the government is determined to go down the democratic road," Theophile Bemba, a PPRD member and aide to President Kabila, told AFP news agency.

Mr Kabila has been in office since the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila, in January 2001.

Party time

There are already 500-odd political parties in Kinshasa. Few are taken seriously.

Kinshasa skyline
Kinshasa is home to a plethora of political parties
Only a handful competed in Congo's last democratic elections in 1959, and most - according to Kinshasa's wags - consist of one man and his wife.

The PPRD is bound to be given a bit more respect.

Established over the Easter holiday, it boasts 253 founding members, including those government ministers closest to President Joseph Kabila, who has not yet officially joined.

Honouring Lumumba

Senior PPRD figures include Leonard She Okitundu the foreign minister, Mashako Mamba, the health minister, Kikaya Bin Karubi, information minister and Vital Kamerhe, the government's chief negotiator at peace talks in South Africa.

Kikaya Bin Karubi said the new party would hold its first congress once the talks have ended, and will then nominate its leaders and other officials.

He said it had been set up to prepare for the long-hoped for elections that should, in theory, be held within a year or two.

Mr Bin Karubi said the PPRD would follow the patriotic teachings of Congo's first prime minister Patrice Lumumba, and those of the late President Laurent Kabila.

Murky waters

Dr Adrian Pongo, Secretary General of one of the largest opposition parties, the Union for democracy and social progress, or UDPS of Etienne Tshisekedi, poured scorn on the PPRD.

Patrice Lumumba
What did Patrice Lumumba stand for?
In a statement he gave to the BBC, Mr Pongo said the UDPS had no time for "this useless group of individuals who know very well they have founded this so-called party to cheat money out of Joseph Kabila.""

He added that none of them, the young president included, had any idea what Lumumba's philosophy was all about, and that Laurent Kabila did not have one.

Mr Pongo said the assassinated leader swam between Maoist and Marxist waters.

This new party is a distraction, Mr Pongo concluded.

See also:

20 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo rebels condemned
18 Mar 02 | Africa
DR Congo talks follow fighting
14 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo peace talks hit by walk-out
16 Mar 02 | Africa
Fighting flares in DR Congo
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