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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
DR Congo's precarious peace pact
Jean-Pierre Bemba of the MLC (centre) with his bodyguards in Sun City
Bemba will become the PM if the partial deal holds
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By Mark Dummett
BBC correspondent in Kinshasa
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It would be a safe bet that millions of gamblers have passed through the turnstiles at the South African resort of Sun City.

But few will have had so much at stake as the 360 delegates at the recently concluded Inter Congolese Dialogue.

Unlike thousands of foreign tourists blowing their pockets-full of Rand in the tacky casinos, the Democratic Republic of Congo's self-appointed political, military, and civic leaders were trying to iron out a peace settlement and power sharing arrangement.

As many predicted from the start, this proved to be impossible, and DR Congo's ruinous four-year war carries on.

Biggest smiles

But like many of the other gamblers, each of the Congolese delegates returned home knowing they had not won the jackpot, but convinced nonetheless they had come out on top.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Kabila will stay on as president if the new pact with MLC is implemented

The biggest smiles on the plane home were worn by members of the government and leaders of the three Ugandan-backed rebel groups who between them control the north-east of the country.

They cut a deal amongst themselves, with the hope of putting pressure on the strongest rebel faction, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy, RCD-Goma.

The new-found friends and many independent observers blame RCD-Goma for blocking an all-inclusive deal.

If the pact is implemented - and rebel representatives are due in Kinshasa shortly to work out the details - Joseph Kabila will stay on as president and Jean Pierre Bemba, head of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, will become prime minister.

Trump card

But it is a massively risky venture, even if, as Mr Kabila declared on Wednesday night in a rare televised address, it returns peace to most of the country.

For a start, the government must hope that RCD-Goma does not react to its new isolation, and the breakdown of the talks, by playing its trump card: the undoubted military superiority of the Rwandan army.

Secondly it has to get its new rebel allies working together.

Even though they are all backed by Uganda, the MLC and the two smaller groups, RCD-ML of Mbusa Nyamwisi and RCD-National of Roger Lumbala, have regularly been at each other's throats.

Even in the past fortnight there have been clashes between RCD-ML and RCD-National, as well as fighting between different factions of the RCD-ML.

No love lost

But the biggest gamble of them all is the invitation to the ambitious Jean Pierre Bemba to form the new government.

As Mr Bemba himself boasted in Sun City, the premiership will be the most powerful position in the new set up, and there is no love lost between his supporters and those of the Kabila regime.

DR Congo rebel fighters are opposed to the Kinshasa/MLC deal
RCD fighters control about half of DR Congo's territory

The MLC is made up of Kinshasa's old ruling class which made a fortune under the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko before being unceremoniously kicked out of power by Laurent Kabila - Joseph's father.

In the past, they have made no secret of their desire for revenge, and to get back what they believe is rightfully theirs.

Mr Kabila's supporters, who have had their hands in the Congolese till for, at most, only five years, will be praying their normally-shrewd young president has played his cards right.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Africa
Hopes rise for DR Congo peace
11 Apr 02 | Africa
DR Congo peace talks extended
16 Mar 02 | Africa
Fighting flares in DR Congo
14 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo peace talks hit by walk-out
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