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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 13:56 GMT
Congo peace talks enter final phase
Child victims of the Congolese war
The conflict has made millions of orphans
Talks aimed at working out a final peace deal to end the four-year war in the Democratic Republic of Congo have resumed in the South African capital, Pretoria.

The delegations are now hoping a compromise will be found on five sticking points, after 36 others were ironed out since the talks began on Saturday.

The Congolese Government and two main rebel groups, which control vast parts of the DR Congo, are discussing a power-sharing plan amid reports of renewed fighting in the east of the country.

The talks, which are sponsored by the United Nations and South Africa, are focusing on proposals for President Joseph Kabila to remain in office, with government, rebel and opposition officials taking vice-presidential posts for an interim period ahead of elections.

Pending issues

The negotiations are attended by a delegation from the Congolese Government and representatives from the Rwanda-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and the Ugandan-supported Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC).

The proposed interim administration would be led by President Kabila, and include four vice-presidents - one each from the government, the RCD, the MLC and Congo's unarmed political opposition.

But the MLC said on Monday that it had to consult its leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is not in Pretoria, on this point, which it says is in the government's favour.

The four other issues at stake are the make-up of the future parliament, amnesty agreements, power sharing in the provinces and the rebels' safety.

The UN envoy to the talks, Moustapha Niasse, has voiced "cautious optimism" that the talks will be another step towards peace.

"By Wednesday we will be finished talking to all parties... and we can hope to reach an agreement in principle by Thursday," he said on Monday in remarks quoted by the South African news agency SAPA.

President Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, are expected to meet in South Africa on Friday to review the peace accord they signed in July for Rwanda to withdraw its troops, and to look at the way forward.

Meanwhile, heavy shooting broke out again on Monday near the town of Uvira, in the east, which is controlled by the RCD.

The fighting pitted the RCD against the pro-Kinshasa Mai-Mai militia and an RCD splinter group, according to the French news agency AFP.

A source close to the Mai-Mai accused soldiers from Burundi and Rwanda of taking part in the fighting.

Power vacuum

The current talks are a continuation of negotiations held in South Africa earlier this year, when the government and the MLC struck a deal with the RCD.

The search for peace in DR Congo gained fresh momentum in recent weeks, as the foreign countries involved started to withdraw troops.

Rwandan troops
Foreign troops have been leaving the country

The war broke out in 1998 and sucked in neighbouring countries, with Rwanda and Uganda supporting the rebels while Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia backed the Kinshasa government.

Rwanda says it has completely withdrawn, while Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have pledged to pull out all troops by the end of this week.

However, the withdrawals have also prompted warnings of potential massacres in the east of the country, where militia groups are taking advantage of the power vacuum caused by the departure of foreign troops to intensify their activities.

About 1,000 Ugandan troops have remained at the request of the United Nations, which fears their departure would cause a huge security void.

It is estimated that more than two million people have died, most from starvation and hunger, during four years of war.


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26 Oct 02 | Africa
25 Oct 02 | Africa
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