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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 20:36 GMT
DR Congo rebels agree to peace plan
Child victims of the Congolese war
The conflict has created millions of orphans
The Democratic Republic of Congo Government and two rebel groups have agreed in principle to a power-sharing deal.

South African mediators described it as a breakthrough, saying it was the first time that the parties have agreed on a transitional arrangement.


The political will is there, the Congolese people are tired of fighting, tired of suffering

DR Congo diplomat Ben Mpoko
But specific details still need to be refined, they said.

The consensus came on the fourth day of talks in the South African capital, Pretoria, between the government, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC).

Correspondents say the deal could pave the way for an agreement that would lead the nation to its first democratic elections.

Four vice-presidents

According to the deal, President Joseph Kabila will remain in office during the transitional period, with government, rebel and opposition officials taking vice-presidential posts until the country organises its first elections since independence in 1960.

The MLC, which had first objected to this point of the plan, agreed in principle on Tuesday, on certain conditions.

The secretary general of the movement, Olivier Kamitatu, told the BBC that a consensus would have to be reached by the president and vice-presidents for every decision.

He added that the principle of power-sharing would have to be applied at all levels of government, not only for the presidency.

He said the MLC was now waiting for the government's answer.

'Progress'

The Congolese ambassador to South Africa, Ben Mpoko, said a lot of progress had been achieved with the deal.

"The delegations were very happy, everybody was elated," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"My feeling is that the political will is there, the Congolese people are tired of fighting, tired of suffering," he said.

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

Fighting

Despite the Pretoria talks heavy fighting broke out again on Monday near the town of Uvira, in the east of DR Congo, 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 search for peace in DR Congo has gained momentum in recent weeks, after the foreign countries involved began withdrawing 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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