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Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 00:16 GMT
DR Congo leader pledges peace
RCD rebels
Rebel forces get key posts in the new government
President Joseph Kabila has said he will guarantee security for all citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo after a peace agreement was signed on Tuesday.

Under a complex deal, Mr Kabila will stay in his post for two years, but rebel forces and the political opposition will be given government portfolios, including three of the four vice presidential posts.

Joseph Kabila
Kabila: Succeeded his father Laurent in 2001
South African President Thabo Mbeki hailed the deal as "dramatically new" and said he thought it would "bring about peace".

But the BBC's Mark Dummett in Kinshasa says that some ordinary residents are sceptical about the agreement reached in the South African capital Pretoria.

Mr Mbeki, who helped negotiate the deal, said the parties were under pressure from the Congolese population to end the conflict.

High hopes

More than two million people are estimated to have died from hunger and disease during the conflict which dragged in several foreign armies and was dubbed "Africa's first world war".

"The president hopes this agreement will return peace, unity and territorial integrity to allow the people of (DR) Congo... to confront numerous challenges," Mulegwa Zihindula, spokesman for President Kabila, said in a statement.

We consider the MLC's action to be cheating, but we signed to put an end to the war

Mulegwa Zihindula
President Kabila's spokesman
In South Africa, Mr Mbeki said an end to the conflict would help bring peace to neighbouring countries.

"Once we have peace and stability in the DR Congo, it will have a positive impact on the whole region," he said.

Our correspondent says that while ordinary people are welcoming a deal that should reunify the country, its implementation will depend on the good will of DR Congo's leaders, in whom few have much faith.

The two main rebel groups - the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) - will each have one vice president, as will the political opposition and supporters of President Kabila.

Ministerial posts will also be divided equally between these four blocks until multi-party elections are held in two years' time.

Although government and rebel spokesmen have declared their satisfaction with the deal, they have also expressed serious reservations about how the new government will function.

Keeping promises

"It is good news for peace in DRC," MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba told the French news agency, AFP.

"I urge the international community to help in the implementation of this accord so that the signatories do not evade their commitment," he added.

Open in new window : War survivors
DR Congo's displaced generation

AFP reports that the deal was held up by the MLC's insistence that it nominate the speaker of parliament.

"We consider the MLC's action to be cheating, but we signed to put an end to the war," said Mr Zihindula, Mr Kabila's spokesman.

Information Minister Kikaya Bin Karubi told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that rebel forces had to be demobilised and integrated into the army before the new government could be in place.

But he still hoped this could happen early next year.

He also said that the peace deal meant that a peace-keeping force was no longer necessary.

'Forgiveness'

There are currently some 5,000 United Nations troops in DR Congo.

DR CONGO'S WAR
Four years
Seven foreign armies
At least 2 million dead
Disease and abuses widespread

DR Congo's many warring political parties have been in negotiations for almost a year and a half to draw up this power-sharing agreement.

The Congo war started in 1998 with an uprising in the east of Africa's third biggest country.

At the height of the conflict, there were well over 50,000 troops from seven different African states fighting along with the Congolese army and numerous rebel factions and tribal militias.


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17 Dec 02 | Africa
04 Dec 02 | Africa
01 Nov 02 | Africa
26 Oct 02 | Africa
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