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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 19:45 GMT
DR Congo peace talks ending
Mark Dummett
BBC, Kinshasa

A ceremony has been planned to end, once and for all, Congo's epic peace negotiations.

Former Botswanan Premier, Sir Ketumile Masire, who has overseen the talks in his role as "Facilitator for the Inter Congolese Dialogue" said the ceremony would take place on 24 - 25 March in the South African gambling resort of Sun City.

Sir Ketumile Masire
Sir Ketumile cannot wait for the talks to end

The announcement follows recent agreements on a power sharing constitution and a neutral international force that will be deployed in Kinshasa throughout a two-year transition period.

After then, Congo's many warring and political parties have agreed that democratic elections will be held.

The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo broke out in August 1998 when rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda tried to topple the now deceased President Laurent Kabila.

Since then Kinshasa has controlled about half of Congolese territory, while rival rebel factions and pro-government militias run the rest.

Doubts

"The road from Lusaka, where the Congolese signed the cease-fire agreement in July 1999, has been a long and difficult one," Sir Ketumile said.

"We have now reached the stage where we can conclude the negotiation process and look forward to the implementation of the agreements reached by the Congolese for the good of their country and people," he added.

Aid agencies estimate that more than two million people have died since the war started, mostly because of hunger and illness.

The peace talks opened in August 2001 and though many agreements have already been reached, none have yet been implemented.

Irritated

"I don't know if God is going to help us, because this situation is beginning to annoy us," Jean Marie, a taxi driver told BBC News online.

"The politicians are just joking with us, they are laughing amongst themselves. This situation could be resolved in just one week, but they don't want it to."

"They eat well while it is us the people who are suffering."

Juakali Kambale, a journalist from rebel-held eastern Congo said he thought there was only a "50-50" chance the dialogue would end in success.

Patrice Lumumba

"They can want to construct or to destroy. Those people who are not given posts in the transitional government will become destroyers," he said.

Under the terms of the new constitution, power and jobs will be divided up between the main rebel groups, supporters of the current President Joseph Kabila, political parties and civil society.

Francois Lumumba
Lumumba's party is taking part in politics after 42 years

Kabila will stay on as head of state, with four vice-presidents running the government.

One of the politicians expecting a seat is Francois Lumumba, son of Congo's national hero and first prime minister Patrice Lumumba. He is confident the negotiations have been a success.

"The Congolese National Lumumba Movement has not participated in government since the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1961.

But now we have participated and are ready to participate in the institutions of the transition."

"We don't take decisions lightly. If after 42 years we have agreed to participate, it is to say that after examining with our souls and conscience we believe that there is a good chance that we are heading towards peace and the process of democratisation," Mr Lumumba said.

Before that takes place two issues still need resolving.

No agreements have yet been reached on how to unify the different armies, and none of the new ministers or vice-presidents have yet been named.

The Congolese people know they might have to wait a little bit longer


SEE ALSO:
UN boost for DR Congo force
04 Dec 02 |  Africa
DR Congo plunder denied
22 Oct 02 |  Africa
Key figures on UN list
21 Oct 02 |  Africa
UN condemns Congo 'exploitation'
20 Nov 01 |  Business


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