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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Is the DR Congo war over?
By Vicky Ntetema
BBC News Online

On Thursday, four vice-presidents are due to take their places in a transitional government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is supposed to mark the end of a war which has claimed a million lives in five years.

French peacekeeper
French troops are keeping the peace in Bunia
The power-sharing authority incorporates members from all rebel groups, (RCD-Goma, RCD-Nationale, RCD-ML, MLC) and the current government of President Joseph Kabila.

During the signing ceremony of the peace deal between the different factions last year, Mr Kabila urged the country's warring sides to "draw a line between the past and the present, and look toward a bright future".

Jean Pierre Bemba, MLC leader and one of the four vice-presidents in the new administration told the BBC that his movement believed the war in the DR Congo had come to an end and that his movement was now a political party.

The time of guns is over and the time for dialogue has come
Leo Salmeron
Mr Kabila will remain head of state, while the transition government organises multi-party elections, supposedly in two years time.

"The fight against corruption, tribalism, for fundamental rights and democracy will be at the forefront of the group's new battle," Mr Bemba said.


Experts say that the country still faces numerous hurdles as it tries to unite the war-divided country. After five years of fighting, it is not easy for the former enemies to suddenly trust each other.

Ahmed Rajab of Africa Analysis says although the establishment of the interim government is a step in the right direction, it does not necessarily mean that the war is over.

President Joseph Kabila of DR Congo
Kabila will remain in power for the two-year transition

Peace is being threatened by the main players on the ground who continue to fight in Ituri and Kivu in the east.

The Ituri capital Bunia is now being monitored by French-led UN peacekeepers but they have not yet managed to disarm the combatant groups there.

Moise Nyarugabo, from the RCD Goma rebels, said that more hard work lies ahead.

"The mistrust is still there - you can't make that disappear with a magic wand.

"We have to work together to establish confidence between the different parties," he said.

Correspondents say that ordinary Congolese are still waiting for the government to start operating before they can be convinced that the war is finally over.

They say some non-combatant political groups, some of which were founded after the peace talks had started, are unhappy with the set-up of the transitional administration, because they have been excluded.

'Big mistake'

Uganda, one of the foreign countries which took party in the war, warns that the exclusion of representatives from the troubled north-eastern Ituri region was a "big mistake."

Lubunga Bya'ombe from the BBC's Swahili service says if Rwanda and Uganda stop supporting the ethnic Lendu and Hema militias there and order them to stop fighting, peace will hold and it will be the beginning of the end of war.

But the mineral riches found in Ituri provide a powerful disincentive for armed factions there to give up fighting and yield control to a government.

And that is not the only simmering ethnic tension.

The Banyamulenge, the ethnic Tutsis in eastern DR Congo who claimed they were dehumanised by former President Laurent Kabila and used as a tool by Rwanda, would still need protection from the UN peacekeepers in Kinshasa.

Mr Rajab says that the key players such as the Mai Mai, Hema, Lendu and extremist Hutu militia, formerly known as the Interahamwe, need to be involved in the bigger picture so that there will be no excuse for any of them to resort to fighting.

"All these extras should have been involved because that is the only way that peace efforts can be credible," says Mr Rajab.

He says that the major task of the peace mission will be to end the foreign involvement in DR Congo.

"The Ugandans claim that they have left, but the fact of the matter is that they are still there supporting the Lendu militia in Ituri and the Rwandans are supporting the Hema militia through the RCD.

"So unless the foreign involvement is completely ended we are going to see more of the fighting and whatever interim government is formed would do little to change the situation on the ground".

New peace force

A French-led international peacekeeping force is trying to stop the ethnic clashes in Bunia, where about 500 civilians have died in the last two months.

However, they are due to leave Bunia by 1 September, to be replaced by United Nations peacekeepers.

Jean Pierre Bemba, MLC leader
Mr Bemba says it is 'the end of the phase of the war' in DR Congo

"The possibility that different groups that were fighting can live together in Bunia is very positive," said Leo Salmeron a spokesman for the UN mission in DR Congo (Monuc).

"This should be tied to the idea that the time of guns is over and the time for dialogue has come," he said

DR Congo's war started in 1998, when neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda backed Congolese rebels in a bid to overthrow then-President Laurent Kabila.

Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia entered the war on the government's side.

Peace efforts continued following the assassination of Laurent Kabila by his bodyguard and his son Joseph took over power.

Ahmed Rajab, Editor, Africa Analysis
"Unless the foreign involvement is completely ended we are going to see more of the fighting"

Neighbours cause 'bloody Congo'
08 Jul 03  |  Africa
DR Congo rebels enter Kinshasa
03 Jul 03  |  Africa

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