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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK

World: Africa

Rebel doubts over Congo ceasefire

The rebels were not represented when the peace accord was signed

A rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo has vowed to continue fighting, despite a recent peace accord between President Laurent Kabila and other African heads of state.

[ image:  ]
Jean-Pierra Bemba, leader of the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), said he was "not involved" in the ceasefire agreement, which was signed on Sunday in the Libyan town of Sirte without rebel representatives being present.

"Nothing has changed for me on that front," Mr Bemba told Reuters news agency.

MLC is the smaller of the two main rebel movements fighting the Kabila government, but has captured several towns in the north-east of the country.

Uganda is backing the Congolese rebels, who have seized about a third of Congolese territory from Mr Kabila's government.

Chad has declared its support for Mr Kabila.

'Prelude to peace'

[ image: President Laurent Kabila:
President Laurent Kabila: "The invaders will never leave unless they are forced"
President Kabila said on Monday that the accord was a "prelude to peace", but said his countrymen must continue to prepare for war against the rebels.

"The invaders will never leave unless they are forced" Mr Kabila told Conglese state television.

"We cannot claim to make peace when an entire half of the country is occupied by the invaders," the president added.

But he insisted that President Museveni had promised to withdraw the Ugandan troops who are fighting alongside the rebels.

"When one makes such a pact one has to respect it," Mr Kabila said.

Wamba 'trusts Uganda'

[ image:  ]
The other leading rebel figure, the academic Wamba dia Wamba, said he had not seen the ceasefire agreement, but accepted that his allies would not have acted against his interests in signing the accord.

Dr Wamba is the political rather than the military leader of the main rebel movement, the Congolese Rally for Democracy.

Mr Bemba, by contrast, insisted that his interests in the war were different from those of Uganda.

"As far as Uganda, they are trying to guarantee the security of their borders, but my involvement in the war is different. I'm fighting against Kabila's dictatorship."

Rwanda, which backs the rebels alongside Uganda, was unrepresented in the agreement and has played down the significance of the deal.

Mr Kabila said that talks in the coming days will try to involve the Rwandan Government and the rebels.

Rebels expected at talks

The Congolese Information Minister, Didier Mumengi, said both Dr Wamba and Mr Bemba had agreed to take part in peace talks in Rome at the end of April.

However, both rebel leaders told the BBC that certain conditions had to be met before the talks.

Dr Wamba said the government delegation consisted of what he called "dinosaurs-in-exile", trying to secure their return to Kinshasa.

Mr Bemba said political prisoners had to be released and political parties allowed to operate freely.

Observer troops

Mr Kabila said on Monday that Libya and Eritrea had agreed to send observer troops to replace Ugandan forces he accuses of invading parts of Congo.

However, he postponed publicly announcing the anxiously-awaited details of the accord.

The war, which has pitted the Kabila government against Tutsi-led rebels backed by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, has wreaked havoc on the population and the fragile economies in the region.

Chad, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have all given military backing to Mr Kabila.

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