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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK

World: Africa

Congolese rebels appoint new head

The rebel movement has become divided by a bitter power struggle

The main rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo says it has elected a new leader to replace Ernest Wamba dia Wamba who was ousted earlier this week.

The BBC's Chris Simpson reports: "Dr Ilunga is something of a surprise choice"
After a meeting in the rebel capital Goma, the new leader of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) was named as Dr Emile Ilunga, a medical doctor originally from President Laurent Kabila's home province of Katanga.

He is thought to have played an important military role in the rebellion which brought Mr Kabila to power and was until recently head of the RCD's health department.

In recent weeks the rebel movement has become increasingly divided by serious infighting.

Announcing the appointment of Dr Ilunga, a group calling itself the Founders of the Rebellion said the new leader would help to unite the movement in the ongoing war against President Kabila's government.

[ image: Mr dia Wamba has criticised what he says was an internal coup]
Mr dia Wamba has criticised what he says was an internal coup
Bizima Karaha, head of security for the RCD, said the ousting of Mr dia Wamba was the only way to resolve a leadership struggle which came into the open in March when the former leader left Goma for a new base in the rebel-held city of Kisangani.

Mr dia Wamba, who was removed from the leadership on Sunday, says he is the victim of an internal coup.

He has repeatedly accused rebel leaders of setting the stage for the return of politicians who served under former president Mobutu Sese Seko, whom Mr Kabila forced from power two years ago.

Dr Ilunga will be supported by two vice presidents, Moise Nyarugabo and Commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane, who have retained their earlier positions.

Rebel spokesman John Nsana said the rest of the government would be named on Thursday.

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