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Sunday, July 11, 1999 Published at 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK

World: Africa

Six countries sign Congo peace

Disagreement between rebels has delayed peace deal

Six countries involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have signed a ceasefire agreement - but the rebel groups trying to topple President Laurent Kabila have still refused to sign.

Although the rebels have agreed to the content of the peace plan, they have so far refused to sign the deal because of a dispute between different factions.

Ishbel Matheson: An uneasy compromise has been reached
President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia - who has been hosting two weeks of peace talks - said it might be necessary to send a delegation to the rebel strongholds of eastern Congo to drum up wider support for the deal among the rebels.

The UN Security Council has urged the warring parties to sign "as soon as possible".

Heads of state from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda had been kept waiting in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, for the signing of the accord, which is intended to end an 11-month civil war.


But the ceremony was delayed when Ernest Wamba dia Wamba - recently ousted as leader of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) - sat down in the seat reserved for the RCD representative.

"I am the legitimate leader of the RCD and should sign on its behalf," Professor Wamba said.

Emile Ilunga, the new RCD leader - who opposes the participation of Professor Wamba and his faction in the peace talks - said it was unacceptable for the professor to take the official RCD seat.

Peace terms

During the conflict, Rwanda and Uganda backed the Congolese rebels, while Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola have been supporting the government.

The BBC's Alix Kroeger: "There is deep suspicion on both sides"
The rebels have gained control of up to 50% of the country since beginning their insurgency against President Laurent Kabila in the east of the country last August - but they have since fallen out among themselves.

The Rwandan President, Pasteur Bizimungu, said on arrival in Lusaka that the important breakthrough in the peace deal had been the commitment to hunt down the Hutu militia - the Interahamwe - who operate from the east of Congo.

The presence of the Interahamwe, who have attacked Rwanda and Uganda, was the main reason why those two countries supported the Tutsi-led Congolese rebels who oppose the Interahamwe.

RCD negotiator Bizima Karaha: "A struggle for fundamental change"
Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe - President Kabila's most important regional ally - said he was glad his country had taken part in the war.

But he said it was now time for the Congolese people to pursue their own political programme.

Doubts over implementation

The BBC's correspondent in Lusaka, Ishbel Matheson, says it remains more doubtful than ever whether peace can be delivered.

She says that if the presence of some of Africa's most powerful leaders in Lusaka could not persuade the rebels to sign, then it is unlikely that any other measure would prove successful.

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