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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK

World: Africa

Kabila grants rebel amnesty

President Kabila (right): Preparing an amnesty

Amnesties are to be granted to supporters of the rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has been announced.

BBC Africa Correspondent Jane Standley: "The fighting continues"
DR Congo Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo said President Laurent Kabila had told him to prepare the amnesty decree for all rebel supporters.

Speaking at the Organization of African Unity conference in Algiers, he said: "The president charged me to say officially that he has granted a general amnesty to all members of the rebellion, including soldiers, civilians and politicians."

[ image: Kabila says ceasfire is the start of the process]
Kabila says ceasfire is the start of the process
Despite the amnesty, President Kabila himself has said the war in his country is not over and that fighting was continuing.

He told Radio France International that the signing of a ceasefire in Lusaka last Saturday was the "beginning of a process".

He said the fact that the three main rebel groups had not yet signed the peace agreement was not a problem "as long as the masters of the rebels, those who masterminded them, have signed the agreement".

He said he still considered the ceasefire was valid.

Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) who is currently based in the northern town of Gbadolite said his forces had engaged government troops every day since the peace accord was signed.

"There is fighting every day in different places on different fronts. The situation is the same as before, there is no ceasefire," he told the Reuters news agency.

The ceasefire deal negotiated after several days was signed in Lusaka by President Kabila and five other countries which have been involved in the war.

Chiluba mission

But a dispute over leadership meant that the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) did not sign and nor did Jean-Pierre Bemba's MLC.

The RCD wing led by Bizima Karaha and Emile Ilunga objected to the presence of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, who has been ousted from the leadership of the RCD, but still insists he should sign on its behalf.

[ image:  ]
Mr Karaha told APTN in Johannesburg on Tuesday that Mr Wamba dia Wamba could be included in the political talks to follow the ceasefire.

The Zambian President Frederick Chiluba who mediated the talks, is expected to visit the various rebel groupings after the OAU summit.

Zimbabwe troops out

Meanwhile the Zimbabwean Defence Minister, Moven Mahachi, is reported to have said that his country's forces would start withdrawing from DR Congo within the next three months.

[ image: Ernest Wamba dia Wamba: Wanted to sign on behalf of RCD]
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba: Wanted to sign on behalf of RCD
Zimbabwean troops and aircraft have been supporting the government of President Kabila in its battle against rebel forces.

He is also reported to have said that the failure of the rebels to sign a peace deal was not a deterrent to the implementation of the truce.

Tanzania's Foreign Minister Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete believes the rebels will be less effective without the support of their allies who have signed the deal.

"The rebels can be a nuisance, but they can't stage an effective war," he told Reuters in Dar es Salaam.

The fact that the rebels have still not signed has put in doubt UN plans to send an assessment team to DR Congo this week, which would lay the ground for a subsequent UN peacekeeping operation.

The rebels have gained control of up to 50% of the country since beginning their insurgency against President Kabila in the east of the country last August.

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