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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
DR Congo slams 'Tintin' minister
boy reporter Tintin (l) and de Gucht (r)
DR Congo has accused de Gucht (r) of acting like boy reporter Tintin (l)
The Democratic Republic of Congo has recalled its ambassador to Belgium, following critical remarks made by the Belgian foreign minister.

The Congolese government accused Karel de Gucht of acting like Tintin - a colonial-era Belgian cartoon character.

"Belgium needs a minister of foreign affairs who is a diplomat," the Congolese information minister said.

While visiting Africa, Mr de Gucht said Congolese politicians were unable to introduce democracy or end corruption.

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He later told Belgian MPs that ministers in the DR Congo's transitional government spent most of their time fighting each other.

Elections are due to be held next year - the first since the end of a five-year war during which 3.3 million died.

'Ignorant'

Henri Mova Sakanyi said in a statement that the minister was treating Belgium's former colonies like children and was "completely ignorant of the basic rules of diplomacy".

The comments border on "racism and nostalgia for colonialism", the minister said.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Kabila has been president of the DR Congo since 2001
"It's Tintin in the Congo all over again."

Tintin, first printed in 1929, has been criticised for using racist stereotypes of non-Europeans.

But when asked by Belgian radio about the recall on Friday, Mr de Gucht, a Flemish-speaking right-winger who was appointed in July, appeared unrepentant about his blunt speaking.

"To me, it seems that the Congolese politicians in one way or another have to be aware of the fact that there are serious problems," he said.

DR Congo currently has a transitional government, led by President Joseph Kabila, and with former rebel leaders in senior positions.

"There is a problem with the political class in Congo and Kinshasa, and apparently there are few people who are aware of the historic task and the challenges they are facing," Mr de Gucht told Belgian radio from South Africa.

"I have met a lot of people and I wonder if they are the people to transform this country into a democracy and seriously manage it... There needs to be an end to corruption," he added.

The BBC's Rob Walker says that behind this war of words, there are real concerns within the international community about the pace of DR Congo's transition.

Although former rebels have joined the government, most are not yet integrated into the national army, he says.

There has also been little progress in tackling corruption and preparations for next year's elections are proceeding slowly.


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