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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 11:20 GMT
Belgian FM blunders in DR Congo
Karel de Gucht
Karel de Gucht assumed office in July
Belgium's foreign minister has got into diplomatic trouble during a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Briefing documents given to reporters travelling with Karel de Gucht allege that DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila is not of Congolese origin.

Kinshasa recalled its ambassador to Belgium after Mr de Gucht's visit last October, when he made critical remarks about Congolese politicians.

It accused him of behaving like Tintin, the colonial-era cartoon adventurer.

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

The Belgian foreign minister had questioned the ability of DR Congo's politicians to hold free and fair elections this year and end corruption.

Mistake

Mr de Gucht said the curriculum vitae of the Congolese president and his four vice-presidents were included in the briefing pack to journalists by mistake.

The CVs stated that both President Kabila and one of his vice- presidents - former rebel leader Azarias Ruberwa - are of foreign origin.

At the end we decided that we would turn a page... and we'd work together
Karel de Gucht

The subject of nationality is sensitive in DR Congo.

A five-year civil war, in which some 3.3 million people died, fuelled anti-Tutsi resentment in the east of the country.

The conflict ended in 2003 with the setting up of a transitional government, with Mr Kabila at the helm and with former rebels in senior position.

"It was obviously a mistake of my administration. They did not reflect at all the opinion of the government or myself on the people concerned," Mr de Gucht told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Patronising

He admitted the misunderstanding had initially affected his meeting with President Kabila.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Kabila took over as president over his father was assassinated

"At the end we decided that we would turn a page and that we would be in very close contact in the weeks and months to come and we'd work together."

He said DR Congo's leaders are determined to hold the country's first democratic elections in June.

But there were still some major logistical challenges ahead, and that it was vital election organisers began registering voters and sending out polling cards to reassure voters that progress was being made.

According to the BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Kinshasa the Belgian foreign minister's visit has angered people in the capital, with many saying his attitude was patronising.




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