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Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Published at 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK


World: Africa

Congo rebels finally sign truce

Time to celebrate? Civilians are waiting for peace

The leaders of rival rebel factions from the Democratic Republic of Congo have signed a ceasefire agreement which aims to end the year-long civil war.


The BBC's Ishbel Matheson: "A permanent peace will be difficult"
The rival wings of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) agreed to put aside their differences and put their signatures to the peace plan during a ceremony in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

The RCD was up until now the only combatant that had not agreed to endorse the ceasefire which was signed by six countries involved in the conflict during July.

Thousands of people have become refugees and an unknown number have died in the war.

Over the past weeks, fighting continued in Congo, as the rebels refused to sign the accord.


The BBC's Cathy Jenkins: "Achieving a lasting peace is not going to be easy"
The delay was caused because of disagreements between two factions of the RCD over who had the right to represent the movement.

Emile Ilunga, whose faction is backed by Rwanda, and Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, who is supported by Uganda, both claimed they were in charge.

Compromise


[ image: Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was among those who signed]
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was among those who signed
The rivalry between the two men led to a clash in the Congolese town of Kisangani between Rwandan and Ugandan troops.

In the end a compromise was brokered by Zambian and South African officials under which the ceasefire agreement was signed by all 50 founding members of the RCD.

The ceremony was attended by the foreign ministers of the 14 countries of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as well as representatives of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

(Click here to see a map of areas captured by the rebels)

The ceasefire means that "political dialogue" is now due to begin between all the rebel groups taking part in the war against President Laurent Kabila.


[ image:  ]
Under the ceasefire, a Joint Military Commission is due to work out the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers and supervise all-party talks.

On Monday a UN spokesman said the UN expected to deploy its first 17 military liaison officers in and around the capitals of the region by the end of the week.

A total of 90 officers will be deployed to Congo for three months in order to prepare the UN's involvement in the implementation of the ceasefire accord.

UN officials estimate that the peacekeeping operation in Congo will require at least 25,000 soldiers.



[ image:  ]

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