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The BBC's UN correspondent Mark Devenport
"Forty years on, the UN is again considering deploying soldiers to try to help end a civil war"
 real 28k

Marie France Cros, Libre Belgique newspaper
"Many things went wrong"
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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
DR Congo marks 40 years
President Kabila and Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel
President Kabila and Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel attended the parade
The Democratic Republic of Congo marks 40 years of independence on Friday with an official ceremony and a military parade in the capital, Kinshasa.

Veterans from the Second World War joined soldiers from more recent regional conflicts in an official march past President Laurent Kabila.


DR Congo: key dates
1960
Independence from Belgium
Katanga rebellion
1961
Murder of Lumumba
1965
Mobutu coup
1970
Mobutu becomes president
1994
Rwandan genocide
1997
Rwandan-backed rebels oust Mobutu
1998
New rebellion begins
1999
Rebels hold half of DR Congo
2000
Uganda and Rwanda battle in rebel-held Kisangani
The former colonial power, Belgium, was represented at the celebrations by its Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, who described the current state of relations between the two countries as very close.

On the eve of the anniversary, the atmosphere was sombre, with the press denouncing the "nightmare" of four decades of conflict.

"Independence has turned out to be a nightmare," said the daily Le Potentiel.

It said the country had ceased to function as a country and was, instead, a vast battlefield.

Even the pro-government newspaper L'Avenir sounded an unenthusiastic note, saying that the country was "still at step one".

"The DRC celebrates its 40 years of independence under the boots of the Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian armies," the paper said.

Belgian relations

Ahead of the celebrations, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, held talks with a delegation from the main rebel movement.


Mr Kabila
Mr Kabila: Ruling a divided nation
It was the first high-level meeting between a delegation from the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and a European minister since the start of the conflict.

Ties between the two countries have been strained ever since Congolese troops mutinied against their Belgian officers five days after independence was granted.

The event was the start of 40 years of sporadic conflict and a civil war in which neighbouring countries have become involved.

"Nightmare"

The current war that has raged during the past two years in the north and east of the country, has pitted DRC President Laurent Kabila's forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebel forces supported by Uganda and Rwanda.

Forty years after UN peacekeepers were sent to DRC to support its newly independent government, the international body is once again considering sending a substantial force to the country to try to help end the civil war.

It has, however, been hesitating for some time because it wants to avoid getting drawn into any direct fighting, as it did back in the 1960s.

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See also:

24 Feb 00 | Africa
UN approves Congo force
05 May 00 | Africa
UN failing in Africa
25 May 00 | Africa
UN to monitor Congo pull-out
07 Jun 00 | Africa
How Uganda and Rwanda fell out
29 Jun 00 | Africa
Congo's unhappy birthday
30 Jun 00 | Africa
Timeline: DR Congo conflict
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