Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, April 03, 2003

Final Congolese Peace Deal Signed in S. Africa

Representatives from the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the rebels signed a final peace agreement in the South African resort of Sun City on Wednesday, thus ushering the dawn of new era for the 55 million Congolese.


Representatives from the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the rebels signed a final peace agreement in the South African resort of Sun City on Wednesday, thus ushering the dawn of new era for the 55 million Congolese.

Eight African heads of state and key role players at the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (ICD) converged here to witness the signing of the landmark agreement at 4:14 p.m. (1414 GMT), which is set to open doors for a power-sharing transitional government after almost five years of civil war.

With warm applause filling the signing ceremony in Sun City, about 200 km northwest of Johannesburg, the African leaders, including presidents from Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, African Union and United Nations representatives and diplomats based in South Africa graced the event and hoped it would herald a new chapter for a democratic DRC in central Africa.

After 29-month negotiations, about 360 delegates from the DRC government and rebel groups finally endorsed the creation of a power-sharing administration and also agreed to a new constitution.

The peace deal, if implemented, will lead to elections in two years time, the first democratic elections in the vast central African country since independence from Belgium more than 40 yearsago.

Under the deal or the Final Act, President Joseph Kabila keeps his post, while the rebels and the civilian opposition get vice-presidential posts in a two-year transitional authority.

The president nominates senior officials, and has the power to declare war with the agreement of the cabinet and parliament. After Wednesday's signature ceremony in Sun City, Kabila will promulgate a new constitution in Kinshasa on April 6 and take an oath of office under it.

Four vice presidents will be drawn from the government, the Ugandan-backed Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the political opposition.

Thirty-six ministries are split among the government, rebels, the Mai-Mai and the political opposition and civil society. Interior and finance go to the government, defense and state enterprises to the RCD, foreign affairs and budget to the MLC.

The speakership of the National Assembly, the last major sticking point, goes to the MLC, which argued that it needed it for a fair balance of power. The National Assembly will have 500 members and the Senate 120 members, designated by the signatories.

The first president of the Supreme Court, the attorney general and the military auditor general will be appointed immediately under a balancing mechanism to be agreed by the signatories.

Signatories renew commitments to cease hostilities and embark on the process of setting up a restructured and integrated army asagreed during discussions in Sun City last year.

The new army will include fighters of the MLC and RCD, rebel splinter groups, and the pro-government Mai-Mai militia. Their headquarters staffs met in Pretoria in March, but only the RCD hassigned an agreement on the military.

Agreement was reached on withdrawal of foreign troops and disarmament of armed militias.

Each political leader will have the right to have 15 bodyguards.No extra government troops may be deployed to Kinshasa. The policeforce will be integrated. The international community will be asked to provide a neutral force to secure politicians and institutions until the integrated police force can be deployed.

The war in the DRC broke out in August 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda sent troops to back Congolese rebels seeking to oust then president Laurent Kabila, Joseph's father. They accused him of backing insurgents threatening regional security.

Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia sent troops to back Kabila, splitting the country into rebel-and-government-held areas.

Most foreign troops have already withdrawn from the DRC where some 2.5 million people were killed either directly through the fighting or indirectly through famine and illness during the war.

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