Rebels gather in Lusaka to sign DRCongo ceasefire
LUSAKA, Aug 31 (AFP) - Rebels who ignited a bloody conflict involving six African countries gathered in the Zambian capital Lusaka on Tuesday to sign a long-awaited ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Intensive diplomatic efforts by South Africa and Zambia appeared set to pay off as leaders of the faction-ridden Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) checked into separate hotels ahead of a planned signing ceremony.
The ceasefire has already been signed by six nations involved in the year-long conflict on July 10, and later by the rebel Congo Liberation Movement (MLC), but the RCD scuppered a complete agreement because of a leadership wrangle.
Now, in a compromise brokered by South Africa and Zambia, all 50 founding members of the RCD are expected to sign the agreement, paving the way for its full implementation.
The Rwanda-backed RCD faction led by Emile Ilunga, which had refused to sign the document if it recognised the Ugandan-backed faction led by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, has expressed satisfaction with the compromise.
"We are satisfied with the compromise because Wamba dia Wamba is signing as a founder member like anybody else and not as a leader," said Moise Nyarugabo, second vice-president of the Ilunga faction.
Nyarugabo dismissed fears of any more last-minute hitches, saying his faction would definitely sign the document because "we contributed to that agreement and we committed ourselves to it".
Wamba dia Wamba, "ousted" as RCD leader by the Ilunga faction in May, has from the start expressed his willingness to sign the document along with the other faction.
The ceasefire agreement stipulates an end to hostilities within 24 hours of the signing.
But each side in the conflict -- which pitted DRC President Laurent Kabila and his allies from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda -- has accused the other of violations since July 10.
The full programme outlined in the ceasefire document, which has been held up by the RCD problem, is now expected to get under way.
It calls on the United Nations to deploy a peacekeeping force in the vast, mineral-rich central African country within four months.
Until then, the ceasefire is to be monitored by a Joint Military Commission formed by the belligerents under a neutral chairman appointed by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), together with UN/OAU observers.
All foreign forces are to be withdrawn after six months. The agreement stipulates that armed groups in the DRC, including the Interahamwe Hutu militia responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, will be tracked down and disarmed.
It also calls for the government of the DRC and the rebel RCD and MLC, as well as unarmed opposition groups, to enter into talks on the country's political future.
Nyarugabo said some of these provisions could cause problems, "such as making a choice for the representatives in the Joint Military Commission, the political committee and the rebel delegation to the national negotiations."
But whatever troubles might lie ahead, in Lusaka on Tuesday diplomats and UN officials were just hoping that the RCD signatures would finally make it onto the agreement.
Copyright (c) 1999 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/31/1999 06:52:11
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