DR Congo

DRC: Visiting French minister pushes for reopening of Congo river

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KINSHASA, 25 Feb 2003 (IRIN) - A visiting French minister has obtained assurances from the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) for the reopening of the Congo river, and pledged a total of about €8 million (US $8,671,208) in support of rehabilitation and development efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, Minister Delegate for Cooperation and Francophonie Pierre-Andre Wiltzer said that during discussions held on Monday in the rebel-controlled northeastern DRC city of Kisangani, he had received assurances from RCD-Goma for the reopening of the river to commercial traffic, which has been suspended for the more than four years that war has ravaged the DRC. "We are waiting to see the actions taken by the RCD-Goma," Wiltzer said.

Speaking on Radio Okapi, an RCD-Goma representative, Emile Ilunga, said that the river had been reopened since Monday in the territory controlled by his group. "This measure only pertains to the transport of goods, and not people, because we must remain vigilant," Ilunga said.

Wiltzer also signed several agreements with the Kinshasa government in support of rehabilitation and development projects, including €305,000 in support of revitalising the Congo river basin; €5 million for capacity-building initiatives in the cities of Kinshasa, Kisangani, and Lubumbashi; and €2.75 million in support of a national poverty alleviation campaign.

Wiltzer, who arrived in Kinshasa on Sunday, was scheduled to hold talks with DRC President Joseph Kabila on Wednesday, before returning to France.

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