Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 7 News List

New government in Congo on the brink of formation


The commission overseeing the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) transition to democratic rule released a new timetable on Tuesday for the setting up of an interim government and other institutions.

Under the new plan, announced after two days of talks, a transitional government cabinet will meet for the first time on May 31.

The timetable had been blocked by wrangling over the make up of the armed forces.

The commission set up an ad hoc committee to distribute responsibilities in the armed forces among the various armed groups by May 26, spokesman Matenda Kielu said.

In a tight programme between now and mid-June, an armed forces chief will be installed on May 27, followed by four vice presidents and government ministers. The final date on the calendar is the setting up of the national assembly and the Senate on June 10.

Warring factions, the government and the opposition signed a peace deal last December to end four years of brutal warfare and set up a government of national unity.

Under the agreement, President Joseph Kabila remains as head of state of the huge central African country during a two-year run-up to the first elections since those on independence from Belgium in 1960.

He will be seconded by four vice presidents representing the government, each of the two main rebel movements and the unarmed opposition. Ministries will be split among the various parties.

The war in the DRC broke out in 1998 as an attempt to topple then president Laurent Kabila, father of current president Joseph Kabila, and at its height drew in troops from seven other African nations, many of them accused of looting the anarchic country's resources.

The war is estimated to have left some 2.5 million dead in the mineral-rich but impoverished country.

Despite the peace deal, fighting is continuing in the northeastern town of Bunia.

A French military reconnaissance team arrived there on Tuesday as the UN said at least 230 people, mostly civilians, had been killed in clashes in the last two weeks.

It arrived a day after the existing UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, announced that two of its observers had been "brutally murdered" in the Ituri region.

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