- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

PRETORIA, South Africa Delegates to talks on the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo signed an agreement early today to end four years of brutal warfare and set up a government of national unity.
The agreement will see President Joseph Kabila remain as head of state during a two-year run-up to the first elections since those upon independence from Belgium in 1960.
He will be seconded by four vice presidents not named in the agreement representing the government, each of the two main rebel movements and the unarmed opposition.
Ministries will be split among the various parties.
The agreement was signed by exhausted delegates representing the Kinshasa government, rebels, militias, opposition politicians and civil society after last-minute negotiations continued virtually nonstop from Sunday through to early today.
"The pressure from the international community was incredible, and obviously, the pressure from our own people was enormous," said Bene M'Poko, the Congolese ambassador to South Africa and a member of the Kinshasa government delegation.
"We had to give them this Christmas present."
A controversial list assigning ministries to the various groups won general accord yesterday after the Ugandan-backed Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) agreed to give up the finance portfolio to the government, sources close to the talks said.
The agreement allows ministers from the various groups to have their own bodyguards from five to 15 but abandons a proposal that 2,000 South African troops assure their security.
It puts the presidency of the National Assembly one of the last sticking points in the gift of the MLC, which maintained it needed it for a fair balance of power.
The mediators, U.N. special envoy Moustapha Niasse and South African Provincial Affairs Minister Sydney Mufamadi, had earlier given the delegates, who have been negotiating on and off since February, a deadline of Dec. 14 to reach an agreement.
The war broke out in 1998 as an attempt to topple President Laurent Kabila, father of the current president. The elder Mr. Kabila was later assassinated.
It is estimated to have left about 2.5 million dead in the mineral-rich but impoverished country.
South African President Thabo Mbeki acted as midwife to the peace deal despite initial resistance from the Kinshasa government, which regarded him as too close to the rebels.
After numerous summits following the outbreak of civil war, which at its height involved troops from seven other African nations, belligerents signed a peace pact in Lusaka in July 1999 in which Mr. Mbeki had a major input, but it failed to halt the fighting.
An "inter-Congolese dialogue" began in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Oct. 15, 2001, but broke up shortly afterward, with participants unable to reach any basis of agreement.
After several more false starts, in July, at the inaugural summit of the African Union in Durban, on South Africa's east coast, Mr. Mbeki brought Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame together.
What they said remained confidential, but those talks were followed by five days of negotiation between Congo and Rwanda in Pretoria, and the two leaders signed an agreement in the South African capital at the end of that month under which Kigali agreed to withdraw its 20,000 troops from Congo in return for the rounding up and repatriation of Rwandan Hutu rebels in the Congo who had been involved in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Mr. Mbeki attended a summit on Congo in Lusaka, Zambia, in May, and the following month visited Kinshasa for talks with Mr. Kabila.
In November, Mr. Mbeki told delegates to the Pretoria talks: "All of us will be acclaimed by the Congolese people as heroes and heroines if we do reach agreement that gives hope to the Congolese people.
"None of us wants the Congolese people to brand us as villains because we blocked progress to peace, democracy and development," he added.
In Pretoria, Mr. Mbeki was instrumental in crafting the formula under which four vice presidents will be appointed, sources close to the talks said.
"We have been at this for a very long time and it is important for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the continent as a whole. I'd be very happy if they do it," Mr. Mbeki said yesterday shortly before the signature.

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