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New Round of DRC Peace Talks Begin in South Africa - 2002-11-15


Delegates from the government and several factions in the Democratic Republic of Congo are in South Africa for a new round of peace talks. The key issue is likely to be a new U.N. report on corruption in the DRC.

Delegates from the Congolese government, opposition political parties, civic groups and the two main rebel movements are meeting in Pretoria to discuss moving toward a transitional government.

It is the second round of talks this month. At the last meeting, the parties agreed in principle to a South African proposal for an interim presidency leading up to elections in the year 2004. The deal has yet to be signed.

At this round of talks, analyst Henri Boshoff of the Institute for Security Studies, says the sticking point is likely to be what action to take in response to a U.N. document, known as the Kassem report, on the plundering of Congo's natural resources during the country's four-year civil war.

"The other issue is very important, and I'm quite worried about that," he said. "It's a new issue. It's the Kassem report. And what government is saying is that he's cleaned his government of all the people that were named in the report. And they are expecting the other parties to do the same."

In a surprise move Tuesday, Congolese President Joseph Kabila suspended several top-ranking members of his government, whom the report had accused of crimes, including theft, embezzlement, smuggling, taking kickbacks and bribery. The report also names several senior members of the two main rebel groups, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo and the Rally for Congolese Democracy, as well as officials from Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda.

Analysts believe Mr. Kabila suspended the officials to bolster his position at the Pretoria talks.

In addition to the Kassem report, Mr. Boshoff says, the delegates in Pretoria are likely to discuss two other main issues, power-sharing at the national, provincial and local levels, and the drafting of a new constitution. But he believes there is broad consensus on those matters, which have already been debated at length in previous peace talks.

"I think it's very important that we get, as quick as possible, a political solution, so the so-called disarmament process can start," he said. "Because it will not start before we have a political agreement."

The talks in Pretoria are scheduled to last a week.

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