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New Government to Take Power in Congo - 2003-07-01

A new government has been officially announced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after months of negotiations. The transitional government aims to end Congo's four-year civil war and lead the country back to democratic elections in two years.

The list of ministers for the new Congolese Cabinet, announced late Monday, marks an end to months of negotiations and political squabbling between the government of Joseph Kabila and the country's main rebel groups.

The government will take the ministries of the Interior and Finance, the Rwandan-backed rebel group The Rally for Congolese Democracy will take the Ministry of Economy and Defense, and the Ugandan-backed rebels, The Movement for the Liberation of Congo will take the Budget and Foreign Affairs postings.

The civilian opposition has been granted control of the Ministry of Mining, a significant post in the mineral-rich country.

Although negotiations between rebels and President Kabila's entourage started more than a year ago, after the assassination of Mr. Kabila's father and then-president, Laurent Kabila, the talks have recently been undermined by clashes between government-backed militia and the Rwandan-backed rebels in the east of the country.

Congo's civil war has claimed more than three million lives since it began in 1998, either through direct conflict or war-induced starvation and disease.

In recent weeks, Congo has come back on the international political map, with attention strongly focused on the outcome of a deployment of a French-led multi-national force in the northeast of the country.

Diplomatic pressure to succeed in the transitional process has increased with the renewal of the U.N. mandate in Congo on the horizon, and with President Bush's planned visit to the region at the end of this week.

With last Saturday's agreement on the power-sharing of the army, which left the government with the top post, and rebels with control of the ground forces, the way was left open to announce the list of ministers in time for independence day celebrations that took place on June 30.

Diplomats and politicians have viewed these latest developments as a positive step forward, but there remains the logistical process of bringing the various belligerents to the capital, Kinshasa before the swearing-in process.

While the government is installed, the U.N. mission in Congo will begin a monitoring mission to ensure government-backed militia and rebel troops start their withdrawal from North Kivu province, following weeks of clashes.

Though the political questions have been resolved, for the time being, Congo will have to turn its attention to demobilizing its thousands of militiamen, and ensuring that trade in its mineral resources, a principle reason for the war, is made transparent.