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Uncertainty, Delay Cast Shadow Over DRCongo Reconciliation - 2003-07-14

Doubts persist about whether a government of reconciliation ending nearly five years of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will actually be sworn in. The installation of the government was supposed to begin this week, but has fallen behind schedule, due to renewed tensions between the government and the main rebel group RCD-Goma.

The beginnings of a newly functioning government were supposed to take shape on Monday, with the transfer of portfolios from old cabinet ministers to newly appointed ministers in the transitional government.

But the handover of key posts has been delayed. Ministers and vice ministers allocated to the country's largest rebel group, Rally for Congolese Democracy or RCD-Goma, did not arrive in the capital as scheduled.

RCD-Goma ministers who were supposed to be transported by the U.N. mission in Congo on Sunday did not travel. They had not been authorized by the national transitional committee to travel with their entourage of more 200 people, mostly bodyguards.

The U.N. mission had been given instructions to transport only the ministers themselves.

RCD-Goma officials have continually reminded the United Nations that they are not satisfied with security arrangements, and therefore need to bring their own bodyguards.

But a wider crack is starting to form in the structure of the peace deal. RCD-Goma leader Azarias Ruberwa, announced last week that his movement would claim three military regions.

Although negotiations over the sharing of top posts in the army were completed at the end of last month, the issue of control of military regions which contain the country's four naval and three air force bases was left unresolved.

The unilateral decision by Mr. Ruberwa angered international mediators because control of the military regions is technically an issue for the transitional committee to decide, not for any one political element.

However, officials of RCD-Goma have said that they will not change their minds, as they are only dividing up the territory that they already control, into three sectors.

President Joseph Kabila is said to be unhappy with the result, and has asked the Rwandan backed RCD-Goma to reverse its decision over the military regions. In previous talks with the government, RCD-Goma had only been offered one such region.

And while such difficulties persist, it is not clear whether the RCD-Goma leader will arrive in Kinshasa on Tuesday as expected, ahead of being of sworn in as one of four vice presidents under the negotiated political formula.

On Saturday, he officially announced the end of the war in the eastern stronghold of Goma, on the Rwandan border. But this was on the same day that news of the decision to claim the military regions was made public.

The second largest rebel group, the Ugandan-backed MLC, or the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, has also planned to send its leader Jean Pierre Bemba, to the capital on Tuesday. Although his ministers have arrived, it is not likely that he will come to Kinshasa if RCD-Goma forces another delay to the process that has already been delayed twice in the last two months.

Congo's war has been fueled by the support of various rebel groups by Rwanda and Uganda in their bid to control the mineral-rich east of the country, and has already claimed more than three million lives.