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Former Congolese Rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba to be Sworn In as Vice President - 2003-07-15


The leader of the second biggest rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo has arrived Tuesday in Kinshasa. He is in the Congolese capital to be sworn in as part of a new transitional government that is meant to end over four years of war. But the leader of the largest rebel group in Congo, who is also supposed to be in the government, has still not arrived in the capital for the swearing-in ceremony.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, a millionaire businessman, and rebel leader of the Ugandan-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo (or MLC) came to the capital from his stronghold in the northwest of the country.

Hundreds of supporters welcomed him at the airport before he was whisked away to a private residence. On Thursday, if all goes as planned, Mr. Bemba will be sworn in as one of four vice presidents in a new transitional government for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Backers of the new government hope it will put an end to almost five years of war in Congo that has claimed over three million lives.

The government will be made up of various rebel groups and civilian leaders. Its major task is to shepherd the country back to democratic elections in two years time.

Two of the vice presidents will be the leaders of the two largest rebel groups - the Movement for the Liberation of Congo and the Rally for Congolese Democracy - and the other two, who have already been chosen, are from the government and the civilian opposition.

But Azarias Ruberwa, leader of the Rally for Congolese Democracy, the largest rebel group, has not yet arrived in the capital.

The installation of the government has had to be delayed twice in the last two months, primarily due to political squabbling between Mr. Ruberwa's group and the government over power sharing of the army.

But international diplomatic efforts to secure an agreement seemed to be paying off last month when a deal over the army paved the way for a power-sharing agreement.

However, last week Mr. Ruberwa claimed three military regions out of a possible ten in the country. The move upset the government of President Joseph Kabila, who asked the rebel leader to withdraw his claim.

A spokesman for the Rally for Congolese Democracy leader says he will not make up his mind on attending the swearing in ceremony until a compromise has been reached on the issue of the military regions. However, the spokesman also says he expects Mr. Ruberwa to come to the capital on Wednesday.

With time running out before the swearing in of the vice presidents on Thursday, the next 24 hours will be crucial for Congo.

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