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New Government Installed in D-R Congo - 2003-07-17

A new government has been installed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the swearing in of four vice presidents in the government of President Joseph Kabila. The government has two major goals: ending more than four years of war and guiding the country to democratic elections.

The four vice presidents were sworn in before members of the supreme court of Congo at the People's Palace, in the heart of the capital city. The ceremony lasted about an hour.

Congo's new vice presidents are well known in the country. Azarias Ruberwa is the leader of the largest rebel group, the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma. Another vice president, Jean Pierre Bemba, is the leader of the second largest rebel group, the Ugandan-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo. A third, Z'Ahidi Ngoma, now is a member of the civilian opposition, but was at one time a leading member of RCD-Goma, the group Mr. Ruberwa now heads.

The fourth vice president, Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi, was chosen by President Kabila, but he too has a reputation. He was at one time wanted by a Belgian court for inciting racial hatred against Tutsis, the ethnic group that Mr. Ruberwa belongs to.

Until Tuesday, there were doubts the swearing-in ceremony would take place at all, because of uncertainty about whether Mr. Ruberwa would come to Kinshasa.

Until last month, RCD Goma rebels were clashing with government-backed troops in the east of the country. More recently, Mr. Ruberwa said he would refuse to participate in the new government, unless his group received top positions in the new army, a demand that the government eventually agreed to.

After the issue of positions in the army was resolved, and only days before the swearing in process was to take place, Mr. Ruberwa made another demand. He said he wanted control of three military regions in the country. The Kabila government settled the matter by giving him control of two regions.

Congo's new government faces a daunting task. Three million people have perished in four years of fighting between various rebel and ethnic factions, and the fighting is not over, especially in eastern Congo, where ethnic militias rampage against civilians and other militia groups.

But ending the killing is not the only problem the new government faces. It has to find a way to stop the exploitation of natural resources in the Congo, a major reason for the war and conflict. It also has to create a national army from government troops and demobilized rebels.