Accessibility links

Former Congo Rebels Say They Will End Government Boycott - 2004-09-01

A former Congolese rebel group that suspended its participation in Congo's government a week ago announced Wednesday it was ready to lift its boycott. The move follows intense international pressure, intervention from South African President Thabo Mbeki and renewed promises to move Congo's peace process forward.

Just over a week after announcing it was suspending its activities in Congo's transitional government, the Rally for Congolese Democracy announced Wednesday it was lifting its boycott.

The group's withdrawal from the government followed the massacre last month of at least 160 Congolese Tutsis in Burundi and plunged an already faltering peace process into more troubled waters.

RCD's decision was severely criticized, but South African President Thabo Mbeki, already due to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo on a state visit, held crisis talks with all the parties on Monday and Tuesday.

President Mbeki stayed late on Tuesday, urging former warring factions to find some common ground for negotiations. And by Wednesday evening, his work appeared to have paid off.

Azarius Ruberwa, the head of the Rally for Congolese Democracy and one of Congo's four vice presidents, said that the party had decided to rejoin the process after it was satisfied that the problems he had raised had been noted and would be tackled by Congo's political leaders and the international community.

RCD had complained that corruption remains rampant in Congo, the promised reform of the army had not taken place, and there was a lack of preparation for elections, which are due in ten months time.

RCD's withdrawal from the government rocked the peace process, which is supposed to rebuild a country that has been torn apart by a five-year war that in which three million people died, mostly from starvation and disease.

Explaining his group's decision to rejoin the government, Mr. Ruberwa said that he had been promised concrete measures, such as urgent meetings during the coming week and a new road map for peace.

Diplomats in the region welcomed the announcement but stressed that there was still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that Congo's fragile peace holds.