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Congo Army, Rebels Sign Peace Agreement - 2003-06-29

A deal has been signed between the main rebel army and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The deal paves the way for a new transitional government after more than four years of war. It ends weeks of quarrels between the government and the rebel group Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD-Goma), backed by Rwanda.

Government and rebel negotiators agreed on a formula for the sharing of power in the army which leaves the government in control of the top post and gives the Rally for Congolese Democracy command of forces on the ground.

The compromise allows the installation of a government of national reconciliation that has already been postponed twice in the past month over disputes to do with the army.

Congo's war has claimed more than three million lives since it started in 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda invaded the east in order to remove extremist rebels including those involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

After the invasion, both countries turned to exploiting the mineral rich regions of eastern Congo, by supporting proxy militias and Congolese rebel groups.

The Kinshasa agreement was signed one day before the deadline imposed by international mediators in the Congo, and will put a shine on independence day celebrations Monday.

While the transitional government will not be formally installed until at least next week, most diplomats in the capital believe the deal will stick, since the issue of the army control was seen as the major stumbling block.

Last week, a U.N. mediation team was able to secure an agreement between the government and the Rally for Congolese Democracy that they would both start withdrawing forces from North Kivu province, where there have been several major clashes in recent weeks.