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DRC Rebels Accuse President Kabila Of Autocratic Rule - 2004-02-02

Congo's two largest groups of former rebels and civilian opposition have accused president Joseph Kabila of creating autocratic rule, following a high-court ruling giving him broad powers to make appointments.

The factions, all of which have vice-presidents in Congo's new power-sharing government that officially ended five years of war last July, issued statements over the weekend condemning a recent supreme court ruling that gave President Joseph Kabila sweeping powers of appointment.

Under the court ruling, President Kabila has the power to appoint provincial governors, the governor of the central bank, top civil servants and members of the state security services.

Provincial governors, who control the local political apparatus, are expected to play a crucial role in the next elections planned for 2005. Control over some of the mineral-rich provinces is dividing the central government and creating political tension in Kinshasa.

One of the former rebel group, Rally for Congolese Dermocracy-Goma, issued a statement Saturday condemning the moves by the president to accumulate extra powers. In its words, "The true path of the President registers in his recover all state powers with the view of installing a new dictatorship in the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Another group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, referred to the president as autocratic.

Analysts see the supreme-court decision as an attempt by President Kabila's hard-liners to exclude others from government. They point out crucial decisions are being made by Mr. Kabila and his inner circle of top aides and former cabinet ministers.

But some Western diplomats in the capital Kinshasa are downplaying the court decision, saying President Kabila is merely testing the political waters and is unlikely to use powers of appointment without consulting other groups. They say Mr. Kabila has pledged to diplomats and political opponents in private that he would not exercise his powers without consultation.