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Forces in Congo Reach Shaky Pact to End War

Africa: Rebel leaders make no comment about cease-fire reached in Paris.

November 29, 1998| From Associated Press

PARIS — Countries fighting in Congo agreed to a cease-fire Saturday, striking a shaky consensus to stop the war between rebels and forces loyal to Congolese President Laurent Kabila.

However, it was not clear whether the pact was supported by Congolese rebel leaders, who made no public statements on the deal.

French President Jacques Chirac told reporters attending the final day of a summit of African leaders in Paris that Uganda, Rwanda and Congo had agreed to end fighting in a war that has raised fears of an all-out regional conflagration.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan presided at a two-hour meeting of officials, including Kabila and the leaders of Uganda and Rwanda, who are supporting the insurgency. The heads of Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso also took part.

Chirac said the meeting had been "held in a tense but not hostile environment."

He did not refer to whether the rebels in Congo had been consulted or what their position now would be. A rebel leader, Arthur Ngoma, was scheduled to attend the summit as an observer, but he could not immediately be reached for comment.

Though no rebel leaders were available, rebel ground troops in Congo said Saturday that the war would continue despite the Paris agreement.

Chirac said Kabila had agreed to democratic reforms and the need to establish dialogue. "Every party has made progress toward a greater rapprochement," he said.

Brokered by Annan, the cease-fire was to be signed sometime before a meeting of the Organization of African Unity on Dec. 17 and 18, Chirac said.

"The secretary-general has achieved an agreement for the reaffirmation of the commitment to put an end to this absurd and painful war," Chirac said.

Kabila came to power in May 1997 after toppling longtime Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. He promised reform and democracy in his renamed Democratic Republic of Congo, but many critics say his regime's 18 months in power has seen repressive policies and a growing intolerance of criticism.

Disaffected members of his armed forces banded together with ethnic Tutsi insurgents earlier this year and launched a rebellion, accusing the president of corruption, nepotism and tribalism.

At a noisy meeting with thousands of Congolese at a Paris hotel later Saturday, Kabila said Uganda and Rwanda should be forced to withdraw their support of the rebel insurgency.

"We want to pressure public opinion in France and everywhere so that this meeting will weigh heavily on the leaders of those countries," Kabila told the boisterous audience, some of whom banged drums and waved national flags.

Kabila has demanded that Rwanda and Uganda withdraw their troops and leave Congo. Both countries claim they have legitimate security interests there and say they will stay as long as Congo remains a threat.

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