AFRICA/CONGO RD - Political tension and massacre of civilians. Is peace still a long way off?

Friday, 27 February 2004

Kinshasa (Fides Service)- Tension is still high in Democratic Congo after the arrest and release of Major Kassongo, a member of the Rassemblement Congo Democratic RCD/Goma one of the main rebel groups which is part of the interim national unity government. RCD/Goma and its allies threatened to withdraw from the executive and all government institutions.
RCD was formed in 1998 to oppose the then president Laurent-Desire Kabila (who died in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph). RCD split into three groups, RCD-Goma is the largest. In June 2003 an interim national unity government was formed on the basis of an agreement reached in South Africa, at Sun City, in April 2003. Besides President Joseph Kabila and most of the country’s political parties, most rebel groups are also part of the executive.
However so far all the executive has done is to slow down internal disputes. The arrest of Major Kassongo was the latest episode in a situation of rising tension among the different components of the executive.
In the meantime violence against innocent civilians continues. In the past two months Mai Mai militia forced 15,000 people to flee the village of Kitenge, in the southern province of Katanga and at least 100 civilians were killed in other attacks. Mai Mai militia fight troops from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda occupying eastern Congo. For years different groups of Mai Mai have turned to banditry killing and extorting money and food from civilians. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 27/2/2004, righe 24 parole 286)