CENTRAL AFRICA NEARER TO PEACE AS UNITED NATIONS PLAN SWINGS INTO ACTION

The tens of thousands of soldiers lining up on both sides on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will pull back from the front line, a process which should take two weeks, starting on 15th March. This will be observed by 500 UNO personnel, backed up by 2,500 UN peace-keepers. The 29-year-old President, General Joseph Kabila, will cooperate with the UN Security Council’s decision to open dialogue with the opposition political parties and armed factions. The son of Laurent-Desire Kabila has shown a political maturity beyond his years, a fact which may yet keep the heavily-divided DR Congo (ex-Zaire) united. At present, the country is cut in half, the eastern half of the country being occupied by Tutsi forces, backed by Rwanda and Uganda. The rebel forces number around 200,000, while the DR Congo has around 55,000 troops in the field, backed by a further 22,000 soldiers from neighbouring Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. All the factions involved in this conflict will, in principle, follow the UN proposal to pull back from their positions. Central Africa in this way pulls back from the brink of total war and gives rise to a climate of hope for the future and the opening of a new chapter in African politics. TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON