Congo leaders discuss power-sharing deal

After agreeing to divvy up power, Congo’s government, rebels and political opposition settled down in Dakar, Senegal, Wednesday to the tough part of their power-sharing deal: sharing, The Associated Press reports.

Hopes raised by the accord to end the war in Africa’s third-largest country were accompanied by a powerful fear that the pact signed Tuesday only guaranteed fighting—at close quarters—over the spoils.

The accord worked out in Pretoria, South Africa after months of effort aims to end a conflict that has claimed an estimated 2.5 million lives and plundered Congo of millions of dollars in gold, diamonds, uranium, and other mineral wealth.

The deal commits the Congo government and the two key rebel groups to a transitional government to lead the nation to democratic elections in about 2 1/2 years, the AP reports.

Under it, Congolese President Joseph Kabila would have four vice presidents—including two ambitious leaders of the two rebel groups, the AP reports.

On Wednesday, delegates to the negotiations in South Africa squared up to the task of starting a government from scratch: Writing a constitution, then slowly putting it into operation, the AP reports.

Progress was expected to be slow—even an agreement on how to pick Cabinet ministers and other key officials isn’t foreseen until mid-January, the AP reports.

Former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, chief mediator for some of the earlier unsuccessful, partial deals for Congo, will be asked to oversee the new talks, Congolese participants told the AP.

To work, the deal requires cooperation between the weak government of young Joseph Kabila—in power since the January 2001 assassination of his father, President Laurent Kabila—and two keen and restless rebels: Ugandan-backed Jean-Pierre Bemba and Rwandan-backed Adolphe Onusumba, the AP reports. The two rebel leaders have turned more than half the country into private, mineral-rich fiefdoms, which they will have to give up for the envisioned united Congo.

By bringing the rebels’ arms and ambitions into government, “the international community has brought the war to Kinshasa,” worried Elysee Muhimuzi, a human rights activist in the Congolese capital.

There are thousands of armed U.N. forces in Congo; some are to deploy in the capital to try to keep the peace there.

Eventually, Congo, which in four decades of independence has never had a solid army of its own or been able to enforce laws nationwide, will have to forge an armed forces out of former enemies.

Additionally, the accord will require that all of Congo’s people benefit from the nation’s resources, which would be invested and developed for the citizens.

The norm in Congo—one established under decades of rule by Mobutu Sese Seko—is to neglect most Congolese, particularly in the wild East, and to funnel fortunes into private bank accounts overseas, the AP reports.