Rebels and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo agreed on Sunday to share posts in a new unified military, breaking the deadlock in the formation of a two-year national transitional government.
Under the agreement signed in the capital, Kinshasa, Congolese President Joseph Kabila will chose the armed forces chief of staff and the head of the navy. The main rebel group, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Goma (RCD-Goma), will nominate the head of the ground forces; and the smaller rebel Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC), will head the air force.
Mustapha Niasse, the special representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, negotiated the deal. Niasse arrived in Kinshasa on Thursday to help give an impetus to the stalled talks. The impasse had threatened the formation of the government of national unity due today, the country's independence day.
"This is a step towards the establishment of a transitional government," Vital Kamerhe, the government's commissioner general for the peace process in the Great Lakes, told reporters in Kinshasa
"We are waiting to be presented with the next step which should be the formation of a transitional government," Moise Nyarugabu, the RCD-Goma representative in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue Follow-up Committee, added.
Formation of the transitional government is within the pact all Congoelse parties signed in December, Pretoria, South Africa, to end just over four years of war.
"We hope that the accord will be implemented," Jean-Pierre Bemba, the MLC leader, said.
Some two weeks ago Annan named former Canadian armed forces chief of staff Maurice Baril and Niasse as his envoys to Kinshasa to help the rivals resolve the military question.
"Essentially, it is now up to the Congolese to return the country to peace," Niasse said.