ICD delegates agree on draft economic programme

Delegates at the inter-Congolese dialogue (ICD) in Sun City, South Africa, on Tuesday produced a draft agreement on an interim economic programme for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A spokesman from the office of the facilitator of the dialogue said the committee was hoping to finalise the draft this week.

A total of US $3.5 billion was budgeted for over three years, with half that sum coming from "internal receipts" and half from "foreign income", a member of the facilitation team told journalists in Sun City. The programme envisages annual growth of 4 to 6 percent over the period.

The figures are in line with estimates from sources in western embassies in Kinshasa, who have said that DRC could attract 1.7 billion euros (about US $1.5 billion) from foreign public and private sources - underwritten by international financial institutions - over the next three years, if a broad-based national government is introduced.

The interim economic programme was one of five issues the committee was designed to solve before 12 April, when the ICD is due to end.

The other four issues were more contentious, said one of the committee members, Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, president of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML). "The other issues include the pillage of Congo's resources, the illegal or questionable contracts signed by rebel movements and the government, and the restitution of confiscated property," he said on Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the economic committee has reportedly made more progress than the other four committees - those for the political and legal system, defence, peace and reconciliation, and humanitarian and cultural affairs.

In the political and legal committee, delegates were still delivering statements on their positions rather than negotiating, Wamba said. However, a source from the facilitator's office said on Tuesday that the political committee was due to begin discussing the institution of the presidency the following day.

In the defence committee, discussion on Tuesday revolved around questions which had already been debated, said Francois Lumumba, president of the Mouvement nationaliste du Congo-Lumumba (MNC-L) opposition party. The debate mainly concerned the formation of a new national army - whether to integrate rebel command structures in a government army command, or to create an entirely new command, he said.

"The government appears to be taking its time in the committees," he said. "We think this is in order to avoid detailed commitments in whatever agreements emerge from the dialogue. We may get broad statements of principle from the dialogue," he added. "The question then will be how to maintain the momentum and move the substantive discussions on to the next stage."

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for the DRC, Namanga Ngongi, confirmed on Wednesday that RCD troops had withdrawn from Moliro, southeastern DRC, that morning. He said in a statement that troops of the United Mission in the DRC (known by its French acronym MONUC) had been dispatched to Yayama, Katanga Province, on Wednesday to observe the withdrawal of the Forces armées congolaises (FAC) troops from the town.

Following a breakdown in the dialogue over the capture of Moliro on 16 March by RCD forces, and a subsequent demand for a withdrawal from the UN Security Council, the UN reported on 22 March that both the government and RCD had agreed to withdraw from strategic points - the RCD from Moliro and Pweto within 10 days, and the government from Yayama and Kakaya within the same time period.

Ngongi added in a press release that he was "very worried" about information received regarding the movement of troops from rebel faction RCD-Kisangani-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-K-ML), towards Isiro, in northeastern DRC.

Fighting has also been reported about 60 km north of Moliro, southeastern DRC, AFP reported on Wednesday. The chief of staff of rebel group RCD told AFP that DRC armed forces and Burundi allies had attacked their positions, notably at Zongwe. MONUC was unable to confirm this on Wednesday.