DRC calls for peace as Kabila is laid to rest

By Time of article published Jan 23, 2001

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By Nic Long

Kinshasa - The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) wants peace, reconstruction and gradual democratisation, the country's new leader told Belgium's foreign minister on Tuesday.

Louis Michel, Belgian's foreign minister, said the statement from Joseph Kabila, the interim president, was "encouraging", and he believed there was "a window of opportunity" to end the seven-nation war in the DRC.

Michel was the only minister from a European Union country to attend the funeral on Tuesday of Laurent Kabila, the DRC president, who was shot last Tuesday.

South Africa was represented at the funeral by Jacob Zuma, the deputy president, and Aziz Pahad, the deputy foreign affairs minister.

The presidents of Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Sudan, Zambia and Malawi all attended the funeral, while Kenya, Togo, Gabon and Congo Brazzaville were represented by their vice-presidents or deputy prime ministers.

About 2 000 people gathered outside Kinshasa's former parliament building, the People's Palace, to hear the funeral relayed on loudspeakers. There was loud applause for Joseph Kabila, who wore a dark suit and a black, collarless shirt.

The interim leader, son of the assassinated president, was flanked by Zimbabwean and Angolan bodyguards. The allied troops have never been as visible in Kinshasa as they were on Tuesday.

The main government speaker was Gaetan Kakudji, the interior minister, who said a national dialogue should proceed in dignity and not be used by political actors to seize power.

After the funeral mass, the coffin was lowered into the vault of an unfinished mausoleum outside the presidential Palace of the Nation, where foreign dignitaries laid flowers before the vault was sealed. - The Star Foreign Service

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