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23 Jan 2001 00:00
DESPITE public unease at the prospect of Democratic Congo’s slain leader being succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila is not likely to leave the stage quickly, say analysts.
Diplomats say that any political manoeuvring among his father’s former aides is unlikely to affect his own position in the very near term.
“Even if there are competing forces within the ruling clique, it is not necessarily the case that for now those forces do not also find it convenient to accept him,” said one African diplomat.
Joseph Kabila, a 31-year-old major-general who held command of the army, was appointed acting president the day after President Laurent Kabila was shot by a bodyguard last Tuesday.
Those Congolese who have struggled for many years for the right to choose their own leaders are angry at the monarchy-style succession. Many others are suspicious of Joseph Kabila’s reluctance to appear in public.
Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo said at the weekend that Joseph would be officially sworn in as Democratic Republic of Congo’s president some time after the funeral on Tuesday for his father.
Joseph will take over a country that has known little but strife in the less than four years since Laurent Kabila toppled veteran President Mobutu Sese Seko with the help of Rwandan and Ugandan friends.
“Major-General Joseph Kabila is our president now,” said one Congolese army general. “We are in a state of war and you can’t expect us to be changing presidents just like that. His position is secure and he is very much up to the job.”
Perhaps even more importantly, he appears to have the support of Congo’s key military ally Angola and also Zimbabwe. Military sources say Angolan reinforcements have already been sent to Kinshasa and the southern city of Lubumbashi.
Many analysts believe the allies want a way out of Congo, or at least of having to fight there, and suspect that Joseph might not insist on such tough peace terms as his father.
But a Congolese cabinet minister warned that while the government would do whatever it could to end the war, a peace summit must not be rushed. - Reuters
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