afrol.com, 19 January - A Government declaration read on state TV and radio ended two days of confusion in Congo Kinshasa (DRC). President Laurent Kabila's death, already known to most Congolese, was announced, and the DRC officially enters a new era, at the moment led by Laurent Kabila's son, Joseph.
The Government declaration expressed "indescribable grief" and decreed "30 days of national mourning throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo." Laurent Kabila's body is expected to be brought back to Kinshasa on Sunday from Zimbabwe, where he was sent for medical treatment, and the funeral will be on Tuesday. No information on the circumstances leading to his assassination was given.
A broadcasting journalist, not by a Government official, read the announcement. The declaration included a "testament" Kabila had left to the Public Salvation Government, including four points; Firstly, maintain your discipline and remain calm and serene, particularly at this time of war and aggression; Secondly, protect the population and ensure the safety of people and property; Thirdly, defend the integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo and; Fourthly, cast the aggressors off the national territory.
The first signs from the Kinshasa Government after Kabila's death therefore indicate that the Government will try to continue the policy defined by Kabila. The Government's foreign allies have already confirmed that they will continue to stand behind Kinshasa, retaining their troops in the country. At the moment, 31-year-old Kabila junior seemingly has the hands at the wheel in Kinshasa, expected to continue on his father's policies.
Speculations whether Joseph Kabila is still alive are diminishing by the insistence that he is now the Interim President of the DRC. The representation of former colonial power Belgium yesterday confirmed that is had been introduced to Joseph Kabila on the day before, dispelling rumours that he had been killed alongside with his father. He is "alive and well" Belgian foreign ministry spokesman Koen Vervaeke told the UN media IRIN. Joseph Kabila has however still not made any public appearance, an astonishing fact in the critical situation the DRC finds itself in.
Joseph Kabila is, however, met with general scepticism. Reports say he lacks popularity within the population, that the legitimacy of a family succession in Kinshasa is questioned and that he is the target of widespread discontent within the army, which he has led in battle against the rebels - from loss to loss, his critics say. The "quiet and shy soldier" is not given much confidence in be able to lead the DRC through these difficult times. His possible insecurity will force him to follow the policies of his father to maintain legitimacy. That he will not be the President of national unity is already clear after Congolese rebel groups have said they will not recognise Joseph as their President.
Joseph Kabila still has not been named President by the Kinshasa Government, and his failure to appear in public might indicate that he will not be named President. The only public statement considering where Congo Kinshasa is turning in its new era have been the reading of "Kabila's testament". Renewed government attacks on rebels in northern DRC further indicate that the old line of conflict maintenance will be kept. What is happening behind closed doors in Kinshasa, however, deciding on who will be the next leader and which policies to follow, is a totally open question.
The international community, in general silently relieved by Laurent Kabila's death, is unisonous in its cry for a return to the 1999 Lusaka Peace Accord, to which the Congolese President was seen as the greatest obstacle. The UN is ready to deploy 5,500 peacekeepers as soon as the fighting stops. The rebels and the Ugandan and Rwandan Governments supporting them, continuously say they nourish hope for peace if the new Kinshasa Government is willing to implement the Lusaka Peace. It has been noted that the rebels did not take advantage of the chaotic situation to launch an offensive.
The first military movements reported after Laurent Kabila's death, on the other hand, are a possible Government offensive in the north. The many signs from abroad have been of hope. The few signs from Kinshasa, however, have been of continued confrontation.
Sources: Based on news
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