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DR Congo peace deal signed

The four-year war is thought to have claimed over 2 million lives
The four-year war is thought to have claimed over 2 million lives

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CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault reports the Democratic Republic of Congo, rebel groups and opposition parties have signed a peace treaty. (December 17)
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PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo, rebel groups and opposition political parties have signed an historic treaty to end the devastating four-year war in the heart of Africa.

"War is definitely over. For once, all parties have signed on to a political agreement," said Mojanku Gumbi, legal advisor to South African President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday.

The conflict in Congo, which sucked in five other countries and was labelled Africa's 'world war,' is estimated to have claimed two million lives.

Congo President Joseph Kabila -- who took over the post when his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated in 2001 -- will continue in the post for an undetermined period of time, possibly as long as three years, until elections can be held.

If Kabila wishes to stay on as president, he will have to win by popular vote. He has not announced his intentions.

The timing of the elections will depend on the election commission's ability to administer a ballot throughout the country.

In the new power-sharing government, there will be four vice presidents in a plan dubbed "four plus one."

Members of the rebel groups -- the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and the Ugandan-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) -- and political opposition parties will fill four vice presidential positions. Kabila is the "one" in the plan.

Congo's ambassador to South Africa, Bene M'poko said: "This is a wonderful, early Christmas gift."

War broke out in Congo in August 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda backed Congolese rebels seeking to oust Laurent Kabila, accusing him of supporting groups, including the Hutu militia, which threatened their security.

Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola, backed the Kinshasa government.

-- CNN Johannesburg Bureau Chief Charlayne Hunter-Gault contributed to this story



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