Kabila, U.N. Strike A Deal in Inquiry On Refugee Massacre|
By Buchizya Mseteka
President Laurent Kabila struck a deal with the United Nations today, granting its massacre inquiry the right to investigate where it wants without interference.
U.S. special envoy Bill Richardson and Kabila announced the deal, which also extends the period under investigation, after talks earlier in the day.
Richardson, Washington's U.N. ambassador, said at a news conference that the U.N. investigators would begin work by the end of the first week of November and aim to complete their probe by the end of February.
"We want to see action and not words, and this is a good start," he said, adding that he is "cautiously optimistic."
The U.N. team, which arrived Aug. 24 in Kinshasa, was set up to investigate relief workers' allegations that Kabila's forces or his allies from Rwanda massacred thousands of Hutu refugees during the revolt that brought him to power last spring in Congo, then named Zaire. Kabila repeatedly has professed his army's innocence.
Richardson read a joint communique that said, "The government of . . . Congo confirms acceptance of the team.
"The team is free to deploy wherever it wishes without any interference," the statement said. "The mandate of the team covers the period March 1, 1993, to December 31, 1997."
Kabila earlier had insisted that the inquiry should not extend beyond May 17, the date on which he ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Seko after a seven-month rebellion.
"I agree absolutely with the contents of Ambassador Richardson's statement," he said. "This is a big change by us."
Richardson, who met Kabila earlier in the day in a final effort to save the inquiry, said that if the team needed extra time, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan could extend its work beyond Feb. 28.
"If the team has been unable to complete its work by then the secretary general may extend this period in consultation with the government," the statement said.
Disputes over details and parameters of the inquiry had kept the team in Kinshasa. On Oct. 1, Annan withdrew the team's leaders in frustration at the delays.
"The problem was never with us. The problem was within the U.N. team itself," Kabila said at the news conference. "There has been an international conspiracy against this government."
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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