Congo's Kabila says to create national unity government

KINSHASA Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:05pm BST

Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stan Honda/Pool

Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stan Honda/Pool

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KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congo's President Joseph Kabila said on Wednesday he would create a government of national unity including members of the opposition and civil society to push for peace in the central African giant.

Kabila, presenting the findings of a national dialogue to resolve years of crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo, also ruled out a blanket amnesty for rebels operating in the mineral-rich east and called for the insurgents to lay down their arms.

In a wide-ranging speech, Kabila pledged to act on the more than 600 recommendations drafted by representatives of the government, opposition and civil society during three weeks of talks which concluded this month.

"A government of national unity will be soon put in place," Kabila said in a rare public speech. "Its priority mission will be the restoration of peace and the authority of the state, reconstruction, decentralisation, organisation of elections and the improvement of living conditions of the population."

Congo ranks bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index. Millions of people have died in eastern Congo from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as foreign-backed insurgent groups have waged a series of rebellions, often for control of the region's rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin.

Among the recommendations of the national dialogue were specific reforms to the national electoral commission ahead of presidential elections due in 2016.

Some members of the opposition - who dispute the validity of Kabila's 2011 election victory - accuse the president of wanting to change the constitution to seek a third term.

Kabila announced the appointment of a special representative to combat against sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers in lawless eastern Congo.

He voiced frustration that peace talks between the government and the M23 rebel group hosted by neighbouring Uganda were stalled and he warned that his government was not prepared to wait indefinitely for a solution.

In a surprise move, Kabila also announced the repatriation of the remains of former President Mobutu Sese Seko - who Kabila's father toppled from power in 1997 in a Rwandan-backed rebellion.

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by David Lewis)

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