Protests as Kabila visits Blair

2001-03-13 20:19

London - Congolese President Joseph Kabila met British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday, as protesters gathered at the gates of 10 Downing Street to denounce the visit.

Kabila, 29, was sworn in as leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo in January after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila. He has vowed to press for implementation of a 1999 cease-fire agreement signed by the major factions in the country's civil war.

Kabila posed for photographs with Blair on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence, and then held talks with Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

Cook said he had expressed Britain's support for the 1999 Lusaka accord.

"I also took the opportunity to raise with the president the human rights situation in the DRC and the importance we attach to maintaining international norms and respecting fundamental freedoms," the foreign secretary said.

About 20 protesters gathered outside Downing Street greeted the Congolese delegation with chants of "Kabila Killer."

"Today we are surprised to see Kabila come in here as if he owns everything," said Laurent Mbango-Bin-Kitoko, vice president of the Community Congolese group. "It is insulting for the Congolese community living in Britain and we cannot accept it.

"If the British government want something from Congo then they should wait until Congo is democratic," he added.

Kabila has said he wants to end Congo's 2 +-year-old civil war, and has held meetings with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. - Sapa-AP