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MPs from Kabila's party block amnesty vote

KINSHASA, 29 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Members of parliament from Congolese President Joseph Kabila's party walked out of the National Assembly, the lower chamber of Parliament, on Monday, blocking a vote on amnesty that, if passed, would have benefited those behind the death of Laurent-Desire Kabila, former president and father of the current leader.

"We cannot agree on granting an amnesty to people who killed President Laurent Kabila," said Jean-Pierre Kanga Boongo, an MP and member of Kabila's Parti du peuple pour la reconstruction et le développement.

Moreover, he said: "The debate on the amnesty law was inappropriate, since we had to finish work on the elections before moving to another point on the agenda."

Boongo led the exit of his colleagues from the National Assembly, forcing National Assembly President Olivier Kamitatu to prematurely end the meeting and reschedule it for the following day.

Some 85 out of 336 MPs at the meeting walked out. Under the law, two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly are required to attend a session during which a draft law is being examined for the first time.

Kamitatu said the assembly would reconvene on Tuesday and could pass the law by an absolute majority of 50 percent plus one.

Former belligerents, who are now part of the country's transitional government, are split over the amnesty law, which is provided for in an agreement all Congolese parties signed in 2002 to end more than five years of conflict. Civil war in the vast country had resulted in some 3.5 million deaths and the displacement of up to four million people.

The government had proposed the law to foster reconciliation and help usher in democracy after the transitional period. Those to have benefited from the law include those who have been blamed for acts of war and political offences.

A stumbling block to the passing of the law, however, is a clause stipulating that amnesty may not be granted to those who murder a head of state.

"We will examine and vote on the law by dropping this clause," said Moise Nyarugobo, leader of the MPs who were members of the former rebel group Rassemblement Congolais pour la démocratie (RCD).

MPs from the RCD remained in the assembly room after those from Kabila's party walked out.

Adoption of the amnesty law as well as other laws have delayed the holding of elections in the country. The polls scheduled for June 2005 have been postponed until June 2006.

A bodyguard shot dead Laurent Kabila on 16 January 2001 in his office in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. Some 100 people were found guilty during a subsequent murder trial, 30 of whom await death sentences.

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