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DRC, Rwanda Leaders Meet - 2001-09-27


Leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have met in Malawi for talks aimed at ending Congo's three-year civil war. The discussions ended earlier than expected, but summit organizers say progress was made toward ending the conflict.

The talks between Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan leader Paul Kagame began Wednesday and were expected to continue through Thursday.

The discussions lasted only five hours. Both men left the closed-door meeting without making any statements. The host, Malawi President Bakili Muluzi, said there was progress. He said the Congolese and Rwandan leaders did agree on some points, but Mr. Muluzi gave no specifics.

Rwanda and the Congolese government are adversaries in Congo's civil war, which has drawn in several nations in the region. Rwanda entered the conflict in support of Congolese rebels fighting to topple the Kinshasa government. Relief agencies say the conflict has killed more than two-million people.

Peace negotiations have picked up speed since Joseph Kabila took office in January, following the assassination of his father, President Laurent Kabila.

Among the main obstacles in the peace process is the presence of Rwandan troops in Congo. Rwanda has insisted on maintaining a military presence in the country, saying Congo is serving as a base for Rwandan Hutu rebels who are accused of carrying out the 1994 massacre of ethnic Tutsis.

Mr. Kabila and Mr. Kagame were expected to discuss the withdrawal of Rwandan troops according to the terms of a peace accord signed in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1999.

The Congolese government, rebels, and members of the unarmed opposition are due to meet in Ethiopia next month to discuss implementation of the Lusaka accord.

In a development signaling yet another challenge to the peace process, leaders of a pro-government militia known as the Mai-Mai on Wednesday threatened not to cooperate with the peace efforts if they are not allowed to take part in talks next month.

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