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Rwanda, DRC Reach Peace Deal - 2002-07-22


Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have reached a peace deal after five days of talks in South Africa.

The facilitator of the talks, South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, has issued a statement saying the two sides have reached an agreement and will now go home to brief their presidents on the deal. Mr. Zuma said there is no reason to think the Rwandan and Congolese leaders will reject the agreement.

Mr. Zuma declined to give details of the deal itself. But he did say the talks centered on two issues. One was the withdrawal of the estimated 20,000 Rwandan troops in the DRC. The other was what he called the "rounding up and dismantling" of the ex-Rwandan soldiers and Hutu extremist militia known as Interahamwe, which took part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and continues to operate out of eastern Congo.

Rwanda has an estimated 20,000 troops in the DRC and has refused to withdraw them until the Interahamwe militiamen are dealt with.

Mr. Zuma congratulated the two sides on their commitment to finding a solution that will restore the sovereignty and integrity of the DRC while achieving security for Rwanda.

The negotiations actually began several weeks ago in Durban, when representatives from both sides attended the launch of the African Union. Toward the end of the Durban summit, the presidents of Congo and Rwanda met in person, and new talks were scheduled to build on the progress they made toward ending the four-year-old war.

The latest round of talks began Thursday in Pretoria. For five days, small delegations led by the Rwandan and Congolese ministers in the presidency edged closer and closer to a deal. Analysts believe the pact between the two countries is a key stepping-stone to a comprehensive peace in the Great Lakes region.

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