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Experts Praise Rwanda-Congo Peace Deal - 2002-07-30

Political experts in Africa are praising the peace agreement signed in South Africa by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila. But some observers say it will take much longer than the planned 90 days to implement the deal.

Under the plan, Rwandan Hutu rebels based in Congo are to be rounded up, disarmed, and repatriated within 90 days. At the same time, Rwanda will withdraw its 20,000 troops from Congo territory. A U.N. force called MONUC is to verify that both nations are taking their promised steps.

Henri Boschoff, a military analyst with a private South African research group, the Institute for Strategic Studies, is highly skeptical about the timetable. "It's impossible to implement this thing in 90 days. Logistically and capacity-wise, it's impossible," he stressed. "And then, the other thing is to get enough troops. South Africa is going to contribute but that would not be enough. So MONUC [the U.N. force] would have to look elsewhere for more troops. I would say it's the beginning of the end (of the war in Congo), but it's not going to be 90 days. We are looking at at least about a year."

Francois Grignon, of the International Crisis Group, says the Rwandan Hutu rebels in Congo are not likely to give themselves up until Rwanda guarantees them a safe return home to Rwanda.

If Rwandan soldiers refuse to surrender voluntarily, it will be up to Congo troops to capture them. The U.N. force does not have the mandate to do this. Mr. Grignon says it will be hard for Congo's President Kabila to turn on the Hutu rebels who have been his allies in the Congo civil war.

"The problem is actually to either convince them [the Hutus] to go through the demobilization process, and to do this you need therefore to give them some guarantees, especially political guarantees, which are not forthcoming from Rwanda. Or if you need to do it forcefully, you need the military capacity to actually confront them," he said. "And this is where it will be difficult. Not only are they comrades in arms but they are also the elite group of the FAC [Congo army] that has been protecting the Congolese positions throughout this war."

A consultant in conflict resolution based in Cape Town, Jan Van Eck, says he is in no doubt that Rwanda will pull out of Congo, if its security concerns are addressed.

He emphasizes the need for the United Nations to make sure that the Rwandan Hutu rebels do not simply relocate to Burundi to continue their attacks against the Rwandan government.