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Leaders of Congo, Rwanda in Talks to Prevent Renewed War - 2004-06-25

The leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are meeting in Nigeria in an effort to prevent a renewed war in central Africa.

A Nigerian government statement says the meeting at the Abuja airport between Congolese leader Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame is part of continuing efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability throughout Africa.

The meeting was called following a new insurgency by ethnic Tutsi-led rebel forces in eastern Congo this month, and the subsequent decision by Mr. Kabila to send thousands of troops into the mineral-rich region that borders Rwanda. Mr. Kabila has accused Rwanda of backing the rebels, but the Rwandan government denies this.

Rwanda in turn, has accused Congo of continuing to harbor fighters responsible for the genocide that killed 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. Rwandan troops have also been on high alert across the border.

A Congo expert from the London-based World Markets Research Center, Gus Selassie, says he was surprised the talks in Nigeria came together so quickly, amid worsening tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa.

"The language coming out of the two capitals has been sort of escalating, in a way that both sides were trying to up the stakes," he said. "It's nice to see that the outside world has managed to, realizing how bad things got the last time, there seems to be more determination that the same thing shouldn't happen again."

Congo is struggling to emerge from a five-year war, which began with a Rwanda-backed rebellion in eastern Congo. That war eventually drew in half a dozen foreign armies, and claimed an estimated 2.5 million lives, before ending last year with a United Nations backed power-sharing peace deal.