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Congolese Peace Talks Begin Thursday in South Africa - 2002-07-17

A new round of peace talks on the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo is scheduled to begin Thursday in Pretoria, South Africa. The meeting aims to build on a meeting held last week of the presidents of Rwanda and Congo at the launch of the African Union in Durban.

South African officials said the Pretoria talks have been scheduled to last about five hours and will be facilitated by South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma. It is not yet clear exactly who will represent the Congolese and Rwandan governments.

The presidents of the two countries met last week, at the launch of the African Union in Durban. That meeting was brokered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and South African President Thabo Mbeki. The Pretoria talks are expected to build on the progress made there.

Other than acknowledging that the talks will take place, officials are silent about what will be discussed or what the two sides hope to achieve.

After the Durban talks, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the discussion centered on repatriation of Rwandan Hutu militia and ex-soldiers who were involved in the country's 1994 genocide. "We touched mainly on the issue of ex-FAR and Interahamwe and how that problem can be resolved in favor of ensuring security for our country and also for the region," Mr. Kagame said.

Mr. Kagame indicated they had also talked about the make-up of an eventual transitional government for the DRC. That issue was the focus of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue negotiations that took place earlier this year in Sun City, South Africa.

The Sun City talks did not produce an overall agreement, but on the sidelines the Congolese government made a power-sharing deal with one of the two main rebel groups, the Uganda-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo. But without the participation of the Rwanda-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy, most analysts called the Sun City deal meaningless.

Mr. Kagame said he and his Congolese counterpart, Joseph Kabila, essentially started from the beginning when they met in Durban last week. "So more or less we are back to where we were from the beginning. And perhaps there is need then to revisit the whole process with the sole aim of finding a way of creating a solution that is inclusive," He said.

Rwanda has an estimated 20,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Regional security analysts have said there can be no lasting peace deal in the DRC without Rwanda on board.