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Rwandan Rebel Group, UN Join Congo Peace Talks - 2002-07-19

Negotiators from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to wrap up their peace talks late Friday in Pretoria, South Africa.

The talks began Thursday and were scheduled to last only one day. But the Rwandan and Congolese delegates not only kept talking for an extra day, they were also joined in Pretoria by representatives from the United Nations and from the Rwandan-backed rebel group, the Rally for Congolese Democracy, or RCD.

The talks aim to build on the progress made in Durban last week at the launch of the African Union, when Rwandan President Paul Kagame met with Congo President Joseph Kabila.

At earlier talks in Sun City, South Africa, Mr. Kabila reached a power-sharing deal with the Uganda-backed rebels, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo. But the deal excluded the RCD and has been rejected by Rwanda.

Regional security analysts say there can be no lasting peace deal in the Congo without Rwanda on board.

Rwanda has an estimated 20,000 troops in Congo. It says they are there because Rwandan ex-soldiers and militia members who took part in the 1994 genocide are operating from inside Congo and remain a threat to Rwandan national security. Rwanda said it will not withdraw its troops from Congo until that threat is addressed.

Analyst Henri Boshoff of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies says the Congo conflict is so closely linked with wars in neighboring countries that it cannot be solved on its own.

"I think what we actually need is more than handling these issues individually. I think the whole issue of the Great Lakes must be handled as an integrated issue, because DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zimbabwe are all involved. And you can't solve this issue individual-country-by-country. You'll have to solve all the conflicts simultaneously," Mr. Boshoff said.

One of the main issues at the Pretoria peace talks is believed to be creation of a so-called security cordon along the Rwandan border with Congo. Mr. Boshoff said the cordon could extend along the borders with Uganda and Burundi as well. The big question, he said, is who will provide the troops to police it.