The leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed at a meeting in South Africa to finish implementing their peace agreement within 12 months. The most important outstanding issue is the repatriation of Rwandan Hutus.
Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joseph Kabila of the DRC said in a statement they havem agreed to find new ways to persuade thousands of Rwandan Hutus to return home.
Rwanda has already withdrawn its troops from Congo, under the terms of what is called the Pretoria Agreement, signed in July 2002. President Kabila had agreed that his forces would disarm and repatriate the Hutus who fled to the eastern part of Congo in 1994. They fled following the Rwandan genocide, which claimed the lives of up to one million Rwandans, almost all of them ethnic-Tutsi.
At Thursday's meeting, chaired by South African President Thabo Mbeki and Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, the two central African leaders agreed to recommit themselves to fully implementing the Pretoria Agreement. They said in their statement that the armed Hutus are a threat to the peace and stability of both their countries.
The civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in 1998, and at its height involved troops from six other African countries. Rwanda and Uganda supported rebel groups, while Angola, Chad, Zimbabwe and Namibia sent their troops to bolster government forces. International organizations estimate that between two-and-a-half and four-million people died as a result of the conflict.
As part of a transitional government established in April, Mr. Kabila and the main rebel movements are to organize free and fair elections. They would be the first since Congo won its independence from Belgium in 1960.