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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
Peace deal for DR Congo and Rwanda
Congolese troops
Peace has been hard to find in DR Congo
Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have reached a peace agreement which could put an end to four years of fighting.

DR Congo has agreed to make their common border safe by flushing out Rwandan rebels sheltering in the east of the country, according to the French news agency, AFP.

We have done what can be done to satisfy the sovereignty of the DRC and the security of Rwanda

Jabob Zuma
For its part, Rwanda has agreed to withdraw its troops from DR Congo, which are estimated to number as many as 30,000.

But the peace deal, reached in Pretoria, South Africa, after five days of talks, needs to be approved by the presidents of Rwanda and DR Congo to be valid.

Africa's 'world war'

No timetable has been set, but Kinshasa's ambassador to South Africa, Bene M'Poko, told the BBC's French service that a deal could be signed any time now, possibly at the weekend.

President Joseph Kabila
DR Congo's president wanted the Rwandan troops out

The talks, chaired by the South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, were aimed at finding a solution to the conflict between the countries.

"We reached an agreement that will solve the problems in the Congo and in Rwanda... We have done what can be done to satisfy the sovereignty of the DR Congo and the security of Rwanda," Mr Zuma told AFP.

But the BBC's Rageh Omaar in Johannesburg says that reaching agreement is one thing; implementing it across the vast eastern provinces of Congo is quite another.

DR Congo timeline
1998 - Uganda, Rwanda try to topple Laurent Kabila
1998 - Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia prop up Kabila
1999 - Ceasefire signed but violated repeatedly
2001 - Laurent Kabila assassinated, replaced by his son, Joseph

In the wake of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, many of the men who carried out the slaughter of up to a million Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus, the so-called Interahamwe militias, fled into eastern Zaire, as it was then known.

From their exile base, they continued to launch attacks into Rwanda.

Rwandan soldiers and their rebel allies, frustrated at the unwillingness of the authorities in Kinshasa to do anything to expel or destroy the Interahamwe, entered the provinces of eastern Congo in 1998 to pursue them.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda
President Kagame said Hutu rebels in DR Congo were a threat

It was the start of a conflict that sucked in numerous other African states, each of them fighting proxy wars, often motivated by profiting from Congo's huge mineral resources.

In what has been called "Africa's first world war", the fighting has claimed an estimated 2.5 million lives and destabilised central Africa.

Recent fighting

Fighting has flared up in the east of the country in recent weeks, with the involvement of Rwandan troops.

More than 50,000 people have fled the fighting in the Uvira region between Rwandan troops and their Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) allies on one side, and forces of the Banyamulenge, ethnic Tutsis living in DR Congo, on the other.

The Banyamulenge forces were allied to the Rwandans and the RCD, but split from them earlier this year.

The United Nations and international aid agencies have sent a mission to Uvira to evaluate the needs of the local population and the displaced people.

Past attempts to end the suffering have concentrated on finding a consensus between the many Congolese parties.

Marathon talks earlier this year between more than 350 representatives of the government, rebel factions, militias, political parties and civic associations failed to come up with any significant solution.

The RCD attended the talks but could not reach an agreement with the government.

But on Monday, the rebels welcomed the agreement reached by Kinshasa and Kigali.

The RCD representative for judicial affairs, Moise Nyarugabo, told the BBC's French service that the Congolese authorities should now get back to the negotiating table to solve the internal aspects of the conflict.

Matt Prodger reports
"The beginning of the end for this bloody civil war"

Key stories


See also:

17 Jul 02 | Africa
10 Jul 02 | Africa
04 Jul 02 | Africa
13 Jun 02 | Africa
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