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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
DR Congo-Rwanda peace talks begin
Congolese troops
Peace has been hard to find in DR Congo
Peace talks between the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have opened in the South African capital, Pretoria.

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

President Joseph Kabila
DR Congo's president wants the Rwandan troops out
Rwandan troops entered DR Congo in 1998 and in alliance with rebels of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), launched a war against the Kinshasa government.

There are more than 30,000 Rwandan troops in DR Congo, according to the BBC's Kinshasa correspondent, Mark Dummett.

The meeting in Pretoria follows talks at the African Union summit in Durban last week between President Joseph Kabila of DR Congo and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

The focus of the talks in Durban was the creation of a neutral zone along their border and the presence in this zone of United Nations forces.

Security threatened

No agreement on such a zone was reached in Durban and the governments differ greatly over Rwanda's actions in Dr Congo.

President Kagame says his troops are in eastern DR Congo to ensure Rwanda's security against the threat posed by Rwandan Hutu rebels.

Rwanda accuses the Kinshasa government of supporting the rebels.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda
President Kagame says Hutu rebels in DR Congo are a threat
Mr Kabila's government says that Rwanda wants to annex its territory.

Rwandan troops in DR Congo have been involved in fighting in the east of the country in recent weeks.

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

Marathon talks

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, our correspondent says.

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

Diplomatic efforts are now focusing on what is perceived to be the main stumbling block to peace, the presence in eastern Congo of more than 30,000 Rwandan troops and their alliance with the RCD.

When the presidents of Rwanda and DR Congo met in Durban, Rwanda suggested the creation of a buffer zone along the DR Congo eastern border patrolled jointly by Rwandan DR Congo and UN forces.

This has been rejected by President Kabila's government, which wants Rwanda to withdraw its troops immediately.


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