AVL---Congo Peace Deal Signed---

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    Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
    Congo and Rwanda sign peace deal

    Congo soldiers: Four years of fighting takes its toll

    The presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda signed a peace deal in South Africa on Tuesday designed to end Africa's biggest war.
    The signing was preceded by speeches by the leaders of the two countries.

    President Joseph Kabila of the DR Congo said it was up to the entire international community to support the two countries in implementing the agreement.

    His Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, expressed the hope that the agreement would contribute to a wider peace in the whole Great Lakes region of Africa.

    He, too, stressed the need for international support and asked the international community to do more than just pay "lip-service" to the idea of peace.

    Peace deal
    90 day timetable
    Rwanda to withdraw 30,000 troops from DR Congo
    DR Congo to disarm 'Interahamwe' militias

    Testing time for peace

    Two million people have died in the four-year war between Rwanda and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The war began when Rwandan Hutu rebels involved in the 1994 genocide of up to one million Tutsis fled to what was then Zaire and is now DR Congo.

    The war also dragged in Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe, who entered the conflict on the side of the DR Congo Government, and Uganda and Burundi who sent troops to back rebels.

    The deal - brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - was signed in Pretoria by Presidents Kabila and Kagame in the presence of African leaders, including President Mbeki and President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi.

    Humanitarian catastrophe

    Under the terms of the deal, the Congolese have promised to disarm and arrest thousands of Hutu rebels.

    Congo has reeled from one disaster to another

    In return, Rwanda will pull back tens of thousands of troops who are stationed in the eastern Congo.

    But our correspondent Barnaby Phillips says that the logistical challenges of the Congo will make it extremely difficult for the peace deal commitments to be met within a tight time frame.

    And the presence of other rebel groups, thousands of Zimbabwean troops and pro-government militias create further complications.

    The war has left Congo - the size of Western Europe - in ruins, its people caught in an economic and humanitarian catastrophe.

    President Joseph Kabila has told the BBC that he is optimistic the signing of the pact with Rwanda could bring peace, not just to the DR Congo, but to the entire Great Lakes region of central Africa as well.

    Meanwhile, the US Government is offering up to $5m for information on the whereabouts of eight Rwandan genocide suspects believed to be hiding in Congo and to be leading the Hutu militias.

    In Kinshasa, roving American Ambassador for War Crimes, Pierre-Richard Prosper, said bringing them to justice would make disarming their foot soldiers much easier, and help bring peace, finally, to Congo.

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