Dance for peace in Congo
BENI, Congo (CNN) -- Can a dance troupe make the difference between war and peace in Congo?
The United Nations recently flew a group of Rwandan dancers into Eastern Congo. Their aim: To assure a small group of disarmed Hutu rebels and their families that after years on the run, they'd be safe if they came home to Rwanda.
Unlikely as it may seem, it's this type of exercise that may help determine whether the peace deal between Rwanda and Congo works out.
Under the terms of the deal being signed Tuesday, Rwanda says it will pull 20,000 or more troops out of the Democratic Republic of Congo -- if Congo stops arming Rwandan rebels there and sends them home.
The U.N. spent thousands of dollars for the dancers' day trip, hoping that if the small audience of disarmed rebels agreed to go home, they would serve as an example to others.
"Today's outcome will stand as a reference to some extent for other people who are looking at this from inside the forest, from Rwanda, from political parties in Congo, and so on," said Col. Michel Morin of the U.N. Congo Mission.
The dancers brought in by the U.N. were no ordinary Rwandans -- like their audience, all of them were former Hutu rebels. The dancers were captured just over a year ago when they invaded Rwanda from Congo.
Forgiven by the Rwandan government, they now tour refugee camps, encouraging other Hutus to come home too.
Here, though, they were met with scepticism, reluctance -- perhaps even fear.
The U.N. had high hopes that the dancers' audience -- some 40 Hutu rebels and their families -- would agree to return home, because they'd asked for the U.N.'s help.
But then they changed their minds, demanding that Rwanda's government first negotiate with a newly named rebel movement that they claimed they belonged to.
"We're waiting for true democracy and elections in Rwanda," says one corporal.
Everyone pleaded with the disarmed rebels to return home.
"The place for Rwandans isn't the Congo," said one Congolese rebel official. "It's the same for foreign troops, they should go home."
Eventually, though, only one former rebel took up the U.N.'s offer of a flight back. But there are still thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, more to go.
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