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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Zimbabwe to pull out of DR Congo
Foreign troops in DR Congo
Troops from seven countries were involved in the war
Zimbabwe is planning to withdraw its troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo following the recent peace deal between DR Congo and Rwanda.

President Robert Mugabe said on Tuesday that developments in DR Congo "provide the impetus for the withdrawal of our forces from that country".

Zimbabwean jet in DR Congo
Zimbabwe committed large forces to DR Congo

On Monday, Uganda announced that it had started pulling its troops out of two towns in Congo.

But it said it was still concerned about rebel groups from Congo mounting incursions into Uganda and would remain in the northeastern town of Bunia which it now holds after a week of clashes in which more than 90 people died.

Zimbabwean troops have been in the country supporting the Kinshasa government since the start of the rebellion against it in 1998.

The BBC's Southern Africa correspondent, Barnaby Phillips, says that the cost of keeping thousands of troops in DR Congo has put a great strain on the Zimbabwean economy.

The DR Congo defence chief, Mata Nyamunyobo said recently that there were 3,000 Zimbabwean troops supporting his government, according to the French news agency, AFP.

At one stage in the fighting, there were an estimated 12,000 Zimbabwean troops in DR Congo.

Congolese rebel groups have said that all foreign troops must withdraw from DR Congo, not just Rwanda, if the peace deal is to hold.

Speaking on Armed Forces Day, Mr Mugabe also promised that members of the defence forces would continue to benefit from the land redistribution programme.

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President Mugabe said that the planned withdrawal was in terms of the peace deal discussed in Lusaka in 1999, under which the governments of six of DR Congo's neighbouring countries involved in the war in DR Congo agreed to pull out their forces.

The agreement was never implemented as DR Congo's rebel forces refused to sign up to it.

During the war, Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe committed troops to support the Kinshasa government while Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda supported Congolese rebels.

Business opportunities

The recent DR Congo-Rwanda peace deal provides for the withdrawal of Rwandan troops once Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern DR Congo have been disarmed and repatriated.

Zimbabwe's involvement in the war enabled it to develop business relations with DR Congo and critics of the government have accused Zimbabwean political and military leaders of developing lucrative business interests, according to the Reuters news agency.

Diamond trader
The diamond trade was linked to the war

In his speech, President Mugabe denied that Zimbabwe was involved in a scramble for DR Congo's natural resources.

But he called on "the business community to make use of the business opportunities that arise from the peace that the Zimbabwe defence forces have helped create in the Democratic Republic of Congo," AFP said.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips says that despite the reports that senior Zimbabwean soldiers profited from involvement in the diamond trade, the intervention put an enormous burden on Zimbabwe's economy, just as it entered a period of rapid decline.

No timetable has been announced for the troop withdrawal.

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See also:

11 Aug 02 | Africa
30 Jul 02 | Africa
23 Jul 02 | Africa
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