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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Rwandans fly out of DR Congo
Troops board plane
Rwanda has had troops in the east for four years
The first Rwandan troops to withdraw from the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrived in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Two battalions flew out of the eastern Congolese town of Kindu.


War in DR Congo

Uganda:
2,000 troops
Rwanda:
Up to 20,000 troops
Zimbabwe:
2,400 troops


By the end of Tuesday some 800 men should have pulled out.

Almost 500 soldiers poured out of the plane in Kigali, singing, clapping and cheering, Reuters reported.

The men chanted "We love our country and we will keep defending it" before boarding buses taking them nearby barracks, the news agency said.

This is the start of Rwanda's total withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of Congo after four years of fighting blamed for the deaths of more than two million people

But speaking in Jordan, Congolese Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitund said he wanted the United Nations to verify the withdrawal was permanent.

Numbers

Rwandan forces went into Congo with the aim of toppling the late President, Laurent Kabila.

The attempt failed when Zimbabwean, Angolan and Namibian troops entered the war on the side of President Kabila.

Zimbabwe and Uganda, the other two foreign armies still on DR Congo soil have both recently started withdrawing their troops.

The numbers of foreign troops still in DR Congo is impossible to verify with Rwanda saying they have about 9,000 troops there, while other estimates suggest a figure closer to double that.

Action

Rwanda President Paul Kagame signed a deal at the end of July with his DR Congo counterpart, Joseph Kabila, providing for the withdrawal of Rwandan forces within 90 days.

President Joseph Kabila
President Kabila has promised to disarm Rwandan rebels
In return, President Kabila pledged to cease all support and help disarm Rwandan rebels operating in the DR Congo, some of whom were responsible for the 1994 genocide.

Last week, President Kagame told the United Nations Security Council he would begin withdrawing all his forces this week.

Our correspondent in Kigali, Helen Vesperini, says Rwandan officials privately describe the move as an attempt to show the outside world that far from being the root cause of the problems in Congo, they have, in fact, been a stabilising factor.

Rwanda, and Congolese rebels allied with it, currently control more than one third of DR Congo territory.

President Kabila has called on the UN to guarantee recent peace initiatives.

United Nations experts have accused Rwanda and other foreign countries of looting Congo's natural resources during their campaigns, leading to suggestions that a total withdrawal of forces may be difficult to achieve.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Rwandan spokesman Joseph Bideri on Network Africa
"We have invited observers to ensure we are doing what we promised"

Key stories

Background

TALKING POINT
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09 Sep 02 | Africa
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