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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Power vacuum fears in DR Congo
Ugandan troops
Ugandan troops leave DR Congo
Warnings are being sounded that the withdrawal of foreign forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo could leave behind instability and factional conflict.

Both Rwanda and France are suggesting that as Rwandan, Ugandan and Zimbabwean troops pull out they could leave behind a dangerous power vacuum.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in Kinshasa that the departure of foreign troops opened new prospects for DR Congo but warned that they must be accompanied by "political reconciliation," according to the Associated Press agency.

The warnings came as Rwanda and Uganda continued to withdraw their troops from DR Congo.

Both countries had sent troops into DR Congo in 1998 to support rebels opposed to the late Congolese leader, Laurent Kabila.

Rwanda is withdrawing its forces following the peace deal signed with DR Congo in Pretoria in July.

Uganda has also reached agreement with the Kinshasa government on pulling out its forces.

Zimbabwe, whose troops supported the Kinshasa government, is also sending its forces home.

But the departure of the foreign troops has already led to fighting between rival Congolese groups in Kindu, in eastern Congo, after the Rwandans left.

Rebels want control

Rwandan President Paul Kagame also issued his warning about instability on Tuesday.

He said that, "the security situation might get worse with the likely vacuum that develops once we have withdrawn entirely from Congo," according to the Reuters news agency.

The president said that he had warned of the possibility of fighting in Kindu after the Rwandan withdrawal.

Rwandan troops leaving Kindu
Violence broke out in Kindu after the Rwandan troops left

The clashes there were between the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) rebels and the Mayi Mayi tribal militia.

The RCD leader, Adolphe Onusumba, said on Monday that his forces had restored order in Kindu. He added that his movement could run eastern Congo unaided once the Rwandans had gone.

French commitment

He said his group could fill "the vacuum left by the Rwandan army", according to the French agency AFP.

But he admitted that the South and North Kivu regions would be "difficult areas" for the RCD, as there was a variety of armed movements active there - the Mayi Mayi, Burundian Hutu rebels and Rwandan Interahamwe rebels.

Mr Onusumba met the French Foreign Minister during his visit to Kigali. During the meeting, the minister called for reconciliation in DR Congo.

On the last leg of his tour, in Kinshasa, Mr de Villepin stressed France's commitment to ensuring the DR Congo's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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See also:

23 Sep 02 | Africa
21 Sep 02 | Africa
09 Sep 02 | Africa
20 Sep 02 | Africa
19 Sep 02 | Africa
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