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Saturday, 5 October, 2002, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Rwanda completes DR Congo pull-out
A child waves goodbye to the Rwandan soldiers
The withdrawal was agreed under a UN-brokered deal
Rwanda has withdrawn the last of its troops from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, four years after they went in to support Congolese rebels against the government of Laurent Kabila.

The last 1,000 soldiers, deployed around the border town of Goma, marched across the frontier into Rwanda on Saturday morning.


It's now up to the government in Kinshasa to do the same

Brigadier-General Martinelli, Deputy Commander of the Congo UN force
The withdrawal was agreed under a deal signed in July by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila - son of the late Laurent Kabila.

Rwandan army chief Major General James Kabarebe said in return for the withdrawal, his country now expected the UN and the Congolese government to disarm Rwandan Hutu extremists still hiding in DR Congo.

The conflict - sometimes known as Africa's first world war - broke out in 1998, when Rwanda and Uganda sent thousands of troops to back the Congolese rebels.

Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia sent soldiers to back the government of the late Laurent Kabila, the current president's father.

Final exodus

More than 20,000 Rwandan troops have left DR Congo since the withdrawal began in mid-September.

Departing Rwanda soldiers
The last 1,000 troops had been stationed in the border region
The last to leave, members of the fifth battalion of the Rwanda Patriotic Army, crossed the border by foot at a small border post separating Goma from the Rwandan side of the border.

The last soldier crossed back into Rwanda at 1:30 pm local time (1130 GMT), watched by the deputy commander of the UN force in DR Congo, Brigadier-General Roberto Martinelli, as well as thousands of civilians who lined the roads.

General Martinelli said Rwanda had now fulfilled its part of the peace agreement.

"It's now up to the government in Kinshasa to do the same," he said.

Rwanda agreed to the withdrawal in exchange for a pledge from DR Congo to disarm, demobilise and repatriate former Rwandan soldiers and Hutu militiamen held responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

More than 500,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis, were killed during the genocide.

Since then, the Hutu rebels have used Congolese territory to launch attacks on Rwanda.

Regional withdrawal

Other countries also sent troops to DR Congo during the conflict.

Namibia says it has already withdrawn its troops and Angola is believed to have only a small number left inside the country.

Angolan troops
The Angolan army supported the government
Zimbabwe, which had an estimated 12,000 soldiers in DR Congo, is expected to formally announce the withdrawal of all of its troops at a ceremony in Kinshasa next week.

Uganda has withdrawn all but 1,000 of its troops. Those remaining are in the troubled north-eastern city of Bunia at the request of the UN observer mission to DR Congo.

In recent weeks the city has been the scene of heavy fighting among various ethnic groups.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC's Helen Vesperini talking to Focus on Africa
The army chief of staff pointed at the last man and said "behind this one there are no more Rwandan troops left in Congo now"

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TALKING POINT
See also:

04 Oct 02 | Africa
03 Oct 02 | Africa
24 Sep 02 | Africa
23 Sep 02 | Africa
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