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The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"Rwandan and Ugandan troupes have begun withdrawing from the front-line"
 real 56k

The BBC's Anna Borzello
"The military has never revealed the strength of its foreign deployment"
 real 28k

Joseph Bideri, Rwandan government spokesman
"We believe it's time that everybody worked for the success of the [peace] agreement."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 15:52 GMT
Troops withdraw from DR Congo
Rwandan soldiers in Pweto
Rwanda has also begun a troop pull back from Pweto
The Ugandan army has begun withdrawing about 1,500 troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they have been fighting the government for the past three years.

UN plan
15 March - troops to pull back 15 km
15 May - complete withdrawal of foreign troops
UN to deploy 3,000 peacekeepers
The first Ugandan troops flew home, just hours after Rwanda, also fighting the government, began pulling its troops back from the Congolese town of Pweto near the Zambian border.

They are the first withdrawals since the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, succeeded his assassinated father, Laurent Kabila in January.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council approved a plan for the disengagement of the warring sides in Congo that would allow the eventual deployment of UN supported peacekeepers.

UN observers are witnessing the withdrawals.

The Ugandan troops are coming from the town of Buta in the north-east.

The BBC correspondent in Uganda says that the withdrawal may have as much to do with the presidential election campaign as ensuring peace in the DR Congo.

Rwanda and Uganda back different rebel groups in the war which has split the mineral-rich country in two.

Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have been backing the Congolese Government in the two-and-a-half-year war.

Hopes high

Since Mr Kabila assumed power, hopes have risen that the previously stalled Lusaka peace process could be reactivated.

Both Rwanda and Uganda say they are withdrawing their troops to show that they are serious about peace.

Ugandan army commander, Major-General Jeje Odongo, told the BBC that the troops were being brought back home because of what he described as the positive attitude of Joseph Kabila.

But Rwanda has vowed to return if their rebel allies, the Congolese Rally for Democracy, come under government attack.

Their forces will pull back some 200 km towards the Rwandan border.

Talks among the protagonists at the UN Security Council last week agreed that all forces would start an initial 15km (10 mile) pull-back by 15 March and should then plan for a complete withdrawal by 15 May.

The UN has plans to deploy 3,000 troops to monitor the withdrawals. There are an estimated 50,000 foreign troops in DR Congo.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Africa
DR Congo's troubled history
26 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
21 Feb 01 | Africa
UN finds Congo child soldiers
23 Feb 01 | Africa
Congo pull-back plan welcomed
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