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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
'Belligerent' comments from Kinshasa
Goma rebels
Rebels in Goma were surprised at what they heard
By Helen Vesperini in Goma, eastern DR Congo

A radio interview early Monday by the foreign minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo caused shock waves in Rwanda and eastern Congo just as people were waking up.

The minister, Sheik Okitumba, called on Rwanda and its Congolese rebel ally RCD Goma to pull back by 215 km from their position whereas the distance agreed upon in the Lusaka peace agreement was just 15 km.

The rebels backed by Rwanda, RCD Goma, called the comments the most belligerent since the assassination of President Laurent Kabila in January.

The comments have ended the recent optimism about the peace process in DR Congo.

The conflict is ostensibly between the Kinshasa government and rebels in the east.

But the government is backed by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia and the rebels are supported by Rwanda and Uganda.

Progress

Since the death Laurent Kabila in January the peace process has moved forward, as his son and successor appears to be keen to find a solution.

Meanwhile reports are circulating that suggest that Kinshasa government troops and their allies are not pulling back from their front line positions as they should be.

Indeed in some areas Kinshasa government troops are reported to be moving into positions freed up by the Rwandan army.

United Nations peacekeepers in Goma were not in a position to comment on the reports.

The period set aside for the pullback in the Congo peace agreement ends 29 March.

The first UN peacekeeping troops - a contingent of about a 110 Uruguayans -are expected to arrive in eastern Congo on Wednesday after a series of delays.

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See also:

16 Mar 01 | Africa
UN confirms DR Congo withdrawal
28 Feb 01 | Africa
Troops withdraw from DR Congo
17 Jan 01 | Africa
Timeline: DR Congo conflict
16 Jan 01 | Africa
DR Congo's troubled history
26 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
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