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Dr John Makumbe
is a lecturer in political sciences at the University of Zimbabwe
 real 28k

Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Uganda ready to leave DR Congo
Troops in Kinshasa
Uganda's statement follows Zimbabwe's partial withdrawal
Uganda says it is ready to withdraw all its troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo.


We have reached our goal. Our soldiers will all go back

Uganda Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya
Ugandan Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya made the announcement during the first visit of a high-level Ugandan official to Kinshasa since the start of the Congolese war in 1998.

Mr Kategaya said Ugandans were satisfied that the borders of DRC were secure and that they could all now go home.

Uganda, along with Rwanda, has been backing the rebels in the east of the country against government forces supported by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.

The Ugandan statement followed the first withdrawal of Zimbabwean troops from the country on Tuesday.

A first group of about 200 soldiers flew out of Mbandaka, in Equateur province, with another 2,000 due to leave from the same area soon.

The repatriation of remaining soldiers from Zimbabwe's battalions will continue over the next few days. Two other contingents are expected to head home in the coming weeks, a military spokesman said.

Warnings

The fighting has since killed thousands, with two million people forced from their homes.


This is a gesture of our commitment to peace

Angolan deputy commander of the allied forces, Fipe Viper
The head of the Congolese army, Brigadier-General Francois Olenga, warned the rebels not to try to take advantage of the pull-out.

He said the government in Kinshasa and its allies had proved they were serious about peace, and the rebels should follow.

Zimbabwe has an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 troops in DR Congo.

The pull-out follows recent withdrawals by troops and rebels from the frontlines, in line with the resurrected Lusaka peace accord, which was signed by belligerents in 1999 but never respected.

Peace process

At the ceremony in Mbandaka, the Angolan deputy commander of the allied forces, Fipe Viper, praised the Zimbabweans for "discharging their duty" in the DR Congo.

"You leave DR Congo with your heads high," he said.

And he added: "This is a gesture of our commitment to peace".

Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila has breathed new life into the peace process
Peace efforts took off after Laurent Kabila was assassinated in January and his son, Joseph, succeeded him as Congolese president.

Correspondents say Joseph Kabila has breathed new life into the peace process and paved the way for a 2,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission to deploy in his country.

The United Nations now is supervising a three-week-old disengagement process, with all but Congolese rebels themselves pulling back as promised from key battle zones.

The protracted war in the DR Congo has allowed foreign governments, rebels and business interests to feed off the country's riches, which include gold and diamonds.

The US-based International Rescue Committee released a report saying the war had indirectly caused more than 1.7 million deaths.

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See also:

26 Mar 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe hosts Kabila
28 Feb 01 | Africa
Troops withdraw from DR Congo
02 Feb 01 | Africa
Kabila's whirlwind tour
16 Jan 01 | Africa
DR Congo's troubled history
26 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
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