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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 17:55 GMT
Last foreign troops leave DR Congo
The last foreign troops involved in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are leaving on Thursday, in accordance with a peace agreement signed earlier this year.

A ceremony has been held to bid farewell to the last troops, some 1,000, to leave the country.

The Congolese Government thanked the troops for what they had done, saying the country stood at the threshold of peace because of their efforts.

Troops sent by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe to fight alongside the Congolese army had 90 days to withdraw from Congolese territory.

Rwandan troops
Foreign troops have been leaving the country
At the peak of their deployment, the three countries had more than 20,000 men in DR Congo.

The four-year war also sucked in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, whose troops withdrew earlier this month.

The withdrawal coincides with a breakthrough in the Congolese peace process, after the government and the rebels reached a power-sharing deal on Tuesday.

Talks are planned in South Africa on Friday involving Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame to discuss the power-sharing agreement and the next steps.

Power vacuum

The withdrawals have prompted warnings of potential massacres in the east of the country.

The New York based-group, Human Rights Watch says hundreds of people have already been killed as a result of fighting in the provinces of South Kivu, Ituri and Orientale in the past few weeks.

Foreign contingents in DRC at height of war
Rwanda: 25,000
Zimbabwe: 12,000
Uganda: 10,000
Angola: 8,000
Namibia: 2,000

The group has called on the UN Security Council to increase the size of its peacekeeping force in the eastern DR Congo and says many civilians are still at risk.

Militia groups have been taking advantage of the power vacuum caused by the departure of foreign troops to intensify their activities.

About 1,000 Ugandan troops have remained at the request of the United Nations, which fears their departure would cause a huge security void.

It is estimated that more than two million people have died, most from starvation and hunger, during four years of war.


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26 Oct 02 | Africa
25 Oct 02 | Africa
24 Oct 02 | Africa
22 Oct 02 | Africa
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