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Rwanda completes troop withdrawal

Rwanda completed its troop withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Saturday, with the final group of 1,152 soldiers departing from Goma in the east of the country, Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the United Nations Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, told IRIN.

A final verification process would begin shortly to check each location where the soldiers had been stationed, and which would allow MONUC to certify that Rwanda had completed its pull out, he added on Monday.

The Rwandan army chief, Maj-Gen James Kabarebe, said that in return for the withdrawal, his country now expected the UN and the DRC government to disarm the Rwandan Hutu extremists still hiding in the DRC, BBC reported.

Francois Grignon of the International Crisis Group think-tank told IRIN that by completing the withdrawal so speedily; the Rwandan government had successfully reclaimed the political initiative in the Rwandan-Congolese conflict.
"Since the withdrawal, no-one can say anything against them," he said.

The Rwandan government has faced intense international criticism over its exploitation of natural resources in the DRC, coupled with political pressure to withdraw its forces from DRC territory. Under the Pretoria agreement, signed on 30 July, presidents Joseph Kabila of the DRC and Paul Kagame of Rwanda agreed on the withdrawal of the Rwandan troops in exchange for the DRC's disarmament, demobilisation and repatriation of former Rwandan soldiers and of their Interahamwe Hutu extremist militia, together generally held responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The DRC government is now under pressure to honour its side of the agreement. To date, it has banned the Forces democratiques de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) and other Rwandan armed rebel groups, arrested an FDLR leader and transported him to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and sent an "exploratory mission" of 66 Rwandan ex-combatants to Rwanda, Mounoubai said.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe repatriated over 2,000 soldiers with their equipment from Lubumbashi in southwestern DRC on Friday, Maj Alphonse Makotore, the spokesman for the forces of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), told IRIN. A ceremony is due to be held on Friday in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, to mark the complete withdrawal of Zimbabwean forces from the DRC, he added. Zimbabwe together with other SADC countries Angola and Namibia sent troops to bolster the Kinshasa government's unsuccessful effort to defeat Ugandan and Rwandan backed anti-government forces.

The chairman of a joint Military Commission monitoring implementation of an accord on troop withdrawals, Brig-Gen Mwanike Nuke, has said that Zimbabwe has already withdrawn at least 80 percent of its 12,000; Uganda and Angola 90 percent of their 8,000 each.

In a separate development, two European consortiums of NGOs - Concertation chretienne pour l'afrique centrale and Reseau Europeen Congo - have called for the immediate reinforcement of MONUC in order to protect the DRC population, to verify the complete withdrawal of foreign troops, and also to complete the process of disarming the militia groups. MONUC currently has a maximum capacity of 5,537 soldiers in a country about the size of Western Europe.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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