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DRC: Kabila and Museveni sign troop withdrawal protocol

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KINSHASA, 9 September (IRIN) - Presidents Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signed an accord on Friday in Luanda, Angola, for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from eastern DRC and a normalisation of relations between the two countries.
The accord was signed in the presence of numerous UN diplomats and country ambassadors, and was witnessed and signed by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Under the accord, Angola will be in charge of verifying its implementation, while Kabila and Museveni agreed that their respective governments would submit regular reports on the progress of the Ugandan withdrawal.

Dos Santos indicated that his country was prepared to become a peacekeeping force in the central African region, after having fought for more than four years alongside the Kinshasa government in a war against rebels supported by Rwanda and Uganda.

Starting from the date of the accord, 7 September, Uganda will have five days to withdraw its forces from Beni and Gbadolite, areas from which it has already withdrawn 2,000 soldiers.

However, under the accord, Uganda will have 100 days to complete the withdrawal of its final two battalions from the troubled city of Bunia, northeastern DRC. The troops have been asked to remain by the UN in order to safeguard civilian security.

The agreement is the result of negotiations held on 14-15 August in Luanda between delegations of the two countries, under the mediation of Angolan Foreign Minister Joao Miranda. Those negotiations culminated in a memorandum of understanding signed on 15 August.

The UN Security Council on Friday hailed the accord, but expressed "extreme concern" about the situation in the eastern part of the country, and called for an immediate end to fighting by all sides there, UN News reported. The Council further stressed that the cessation of fighting in that region was necessary for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, to proceed with the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration, return or resettlement of armed groups.

Meanwhile, reaction to the accord by two Ugandan-backed former rebel groups in the DRC was mixed.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC), said from his base in the city of Gemena in northwestern DRC, that he welcomed the accord, and supported all agreements leading to the withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC. He invited governments allied with Kinshasa to follow Uganda's example.

"We are awaiting similar accords to be reached with Angola and Zimbabwe," he said.

Another former rebel movement backed by Uganda, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Kisangani-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-K-ML), was pessimistic about prospects for the success of the Kabila-Museveni accord.

"The DRC is faced with two Ugandas - that of Yoweri Museveni, who acts from a distance in Kampala, and that of his army officers and soldiers involved in the ongoing pillage of gold and diamonds in Ituri [region, northeastern DRC]," said Honore Kadima, in charge of RCD-K-ML external relations. "I don't see either of these Ugandas adhering to even one comma of the Luanda accord."

[ENDS]

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