Bemba pulls army out

KINSHASA - A small section of the security detail protecting the failed presidential candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo withdrew from the capital yesterday, two days after they had engaged in gunfire with police, military officials said.

KINSHASA - A small section of the security detail protecting the failed presidential candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo withdrew from the capital yesterday, two days after they had engaged in gunfire with police, military officials said.

Election loser and former rebel leader-turned vice-president Jean- Pierre Bemba has been under pressure to remove his 1000-strong military force from his residence in Kinshasa.

About 50 members of Bemba's guard left their barracks inside his residence with their families in the early morning, officers have confirmed.

The guards left in lorries belonging to the DRC army and headed for Maluku, just 80km away, where Bemba has another residence.

Another 100 soldiers and their families were expected to leave Kinshasa later in the day.

But there was nothing to indicate that Bemba's entire force would be pulled out.

An officer from Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo said: "Perhaps the vice-president will go to Maluku for a rest.

"His guards left beforehand. That's normal procedure."

Bemba has formally contested the result of the landmark presidential election, which was won by incumbent president Joseph Kabila.

Diplomats and officers said Kabila himself had written to Bemba to ask him to remove the troublemakers from the city centre.

"It was absolutely not an ultimatum. The letter was written in very measured tones," a diplomatic source said.

"Bemba himself, or his senior officers, had a word with the troops.

"There was an agreement from the vice-president on Wednesday to move at least a section of his force out," the officer said. - Sapa-AFP

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