Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans voted for local officials in nationwide balloting last week, but the election was flawed as many voters had no meaningful choice at the polls, says a rights watchdog.

New Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila has called on the UK and Europe to put pressure on Uganda and Rwanda to completely withdraw their forces.

GOMA, Congo (AP) - Pledges from six nations and their rebel allies to pull back forces in war-ruined Congo were put to the test Thursday, with Rwanda the first to say it had started withdrawing from key battle zones. Thursday's U.N.-monitored disengagement deadline is a key test to a long-stalled cease-fire for Congo, which has seen its mineral-rich territory carved up and 2 million of its people sent fleeing by the 2 1/2-year civil war in the heart of Africa.

GEMENA, Congo, March 15 -- On the day all sides in the Congo war were to begin pulling back from front lines, several hundred Ugandan soldiers assembled on the steamy airport tarmac here singing and cheering. In two years, they had penetrated as far into Congo as any invader, and now they were preparing to go home.

Five countries involved in the DRC conflict were set to disengage their troops on Thursday, in keeping with a UN Security Council resolution adopted last month. The Harare Disengagement and Redeployment Plan, signed by all parties to the conflict, thus goes into its next phase: Disengagement and Verification, the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) stated in Kinshasa.

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