Congo president calls for UN to begin withdrawing peacekeepers after 15 years

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Congo's president says the United Nations should start withdrawing from the enormous country where a peacekeeping mission has been based for 15 years.

During a lengthy speech before parliament, President Joseph Kabila asserted Monday that peace has progressively returned to the country racked by back-to-back civil wars.

Kabila said the threat still posed by rebel groups in eastern Congo "does not justify keeping a contingent of 20,000 men on our soil."

Critics, though, question whether the Congolese military can adequately protect civilians especially in the conflict-torn east.

A local civic organization reports that more than 250 people have been killed in attacks around the town of Beni in the past two months.