Congo Brazzaville: Neither War Nor Peace


August 26, 2009: Opposition party objections to the results of Congo Republic's July 2009 elections have renewed worries that new violence could eventually erupt. The Congo's Constitutional Court ruled that the July 12th presidential election was valid, despite a suit filed by five opposition candidates who claimed massive fraud. The Congolese opposition contends that the National Elections Organization Committee (CONEL) is simply a tool of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, whose government they allege is thoroughly corrupt.

Sassou-Nguesso has been officially re-elected (with over 78 percent of the vote) to another seven year term. Sassou-Nguesso is now one of the longest serving chief executives in Africa. He served as president from 1979 to 1992. He seized power in 1997 after heavy fighting broke out in Brazzaville between pro-government forces and forces loyal to him. Sassou-Nguesso received most of his support from tribes located in Congo's north. A truce was declared in 1999, essentially a “north-south” truce. Sassou-Nguesso won the presidential election in 2002 with 89 percent of the vote.

The Congo-Brazzaville government continues to worry about the after effects of the civil war, and is especially watchful of the Pool district which was the center of the “ninja rebellion.” In June the government reported it collected around 900 weapons in Pool; while 2,800 were collected in February 2009. The “ninjas” officially fought as an anti-Sassou-Nguesso militia from 1998 to 2003, ignoring the truce of 1999. The 2003 peace deal was very tentative; reports of “ninja bandit attacks” continued to appear as late as 2007. The government's “disarmament and reintegration” program has proceeded with fits and starts, but several observers thought the weapons announcement just prior to the July elections served several purposes government. The government knows trouble could occur. For example, the capital, Brazzaville, was hit by a brief mortar attack in April. The government also knows money talks. The disarmament program pays well by sub-Saharan African standards; the government claims it will pay about $175 per weapon.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties earlier this year accused the government of buying weapons from China.

Despite significant petroleum reserves, the Republic of Congo remains very poor. A UN study published this year estimated 16 percent of all children under the age of five suffer from severe malnutrition.


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