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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Congo (Brazzaville): Conflict Reports
Congo (Brazzaville): Conflict Reports
Date distributed (ymd): 991103
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
This posting contains (1) excerpts from recent news briefs
from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network on the
conflict and humananitarian crisis in the Republic of Congo,
and (2) excerpts from the recently released report by Medecins
sans Frontieres, "The Forgotten War."
For an earlier, more general background brief, also from IRIN,
For ongoing coverage see in particular
Republic of Congo: IRIN News Briefs, Friday 29 October
[ Feedback: email@example.com UN IRIN-CEA Tel: +254 2 622123
Fax: +254 2 622129 ]
[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the
UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not
necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For
further information, free subscriptions, or to change your
keywords, contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Web:
http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN. If you re-print, copy, archive
or re-post this item, please retain this credit and
MSF details atrocities
The army, pro-government militia and armed rebel groups have
"generated massive and blind atrocities" against civilian
populations since the resumption of conflict in December 1998,
MSF said in a report released on Wednesday. It said more than
10 percent of the country's population had been displaced,
including over 250,000 people who fled the capital Brazzaville
and sought refuge in the forests of the Pool region south of
the city, where they became "de facto hostages" of the Ninja
militia allied to former prime minister Bernard Kolelas.
"Victims of indiscriminate violence, they have had no access
to food or medical care," it said, adding that those who
managed to return to Brazzaville were now the victims of
indiscriminate attacks from the government army and its Cobra
"Unbearable" silence of international community
Civilians caught in the country's "forgotten war" have been
subjected to arbitrary executions, mutilations, rapes and
disappearances, the report said, citing recently-collected
testimonies from affected families. Given the gravity of the
situation, "the silence and indifference of the international
community is unbearable", according to MSF, which was awarded
the Nobel peace prize last week. Although the capital has been
relatively calm since July, there is today "little hope of a
rapid and negotiated solution to the conflict", and both sides
reject responsibility for violence against the population.
"Unprecedented" humanitarian crisis
Meanwhile, MSF teams in the Congo have reported an
"unprecedented nutritional and medical crisis". Out of the
200,000 displaced people who have returned from Pool to
Brazzaville since May, 14,700 people - including more than
3,300 children under five years old - have been treated for
serious malnutrition in the city's nutritional centres. There
were now 1,000-2,000 people arriving every day, and many were
still dying during their trip back to Brazzaville or soon
after. The Pool region remained inaccessible to humanitarian
organisations, and hundreds of thousands of civilians were
still caught in the fighting, the report said.
Soldiers warned of execution risk
Congo's chief of defence staff, General Jacques-Yvon Ndodou,
said last week the army would no longer put up with
undisciplined elements within its ranks, Radio Congo reported
on 21 October. During visits to Brazzaville's garrison units,
Ndodou warned soldiers they could face execution for bad
behaviour. "Military tribunals will soon be put in place to
try and even, if need be, execute soldiers who carry out
reprehensible acts," Ndodou said. "Officers should henceforth
assume their responsibilities," the radio quoted him as
Republic of Congo: IRIN News Briefs, 22 October 1999
Military helicopters flying assistance to Kindamba
Military helicopters have been flying in food and medical
assistance and evacuating the most vulnerable from Kindamba,
northwest of Brazzaville, since government forces recently
took it from rebels, an update from the UN Humanitarian
Coordinator for the ROC said. According to the report, a
spontaneous site of 1,700 people, including some 400 seriously
malnourished children is being maintained in the town under
the protection of government forces. The fall of Kindamba has
also reportedly resulted in a recent wave of arrivals in
Kinkala convoy starts on Friday
The regular food and medicines delivery convoy to Kinkala
started on Friday, the UN report said. Security would be
provided by the government. The report added that a WFP vessel
carrying some 288 mt of CSB [nutritional therapy mixture] was
due to arrive in Pointe Noire next Monday to provide for tens
of thousands of seriously malnourished people.
President marks second anniversary
ROC President Denis Sassou-Nguesso last Friday celebrated his
second year in power, news agencies reported. To mark the
occasion, he inaugurated a monument in memory of some 10,000
people killed during the civil war between June and October
Pro-Lissouba officers freed
Meanwhile, 12 senior officers and a high ranking magistrate,
who were imprisoned for two years without trial for having
backed deposed president Pascal Lissouba, were released in a
public ceremony last Friday, news reports said. According to
the justice ministry, the 12 will be reintegrated into the
army. According to a humanitarian source, the releases are a
"further positive sign of progress towards sustainable peace".
Mercenary enquiry called "frivolous"
A government representative on Thursday rejected the latest
findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Use of
Mercenaries, terming his enquiry "frivolous". The
representative, Henri Blaise Gotienne, told a committee of the
UN General Assembly that the report was "full of false
allegations and incorrect information on his country",
according to a UN press release. In his latest report,
released last month, the rapporteur, Enrique Bernales
Ballesteros, said the situation in the Republic of Congo had
"steadily worsened after two years of armed conflicts". Civil
resistance had been harshly put down by the government "to the
point where the situation has given rise to reports of ethnic
extermination in South Brazzaville, South Congo and the Pool
The presence of Angolan, Chadian and French mercenaries
alongside government troops has been reported, as has the
presence of mercenaries in the opposition forces, the
rapporteur stated. He cited reports as saying that a "major
European power" was behind the conflict "for reasons
concerning its interest in controlling Congolese petroleum".
Armed conflict in the Congo continued, giving rise to massive
human rights violations, he added. However, Gotienne told the
UN committee that violence in the Congo had been "eradicated"
and political dialogue with the opposition had started.
Republic of Congo: IRIN News Briefs, 15 October 1999
Survey reveals high death rate
A recent survey of Brazzaville returnees has revealed that the
death rate in the rural Pool region during August was 5-6
deaths per day per 10,000 people, an update from the UN
Humanitarian Coordinator for the Republic of Congo said. The
report, received by IRIN on Friday, said most deaths were
related to malnutrition. About 140,000 people are displaced in
rural areas of Pool, which has been affected by insecurity
since September 1998. The return of displaced persons to
Brazzaville from Pool continues at a rate of 1,500 people a
day. However, the number of displaced persons returning with
UNHCR assistance via the DRC has dropped, with less than 1,000
returnees by that route recorded since 1 October, the report
Republic of Congo: IRIN News Briefs, 12 October 1999
Republic of Congo: Over 800,000 displaced and returned persons
The UN Country Team (UNCT) in the Republic of Congo has
produced new working estimates for the total number of
displaced and recently returned persons, putting the figure at
810,000. This number includes both former urban and rural
dwellers, mainly inside the country but also including some
refugees. Of these, the team said some 340,000 former urban
residents were displaced in December 1998 and January 1999 -
200,000 have returned, including 150,000 to Brazzaville. It
added that a further 140,000 former urban residents have yet
to return and remain in the forest and other rural areas in
"very difficult humanitarian conditions".
Another 440,000 rural dwellers are reportedly displaced within
the four most affected regions of Pool, Bouenza, Niari,
Lekoumou and also in the coastal town of Pointe Noire. There
are additionally some 30,000 refugees outside the country in
the DRC and Gabon.
Meanwhile, the team said tens of thousands more people in
rural areas are not displaced but are "seriously affected" by
prolonged food shortages, lack of clean water, and lack of
access to health care services. The UNCT said the figures are
still rudimentary but are being "steadily improved".
Congo-Brazzaville: The story of a forgotten war
A Document by Medecins Sans Frontieres
[Excerpts: for the report go to:
For the French-language version go to:
For the past 11 months, combats between the government army or
militias and the rebel militias have resumed in
Congo-Brazzaville. They have generated massive and blind
atrocities against civilian populations. The resulting
widespread violence perpetrated by the parties at war affects
the entire civilian population. ...
In December 98, more than 250,000 people fled the capital
because of the fighting, to seek refuge in the tropical
forests of the "Pool", a region south of the city. However,
they found themselves caught up in the middle of the combats,
de facto hostages of the "Ninjas" ( the rebel militias).
Victims of indiscriminate violence, they have had no access to
food or medical care, and could not benefit from any exterior
help. Furthermore, the ones who survived and managed to come
back to Brazzaville are now the victims of indiscriminate
attacks from the government army and militias (the "Cobras").
Until now, no party in the conflict has taken significant
steps to prevent the violence against civilians. It clearly
shows their lack of interest concerning the fate of the
civilian population. Given the gravity of the situation, the
silence and indifference of the international community is
Medecins Sans Frontieres volunteers have been present in
Brazzaville since last April, implementing medical and
nutritional programs. They are the witnesses of tens of
thousands of civilians returning to the capital, starving,
exhausted after several months spent wandering in the forest.
Our teams in Congo-Brazzaville have to face an unprecedented
nutritional and medical crisis.
Last December, hundreds of thousands of people fled the
combats and violence of armed groups in the Congolese capital.
The total population of the country is 2,8 million people.
More then 10% of the population have been forced to seek
refuge. Even if 70,000 people found refuge in the relatively
safe northern part of the city. Most of the displaced went to
the Pool, a tropical forest zone south of Brazzaville. For
several months, these refugees have lived without any
resources, prisoners of the militias, with aid organizations
unable to provide them assistance.
The displaced who made it back to Brazzaville all say that
they were not able to leave the pool region because of the
violent combats, and the control the Ninjas have of the zone.
Chased from one village to another, they first lived in
villages, where locals helped them. With the continuing
combats, they dispersed to seek refuge in the forest. They all
tell of extremely difficult survival conditions ( absence of
food, hygiene, medical assistance ) and speak of " epidemics
of swollen feet " ( i .e. kwashiorkor, a very serious form of
malnutrition which gives edemas ), and of numerous deaths
among children and old people.
According to testimonies collected by the Medecins Sans
Frontieres teams, villages were deliberately targeted by
either or other party in conflict, and sometimes even
bombarded by helicopter. Some displaced confirm that they were
strictly controlled by the Ninjas, who increased their
pressure as the government troops got closer. Some say they
were used as " human shields ".
Today, about 200 000 people have returned from the Pool to
Brazzaville since last May. During the last weeks, 1000 to
2000 people arrive in the capital everyday.
The flow of displaced returning to Brazzaville started last
May, the government army having conquered cities south of
Brazzaville and officially reopened the southern parts of the
city. The size of the movements back to the capital have been
proportional to the violence of combats in the Pool, and to
the progress of government troops in the south towards the
main stronghold of the opposition.
All new arrivals in Brazzaville tell of abuses and acts of
violence perpetrated by both the Armed Forces of Congo (FAC)
or the Cobra militias, and the rebel Ninja militias. The
government troops and militias supervise the internally
displaced people (IDP) convoys, and control the military
roadblocks on the road going from Kinkala to Brazzaville. The
IDPs call this road the " corridor of Death ": young men -
suspected of being Ninjas - are arbitrarily executed, and acts
of violence and robberies are regularly reported. This
violence continues today.
Women and very young girls are systematically raped. Since
April 30th, more than 500 cases have been reported at the
Makelekele hospital and at the "Sports Center " (transformed
into a transit center) where the MSF teams greet the refugees.
This figure is very low compared to the reality of the
phenomenon. It only mentions the women who acknowledge having
been raped on the road to Brazzaville by Cobra militiamen and
government troops. It does not register the cases of sexual
violence during their stay in the Pool (such a figure is
impossible to give), or the cases not declared.
The testimonies collected by MSF volunteers during their
medical or nutritional activities tell of massive Human Rights
violations and acts of violence by the different armed forces,
in the Pool region or on the way back to Brazzaville.
However, Congo-Brazzaville still does not benefit from any
media coverage or attention from the international community.
Furthermore, there is today little hope of a rapid and
negotiated solution to the conflict, and both sides reject the
responsibility of the acts of violence on the population.
Since last July, the capital and its periphery are relatively
calm. However, despite this apparent appeasement, and an
effort from the government to " rectify the situation " and
limit the violence committed by the militias, the Pool region
is still not accessible to humanitarian organizations without
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen international policy debates around
African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide
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