AFRICA/CONGO - A year after the peace pact which put an end to hostilities in the Pool region, government takes stock of progress made

Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Brazzaville (Agenzia Fides)- On March 7, a year after the signing of a peace agreement between the government and Ninja, rebels led by Frederic Bitsangou or Pastor Ntoumi as he likes to be called, the state minister for the co-ordination of government activity, Isidore Mvouba, took stock of progress made. The agreement signed on 17 March 2003 put en end to hostilities in region of Pool, north east of the capital Brazzaville. In 12 months of fighting between army troops and Ntoumi’s men, thousands of people were forced to flee their homes to escape the violence.
According to minister Mvouba, the difficulties with the application of the agreement are to be blamed on Ntoumi. Despite government concessions, amnesty, 60 men to guard Ntoumi, etc., he has added more and more conditions including the appointment of his brothers as High Commissioner for the Reinsertion of former soldiers.
One of the points of the peace agreement was a DDR process (demobilisation, disarmament, reinsertion) of former Ninja rebels in da Loukouo (Pool). “Suddenly on the day the programme was to start, Ntoumi demanded a national unity government, return of exiles etc., requests not mentioned in 9 months of negotiation with the government” the minister said. The DDR programme will affect about 1,000 men 800 Ninja and 200 from other smaller rebel groups
Despite difficulties dialogue has not been interrupted. “Two work groups, led respectively by Jean Richard Bintsamou and former government minister Nzoungou, are discussing the future status of Ntoumi who wants to be Army Chief, but we already have a good army chief, and this request was not included in the agreement reached on 17 March 2003. Nevertheless we still believe in peace and in the good intentions of Pastor Ntoumi” the minister said.
In the midst of all this banditry on the roads in Pool continues. One of the most recent episodes was when bandits, thought to be disbanded soldiers of the rebel group Ninja held up and stole a car belonging to Bishop Louis Portella-Mbuyu, Bishop of Kinkala. (M.S.T/L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 10/3/2004, righe 34 parole 416)