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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

CONGO: Chronology 2003

NAIROBI, 5 January 2004 (IRIN) - Chronology of events in Republic of Congo during 2003.

10 January: Aid agencies warn they do not have enough relief supplies to assist the growing number of people displaced as populations in the Pool region have been forced to flee repeated bombings, banditry and attacks on villages. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says at least 84,000 people have fled fighting that erupted at the end of March 2002 between Ninja rebels and government troops. However, the exact number of people displaced within the Pool region remains unknown, as aid workers are denied access while military operations are under way, although best estimates place the figure at 60,000.

14 January: National Assembly adopts a law creating a national human rights commission, as stipulated by the country's new constitution, which was approved by referendum in January 2002 and entered into effect in August 2002 following a five-year transition period.

21 January: The first meeting on the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), an economic development and conservation programme for six Central African countries, opens in Paris.

24 January: UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women asks Congo to end traditional practices and customary laws that subject women to unfair treatment. The country ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1982.

28 January: Government says it is willing to meet with rebel Ninja leader Rev Frederic Bitsangou, alias Pasteur Ntoumi, under the condition that he agrees to lay down his arms and abandon violence.

6 February: Emergency team leaves Brazzaville to investigate a suspected outbreak of haemorrhagic fever in the Cuvette Ouest Region. A total of 16 people are reported to have died of suspected haemorrhagic fever in Cuvette Ouest, located some 500 km north of the capital, Brazzaville, with three of the deaths having occurred in a village of Mbomo district, and 13 others in a village of Kelle district.

8 February: In an effort to better understand and improve the status and quality of life of women, the government begins compilation of data on violence against women country-wide, with support of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

13 February: Government quarantines the Cuvette-Ouest Region due to an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever, suspected to be the Ebola virus. The epidemic has already caused 51 deaths.

14 February: A former Rwandan military officer, Ildephonse Hategekimana, wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for his role in the 1994 genocide, is arrested in Brazzaville.

19 February: Government officially declares cause of the suspected acute haemorrhagic fever epidemic in Cuvette Ouest Region to be Ebola; as at

18 February, 73 suspected cases and 59 deaths from Ebola have been reported in the districts of Mbomo and Kelle in Cuvette Ouest Region.

27 February: International medical relief NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) launches a week-long campaign to prevent rape and to sensitise the population of its consequences, to coincide with International Women's Day on 8 March.

17 March: Ninja rebels and the government reach a peace deal to end the crisis in Pool region: Ninja leader Ntoumi agrees to end hostilities, disarm his fighters, and enable the restoration of state authority in Pool; government guarantees amnesty to rebels, ex-combatants to be reintegrated into the national army.

26 March: Government and Ninja rebels exchange prisoners, facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as part of the 17 March agreement to restore peace in the crisis-torn Pool Region. A total of 39 prisoners were freed.

7 April: Government announces plans for the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the war-torn Pool region. 23 April: Ebola epidemic that broke out in the Cuvette-Ouest District of northern Republic of Congo in December 2002 is "almost contained", Dr Joseph Mboussa, the director in the Ministry of Health, tells IRIN. To date, 113 people of 142 cases have died.

29 April: Following a peace agreement reached on 17 March between the government and Ninja leader Ntoumi, at least 2,300 rebel Ninja soldiers have surrendered with their weapons in recent days in Pool, according to the communications department of the Congolese Armed Forces (Forces armees congolaises).

30 April: An estimated 1,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS will benefit from a project initiated by the Ministry of Health to provide them with anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, contributed by France. Only about 100 people with HIV/AIDS have access to adequate treatment.

22 May: In a report titled "Forgotten People: Republic of Congo", NGO Refugees International urges UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to engage a "senior diplomat" to mediate in the country.

29 May: The first full-scale humanitarian evaluation of the entire Pool region since the outbreak of civil unrest in March 2002 begins, comprised of several UN bodies and NGOs.

5 June: Health Minister Alain Moka announces an end to the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus, with no deaths since 22 April.

6 June: Rwanda, the Republic of Congo (ROC) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sign an agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees from the ROC.

17 June: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejects a petition filed by the Republic of Congo seeking to prevent France from conducting trials against members of its government for alleged violations of human rights.

23 June: The World Bank approves a credit of US $41 million to help the Congo's stabilisation and recovery process, after nearly a decade of war.

3 July: Indigenous populations, better known as "pygmies", in the Lekoumou Region of southern Republic of Congo have asked the government to conduct a census of their populations in order to better incorporate them into national development planning.

4 July: Government announces it will try to have all IDPs from Pool back in their homes by the end of July.

14 July: About 10,000 IDPs from Pool living in eight sites in the south of Brazzaville benefit from aid provided by the ICRC.

24 July: Government launches its National Council for the Fight Against AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, with President Denis Sassou-Nguesso serving as the group's president.

28 July: US launches a $15 million programme to help developing countries - including those of the Congo Basin - stop illegal logging, including the sale and export of illegally harvested timber.

12 August: Inauguration of the High Court of Justice (Haute cour de justice), empowered to prosecute the country's highest authorities - including deputies, senators, judges and the president - for crimes in the conduct of their official duties.

13 August: Justin Koumba, who served as president of the Republic of Congo's National Transition Council, is named president of the country's national human rights commission.

20 August: Government sets 15 September as its new date for returning thousands of IDPs from Pool to their homes, revising its earlier target date of 31 July.

27 August: Media professionals create a national network to promote awareness-raising and education initiatives in an effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS countrywide.

28 August: National Assembly approves a bill on amnesty for Ninja militants who fought government forces in Pool during the period from 15 January 2000 until the date the bill is ultimately signed into law by President Sassou-Nguesso.

2 September: UN warns that despite improvements on the political front, an "acute humanitarian crisis" remains in Pool following a year of hostilities that ended in a 17 March 2003 peace deal.

12 September: The Association panafricaine Thomas Sankara (Apts), a national human rights NGO, launches a programme supported by the US and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to fight the exploitation and trafficking of children in the country.

19 September: A "solidarity network" for indigenous peoples is launched in Brazzaville, at the end of a three-day meeting among groups involved in the protection of minority rights across the country.

19 September: A year after elections were held nationwide, the creation of a committee to prepare for local and national elections in the war-weary Pool region is announced, with actual elections to be held "soon".

23 September: Construction of what will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the Republic of Congo begins in Imboulou, 215 km north of Brazzaville, in the central department of Plateaux.

26 September: With the support of UNICEF, a national children's parliament is inaugurated with the objective of providing youth a platform to communicate the concerns of children and women in the country.

1 October: The start of the 2003-2004 school year is marred by widespread absenteeism on the part of both students and personnel.

9 October: ICRC launches a major relief effort in Pool, which was largely devastated by a year-long civil war. 15 October: At least 13 people are killed in Mindouli, in southwest Pool, when a gunfight erupts between the army and Ninja militiamen.

15 October: UN announces it will provide 1,000 HIV-positive people with ARV treatment.

7 November: WHO announces 12 suspected cases of acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome including nine deaths in Mbomo District in Cuvette Ouest department.

14 November: The health ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirm that a new outbreak of acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome in Cuvette Ouest is, in fact, the Ebola virus.

25 November: Foreign ministers of the Congo and South Africa sign an agreement providing for the establishment of a joint cooperation commission "in various fields of common interest".

26 November: National Assembly approves joining the International Criminal Court (ICC); Senate next to decide on the matter.

11 December: The health ministry reports that the current Ebola acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome outbreak in Cuvette Ouest is stabilising, with 29 deaths among 42 registered cases to date.

20 December: Police announce a three-month crack-down on "trouble-makers" following two nights of unrest and violence in suburbs in the south of Brazzaville.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Environment, (IRIN) Gender Issues, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs




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