UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
CONGO: Brazzaville rejects rebel leader's demands
BRAZZAVILLE, 9 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - The government of the Republic of Congo has rejected demands made in late January by the rebel Ninja leader, the Rev Frederic Bitsangou, alias Pastor Ntoumi, saying they were above and beyond a 17 March 2003 accord meant to restore peace to the country's southeastern Pool Department.
The minister of transport and privatisation, responsible for coordination of government action, Isidore Mvouba, made the announcement on Sunday during a news conference in the capital, Brazzaville.
The conditions Bitsangou set for his return to Brazzaville include the installation of a government of national unity, the return of exiled former political leaders, clarification of his legal status and the signing of an agreement with the government regarding the number of his fighters to be integrated into the army, police and gendarmerie.
"According to the peace agreement for the Pool Department reached between the government and representatives of Pastor Ntoumi, there is no mention of the formation of a national unity government and the return of exiles," Mvouba said. "We call on Pastor Ntoumi to respect his obligations."
Under the accord, the Congolese government and Ntoumi agreed to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of Ntoumi's troops; to allow the free circulation of persons and goods in Pool; to restore State authority in Pool; and to designate a Ninja representative to the country's High Commission for Reintegration of Former Combatants (Haut commissariat charge de la reinsertion des ex-combatants).
In an effort to encourage Bitsangou's return to Brazzaville, the government rehabilitated an old building in the Bacongo neighbourhood in southern Brazzaville, as his official home.
Mvouba said the government had honoured 90 percent of what it had agreed to, but that "the other 10 percent regarding reintegration does not depend on us alone."
He added that the government and representatives of Bitsangou's had already put two working groups in place responsible for the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of the Ninja rebels and to decide on what Bitsangou's legal status would be.
"The fact that Pastor Ntoumi is still in Loukouo [some 200 km west of Brazzaville, in Pool] with armed forces constitutes a potential threat to peace," Mvouba said.
He added that the government had no intention of resuming hostilities in Pool.
"Only weak States resort to using violence against violence. We give priority to peace, and we respect our agreements for peace," Mvouba said.
Yet, he also said: "The State cannot be defied indefinitely. Those who have tried to do so before have lived to regret it. The State is patient, but its patience has limits."
[See earlier IRIN item, "Rebel leader sets conditions for disarmament", at http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=39140]
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