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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 17 January 2005

CONGO: Government starts to count soldiers

BRAZZAVILLE, 17 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - In an effort to clamp down on widespread abuses associated with security forces in the Republic of Congo's, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has ordered top military commanders to count and verify all security personnel under their command by March, after which new military identity cards will be issued.

"We must, without delay, get control of personnel in the security forces and end the disorder in the way in which the military is paid," Gen Norbert Dabira, the army inspector general, told reporters on Saturday. "We are working to correct our military's bad image."

In November and December, Brazzaville and other towns were badly shaken by young people who stole and extorted money from merchants, while demanding salary arrears. Such acts have created fear among the public of a possible return to the massive looting in Brazzaville and some other localities during the civil war between 1998 and 1998.

"The blame lies with the government which has managed its reintegration programme poorly," Emmanuel Bongouandza, a parliamentarian and member of an umbrella group of opposition parties known as le Code A, said.

"The Recruitment of soldiers, police and gendarmes has been anarchic, he added.

Bongouandza said that the youths were not recognised civil servants but just because they had guns, had been demanding and receiving salaries to which they were not entitled.

In his end-of-year speech to the nation, Sassou-Nguesso warned the young combatants against acts of indiscipline and said all soldiers who were not registered in the army would be kicked out of the force. He also ordered the establishment of a new mechanism for registering military personnel that would enable commanders to keep enrolment lists and ensure that treasury officials stop paying "ghost soldiers".


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