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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
01 February 2007

CONGO: Govt, agencies welcome decision to make rebel group political party

BRAZZAVILLE, 1 Feb 2007 (IRIN) - The government and humanitarian agencies in the Republic of Congo have welcomed a decision by a former rebel leader to transform his armed group into a political party, saying they hoped it would help restore peace to the administrative department of the Pool, scene of several civil wars between 1998 and 2002.

Frédéric Bintsangou, alias Pasteur Ntoumi, leader of le comité national pour le résistance (CNR), announced last week that the movement would become a political party and take part in legislative elections this year.

"It will be a very good thing when Bintsangou's movement becomes a political party," President Denis Sassou-Nguesso said on Wednesday. "One cannot want peace, democracy, freedom of movement of the people, property and elections while supporting violence at the same time."

Bintsangou's new party will be known as the National Council of the Republicans. The movement filed its request to be recognised as a political party with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation on 23 January. Under the country's laws the ministry must rule on the application within three months.

"By becoming a political party, our objective is to take part in future elections and also to see how we can contribute to the retrieval of guns," Anné Philippe Bibi, Bintsangou's political adviser, said on Thursday.

In December 2006, humanitarian groups launched a US$28-million appeal for vulnerable groups in the Pool but said they needed a secure environment in which to operate.

"We want peace to return once and for all," said Dieudonné Bamouni, the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kinkala, the largest town in the Pool.

Residents have been returning to the area in large numbers since the end of hostilities in 2003. "We can no longer talk of an acute humanitarian crisis in Congo, but there are still pockets of vulnerability in the Pool which need to be attended to," Bamouni said.

Despite the massive number of returnees in the Pool, he said, there has not been infrastructural development. He said health facilities, quality education and protection were required.

In 2005, the Swiss NGO Smalls Arms Survey estimated there were up to 40,000 fire-arms in circulation in the country, most of them in the Pool.

Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland, which provides medical services in the Pool, said the transformation of the movement to a political party would, hopefully, reduce this figure.

"We have continued our activities as usual but we hope to do so with far less threat of violence," Judy McConnery, the MSF-Holland head of mission in the country, said.



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