Why Congo’s new government is arresting the opposition


The Republic of Congo has issued an arrest warrant for a former rebel leader known as Pastor Ntumi, who’s being held responsible for a gun battle in the capital, Brazzaville, that killed 17 people earlier this month, Bloomberg reports:

Ntumi, whose real name is Frederic Bintsamou, is wanted for assassination and illegal possession of weapons, according to a copy of the warrant signed by the nation’s prosecutor, Andre Gakala. Bintsamou has denied involvement in the attack…..Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that shortly after the violence in Brazzaville attack helicopters destroyed a house in Pool where Bintsamou used to live, according to a statement on the website of the London-based rights group last week. Schools and churches were damaged in the raid and an unidentified number of people were killed.

The oil-producing nation held elections last month that were won by President Denis Sassou Nguesso (above), who has ruled for 18 consecutive years following the civil war.

As reported here in The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, activists claim Nguesso’s total votes were far short of the official government tally, notes Cameroonian journalist Elie Smith, a  visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, who outlines what happened after the elections:

  1. Constitutional court rules on the election.

Some opposition candidates turned to Congo’s courts, claiming that Nguesso did not win the majority needed to avoid a runoff. To get the constitutional court to confirm his victory, Nguesso reportedly convened the court at the presidential palace……

  1. Opposition groups are fighting with government forces.

Opposition groups clashed with government troops in Brazzaville after the election, with 17 deaths reported. Further violence broke out after the April 4 court decision with heavy fighting in the south of Brazzaville, where support for the opposition candidates is strongest. Government spokesman Thierry Moungalla claimed security forces were fighting against Ninja terrorist groups that had infiltrated the southern parts of the city and the Pool regions……

  1. Government is arresting opposition leaders.

The government arrested several pro-democracy activists and opposition party leaders. Gen. Jean Marie Michel Mokoko, who came in third in the elections, according to government figures, and second, according to the opposition, is under unofficial house arrest. Two other opposition leaders, Okombi Salissa and Claudine Munari, are also under house arrest……

  1. What next?

Nguesso has been ruling Congo since 1979, except for a five-year hiatus from 1992 to 1997. Constitutional changes carried out in late 2015 allowed him to run again by overthrowing earlier term and age limits. Nguesso claims to be fighting against terrorists. However, what is happening in Congo might destroy the fragile unity of the already divided nation. What is happening in Congo also has the making of a humanitarian crisis.


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