Police crackdown on Brazzaville crime extended six months

The government of the Republic of Congo has announced that it would be extending for six months, a three-month crackdown on crime in the capital, Brazzaville.

The announcement was made in Brazzaville on Monday by Brig-Gen Gilbert Moukoki, head of the national gendarmerie, and head of "Operation Espoir" (Hope), as the project has been dubbed. The operation was originally launched in late December 2003 following two nights of unrest and violence in suburbs in the south of the city.

"Nearly everyone agrees that thanks to Operation Espoir, crime has been significantly reduced in Brazzaville," the government announced in a statement. "Stick-ups, which had become common practice, have nearly ended, due to the dissuasive effect of the police forces that have been patrolling the streets of Brazzaville both day and night."

However, the government conceded that there had been some abuse of authority by police forces, and that measures would be taken against those responsible for such crimes.

"The public forces must serve as a model for the rest of society," it stated.

Panic broke out during the nights of 15-16 and 17-18 December in the Brazzaville suburbs of Bacongo and Makelekele due to what Moukoki said were "out-of-control elements of the security forces", including the army and police, as well as former militia fighters, known as 'Cobras' and 'Ninjas'.

Although largely demobilised, the former militias have not yet handed all their weapons to the military, according to the ROC government.

Until a peace agreement was reached on 17 March 2003, the Pool region of Congo had been wracked by violence between government forces and 'Ninja' fighters loyal to rebel leader the Rev Frederic Bitsangou, alias Pasteur Ntoumi.

However, one year after the agreement, the area remains unstable.