A long-delayed process of reintegrating into civilian life some 30,000 combatants who took part in the Republic of Congo’s 1998-2003 civil war began in Kinkala, the main town in the devastated Pool region, on 9 June.
Present at the launch of the National Programme of Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (NPDDR) were the government official in charge of the programme, Michel Ngakala, and Ninja rebel leader Frédéric Bintsamou, who is also known as Pasteur Ntoumi.
“We have come to launch the NPDDR in Kinkala because we believe in peace and its ability to create an indivisible Congolese nation,” Ngakala said in Kinkala, about 70km south of the capital, Brazzaville.
“Peace is the only way to create the conditions for fair and sustainable development,” he told a crowd of 2,500 people, most of them Ninja fighters.
Some 5,000 men still under Pasteur Ntoumi’s command, 6,000 government forces and 19,000 former fighters who have already demobilised on their own are expected to take part in the programme, financed to the tune of 17 million dollars by the World Bank, with another million provided by Congo’s government.
Ntoumi used the occasion to announce the disbanding of the Ninjas, the armed wing of his political party, the Conseil national des républicains.
Photo: Laudes Martial Mbon/IRIN
|Ninja leader Frédéric Bintsamou, alias Pasteur Ntoumi (right) and High Commissioner for the Reintegration of Former Fighters Michel Ngakala (left)|
“I don’t want people to die in Pool because of Ntoumi. Pool must be protected from danger. Today we declare the disbanding of our armed branch,” he said.
“Demobilisation also means that if the government put troops in Pool because of the war, it must withdraw them,” he added.
Pool was once Congo’s breadbasket department. But between 1998 and 2003 it was the theatre of fierce clashes between the Ninjas and the national army.