- Former head of "Ninjas" says amnesty key to peace
BRAZZAVILLE, Dec. 28 (Reuters) - The head of Congo's main rebel group called for an amnesty for his fellow fighters on Monday and accepted a government job he was offered more than two years ago as part of a peace deal.
Frederic Bintsamou, known by his nom de guerre Pastor Ntoumi, has been blamed for chronic violence in the central African nation's Pool region where his dreadlocked "Ninja" fighters waged a 1998-2002 rebellion and have since been accused of being behind a resurgence of banditry and rape.
"For a real reconciliation, a true peace, all of the acts of civil war from 1997, 1998, 2000, must be covered by amnesty," said Ntoumi during a ceremony in the capital Brazzaville to mark his acceptance of the government advisory role.
"Now that I am in Brazzaville, people will not say that the problems of insecurity in the Pool are Ntoumi," he said.
The violence in the area, which lies between Brazzaville and the oil port town of Pointe Noire and borders fertile land set aside for a farm deal with South Africa, adds to headaches caused by dilapitaded roads and erratic trains.
Ntoumi was offered the government post of general delegate to the presidency -- charged with the promotion of peace -- in 2007 as part of a rebel armistice deal, but did not accept its responsibilities until now because of "security and protocol problems."
Having won another seven-year term in power this July, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has called on his government to draw up a strategy to tackle robberies, rapes and roadblocks.
Some 10,000 fighters have signed up to World Bank-sponsored disarmament programmes since Congo's various conflicts ended but they have struggled in Pool, where many youths have kept their weapons and are involved in growing and smoking marijuana.
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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