BRAZZAVILLE, 30 April 2007 (IRIN)
- The Congolese government and representatives of the former rebel movement, le Comité national pour le résistance (CNR) of Frédéric Bintsangou, alias Pastor Ntoumi, on Friday signed an agreement that puts the former rebel leader in charge of humanitarian affairs.
"This agreement is the result of negotiations that have been ongoing between the government and CNR since 2005. Pastor Ntoumi will gladly accept his nomination as it is one of the clauses of the agreement," the CNR's national secretary of information, Franck Euloge Mpassi, told IRIN.
"By proposing this post to the reverend pastor, the government is willing to respect the spirit of the agreement," he added.
It is the first time that the CNR and the government have signed a 'direct agreement' since 17 March 2003, when both parties reaffirmed the peace agreement. This facilitated an end to the hostilities between the 'Ninja' fighters of the CNR and the regular army in the Pool region between 1998 and 2002.
The new deal calls for the destruction of arms belonging to Ntoumi's fighters, as well as the integration of 250 members of his militia into the national army. The integration will be done according to the procedure chosen by the national programme of demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration.
The agreement also decided the date for the first round of legislative elections on 24 June and the second on 22 July 2007 throughout the Congo.
On 24 April, the Parti Congolais du Travail (PCT) of President Denis Sassou Nguesso and the Mouvement Congolais pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MCDDI) of former Prime Minister Bernard Kolélas, agreed to guarantee free, democratic and fair elections in the Pool.
In 2002, only eight of the 14 electoral regions of this area had been able to vote because of widespread insecurity. According to the United Nations Development Programme, there are between 34,000 and 40,000 illegal weapons in Congo. Most of these are thought to be in the Pool.
Ntoumi's movement, which he has transformed into a political party since February, has asked the government to implement an independent electoral commission. He has also asked for an electoral census to be organised in the areas of the Pool that have not voted since 2002. According to humanitarian organisations, the population of these areas has more than doubled since the end of the civil war.