Congo: Government ready to meet with "Ninja" leader Ntoumi

NAIROBI, 28 January (IRIN) - The ruling party of the Republic of Congo (ROC) has expressed its willingness to meet with rebel "Ninja" leader Rev Frederic Bitsangou, alias Pasteur Ntoumi.
It quoted Gabriel Oba Apounou, president of the Brazzaville city office of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso's ruling Parti congolais du travail, as saying that his party was ready to receive Ntoumi in Brazzaville under the condition that he agreed to lay down his arms and abandon violence.

"Mr Ntoumi is Congolese. It is the will of the PCT that he leave the forest without fear. Here in Brazzaville, we will welcome him," Oba Apounou was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary commission has been put in place to reach out to Ntoumi in an effort to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict that erupted in late March 2002 in the Pool region between government forces and Ninja rebels loyal to Ntoumi. Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee what then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called "blatant disregard" by government forces and rebels for the safety and human rights of civilians trapped by fighting in Pool. While those who were able to escape Pool were usually able to receive relief support, humanitarian access to the vast majority who were left behind has been sporadic at best, though more often impossible.


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