The Congolese army has warned hardcore militiamen to lay down their arms in order to benefit from a general amnesty, due to take effect on 15 January, PANA news agency reported. It quoted the armed forces head of operations, General Prosper Nkonta Mokono, who said the militiamen were "marginal" and wanted to continue waging war in the regions of Pool, Niari, Bouenza and Lekoumou. He warned that if they did not surrender by the due date, the army would "crush" them. The Pointe Noire truce accord was signed by the government and some rebel representatives last month. Last week, parliament passed the amnesty bill. PANA said rebel Ninja militiamen, loyal to ousted prime minister Bernard Kolelas, began handing in their weapons on 13 December. However Kolelas himself, as well as former president Pascal Lissouba, are exempt from the amnesty, news organisations reported.
Congolese army chief of staff Gilbert Mokoki told Gabonese radio the collection of weapons was going smoothly, despite difficulties in communication and the spread of some armed factions throughout the national territory. He said, however, he hoped for the speedier surrender of arms by the rebels.
Four Europeans pardoned
Four Europeans convicted of plotting to kill President Denis Sassou Nguesso have been pardoned and were deported from the country on Saturday, AFP reported. The four - a Croatian, an Italian and two Frenchmen - were sentenced to jail terms ranging from two to seven years by a court in Brazzaville earlier this month. They had been accused of acting on behalf of ousted president Pascal Lissouba. AFP said the defendants asserted their innocence, testifying they had been invited to the country to train military cadets in security techniques.
Government calls for aid to cope with floods
The Congolese government has called for international aid following widespread flooding in Brazzaville and northern parts of the country, PANA news agency reported. "The council of ministers deplores the indifference of the international community in the face of this natural disaster," PANA quoted government spokesman Francois Ibovi as saying on Friday. The floods have rendered homeless some 1,300 people in north Brazzaville and four sites have been opened for victims needing food and drugs. The authorities have expressed concern over the situation in northern Congo, where floods have destroyed roads and crops, and left over 20,000 people in need of help, PANA said.
UNHCR trying to reach thousands of DRC refugees
A UNHCR team is trying to reach villages in northern Congo where thousands of refugees have reportedly fled fighting in northwest DRC. According to a UNHCR briefing, the team travelled to Impfondo, 1,000 km north of Brazzaville, where some 13,000 DRC refugees are said to be scattered in villages and settlements along a 300 km stretch of the Oubangui river. They were fleeing fighting between DRC troops and rebels around the towns of Bururu and Bomongo. As yet, no boats have been made available to UNHCR staff to verify the numbers further upriver. Local authorities said the entire area had been affected by exceptional flooding over the past two months.
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