Update - Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)

Report
from UN Country Team in Republic of the Congo
Published on 18 Apr 2001
National Dialogue on new constitution and convention for peace concludes
The second phase of the Congolese National Dialogue took place in Brazzaville 11-14 April 2001. The three-day National Convention gathered more than 1600 participants from government, political parties and civil society to examine the results of decentralised debates on the constitutional draft and the convention for peace. The event attracted the return to Congo of a number of former ministers from the previous Government.

The convention's Presidium was co-chaired on behalf of President Omar Bongo - international mediator for Congo - by the Gabonese Minister of the Interior. The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Congo attended the three days discussions as the only international observer.

Following discussions from the floor, participants accepted by acclamation the Convention's Report. The report states that the draft constitution, along with comments by delegates (verbal or in writing), will be transmitted to the Government, which will then finalise the text and submit it for approval to the Conseil National de Transition. Participants also accepted the text of the Convention for Peace and Reconstruction, which was signed by the Gabonese and Congolese Presidents at the closing ceremony.

Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the Francophonie, attended the closing, sitting together on the podium together with the Presidents of Gabon, Congo and S=E3o Tomé and Principé. The OAU was represented by the Togolese Prime Minister, for the Togolese President-current OAU head, along with the OAU Assistant Secretary-General.

The 'Peace Flame'

The ceremony was followed by the 'Flamme de la Paix' - a symbolic bonfire of assault rifles collected through the UNDP/IOM project for reintegration of ex-combatants and small arms collection. UN Resident Coordinator, William Paton, described the 'Flamme' in his speech as "only a small step in the long march of the Congolese people towards a durable peace."

Those who did not attend

Leading opposition figures, Ex-Pres. Lissouba and former Brazzaville mayor - briefly Prime Minister - Bernard Kolelas, were absent from the proceedings. The Government and mediator's position was that they were welcome to come.

However, they face sentences of 20 years imprisonment or death-handed down in absentia-if they return and no special provisions were made in this regard. Kolelas arrived in Kinshasa 10 April to cross the river to Brazzaville. He announced there that he had been refused entry for transit and apparently spent the night in the airport diplomatic lounge before departing next day for Lagos. He continued on to Côte d'Ivoire, where Air Afrique was said to have announced they had been refused permission to land in Brazzaville if Mr. Kolelas was on board.

Mediator Concludes Work

At the conclusion of the National Dialogue, 14 April, it was announced that Pres. Bongo-International Mediator for Congo-had concluded his work.