Peacekeeping: Getting The Guns Out Of The Pool

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February 16, 2009: The peace agreement reached six years ago in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville, the smaller, and more peaceful of the two African countries with the same name) did succeed in ending the civil war. But bandits and a few diehard rebels continued to roam the bush. Recently, peace deals were negotiated with the last rebel holdouts. So the government is seeking to buy back about 3,000 weapons from the 5,000 or so remaining rebels in the Pool region (where most of the remaining violence has been). Offering $200-300 per firearm is an attractive deal, since many of these guns are barely functional, and many owners are out of ammo, and just keep the weapons handy in case the civil war resumes. That seems less likely now.

The civil war lasted from 1998-2002, with most of the fighting taking place in the Pool region in the south. The peace agreement (signed in March 2003) was negotiated between the Congo (Brazzaville) government and the CNR (Committee for National Resistance), led by Frederic Bintsangou (aka Pasteur Ntoumi). The CNR is now a political party, not a guerrilla organization.

However, the peace agreement did not completely end the violence. People in the Pool region complained of "insecurity" - meaning they feared physical violence. Many of Pool's "ninjas" (as the rebels called themselves) did not turn in their weapons. The government has touted the success of its disarmament and demobilization program, which was supposed to pay former guerrillas to surrender their guns. The idea was to take automatic weapons "out of circulation." It worked for most of the rebels, but there were holdouts who required six years of police work, and negotiation, to deal with.

Thousands of small arms were not turned in. Incidents of banditry persisted, with the civil war era weapons often used. The CNR had some authority over the insurgency (such as it was) but a lot of the "warfare" in pool involved local gangs who decided to "support the rebellion." The gangs returned to crime after the peace agreement demobilized the more formal rebel units.

But the gangs aren't the biggest problem, poverty is. Transportation infrastructure was damaged by the war, and the infrastructure in the Pool region was inadequate to begin with. Some reconstruction has taken place, but more work is now possible because deals have been negotiated with the remaining rebel holdouts.

 


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