Congo Brazzaville: Peace Is Hell

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December 22, 2008: All's not quite quiet in the Republic of Congo, but compared to its big Congolese neighbor (Democratic Republic of Congo, or Congo-Kinshasha), it's calm. Charges of corruption in the country's oil industry circulate, and odds are the charges are true. The Pool region suffers from occasional bandit attacks attributed to "hold out" Ninjas. The Ninjas were the main rebel group in the area. Since the 2003 peace agreement, disarming and reintegrating the Ninjas has been the government's chief defense priority. Okay, that's the good news, now the bad. The war damaged Congo's economy—which is one reason the biggest news in Republic of Congo is the recent $643 million debt forgiveness package by international lenders. The Ninjas often cut the 320 mile-long railroad between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. The railroad is running but the small businesses along the railroad have not. The Republic of Congo estimates that 3.1 percent of its population of four million has AIDS. The disease is thus another crushing economic burden. Rapid urbanization is a huge problem for Congo, and medical relief groups argue that urbanization is tied to the AIDS epidemic. Seventy percent of the population lives in Brazzaville or Point Noire or along the rail line.

 

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