The Cease-Fire in the Republic of Congo Is the Latest Sign of Sassou Nguesso’s Weakness

Denis Sassou Nguesso surrounded by his cobras generals in 1997.

For well over a year, information coming out of the Republic of Congo’s southeastern Pool region, though limited, has pointed to a brutal armed conflict with grave humanitarian consequences. In its crackdown on the Ntsiloulou rebel group, also known as the “Ninjas,” the government of President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been accused of carrying out torture, mass evictions, arbitrary arrests and even aerial bombardments against civilians. Grisly violence has also been attributed to the rebels, including attacks on rail lines connecting the region to the rest of the country. The conflict in Pool started immediately after Sassou Nguesso was named the winner of the presidential election of March 2016, which gave him a new five-year term. The president has ruled Congo since 1979, with the exception of a five-year stretch in the 1990s following an election defeat. Though the constitution stipulated that his previous term should have been his last, Sassou Nguesso, 74, organized a controversial referendum in 2015 that altered the presidential term limit and did away with an age limit, allowing him to run again. …

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