Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Congo-Brazzaville (Republic of Congo)

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Congo-Brazzaville (Republic of Congo), 11 March 2008, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

One of the legacies of Congo's violent modern history is a tension between the increasingly personalized government of President Denis Sassou Nguesso and the Lari ethno-linguistic group of the Pool region, around the capital Brazzaville. This tension, which has taken an increasingly ethnic character since Congo's two civil wars after 1993, is largely modern in nature, and shows how identity boundaries can harden as a direct consequence of the struggle for political and economic power.

While the first round of violence, after the defeat of the previous single-party military ruler Sassou at the polls in 1992, was largely dominated by political and military allegiance (with much of the army loyal to Sassou), a resurgence of conflict from 1997 saw three major political figures – Sassou, head of state Pascal Lissouba and Lari figurehead Bernard Kolelas – recruit militias on consciously ethnicist grounds, often from villages away from the major centres in one of francophone Africa's most urbanized societies. The result has been the hardening of ethnic prejudices between Sassou's north-central Mbochi ethnic group, which dominates government, and the southern Lari. Matters have been complicated by the absence of effective political leadership among the Lari: an ageing Kolelas has compromised with Sassou, apparently for the sake of his immediate family, and has lost much credibility with his own previously loyal Lari followers.

In addition, recent years have seen an upswing in what some specialists refer to as 'Lari nostalgia' for the medieval/early modern Kingdom of Kongo, promoting further hostility among the Mbochi and related northern populations, themselves an overall minority. In recent years, this polarization has increasingly centred on the 'Beach affair', where approximately 350 Lari militiamen were forcibly repatriated from exile in Kinshasa and then extra-judicially executed, allegedly on orders from Sassou's presidential palace. The Beach affair has been the subject of repeated legal action in France and in Congo itself.

Within the Lari population in and around southern Brazzaville, tensions have remained high in recent months between the 'Nsiloulou' militias loyal to the neo-millenarian Pasteur Ntoumi, and 'Ninjas' still loyal to Kolelas. French and Congolese human rights campaigners are concerned that the continuing potential for conflict will be instrumentalized by Sassou as a means to further centralization of his control over the oil and infrastructure sectors.

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