Covering events from January - December 2004

The government repeatedly promised to bring to justice members of the security forces accused of involvement in "disappearances" in 1999, but failed to do so. Members of the security forces killed at least three people; one of the victims was accused of witchcraft. The authorities used the courts and administrative measures to silence journalists.


A peace agreement signed between the government and the armed opposition National Resistance Council (Conseil national de résistance, CNR) continued to hold but it was not fully implemented. The CNR leader, Frédéric Bitsangou, and many of his combatants remained in their bases in the Pool region, giving rise to fears that conflict might resume. The government rejected CNR demands for a government of national unity, the return of exiled former leaders, clarification of its leader's legal status and a binding agreement to integrate combatants into government security forces. Humanitarian workers expressed concern that the population of the Pool region faced a dire situation with little or no access to medical, educational and food assistance. The infrastructure destroyed during the armed conflict remained largely unrepaired.

In July the country was suspended from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which traces the origin of diamonds, because it failed to account for the origin of large quantities of rough diamonds that it was exporting.


In a case lodged in a French court in 2001, senior Congolese officials were accused of responsibility for the May 1999 "disappearance" of at least 353 refugees returning from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. In March a French court issued an international arrest warrant for army inspector General Norbert Dabira, but he was not arrested. In April Jean-François Ndenguet, the director of the Congolese police, was arrested in Meaux on the orders of the French Procuracy. He was released within 24 hours after he claimed diplomatic immunity.

In April the Congolese government promised to prove that the "disappearances" had not occurred and threatened to bring prosecutions against organizations that continued to claim that it was responsible. No such proof was given or prosecutions occurred. Killings of people suspected of practising witchcraft continued to be reported. In July several officials claimed that they had been charged with involvement in the "disappearances" at their own request – a claim denied by the Procurator General of the Supreme Court.

  • Sixty-year-old Mbon Pô was beaten to death in November by soldiers who accused him of responsibility for the death of his daughter, who was a soldier. The victim's son, also a soldier, was reportedly severely beaten by his colleagues when he tried to protect his father. Although there were reports of judicial investigations into the killing, no further action was reported by the end of 2004.

Unlawful killings

The authorities issued orders to the security forces to eliminate violent criminals, which led to unlawful killings of civilians. In January Bienvenu Feignand died after being shot by a special police unit set up to fight violent crime. The victim had not been involved in any criminal activity. No investigation was known to have been carried out into the shooting. The same month a young boy trying to stow away in an Air France passenger plane undercarriage was shot dead by members of the security forces.

Silencing the media

The government imposed restrictions on freedom of the press. Several national radio journalists who hosted broadcasts critical of government policies were either suspended or had their programmes stopped. They included Toudikissa Massanga and Dulcine Pambou.

In November government ministers threatened to cancel accreditations for foreign radio correspondents who presented a negative image of the government. For example, the accreditation for Saîd Penda, a correspondent for the London-based British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), was cancelled after he interviewed a government opponent who described the President as a dictator.

Gislin Simplice Ongouya, the publication director of L'Observateur, had six charges of libel filed in court against him by directors of the state oil company. The newspaper had published articles in November 2003 accusing the directors of mismanagement. In January, Gislin Simplice Ongouya was informed that in July 2003 he had been found guilty of libel in his absence, without being asked to appear in court. He was ordered to pay damages of more than US$8,000, which threatened the newspaper with closure.

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