9, December 2016
Fresh fighting in the Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, between government forces and rebels has forced thousands of people to flee their homes. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) warned on Friday that fighting in the southeast of the country had displaced an estimated 13,000 people. “We are afraid some 13,000 displaced people soon may not have enough to eat,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland. People in the area are “also having trouble getting health care and education because so many state-employed medics and teachers have fled,” he added.
Spindler said that the uptick in violence in recent weeks between the Ninja Nsiloulou rebels and government forces has included an attack on a military vehicle in the southeastern district of Mindouli that killed two people. The rebels, who fought two civil wars against the government in the 1990s, were seen as having been mostly disbanded after agreeing to a peace accord in 2003. However, sporadic clashes between the two sides have continued ever since.
In October, at least 14 people, including children, were killed in an attack on a train in Mindouli. The assault was blamed on the Ninja rebels. The situation in Congo-Brazzaville had been tense since a constitutional referendum in October 2015 removed a two-term limit on the presidency, allowing the 72-year-old leader to run in the 2016 election.
The rebels are led by a Protestant pastor named Frederic Bintsamou, who his followers call the Prophet. Bintsamou came out in favor of opposition presidential candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas in elections in March 2016. However, the opposition candidate lost to longtime leader Denis Sassou Nguesso. Sassou Nguesso won re-election in the first round of voting, receiving 60 percent of the votes. The opposition claimed the election was a sham.