Pool Region moves on from war

Some former rebels from the Pool Region of Congo are running for Parliament in the July elections.

Frédéric Bintsangou, aka Pastor Ntoumi, was the leader of the rebel group The Ninjas which led a civil war in Congo-Brazzaville.

BRAZZAVILLE - Shaken by sporadic civil war between 1998 and 2003, the Pool Region of southeastern Congo is moving forward thanks, in part, to a US$1 billion state infrastructure development programme.

Starting this year the new funding will allow an "accelerated municipalisation" programme, meaning the construction of roads, bridges, schools, military barracks, police stations, health centres, electrification and water supply systems, and even sports facilities.

Meanwhile, a number of former rebels from the region are running for parliament in the 15 July elections, offering renewed hope that Pool is turning its back on conflict.

All 13 districts of Pool (population 350,000) will benefit, say officials. Some of the funding will go towards marking the country's 52nd anniversary of independence on 15 August.

Pool's capital, Kinkala, is to get 21km of additional paved roads.

"To date, projects related to Independence Day, including the boulevard that will host military and civilian parades, the presidential lounge, and a heliport accommodating up to five helicopters, are proceeding smoothly," said Minister of Planning Pierre Moussa.

"There are some sites to be delivered before 15 August and we have visited them. We think that half way through we are pleased with progress to date," said chief project coordinator Jean-Jacques Bouya.

A 7,000 seat stadium is on track to be completed by a Chinese company. "Sport always reconciles suffering people more than other initiatives," said the prefect of Pool, Col Jean-Michel Sangha.

Since the end of the civil war, only one large infrastructure project has been completed in Pool: construction of a 68km road between Brazzaville and Kinkala costing US$64 million and funded mainly by the European Union.

"The more roads are built for us, the more we are encouraged to produce, get our produce to major centres, and above all emerge from the misery of war," 52-year-old farmer Albert Missié told IRIN.


The civil war turned Pool from being the "breadbasket of Congo" into an area dependent on food from others.

"Our food comes more from neighbouring regions, Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. We believe that with everything that is being done we will regain our status as a great producer," said Sangha.

Pool regained peace in 2003. At the end of 2009, ex-rebel leader Pastor Ntoumi left his bush hideout to take up a post in Brazzaville as delegate general in charge of promoting peace and repairing the damage caused by war.

To strengthen peace and the social reintegration of 5,000 ex-combatants who used to support Pastor Ntoumi, the government has just distributed building materials to each one to help them reconstruct their homes. "We ask them to use them wisely, and not re-sell them," said Sangha.

Nineteen members of Ntoumi's former rebellion, the Conseil national de la résistance (CNR), also known as the Ninjas, are due to run in the July legislative elections.

"We always said ours was a people's movement. We are Congolese keen to take part in the reconstruction of our country by being present in decision-making bodies," said Jean-Antoine Walembaud, secretary-general of the CNR, which has morphed into a political party - with the "R" now standing for "republicans" rather than "resistance".

"What could be more normal than seeing a former rebellion engaging in the political process? It has left the war behind and espoused a peace cherished by a population bloodied by war," said Albert Taty, president of the Association for Peace in Congo.

Vast numbers of civilians fled Pool during the conflict; but most have now returned, according to the government.