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Sunday, November 14, 1999 Published at 14:25 GMT

World: Africa

Exclusive: Africa's forgotten war revealed

West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle was the first foreign journalist to visit a jungle region called the Pool since government troops retook it

The West African state of Congo-Brazzaville is suffering a humanitarian crisis in the middle of what is largely a forgotten war.

Fighting is continuing in the jungle interior, despite government forces having won control earlier this year of the capital and other main towns.

The cost to civilians has been high. At least 500,000 displaced people are suffering from malnutrition and are violently oppressed by both sides.

I travelled 150km into the dense bush. Village after village was deserted.

At a government army checkpoint a human skull was on display as a grisly warning to any potential rebels. At another point on the road I saw human bones.

Tropical mango trees stood unharvested. In Africa a tree full of ripe, unharvested mangoes is a very rare sight. It was proof that the population had long since fled human rights violations committed by both government and rebel troops.


Rape and summary executions are widespread. At one village, I met some of the people made destitute by the war.

They emerged from the jungle when missionaries began to provide some very limited food and medical care in the village.

Babies with severe malnutrition wailed; their young mothers distraught. Hungry, old people begged for help.

I returned to the capital in a truck full of sick and wounded people. We were stopped at a government army checkpoint and shooting broke out among the soldiers. It was an argument over how much to loot from the destitute.

The Congolese refugees packed into the truck were quiet and resigned to their fate. They had seen it all before.

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