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Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 16:03 GMT
New peace deal in Congo-Brazzaville

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The army and rebels in Congo-Brazzaville have signed a new truce aimed at ending the fighting between rival political factions that has been going on for the past year.

The accord was brokered by President Omar Bongo of neighbouring Gabon and signed on Wednesday in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville.



We decided to end the war today
Rebel leader Colonel Boungou Boungou
As well as an end to hostilities, it provides for a national dialogue, demilitarisation of political parties, and the re-organisation of the army, including the re-admission of rebel units into the country's security forces.

"The accord must enable us to put an end to the conflict which has caused thousands of deaths," said Henri Ndjombo, the government minister who negotiatedd with the rebels on behalf of President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

The Congolese president has previously offered an amnesty to those who lay down their arms before 15 January.

Congolese military sources said there could still be small groups refusing to lay down their arms.

"But they won't be able to affect the military deal," they added.

Combat defeats

Correspondents say rebel militias have been repeatedly defeated in combat in the centre of the country and have gradually lost all their key positions to government forces' heavy artillery.

The government has had the backing of Angolan troops.

Recent fighting has been concentrated in the south and west of the former French colony country and involved the Cocoyes and Ninjas, supporters of the former president, Pascal Lissouba, and his prime minister, Bernard Kolelas.

Mr Lissouba and Mr Kolelas went into exile after a civil war in 1997.

Both rejected an earlier peace accord signed on 16 November at Pointe-Noire, in western Congo, and were not involved in the most recent deal.

But Colonel Pierre Boungou Boungou, a former security officer under President Lissouba, and a leader of the Resistance Self-Defence Forces (FAR), a coalition of Cocoye and Ninja groups said they had decided the war must end.

"We are the last movement to sign a peace with the government. There are no other dissident factions who have not signed."

A UN report last month said tens of thousands of women had been raped and more than 500,000 people made homeless during the fighting over the past year.

About half the population of Brazzaville - some 250,000 people - fled into jungles surrounding the capital, from fighting early this year.

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See also:
11 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Congo Brazzaville's hidden war
17 Nov 99 |  Africa
Treaty amid anarchy in Congo-Brazzaville
15 Nov 99 |  Africa
Brazzaville soldiers kill returning refugees
14 Nov 99 |  Africa
Exclusive: Africa's forgotten war revealed
16 Nov 99 |  Africa
Congo: 'Rapist soldiers will be punished'

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