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Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 13:17 UK

Congo retaliates in Mandela row

Bookcover for Straight Speaking for Africa by Denis Sassou Nguesso (Publisher Red Sea Press, Inc)
Denis Sassou-Nguesso's book was published in French earlier this year

Colleagues of Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou-Nguesso have denied claims that his biography invented comments from Nelson Mandela.

Alain Akouala, former communications minister in Congo, accused Mr Mandela's aides of treating the anti-apartheid icon's name "like a brand".

He told the BBC the foreword came from a 1997 speech made by Mr Mandela.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation had labelled the preface a "brazen abuse of Mr Mandela's name".

But Mr Akouala told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "Those words are Madiba's [Mandela's] words".

He said Mr Mandela made the speech thanking the Congolese people and the president for their help while he was in prison in fighting South Africa's apartheid government in Angola and Zambia.

South Africa's ambassador to Congo also insisted the comments praising Mr Sassou-Nguesso were true.

We don't need their authorisation to publish what Mandela said after the Congolese gave their blood for the liberation of southern African countries
Adviser to Congo's President Denis Sassou-Nguesso

He told South Africa's Times newspaper that the foundation's accusations had embarrassed the country.

The Republic of Congo president took power in a coup and, after losing an election, regained it by winning a civil war.

The foreword praises Mr Sassou-Nguesso as "one of our great African leaders".

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which oversees the former leader's legacy, said he had "neither read the book nor written a foreword for it".

The BBC's correspondent in the region Thomas Fessy says a Congolese presidential adviser had become almost abusive in reacting to the foundation's claims.

"Mandela's name doesn't belong to the foundation but to the African continent," the adviser said.

"We don't need their authorisation to publish what Mandela said after the Congolese gave their blood for the liberation of southern African countries."

The bookselling website Amazon says the semi-autobiographical Straight Speaking for Africa was published in English last month by Red Sea Inc of Africa World Press.



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