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Friday, 11 August, 2000, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Congo Brazzaville's 'peace train'

By West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle

A 500km (310 mile) railway is reopening in the central African state of Congo Brazzaville following the successful implementation of a ceasefire in the country's three-year war.

The ceasefire and the reopening of the railway is a rare dose of good news in a region otherwise plagued by bloody conflict.

Eight-hundred-thousand people were made homeless in the Congo Brazzaville war, which pitted forces loyal to the northern President, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, against ethnic and political groups in the more densely populated south.

But a ceasefire signed late last year came into effect almost immediately and is still holding.

The Congo Brazzaville Government calls the train which will run on this railway "the peace train".

After leaving the Atlantic port city of Pointe Noir, the train will rattle its way across recently repaired track and bridges, before arriving in the capital Brazzaville three days later.

Celebrations

There will be celebrations all along the 500km route, not only because the economic backbone of Congo Brazzaville is functioning again, but because the train is a symbol of a rare peace agreement in Africa that's working.

President Sassou, who remains in power, is the winner for now, but the southerners say they have only stopped fighting on condition that their exiled leaders are allowed to return home and free elections are held.

Further intense negotiations are now likely, but most of the ordinary people of Congo Brazzaville are simply grateful that the war is over.

The peace train is a symbol of their hope that the guns will remain silent.

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06 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Congo's glimmer of hope
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