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Concern rises over Barrow’s visit to Congo dictator


Analysts fear he may already have sit-tight plans!


denis-sassou-congo nguesso

By John Eche


Concern is rising in pro-democracy circles in the continent over the recent visit of Gambian President, Adama Barrow to his counterpart in the Republic of Congo and Africa’s oldest dictator, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville.

During the visit, Barrow, who only assumed office a few months ago, after a spirited rally by ECOWAS, the AU and world leaders who put sustained pressure on the erstwhile strongman of the tiny West African state to vacate office following his defeat in the December 1, 2016, lauded Sassou-Nguesso, describing him as ‘an excellent advisor’ who had a lot of experience to be gleaned from.

But his comments are now being interpreted as a subtle indication that, now settled in office, he may presently be inclined towards doing everything possible to continue to remain in office, a development that runs against the grain of the current political construct within which he operates.

Under the terms of his election and inauguration, Barrow was until now, expected to serve only one term in office.

In the course of the tour also, Barrow who took over the Gambian presidency exactly three-months ago landed in the Congolese capital Brazzaville on Friday afternoon and was personally received at the airport by the Congolese president and other top government officials.

This is his first trip to the Central Africa region and local media portals quoted Barrow as saying the 24-hour visit was a friendly one. ‘‘This visit is a friendly visit, I came to be able to learn from my older brother Denis Sassou-Nguesso, he could also be an excellent advisor.

‘It is important for me to meet and learn from his experience,’‘ he further stated. He added that his Congolese counterpart was a man whose political experience should be tapped by all across the continent.’

Sassou-Nguesso, who has led the Congo Republic for over three decades, won his latest landslide elections in March last year. He has ruled the Central African nation with an iron fist for a total of 32 years. Coming first into power as a military despot after deposing his uncle, Macias Nguema in a palace coup in 1979, he was later elected President in 1997 and has continued to be re-elected time after time in elections that the opposition has continually disputed.

A wily fox, he specialises in ingratiating himself with western leaders and reportedly spends vast swathes of his country’s resources in laundering his image globally. One such effort to ingratiate himself to the Trump administration fell through when the maverick American leader publicly denounced the planned meeting. His human rights record is also known to be most appalling.

Recently for example, rights activists voiced their concern on the military and police operations currently ongoing in the Pool region and said “serious human rights violations were taking place behind closed doors” in the region.

In a report, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the violence has already led to dozens of people killed and injured.

Numerous arrests have also been made while many buildings including schools, medical centers and churches have also been destroyed during the operation, the rights organisation said.

FIDH said that for over two weeks, the Congolese army and police have been conducting major operations against former members of the Ninja militia and its former leader, Frédéric Bintsmou.

The rights group called for the authorities to stop all operations by the security forces, to allow access to populations and to conduct independent investigations into the violence.

Congolese authorities have however disputed the reports and said there have not been any no civilian casualties.

The Pool region has witnessed numerous clashes between rebels and government forces that escalated following the 2015 referendum and last year’s election.

The Ninjas fought two civil wars against the government in the 1990s and were seen as having disbanded after agreeing to a peace deal in 2003. But clashes resumed after President Dennis Sassou Nguesso won the controversial March 2016 elections.


president Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo

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