BRAZZAVILLE May 27 The opposition coalition in
Congo Republic said on Saturday it would boycott legislative
elections in July if the government does not release detained
opposition leaders and end a 'war' in the southeast of the
The decision reflects opposition frustration with President
Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled the oil-producing country
for all but five years since 1979, and who was re-elected last
year after a constitutional referendum.
The March 2016 election, which gave Sassou Nguesso a third
term, was criticised by opposition parties and foreign powers
"The decision to hold legislative and local elections is
perceived as an act that ruptures national solidarity," said
Claudine Munari, president of the opposition federation.
"The illegal state of emergency in the Pool (region) aims to
hide a humanitarian and health crisis which has caused thousands
of deaths and thousands of displaced people," she said, calling
for political dialogue under international supervision.
Authorities said in March security forces had killed around
15 rebel fighters in the Pool region in the latest police and
The area is a stronghold of Frederic Bintsamou, better known
as Pastor Ntumi, who led a militia that fought Sassou Nguesso
during and after a 1997 civil war. The government blames him for
deadly raids in the capital Brazzaville last April.
The unrest in the Pool region has forced thousands to flee
their homes and sparked allegations of abuse by government
troops from human rights groups.
Opposition leader Pauline Makaya was sentenced to two years
in jail last July on four counts including "incitement to
disturb public order" during a demonstration in October 2015 to
protest against a third term for the president.
At the same time, opposition leader Jean-Marie Michel
Mokoko, who came third in the 2016 election, is also on trial
for illegal possession of weapons.
(Reporting by Philon Bondenga; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg
and Gareth Jones)