Amnesty: Agreement on Ending Hostilities in the Republic of Congo

AGREEMENT ON ENDING HOSTILITIES IN THE REPUBLIC OF CONGO

(29 DECEMBER 1999)

Chapter III: General Stipulations

Article 5: The signatories agree to the following:

The adoption and promulgation of a General Amnesty law covering acts of war committed from 5 June 1997 up until the date this agreement is signed.

Implementation History

2000

Intermediate Implementation

The 1999 Agreement on Ending Hostilities in the Republic of Congo required the government to adopt and promulgate a general amnesty law covering acts of war committed between 5 June 1997 and 29 December 1999. Similar provisions were also made in the Pointe-Noire Ceasefire Agreement on 16 November 1999. Immediately after the signing of the Pointe-Noire Ceasefire Agreement, an amnesty for three warring factions that were part of the accord was announced by the Sassou-administration, followed by an amnesty law (Law no. 21-99) on 20 December 1999.1 As such, before the final accord was signed on 29 December, the government promulgated the amnesty law. However, it was not clear how many combatants (or others involved in the civil wars) were granted amnesty. Nevertheless, the amnesty was conditional on rebels laying down their arms and was not extended to Lissouba and Kolelas.2 Several others, such as Yhombi-Opango and Moungunga Nkombo Nguila, were also not given amnesty.

  • 1. Robert Muggah, “The Anatomy of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration in the Republic of Congo,” Conflict, Security & Development 4(1): 21-37 (2004): 23.
  • 2. “Republic of Congo since the return to power of Sassou Nguesso,” Associated Press, May 22, 2002.
2001

Minimum Implementation

It appeared that not all politicians involved in past conflict received amnesty. The lack of amnesty for the former Prime Minister, Bernard Kolelas, remained a contentious issue as the government warned that he would be arrested if he returned from exile.3 Lissouba and others were also sentenced. The former Prime Minister was sentenced to death in absentia in 2000 after being convicted of arbitrary arrests, beatings, rape, and other crimes during 1997.

  • 3. “Prosecutor: Ex-premier faces arrest if returns to Republic of Congo,” Associated Press, April 10, 2001.
2002

Intermediate Implementation

A Ninja rebel faction, led by renegade pastor Frederic Bitsangou and operating primarily in the southern Pool region, was given a deadline of one month to disarm in exchange for amnesty in November 2002. The faction had an estimated 10,000 combatants. Only a tiny portion of that group (371 soldiers) surrendered their arms in exchange for amnesty.4 Nevertheless, Congolese credited Sassou-Nguesso with securing peace through amnesty provisions to enemy fighters.5

Further detail on the effectiveness of amnesty provisions on securing peace was not available.

  • 4. “Tiny fraction of Republic of Congo rebels trade arms for amnesty, military police say,” Associated Press, December 19, 2002.
  • 5. “Republic of Congo holds first presidential race since war's end,” Associated Press, March 2002.
2003

Full Implementation

Secret negotiations between the government and the Ntsiloulous took place in early 2003. The two sides reached an agreement in March 2003 in which the Ntsiloulous reaffirmed their commitment to the 1999 accords and, in return, the government offered amnesty and the integration of Ntsiloulou’s career into the new national armed forces.6 Because of the secret nature of the negotiations, it is not clear how many received amnesty.

2004

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year. 

2005

Full Implementation

The amnesty provision of the accord had been implemented. Former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas, who was not granted amnesty and was in exile, returned to the Republic of Congo for the burial of his wife. President Denis Sassou-Nguesso allowed his return on humanitarian grounds. The government considered granting him amnesty, which he did, in fact, receive in November 2005.7

2006

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year. 

2007

Full Implementation

It was reported that President Sassou-Nguesso would allow former President Pascal Lissouba to return and granted him a pardon for the 2001 in absentia conviction for “economic crimes.” However, former President Pascal Lissouba had not returned to the Republic of Congo as of early 2008. In May 2007, the Council of Ministers granted amnesty to former Prime Minister Joachim Yhombi-Opango for the 2001 in absentia conviction for improperly selling the country’s oil while in office.8

  • 8. “State Department Issues Background Note on Republic of Congo,” US Fed News, August 1, 2008.
2008

Full Implementation

No further developments observed. 

2009

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.