Constitutional Reform: Agreement on Ending Hostilities in the Republic of Congo

AGREEMENT ON ENDING HOSTILITIES IN THE REPUBLIC OF CONGO

(29 DECEMBER 1999)

Chapter I: Cease-Fire and End of Hostilities

The signatories of this agreement: Convinced that without peace, our country, the Congo, cannot preserve and consolidate national unity nor promote democracy and development;

Convinced that only dialogue and the non-resort to weapons, without exception, can provide a lasting solution to our country's internal and external conflicts.

Convinced that peace can be restored and preserved through the establishment of a national dialogue.

Implementation History

2000

Minimum Implementation

Two accords signed in November 1999 and December 1999 called for national dialogue to restore and preserve peace. The accord does not specifically call for constitutional reform or amendments. Nevertheless, the purpose of holding a national dialogue was to decide the constitutional and political future of the country.

In the 40th independence celebration ceremony, President Sassou-Nguesso announced national dialogue from September 2000 to the end of the year on a draft constitution drawn up by a group of legal experts. Lissouba was excluded from the national dialogue and he issued a statement on 14 August criticizing the process.1

  • 1. “Republic of Congo celebrates 40th anniversary of independence,” Associated Press, August 15, 2000.
2001

Minimum Implementation

The Inclusive National Dialogue (dialogue nationale sans exclusive) was held between March 17 and April 14. At the end of the dialogue, some 1,600 delegates representing many different positions along the political spectrum attended the second phase of the national dialogue, which led to the endorsement of the draft constitution. The draft constitution was signed by President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, opposition leaders, former rebels, and representatives of civil society. The draft constitution had noted the need to turn in weapons, reorganize the armed forces, reform the judiciary and ensure freedom of the press along with provisions for an elected president and a two-chamber parliament. The draft constitution was presented in a national referendum for approval with elections expected in 2002.2 Nevertheless, former prime minister Bernard Kolelas and former president Pascal Lissouba were excluded from participating in the national dialogue as both were in exile and convicted in absentia for the crimes they committed during the 1997 civil war.3  The national dialogue was heavily dominated by the government with around 75% of the delegates sympathizing with the government.4 

After the finalization of the draft constitution through the national dialogue in April, the interim parliament approved the new constitution, adding a series of amendments.5 The national referendum on a draft constitution was scheduled for 20 January 2002, and the presidential, legislative and municipal elections were scheduled for the first half of 2002.6

  • 2. “Delegates at Republic of Congo talks sign peace convention,” Associated Press, April 14, 2001.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. R. Anders Nilsson, “Dangerous Liaisons: Why Ex-Combatants Return to Violence. Cases from the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone” (PhD diss., Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, 2008).
  • 5. “The Republic of Congo since the return of Sassou Nguesso,” Agence France Presse, March 7, 2002.
  • 6. “Republic of Congo announces dates for 2002 elections,” Associated Press, December 18, 2001.
2002

Full Implementation

While rights groups had urged international donors not to support the voting on the draft constitution for reasons of alleged electoral fraud, the referendum took place on 20 January 2002 as scheduled.7 In the referendum, the new constitution was overwhelmingly approved. Out of 1.6 million registered voters, 78% casted their votes in the referendum and 84% of those voted in favor and 11% in opposition of the constitution. The referendum, however, was boycotted by opposition parties and at least one opposition leader rejected the result.8 After the approval of a draft constitution in a referendum, presidential, legislative and municipal elections were scheduled for March 10, May 12 and June 9 respectively.9

In the presidential elections held on 13 March 2002, Sassou Nguesso was elected and received 89.41 percent of the vote.10 The first round of legislative elections was held in May, as scheduled. 137 seats were up for grabs . After allegations of voting irregularities, elections in 11 districts did not take place. Elections in all eight districts in Pool region also did not take place.11 Candidates needed to win at least 50% of the vote to be elected; in the first round of elections, the ruling Congolese Workers Party won 29 out of 55 seats. The second round of voting for 82 seats was scheduled for June 23.12 When final results came in in June, president’s party and its allies won 83 of 137 seats.13 The first municipal elections took place on 30 June 2002.14 The majority of municipalities were won by the ruling party. Following the elections, the president announced his new cabinet on 19 August 2002.15

As envisioned in the national dialogue, a new constitution was drafted and elections for presidential, legislative and municipal bodies took place. This provided a foundation for the return of the Republic of Congo in a democratic process. The whole process, however was dominated by the governing party; and those elections were not regarded as free and fair.16

  • 7. “Rights groups urge donors not to support Republic of Congo election process,” Associated Press, January 15, 2002; “Republic of Congo approves new constitution,” Associated Press, January 23, 2002.
  • 8. “Republic of Congo approves new constitution,” Associated Press, January 23, 2002.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. “Republic of Congo since the return to power of Sassou Nguesso,” Agence France Presse, May 22, 2002.
  • 11. “Republic of Congo legislative elections held again in six districts,” Associated Press, May 29, 2002.
  • 12. “Ruling party leads in first round of Republic of Congo legislative elections,” Associated Press, June 4, 2002.
  • 13. “President supporters win parliamentary majority in Republic of Congo,” Associated Press, June 28, 2002.
  • 14. “Republic of Congo holds first municipal elections in five years,” Associated Press, June 30, 2002.
  • 15. “Republic of Congo president names new Cabinet,” Associated Press, August 19, 2002.
  • 16. “UK Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate Country Report - The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville),” United Kingdom: Home Office, last edited April 1, 2004, accessed June 21, 2012, http://www.refworld.org/docid/40a887857.html.
2003

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2004

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2005

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2006

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2007

Full Implementation

In 2007, multiparty elections were held for the National Assembly. All seats (137) were up for contests. In elections, Congolese Workers Party (PCT) and its 16 allies won 88 seats with PCT winning 46 seats. Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) won 11 seats, Union for Democracy and the Republic (UDR-Mwinda) won only one seat and independent candidates won 37 seats. The PCT’s share of seats declined in the 2007 elections whereas the UPADS’s share increased from 3 to 11 seats.17

2008

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2009

Presidential elections took place in July 2009. In elections, Denis Sassou-Nguesso was reelected as president by winning 78.61% of the vote. The election, however, was boycotted by opposition.18 The African Union had declared the elections to be free and fair. In contrary, human rights NGOs and opposition candidates cited irregularities. The elections, however, were said to be very peaceful.19