The rights to freedom of expression, assembly and movement of opposition leaders and supporters were restricted, especially in the aftermath of the July presidential elections. Several opposition supporters were detained and released without charge. Three asylum-seekers arrested in 2004 remained in military custody without charge or trial.
President Denis Sassou-Nguesso won presidential elections in July and was sworn in for a seven-year term in August. The Constitutional Court declared that he had won with nearly 80 per cent of the votes cast. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations described the elections as fraudulent and unfair. Several opposition presidential candidates were barred by the electoral commission from standing on the grounds that they did not fulfil all the requisite conditions. After he was sworn in, President Sassou-Nguesso appointed a new government and abolished the post of prime minister, so becoming both head of state and government.
Sporadic incidents of banditry attributed to former members of the National Resistance Council (Conseil national de résistance, CNR) took place in the Pool region. Former CNR leader Frédéric Bintsamou denied that former CNR fighters were responsible for banditry. He also said that he fully adhered to a peace agreement signed by the CNR and the government in 2003.
In March, the government said that it had destroyed nearly 3,000 weapons it had purchased from former CNR fighters as part of a programme to demobilize them. Frédéric Bintsamou said that the government had failed to demobilize his fighters and reintegrate some of them into the national security forces, as stipulated in the 2003 peace agreement. In December, Frédéric Bintsamou formally accepted the post of Delegate General in charge of promoting the values of peace and repairing the ravages of war, to which he had been appointed by President Sassou-Nguesso in 2007.
Freedom of assembly, expression and movement
As in previous years, government security forces used excessive force to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Members of opposition political parties were denied the enjoyment of their rights to freedom of assembly, expression and movement.
Three days after the July presidential elections, a number of opposition political parties held a demonstration in the capital, Brazzaville, to protest against what they called fraudulent elections. Government forces used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, injuring some.
Reacting to the July demonstrations, the government banned all opposition demonstrations. They also barred opposition leaders from travelling out of the capital or the country, including former Prime Minister Ange Edouard Poungui and former president of the Congolese Bar Association Ambroise Hervé Malonga. Government and security officials said that the opposition leaders were wanted in connection with investigations into acts of violence allegedly committed during the July demonstrations. The government lifted the travel restrictions in early November after protests by the leaders affected and local human rights organizations. None of the opposition leaders subjected to restrictions was charged.
- Four foreign journalists who covered the elections and demonstrations were harassed by the security forces. Arnaud Zajtman and Marlène Rabaud of France 24 television, and Thomas Fessy of the BBC, had their equipment confiscated. Catherine Ninin of Radio France International was reportedly threatened with violence. A government spokesman accused the journalists of publishing false information before and after the elections, and of bias towards government opponents.
Repression of dissent – arrests
Several people linked to opposition political parties were detained in the aftermath of the July elections. Former army lieutenant Céléstin Ngalouo and two others in charge of opposition presidential candidate Mathias Dzon’s security were arrested soon after the July demonstrations in Brazzaville. Government officials said that those arrested were wanted in connection with shootings during the demonstrations. The opposition denied that any of their supporters had opened fire and blamed the shootings on government forces. Those arrested were released without charge several weeks later.
- Former army colonel Ferdinand Mbahou was arrested in July after he returned from France, where he had lived for more than 10 years. He had returned to help heal rifts within the leadership of the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (Union panafricaine pour la démocratie sociale) party.The authorities said that he was arrested in connection with inflammatory speeches he had made in France. He was still held without charge at the end of the year.
- Three asylum-seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo spent a fifth year in military detention without charge or trial. Germain Ndabamenya Etikilome, Médard Mabwaka Egbonde and Bosch Ndala Umba were arrested in 2004 in Brazzaville. Germain Ndabamenya Etikilome was seriously ill early in the year and for several weeks did not receive treatment. His health improved after he received medication. Despite many requests, the authorities failed to give any reason for the men’s continued detention.