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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Lari in the Rep. of the Congo

View Group Chronology

Rep. of the Congo Facts
Area:    342,000 sq. km.
Capital:    Brazzaville
Total Population:    2,658,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References



Risk Assessment

The Lari have many of the conditions which put them at risk for future militant activities. They are politically discriminated against; they are geographically concentrated; and they have a history of violent confrontations with the M'Boshi. Due to the militant nature of politics in the Congo, political protests are unlikely. As long as the Lari are denied political opportunities by the M'Boshi and as long as ethnic tensions remain, a renewal of the civil war (which resumed between March 2002 and March 2003) is a more likely scenario. Encouraging developments that may decrease their risk of rebellion include negotiations with the government such as the 2003 disarmament, demobilization and reintegration accord signed by the Ninjas and the government.

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Analytic Summary

The Republic of Congo is comprised of many ethnic groups, each geographically concentrated. The Lari are located in the southern region of the country (GROUPCON = 3) and have long shared the region with the Bakongo, Vili, Yombe, Bembe and others described as Kikongo. The Lari have historically been in political competition with the M'Boshi who are found in the northern region along with the Teke, the other large ethnic group in the Congo. While there are numerous groups in the Congo, they are very similar in appearance and customs (RACE = 0, CUSTOM = 0). The Lari are only distinguishable through their language (LANG = 1). Despite the similarities, the larger ethnic groups have been in a struggle for control of the country since decolonization.

After decolonization political power was concentrated with the Lari, under presidents Abbe Fulbert Youlou and Alphonse Massemba-Debat. In 1992 a Northern coup changed the balance of power in the Congo; eventually elections were held in which a southerner, Pascal Lissouba was elected. A subsequent power struggle ensued. Three men, each supported by an ethnic group developed militias. The M'Boshi were represented by the Cobras; the Bokongo formed the Cocoyes; and the Lari formed the Ninjas. There are an estimated 5,000-8,000 Ninja militants in Pool and Brazzaville. In 1997 Denis Sassou Nguesso, a M’Boshi gained power. Since this time, the Lari have faced considerable political discrimination, as Nguesso favors his own ethnic group within the government (POLDIS99 = 4, POLDIS06 = 3). In addition to political discrimination, the Lari face some economic discrimination in terms of neglect as their schooling systems have been damaged by fighting in the region and they are underrepresented in the armed forces (ECDIS06 = 2). The government has begun to address the issues of Lari representation in the armed forces via a number of reintegration plans although progress has been slow. The civil war which was thought to have ended in 1998 led to the displacement of almost 4/5th of the population in the capital Brazzaville (1/8th of the country population) and caused between 8,000 and 10,000 deaths. Fighting was renewed in 2002 after the presidential elections in which Kolélas, who drew his support from the Lari, was deemed ineligible to run. The Ninjas took up arms in fighting that would include looting, killings, rapes and the destruction of houses and infrastructure. The Pool region, where many Lari live, was the main center of violence.

The Lari’s main grievance is clear: they want greater access to political opportunities (POLGR06 = 2). They have faced repression (most recently in 2005) at the hands of the M'Boshi controlled government and they feel that only through greater political power can this be avoided (REPGENCIV05 = 3, REPVIOL05 = 5). The political parties in the Congo are offshoots of the militias; therefore the Lari are only truly represented by the Ninjas whose political arm is the Conseil national de résistance (CNR). In 2002, the Ninjas became frustrated with the government and their promises of elections and resumed the civil war causing 10,000 people to flee the capital. Conflict with the government continued on a smaller scale through 2005 (REB99 = 7, REB05 = 4). Due to the militant nature of politics in the Congo, the Lari have tended to avoid political protests in attempting to influence the government, with one exception of verbal opposition in 2004 voiced by the CNR complaining that the government was attempting to undermine the peace process (PROT99-03 = 0, PROT04 = 1, PROT05-06 = 0).

In 2003, the Ninjas signed a Peace Accord with the government in which they agreed to a plan of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The EU funded and the UN administered a demobilization and reintegration plan for the area in 2004. Progress on the accord was slow and it has not yet been fully implemented. A renewed effort of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was launched in 2007, suggesting that the process continues to be ongoing.

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References

“After two years of peace, insecurity prevails amid massive rehabilitation needs.” Global IDP Project. 8 Apr. 2005. ReliefWeb. http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/RMOI-6BC98Q?OpenDocument&query=Lari%20Congo [accessed 02/06/08]

Chiadjeu, Moïse Léonard Jamfa. Comment comprendre la “crise” de l’état postcolonial en Afrique?: Un essai d’explication structurelle à partir des cas de l’Angola, du Congo-Brazzaville, du Congo-Kinshasa, du Liberia et du Rwanda. European University Studies, Peter Lang : Bern, Swtizerland, 2005.

Dieu Nsondé, Jean de. Parlons Kikongo. L’Harmattan : Paris, 1999.

The Geopolitics of Hunger, 2000-2001: Hunger and Power. Action Against Hunger. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001

LexisNexis: various news articles. French and English. 2004-2006.

McDonald, Gordon C., et al. Area Handbook for People’s Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville). Library of Congress: Washington, DC., 1971.

"Quoi de neuf sur le front congolais ? Evaluation de base sur la circulation des armes légères et de petit calibre en République du Congo." ReliefWeb, Small Arms Survey. 31 Dec. 2007. http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/SODA-7AX36K?OpenDocument&query=brazzaville [acceessed 02/05/08]

US Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Congo, Republic of. 2004-2006.

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Information current as of December 31, 2006