- The government of Congo Brazzaville today organised a weapons-burning ceremony to symbolise the reconciliation process in the country. The ceremony was headed by Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who brought visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Brazzaville event. The two jointly set fire to a pile of armaments.
UN Secretary-General and his wife Nane Annan were accompanied by the Congolese President and First Lady and together presided over a ceremony to destroy arms collected by the Congolese authorities. Both leaders made short speeches at the beginning of the ceremony and Mr Annan commended President Sassou-Nguesso and the Congolese people for "committing themselves to engaging in dialogue and reconciliation."
At dusk, Mr Annan and the Congolese President set fire to a pile of armaments which had been collected from various militias after civil strife, which ended in 2003. Flames shot into the Brazzaville sky. The destroyed arms totalled 80,000 pieces of ammunition, 800 weapons and 500 grenades.
The ceremony was announced as "one of the landmarks" on the Central African country's road to peace after a decade of bloody civil war. In remarks, the UN Secretary-General expressed a wish that the flame would be "a symbol of hope reborn for the Congolese people and an inspiration for all the peoples who continue to be the victims of armed conflict in Africa and elsewhere."
"The process has been put in motion, now we must maintain it. That means progress must also be made on the other elements of the national programme for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of the former combatants," Mr Annan said at the ceremony.
Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso currently heads the African Union (AU), which prompted the UN Secretary-General to pass by Brazzaville for two days on his 14-days African roundtrip. The two leaders met yesterday with Prime Minister Isidore Mvouba and Congolese ministers at the Palais du Peuple in Brazzaville, where they held political talks.
As part of the Congolese reconciliation process, Mr Annan yesterday evening also met with 17 members of opposition parties of Congo Brazzaville. This morning, Mr Annan left Brazzaville and flew over the Congo River to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He will continue from there to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. He has already visited South Africa and Madagascar on his African roundtrip.
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