Sassou-Nguesso claims victory in Congo
Lissouba, in hiding, says he's still president
October 16, 1997
Web posted at: 2:49 p.m. EDT (1849 GMT)
REPUBLIC OF CONGO (CNN) -- Former military dictator Denis
Sassou-Nguesso claimed victory Thursday over President Pascal
Lissouba, saying he controlled most of the oil-rich Republic
"We have control over nearly the entire country, we have
total control of the political capital (Brazzaville) and the
economic capital (Pointe-Noire). For us the war is over,"
Sassou-Nguesso, 54, told Radio France Internationale.
The four-month power struggle between the two men has killed
thousands of people in the former French colony.
A L S O :
The rise and fall and rise of Denis Sassou-Nguesso
In Brazzaville, Red Cross workers were clearing bodies from
areas that had long been inaccessible due to the fighting.
Gunfire was reported overnight in the Atlantic coastal town
of Pointe-Noire, the country's
Sassou-Nguesso, the country's military ruler for 12 years
until his 1992 election defeat, was to address the nation
Friday from his northern home town of Oyo, his spokesmen
said. Sassou-Nguesso told Radio France Internationale he
hoped to announce a new government within a few days.
France acknowledges rebel victory
France also said Sassou-Nguesso had emerged the victor,
despite a claim by Lissouba that he was still the legitimate
Lissouba and his government fled Brazzaville after
Sassou-Nguesso's Cobra militia captured the capital.
"Power is now in the hands of Sassou-Nguesso," French
Secretary of State for Cooperation Charles Josselin told
Europe 1 radio.
Lissouba won't admit defeat
Lissouba said Thursday he still regarded himself as the
legitimate head of state, even though the forces of his rival
controlled most of the country.
"I can only regard myself as president, since I have not seen
in front of me my successor, elected democratically as I
was," Lissouba told Radio France Internationale in a separate
telephone interview from an undisclosed hideout.
Lissouba said he barely escaped being killed when the
presidential palace in Brazzaville was attacked. "I was at
home in the palace when they fired missiles that could easily
have killed me," he said.
Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas, whose "Ninja" forces remained
neutral for most of the conflict before joining Lissouba's
cause, fled to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo,
formerly Zaire, with some of his ministers.
No room for expatriates seeking refuge
On Wednesday in Pointe-Noire, Western expatriates sought
refuge at France's consulate and in hotels as
Sassou-Nguesso's forces scoured the city for supporters of
the ousted president.
A consulate official, the only international mission in the
city, said people were being turned away because there was
no more space in the walled compound overlooking the ocean.
Expatriates, mainly in the oil business, left their homes and
sought safe haven in hotels, but industry sources said there
was no apparent threat to Congo's oil production, which is
Despite the overnight gunfire Pointe-Noire "there is no need
for an evacuation," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Yves
Doutriaux said in Paris, noting that no violence was directed
Nevertheless, about 300 French marines in neighboring Gabon
were on alert in case French nationals had to be evacuated, a
French defense ministry spokesman said.
U.N. action unlikely, for now
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the
Security Council to slap an arms embargo on the Congo
Republic and take steps toward setting up a U.N. peacekeeping
But U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard acknowledged Wednesday that
with Sassou-Nguesso's victory there was "no peace to keep,"
and that the United Nations lacked the means or the mandate
to send troops to impose a truce.
Sassou-Nguesso's militia has received help from Angolan
troops well-trained for combat after a 20-year civil war in
their own country. Lissouba's army mainly comprises soldiers
recruited after he won the country's first multi-party
election in 1992.
While Angola's government has never admitted involvement,
witnesses consistently have reported the presence of Angolan
government troops on Sassou-Nguesso's side, to counter
Angolan rebel support for Lissouba.
UNITA rebels reportedly are backing Lissouba in hopes the
Republic of Congo can replace the former Zaire as its main
arms conduit. Angola's government troops, in turn, were
prompted to take sides on behalf of Sassou-Nguesso to block
possible Lissouba assistance to UNITA.
Reuters contributed to this report.