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Vol 40 No 17

Published 27th August 1999


Congo-Brazzaville

Manège à trois

Mysterious documents are doing the rounds in Paris claiming that Sassou wants to retire

To judge by the increasing desperation of the contestants, the power struggle in Brazzaville is entering a new phase. President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who overthrew the elected President, Pascal Lissouba, in November 1997, presides over an unpopular, shaky and brutal military regime. Although he has long had a strong base in the army, Sassou-Nguesso hasn't been able to stamp his authority on the country as he did during his first spell in power, from 1979 to 1992. Nor has he convinced outsiders that he's in charge: Sassou's regime is largely unrecognised. Only France, whose President Jacques Chirac remains convivial towards him, is prepared to give the Brazzaville strongman a regular audience. In mid-August, Sassou's ambassadors made their strongest overtures yet to all exiled oppositionists to return to the country for national dialogue; but he failed to give the guarantees of safety which they considered necessary.

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