Church leaders decline request to mediate

 Congolese church leaders have declined a request to mediate between the government of Brazzaville (Democratic Republic of Congo) and local rebels. Turning down a request from President Sassou Nguesso to take act as negotiators part between the two warring parties, as negotiators, the Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches of Congo said there were two main reasons for their decision. The first concerns fear of further attacks by the government forces, supported by at least 2,000 Angolan soldiers present in Congo, against the 'ninja' militia linked to former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas. The second reason was given as the drastic degeneration in the condition of the displaced who fled their homes as a result of previous attacks, to Kinkala, the administrative capital of the Pool region. The city's Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu told the Missionary Service News Agency today that the situation among the refugees was "difficult and urgent". In 1998 six local clergy, members of a peace commission asked to negotiate with Kolelas' armed militia, were dragged from a religious ceremony and killed sparking a shootout in which 40 others were killed.

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