Published:  12:28 AM, 09 August 2019

Congo's bread basket struggles to recover from conflict

Congo's bread basket struggles to recover from conflict Outside Mindouli's war-battered railway station, a relic of French colonial times, a few hawkers set up stalls in the hope of snaring a little cash. -AFP

"The trains are running again. We have peace," says Didier, the station master at Mindouli, in the Republic of Congo's southern region of Pool. But a glance at the weeds growing on the line connecting the capital Brazzaville and the port city of Pointe-Noire shows that traffic to put it gently is not huge.

Outside the station, a war-battered relic of French colonial times, a few plucky hawkers have set up stalls in the hope of snaring a little cash. More than two years after a brutal civil conflict in Pool, the second in 20 years, was settled, Congo's key agricultural region remains deeply depressed.

The so-called Pool War erupted in April 2016, pitting the forces of President Denis Sassou Nguesso against the troops of Frederic Bintsamou, a Protestant clergyman and leader of a rebel group called the Ninjas.

A ceasefire ended the conflict in December 2017 -- but it took until November 2018 for traffic to resume on the Congo-Ocean Railway. Even today, there are no passenger trains and a new Chinese-built highway siphons off much of the meager trade. "On average, we have five trains a day," says Didier.

-AFP, DR Congo

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