The Republic of Congo achieved its independence from France in 1960 under President Fulbert Youlou, a former priest. Youlou was however forced to resign in 1963 after resistance to his plans to make The Republic of Congo into a One Party state with only one trade union permitted. Youlou and his main supporters were arrested by the military and ceased to play any further role in Congolese political life. Alphonse Massamba-Débat was elected President for a 5-year term and stayed in power until 1968 when he was deposed in a military coup. Captain Marien Ngouabi assumed the Presidency and proclaimed teh foundation of the People's Republic of the Congo, following a Marxist ideology.
President Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977 and an 11 member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was named to head an interim government with Col. (later Gen.) Joachim Yhombi-Opango to serve as President of the Republic. After two years in power, Yhombi-Opango was accused of corruption and deviation from party directives, and removed from office. After decades of turbulent politics bolstered by Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, a transition towards democracy was made in 1992. A specific agenda for this transition was laid out during Congo's national conference of 1991 and culminated in August 1992 with multi-party parliamentary and presidential elections. President Sassou Nguesso conceded defeat and Congo's new president, Professor Pascal Lissouba, was inaugurated on August 31, 1992.
Congo's democratic progress derailed in 1997. As presidential elections scheduled for July 1997 approached, tensions between the Lissouba and Sassou Nguesso camps mounted. Fighting broke out between the government forces and Sassou’s fighters, igniting a 4-month conflict that destroyed or damaged much of Brazzaville.
Lissouba traveled throughout Southern and Central Africa in September, asking the governments of Rwanda, Uganda, and Namibia for assistance. Laurent Kabila, the new-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, sent hundreds of troops into Brazzaville to fight on Lissouba's behalf and Angola provided tanks and troops. Support by the sympathetic French government further bolstered Sassou Nguesso's rebels. Together these forces took Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire October 1997. Lissouba fled the capital while his soldiers surrendered. In January 1998 the Sassou regime held a National Forum for Reconciliation to determine the nature and duration of the transition period. However, the eruption of fighting between Sassou’s government forces and an armed opposition in late 1998 disrupted the return to democracy.
In November and December 1999, the government signed agreements with representatives of many, though not all, of the rebel groups. Sassou won elections in 2002 with an unlikely 90 percent of the vote. His two main rivals, Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas, were prevented from competing and the only remaining credible rival, André Milongo, boycotted the elections. A new constitution was agreed upon in January 2002, granting the President new powers and extending his term to seven years.
The regime held the most recent presidential election in July 2009. According to the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, the election was marked by "very low" turnout, "fraud and irregularities." The regime announced Sassou as the winner with 78 percent of the vote. The election was also marked by an opposition boycott.
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