By Nora Boustany
Wednesday, February 3, 1999; Page A14
Only in the most sinister corners of the globe do people give up what
is worth living for to say: "It would be better to die standing up." This
is how Bernard Kolelas, the former prime minister of the Congo Republic
and ex-mayor of Brazzaville, summed up the mood of militiamen entrenched in the country's jungles to battle government forces of Gen. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Kolelas's alternate political enemy and ally.
Sassou-Nguesso seized power on Oct. 15, 1997, ousting President Pascal Lissouba -- who had defeated Sassou-Nguesso in an election four years before -- with the decisive help of Angolan troops. The fighting that led up to the coup, Kolelas said, started on June 5 of that year with skirmishes that erupted when Sassou-Nguesso insisted on entering a village -- whose headman he had liquidated -- on the shoulders of his men, as was traditional. That incident, Kolelas said, led to violence elsewhere by Sassou-Nguesso gunmen, whose defiance drew Lissouba's troops into the fray.
Explaining why he rejected urgings by France that he enter the current Sassou-Nguesso government, the former premier said he had fought against Marxists and Leninists for decades and would never serve a leader who was not elected. "I said no, I am not here for power's sake, to serve a regime that does not serve democracy," Kolelas recalled.
Now, Kolelas's previously demobilized militiamen -- known as Ninjas -- have taken up arms against Sassou-Nguesso, and Kolelas said he regrets a past alliance with the general. The Congo Republic's constitution, Kolelas said, calls for "civil disobedience when the constitution is not upheld." Kolelas himself is in the United States, keeping an eye on developments back home and talking to State Department officials about how to steer his country out of the mess it's in.
He is demanding that Angolan troops and Chadian, Libyan, Cuban, Rwandan and Moroccan mercenaries leave the country before the beginning of any peace talks that could lead to "a consensual management of the situation" among the Congo Republic's many factions. He is asking also that a multinational intervention force be deployed for a year that would conclude with elections supervised by international observers. Militia groups would then be disarmed with the object of integrating some of them into an "apolitical, republican army," he added. At present, the nucleus of the army is loyal to Sassou-Nguesso.
Aligned With Mecca?
Two decades after Iran's Islamic Revolution scrambled political and religious landscapes of the Middle East and of Muslim states beyond, Arash Farouhar, 30, the son of Iranian dissidents who were stabbed to death late last year, offered a glimpse into the unresolved and heroic struggle for freedom and democracy in his country.
His father, Daryush Farouhar, a lawyer and secretary general of the opposition Iran National Party, and his activist mother, Parvaneh, were assassinated Nov. 22. They were victims of a wave of killings and kidnappings -- which moderate government leaders have blamed on extremist security and intelligence elements in the regime -- that was aimed at paralyzing a growing challenge to the legitimacy of Islamic rule.
Arash Farouhar, who lives in exile in Germany, said he is touring the
United States to call for an international nongovernmental group to investigate
the killings. The Tehran government has acknowledged that elements of its
security apparatus were implicated in the terror campaign and has called
for an investigation, but no one has been named, charged or brought to
justice, Farouhar said in an interview Monday. A cleric close to President
Mohammed Khatemi who was sent to express condolences to the family told
the young Farouhar that international pressure" was needed because
"Khatemi cannot do it alone." A commission assigned by Khatemi to investigate
the killings announced recently that "the motivation was not political."
That infuriated students and
activists who say that failure to identify the culprits will discourage intellectuals and encourage a "reign of terror."
"Those . . . who expected to improve the establishment were suppressed
by the very same establishment," Daryush Farouhar said in an interview
three weeks before his death. A week later, he wrote in an underground
journal that Khatemi was "distancing himself from what he has promised as days go by. Expecting something from him is a major deviation from the path we must follow."
At the Farouhars' funeral in Tehran, which drew more than 100,000 people,
one mourner went down on his knees facing the freshly dug grave and away
from Mecca, Arash Farouhar recalled. Daryush Farouhar, who had
fired the imagination of young Iranians, had been stabbed 11 times in the chest and placed on a chair facing the qiblah -- the point to which Muslims turn to face Mecca when they kneel in prayer. So the mourner, turning his back to Mecca, declared: "They said they killed you and directed you toward the qiblah. You are my qiblah."
Students, who formed protective chains around Arash Farouhar when he
came for his parents' burial, told him that the time will come when Khatemi
must choose between the rule of clerics and of the people. "I
don't want to defend Khatemi, and I don't want to condemn him," Farouhar said. "He will only make a difference when he puts his life on the line."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company