Cobras (Congo Brazzaville)

Country: Congo Brazzaville
Details of Formation: General Denis Sassou Nguesso lost power in elections in 1992, and built up the cobras as a private army. He employed them in 1997 (with the support of Angolan regular forces) to oust Lissouba. Thus prior to 1997, the cobras were not a PGM but became so after Nguesso declared himself president on 25 October 1997.
Details of Termination: After the end of the civil war in December 1999, a UNDP/IOM programme for the "Reintegration of Ex-Combatants and Collection of Light Weapons" facilitated the exchange of weapons for civilian jobs, starting in November 2000. According to one source, more than 7.500 ex-combantants made use of this scheme. We use this as the end date of the PGM, since there is also no evidence suggestion that the group continued to exist after that date.
Purpose: The Cobras were created after the 1992 presidential election to target militias loyal to former President Lissouba and Prime Minister Kolelas. (Wikipedia)
Organisation: The Cobras were set up by Nguesso and had strong links to the regular armed forces. Some militiamen were soldiers and the PGM was headed by two military commanders, Ngakala and Oba. (Wikipedia, Themnér 2011, 62)
Weapons and Training: The militia was assisted by the Angolan military. The Cobras also received weapons from France. When the group was disarmed in 2000, they had to give up their light weapons, inferring that the militiamen were at least equipped with light firearms. There were further allegations of Cuban involvement with the Cobras. (Wikipedia)
Size: The militia had between 8,000 and 10,000 members.
Reason for Membership: Membership in the Cobra militia was based on ethnicity. President Nguesso and the militia members were of Mbochi ethnicity. Some fighters of the Hutu Rwandan Armed Forces became members in 1997, in addition to ex-soldiers from Mobutu’s Presidential Guard in Congo-Kinshasa. Ex-members of the Ninja militia were recruited. In general, low-level fighters were mobilized by promising pay and future employment in the military, Cobra commanders were promised political posts. (Wikipedia, Themnér 2011, 62-63)
Treatment of Civilians: Their use of violence as a rebel group led to an escalation of tensions between the different ethnicities and political factions resulting in the civil war from 1992 to 1997. After 1997, their violent behavior stabilized President Nguesso’s rule due to the Cobra’s strong alliance with the military.
Other Information: Ethnic Target and Membership: Cobras fight for Sassou-Nguesso (Mbochi) and against Kolela's Ninjas (Lari/Bakongo).
References: IRIN News. 1999. “Background on militia groups”

Themnér, Anders. 2011. Violence in post-conflict societies: Remarginalization, remobilizers and relationships. London: Routledge.

Wikipedia. “Republic of the Congo Civil War"