Ninjas (Congo Brazzaville)

Country: Congo Brazzaville
Details of Formation: The militia was created in the early 1990s by former Prime Minister Kolélas. Ahead of the multi-party elections in 1992, Kolélas, Nguesso and Lissouba formed their own militias to target rivals with Kolélas trying to be a neutral mediator between Lissouba and Nguesso. Until 1997, the Ninjas fought against Lissouba’s troops and became pro-government in September 1997 when Kolélas became Prime Minister in Lissouba’s cabinet. (Wikipedia)
Details of Termination: In October 1997, Nguesso regained power and declared himself president. Thus, the Ninja militia ceased to be pro-government and became a rebel group. There are reports of militia activity after 1997 until 2008. (Wikipedia)
Purpose: The militia was intended to secure Bernard Koléla's political power and to attack other rebel groups. Despite reports of Ninjas attacks against rebels and ethnic targets, the militia lost the 1997 conflict against Nguesso’s armed militia.
Organisation: The Ninjas were led by Bernard Kolélas who became Prime Minister in September 1997. The militia created an alliance with Lissouba’s Cocoye militia called Mouvement National pour la Liberation du Congo (MNLC). Their field commander was Frédéric Bintsangou, a cult leader.
Weapons and Training: The Ninjas received training in Brazzaville and were equipped with automatic rifles. However, Bazenguissa-Ganga notes that the Ninja militia also lacked weapons during training sessions (1999, 43).
Size: The militia had 4,000 members.
Reason for Membership: Militia members had strong religious and apocalyptic beliefs known as Matsouasnism, which enticed them to join. Members were of Lari/Bakongo ethnicity which created ethnic appeals. Children were reported to fight for the Ninjas. Members were usually under- or unemployed men who sought economic benefits from membership (Wikipedia, Themnér 2011, 49).
Treatment of Civilians: The militia used indiscriminate violence against civilians including hostage-taking, torture and killings. Their violent behavior has led to an escalation of human rights abuses and the intrastate conflict. The Ninjas had lists of government dissidents whom they were supposed to attack (Wikipedia, US Bureau of Citizenship).
Other Information: Ethnic Target and Ethnic Membership: Ninjas fight for Kolela (Lari/Bakongo) and against Lissouba (Nibolek) in 1994. After agreement in 1995, Ninjas fight against Sassou-Nguesso (Mbochi).
References: Bazenguissa-Ganga, Rémy. 1999. "The spread of political violence in Congo-Brazzaville." African Affairs 98(390): 37-54.

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

United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. 2000. Republic of Congo (Brazzaville): Information on the human rights situation and the Ninja militia, available at: [accessed 14 March 2019]

Wikipedia. “Ninja (Militia)”