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Independence cheer as Congo Brazzaville celebrates 50 years

media A man in Brazzaville, the Congolese capital Reuters

Congo Brazzaville on Sunday celebrated 50 years of independence from France. A colourful ceremony was attended by 15 heads of state and government from across Africa and France. Addressing the nation on the eve of jubilee celebrations, President Denis Sassou Nguesso eased tension among workers and the social community.

He announced 25 percent salary increase to come into place by January 2011, and free maternity care with immediate effect.

Even though Congo Brazzaville is a major producer of petrol, its population remains extremely poor, lacking proper roads, portable water and adequate medical care.

Roger Bouka Owoko, executive director of the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights, based in Brazzaville, says poor health and education are among Congo's many problems.

"This is because the public policies that have been implemented by various governments have not increased the wellbeing of the population," Owoko said.

He said some 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, conditions that have led three million people to flee.

"And if we look at the other resources we have - wood, minerals and others, we think that 50 years afterwards, we are no longer on track, and the people don't understand what's going on."

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