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Congo marks 60 years of independence

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Republic of Congo

The Republic of Congo has commemorated its 60th anniversary of independence.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso on saturday underlined the "progress" made in his country, a former French colony.

During a ceremony to mark the anniversary, Sassou Nguesso, who has been in power for 35 years, spoke at length about the infrastructure built in the central African country since it gained independence from France.

"At independence, our country did not have a single kilometre of asphalt pavement... today, we have a total of 3,111 kilometres (1,933 miles) of asphalt roads, with crossings on practically all our major rivers," he said in a speech to the nation.

He also pointed to an increase in large hospitals -- from one in 1960 to eight today and a dozen under construction -- and advances in education with more than 2,000 schools built across the country.

His enthusiasm was not shared by all, however.

"When President Sassou is satisfied with road construction, it's a joke," said Roch Euloge Nzobo, coordinator at the local NGO Human Rights and Development Circle.

"In 60 years of independence, Congo does not even have a motorway," he told AFP, adding that "corruption is endemic" throughout the country.

Sassou Nguesso, whose re-election in 2016 was contested and has caused unrest, has already been nominated as the candidate of the ruling Congolese Labour Party (PCT) in the next presidential ballot, due next March.

The oil-rich country is currently facing several political and socio-economic challenges.

After the fall in oil prices in 2014, the country's economy has been further weakened by the coronavirus pandemic.