2004-11-02 13:30:00
Embassy Kinshasa
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/01/2014

Classified By: PolCouns MSanderson, reasons 1.4 b/d.



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/01/2014

Classified By: PolCouns MSanderson, reasons 1.4 b/d.

1. (C) Summary: Minister of Interior, and PPRD co-founder,
Theofile Mbemba expressed concern that the newly launched
pre-election campaigns will further divide the transitional
components and throw up new obstacles to military
integration. He outlined a PPRD strategy to dominate all the
southern provinces except western Kasai, as well as South
Kivu and Katanga in the East, thereby ensuring Joseph
Kabila's victory. The majority of seats in Parliament likely
will go to the MLC, according to the Minister, making Bemba
Prime Minister. Mbemba insisted that Kabila has decided to
be the PPRD candidate but will postpone announcing this until
early December. The PPRD is exploring alliances with the MLC
and Etienne Tshisekedi's UDPS with an eye to improving the
PPRD position in Province Orientale and western Kasai,
respectively. When pressed, he admitted that Katanga could
be not only an electoral battleground but the stumbling block
for the transition as a whole. With face-offs between police
and military on the rise and social tension increasing,
Mbemba said, the country could "implode" before elections in
any event. End Summary.

The PPRD Elections Map -- Color It PPRD

2. (C) Over dinner October 29 at PolCoun's house, Minister
of Interior and PPRD co-founder Theofile Mbemba waxed
enthusiastic over his party's likely success in next year's
elections. Simply put, party strategists believe the PPRD
will control Kinshasa (itself a province),Bas-Congo,
Bandundu and East Kasai, as well as South Kivu and Katanga.
West Kasai is solidly with Etienne Tshisekedi's UDPS so
unless PPRD can forge an alliance they will not do well there
-- and do not intend to waste time, money or effort in trying
to do so. The Eastern Province probably will go to
Jean-Pierre Bemba's MLC, according to Mbemba, but
surprisingly, Bemba could lose his home province of Equateur
to either the UDPS (which, according to Mbemba, is well
organized and working hard there) or to the PPRD. The RCD is
too weak to control anything, and therefore the entire East
is up for grabs -- which, he said, explains why everyone has
launched their campaigns in Bukavu (or, in the President's

case, Kisangani). A clearly disgruntled Mbemba acknowledged
that President Kabila will now be the last politician to
visit South Kivu, since Bemba, VP Z'Ahidi Ngoma and now VP
Yarodia have all made initial visits. Nonetheless, Mbemba
was confident that Kabila will capture South Kivu, in part
because of his mother's origins. (Note: Presidential
friends and loyalists say that Kabila's mother is a South
Kivutian -- his enemies say that she is a Rwandan. In any
event, she likely is from South Kivu, at least
geographically. End Note.) North Kivu will be an enigma
until the day after elections, Mbemba predicted, but
acknowledged that Bemba clearly is courting Governor
Serufuli, who is unquestionably well-positioned to "deliver"
his province to the candidate of his choice. (Septel reports
further details of Bemba's visit to the two Kivus.) Even
without North Kivu, however, Mbemba said Kabila will garner
the majority of the popular vote, guaranteeing his election
as president.

Useful But Not Necessary Alliances

3. (C) Mbemba said that the PPRD is exploring a possible
alliance with the MLC, primarily with the aim of improving
its effective presence in Parliament, i.e., the MLC likely
will win a majority of Parliamentary seats, putting it in a
position to block key government legislation. Bemba likely
would "settle" for being Prime Minister, a position which
would ensure his continued access to wealth, and he and
Kabila normally have a good working relationship, Mbemba
said, making this a natural partnership. (Note: Mbemba said
that both PPRD and MLC have already decided to support a
President-Prime Minister-Parliament scheme for the future
government, implying there is therefore little left to do but
produce the appropriate paragraphs in the consitution
enshrining this arrangement. End Note.) PPRD also is
talking to Tshisekedi's UDPS but so far the negotiations
haven't advanced much beyond the early stages, in large part
because PPRD has more to offer UDPS than vice versa --
although PPRD would, Mbemba admitted, like to add West Kasai
to its group of "captive" provinces. (Comment: It could be
hard for the elder statesman Tshisekedi to swallow being
second fiddle to a young upstart like Kabila. End Comment.)
Mbemba insisted that UDPS will not renew its old ties to the
RCD (despite recent confident assertions PolCouns heard from
RCD leaders),since the RCD "has nothing to offer anyone."
When PolCouns asked about courting Z'Ahidi Ngoma or Yarodia
(for the support of the unarmed political opposition and
civil society, respectively) Mbemba somewhat contemptuously
dismissed both, noting that neither faction is united nor
does either benefit from strong leadership -- meaning that
all the diverse elements are up for grabs. (Comment: Given
the historical animosity between Yarodia and Kabila it would
be hard in any event to image Yarodia throwing his support
behind Kabila, even were he in a position to do so. End
Comment.) He added, almost in passing, that President Kabila
is currently "on the outs" with Z'Ahidi over the latter's
visit to Bukavu the same weekend as the President's trip to
Kisangani -- a move clearly designed to upstage the President
in one of his "home provinces." After a quick pause, Mbemba
said that of the major religious groups (a key element of
civil society) the Kimbanguists definitely will support
Kabila, and possibly the Catholics as well, but that the
evangalists probably will go for Tshisekedi while the
protestants will throw their support to Bemba.

Katanga The Battleground, Maybe In More Ways Than One

4. (C) When pressed, Mbemba reluctantly acknowledged that
PPRD might have trouble in Katanga -- in more ways than one.
From both an electoral and security standpoint, he said, the
province is increasingly problematic and indeed, could be the
trigger which explodes the transition. Pointing to outside
influence, Mbemba said that Congolese security forces have,
in the last several weeks, "escorted" over thirty Zambians to
the border and warned them not to return. These were people,
he said, who have been posing as businessmen but who actually
have been fomenting unrest and political divisiveness;
likewise Tanzania is increasingly active in the province,
particularly in the northern zones, and its influence is
becoming worrisome, while South Africa is a "giant" in the
provincial landscape. All this plus, he noted, a resurgence
of traditional tribal-based tensions between north-south
Katanga and between southern Katanga and West Kasai,
represents a heady and potentially explosive brew. Finally,
he noted cautiously, there are some Presidential advisors,
Katangans, who don't necessarily want elections and who have
been working against the President's interests in the
province. (Comment: Mbemba wouldn't name names, but most
likely he was referring to both Air Force General Numbi and
Augustin Katumba, whose name increasingly is being linked to
a variety of troubling developments. PolCouns also has heard
from various people that Katumba is trying to marginalize
Mbemba or drive him from office, because he, Katumba, would
like Mbemba's job, so there also could be an element of
personal bias involved in Mbemba's hints. End Comment.)

Finger On The Trigger - Social Unrest Rising

5. (C) During dinner Mbemba took several calls (including
one from Kabila) about a security incident in the Kinshasa
neighborhood of Binza, where unpaid soldiers had tried to rob
moneychangers, only to be attacked by enraged citizens,
assisted by police. Using this incident as an example,
Mbemba said that he is increasingly concerned that face-offs
between military and police, or between citizens and
army/police, represent a disturbing societal shift. People
are angry and restless, he said, and more and more they are
inclined to fight back, sometimes striking out without
thinking. This "social trigger," he said, could implode the
country before the transition can get to elections. Along
these lines, he added that he regrets the early launch of
pre-campaigning, which he feels will further divide the
transition and virtually eliminate the possibility of
military integration (he predicted that the RCD, especially,
will now dig in its heels on integration since its only
political card is the threat of renewed fighting in the
East). He welcomed the latest EU initiative to provide
police training, hoping that it will augment, in some ways,
the French-trained riot police. (Comment: When Mbemba left
he was on his way to Binza, together with a military
official, to try to calm the situation without utilizing the
riot police against the military, and indeed, the situation
was resolved without recourse to violent means. End Comment.)


6. (C) We agree that social issues and/or the swirling
dynamic of Katanga are two potential flashpoints to future
progress, but it is unclear what the government, or Kabila
specifically, can do to defuse them. The former is difficult
due to lack of means, the latter intransigent because of
Kabila's reliance on Katangans as a key support base.
Mbemba's vision of PPRD dominance and MLC quiessence seems
simplistic and, indeed, cocky, although we could wish it
would indeed be this easy. More troubling are his admissions
-- confirming our suspicions -- of possible external
manipulation in Katanga.