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06KINSHASA1124 2006-07-12 10:24:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kinshasa
Cable title:  

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: BEMBA'S MLC

Tags:   PGOV KDEM CG ELECTIONS 
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1. (C) Summary: With the presidential campaign well
underway, Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba's campaign as the
Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC)'s candidate is
among the most visible in Kinshasa. The theme of Bemba's
campaign posters, as well as his party literature, is
"security, justice, and development," although his campaign
tactics encourage none of the above. Whether such ideals can
be realized, particularly by Bemba, given his reputation,
remains to be seen. End summary.



2. (U) The simultaneous campaigns for the presidency and for
the National Assembly have created a boom for the local
poster and banner printing industries. On the surface, the
candidates are (for the most part) eager to get their names
and faces in front of the electorate, and the main streets
are festooned with colorful banners, posters, billboards, and
flyers. The number of Bemba's campaign posters is topped
only by those featuring incumbent President Joseph Kabila.
Bemba's smiling image, wearing an open-necked Hawaiian-style
shirt and silhouetted against the map of the DRC, is
ubiquitous at all major intersections and along major
transport routes. His casual pose, while invoking the
Mobutu-era disdain for Western dress code (and by design,
possibly, his connections as Mobutu's son-in-law and the
ostensible Mobutuist political heir), stands in stark
contrast to the formal, business-suited images of his
competitors.



3. (U) Bemba's campaign is apparently using all available
sources to present a detailed, coherent message to the
public. In addition to rallies broadcast on television and
statements on the radio, the MLC spells out its plan to
implement its broad goals in Bemba's "letter to the
Congolese," published in "Le Potentiel" on July 10. Bemba
states that there are seven values which the MLC shares with
all Congolese: national unity, peace, liberty, democracy,
social justice, solidarity, and durable economic development
in the Congo. He states that the time has come to re-launch
these elements of a social contract for the recovery of the
DRC, and calls for "a Congo reconciled with itself, at peace
with its neighbors, driven from the bottom by the principles
of good governance, by national agreement, by justice and by
equity, in respect of the dearly-acquired national
independence." He swears before God, before the nation, and
before history, that he will put in place the necessary
reforms to transform the Congo, with the primary goals being
a policy of strong and sustainable economic growth, reduction
of poverty, and "a voluntary and transparent policy of
redistribution of the fruits of growth in order to eliminate
poverty..."



4. (U) The MLC further states the elements of its "social
contract" through a statement from Francois Mwamba, the
Minister of Budget and secretary-general of the party, in the
same edition. That statement outlines broad areas for
strengthening the nation, among them: encouraging
decentralization, ensuring justice and fighting against
corruption and impunity, creating security through
development of an operational national army and professional
police force, introducing transparency in the management of
national resources, developing accessible housing,
implementing a rural electrification program, fighting
epidemics such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, and putting in place
free primary education along with subsidized secondary
education. All of these ambitious programs support Bemba's
call for security, justice, and development.



5. (C) Justice, however, can be a slippery term -- and one
which is difficult to pin down in Bemba's case. Accusations
of his complicity in crimes against humanity during the DRC's
civil war abound. Shortly into the campaign period, an
article appeared chronicling some damning accusations from
one of Bemba's former rebel companions, Papy Kibonge.
Kibonge granted an interview to a Belgian news group after
giving testimony to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on
war crimes allegedly committed by the MLC in the Ituri
region, and by Bemba in particular in his role as MLC leader.
These allegations include accusations of widespread rape,
torture, murder, and cannibalism reportedly committed by MLC
troops (and Bemba himself) in Bunia during the civil war.
Kibonge, one of the founders and leaders of the MLC during
the early days of the war, recounts a growing estrangement

KINSHASA 00001124 002 OF 002


between Bemba and his confederates as Bemba revealed an
increasingly violent and dictatorial agenda. Bemba is also
"of interest" to the ICC for his participation in similar
alleged crimes against humanity in the neighboring Central
African Republic during an attempted coup in October 2002.



6. (C) Reports about the conduct of the campaign outside of
Kinshasa are also troubling. Some Embassy contacts report
that while Bemba was actively campaigning in Bandundu, four
separate campaign offices of Olivier Kamitatu (former MLC
president of the National Assembly and current breakaway
independent parliamentary candidate) were burnt. In
addition, sixteen Kamitatu operatives were reported to have
been hospitalized during the same period. While nobody is
directly accusing Bemba, the implication is telling. Many
people throughout several provinces continue to report
widespread intimidation by Bemba's campaign workers -- both
direct and unspoken threats along the lines of, vote for
Bemba, or you (and your family) will pay. In addition,
statements from Bemba and other MLC officials frequently
emphasize his "true" Congolese identity, a thinly disguised
reference to Kabila's alleged foreign roots and a short step
away from overt objectionable ethnic-based appeals.



7. (C) Comment. While Bemba's rhetoric hits all the right
notes, his actions remain suspect. Reports continue to
indicate that he is carefully playing both sides -- publicly
demonstrating support for the electoral process while
privately attempting to subvert the results. Still armed and
very dangerous, Bemba remains one of the most feared
candidates in the race, and one of the biggest potential
troublemakers before or after the elections. End comment.
MEECE