|09KINSHASA1050||2009-12-02 06:27:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Kinshasa|
1. (SBU) Summary: While local audiences in Kisangani are
supportive of U.S. military training of the FARDC battalion, they
have expressed concerns about the motivations of the U.S. effort,
manner in which candidates are being vetted, and the nature of
follow-on activities to sustain the battalion's integrity. Concerns
over the training, if left unaddressed, could harm efforts to
improve the civilian perception of the FARDC. In order to develop a
sound public affairs strategy to convince Congolese audiences of the
merits of the U.S. military training, Embassy Kinshasa and AFRICOM
elements must continue efforts to conduct outreach to audiences and
public-opinion makers. End summary.
2. (U) On November 26-27, APAO visited Kisangani to assess public
views surrounding U.S. military training of the FARDC Light-Infantry
Battalion. The visit followed meetings by an AF-OSD team to meet
with civil society actors (see ref). APAO continued the
discussions, and reached out to members of other target groups.
Meetings with University of Kisangani administrators and academics,
human rights groups, local journalists, and leaders for the
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Kisangani Archdiocese identified clear themes that illustrate the
public view surrounding the U.S. training activity and overall U.S.
role in the DRC.
What are U.S. motivations?
3. (SBU) While members of the local community were generally
supportive of U.S. and international initiatives to train the FARDC,
they continued to remain suspicious of U.S. intentions. Several
interlocutors highlighted the 1998 invasion of Rwandan and
Ugandan-supported rebel groups and expressed their belief that the
invasion would not have happened without U.S. support. Given this
belief, many questioned whether the presence of U.S military
trainers was a harbinger of another inasion of foreign-backed rebel
4. (SBU) Academics noted their concern that, as past training had
supported Mobutu's hold on power, the U.S. military training was a
potential means to bolster President Kabila's government, and
intentions by the Head of State to maintain his hold on power. The
battalion would act as the potential tool to secure his power.
5. (SBU) Interlocutors also expressed the view that the
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construction of the Kisangani training facility was paving the way
for a permanent Africa Command (AFRICOM) presence in the DRC, which
would advance U.S. efforts to conduct anti-LRA operations, capture
potential Islamic terrorists filtering in from Sudan, and protect
U.S. economic interests in the region. The theme of "balkanization"
also emerged, as opinion-makers wondered whether the battalion's
training was an attempt to divide the FARDC, and potentially create
a fighting force that would be exploited by the U.S. and its Rwandan
and Ugandan allies to promote the break-up of the DRC.
Is the training effective?
7. (SBU) Concerning the actual training, several human rights
groups questioned the methodology of selecting candidates, and
assurances that candidates did not have a dubious track record.
Expressing skepticism that there were too few FARDC candidates who
would be suitable for training, many asserted the training would
ultimately need to bring in candidates who did not meet U.S. vetting
Qultimately need to bring in candidates who did not meet U.S. vetting
8. (SBU) Interlocutors also revealed concerns about the training of
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a single battalion. Audiences appeared to be unconvinced that a
battalion would be able to act as an effective model for the FARDC,
citing the failure of past initiatives by donors to train Congolese
military personnel. As certain civil society representatives
contested, "didn't foreign militaries train Mobutu's army? Did that
help to professionalize the military?"
What happens after the training?
9. (SBU) The most pressing concern expressed by audiences was what
would happen after the training. Specifically, audiences and
opinion-makers were concerned about how soldiers would be paid and
fed following the training. When told the GDRC would have to take
responsibility for the welfare of the battalion, audiences
immediately expressed concern the government would be unable to
satisfy the unit's future monetary and supply needs. As a result,
any training activity would be unable to professionalize the FARDC.
pursue such an effort. End comment.