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Cablegate: Drc's Atomic Energy Commissioner Arrested

VZCZCXRO9959
PP RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0282 0671605
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081605Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5740
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L KINSHASA 000282

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/08/2017
TAGS: ENRG EMIN ETRD PGOV IAEA CG
SUBJECT: DRC'S ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSIONER ARRESTED

REF: A. 06 KINSHASA 1392
B. 06 KINSHASA 1688
C. 06 KINSHASA 1410
D. 06 KINSHASA 1309

Classified By: EconOff W.Brafman for reasons 1.4 b/d/e.

1. (C) The GDRC arrested the top official of the DRC's Atomic
Energy Commission (CGEA) on March 6, but thus far specific
charges have not been made public. According to media
reports, Professor Fortunat Lumu Badimbayi-Matu, the CGEA
Commissioner and director of Kinshasa's Nuclear Research
Center (CREN-K), is being held in Kinshasa along with
CREN-K's Scientific Director. EconOff reached Lumu by phone
the morning of March 8, and although he confirmed his arrest,
he said could not discuss the matter with EconOff until later
in the day. According to uncorroborated information from the
Congolese National Police, the investigation may widen and
more arrests may occur. Further, members of the presidential
circle also reportedly met to discuss the matter.

2. (C) Initial reports in Congolese opposition newspaper Le
Phare indicated CGEA officials were charged with trafficking
of uranium "bars" and "casques," but subsequent reports in Le
Phare and another paper have offered other possible reasons.
(Comment: It is not clear what is meant by casques, but it
may be a reference to the heavy, 20 square inch containers
that EmbOffs saw at CREN-K during their July 2006 tour of the
facility (reftel A). As noted in reftel A, during that July
tour, EmbOffs found no evidence the containers were
radioactive or held uranium, popular rumors notwithstanding.
End comment.) One line of speculation is that the arrests
are in connection with the CGEA's September 2006 partnership
deal with Brinkley Africa, Ltd. a subsidiary of London
Alternative Investment Market-listed Brinkley Mining (reftel
B). Lumu reportedly approved this deal, for the purpose of
developing nuclear research projects and mining uranium.
(Note: Brinkley's website characterizes the agreement as a
Memorandum of Understanding. End note.) CREN-K and the CGEA
fall under the mandate of the Ministry of Scientific
Research, but it is the Ministry of Mines that has the
authority to approve mining concessions. The extent of
involvement of either Ministry in this agreement remains
opaque. Normally, mining agreements must have both
ministerial and presidential approval.

3. (C) The CREN-K facility, which includes two
non-operational research reactors, has 138 nuclear fuel rods
and a store of nuclear waste, to which Lumu has access
(reftel C). British, Belgium and French diplomats toured
CREN-K March 7, and although they did not specifically
discuss the recent arrests, the diplomats neither observed
nor did the facility staff mention any unusual activity.
Uranium is found naturally in Katanga province, fifteen
hundred miles southeast from Kinshasa, but it is not
currently industrially mined (reftel D). End note.)
MEECE

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