Cablegate: Drc Border Security Remains Illusive

DE RUEHKI #0496/01 1221711
R 021711Z MAY 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: N'Djili International Airport in Kinshasa and
Ngobila Beach, the ferry crossing point to Brazzaville, abound with
examples of poor adherence by the GDRC to international border
security norms. The GDRC's attempts to correct this situation have
not yet yielded results. Parallel efforts by the GDRC to control
illegal aliens operating in the mining sector in Katanga province
may have a spillover effect nationwide, and Post is watching this
situation for possible repercussions for American citizens. End

Secure Borders?

2. (SBU) During a late January visit to both the N'djili
International Airport in Kinshasa and to Ngobila Beach, the official
Congo River border station with daily ferry traffic to Brazzaville
in the ROC, ConOff and consular staff made several observations
concerning the current state of border security and passenger
controls that raise serious questions about the DRC government's
adherence to international border security norms. Regarding Ngobila
Beach, DRC immigration and customs officials estimate that 5,000
persons or more are legally crossing the border on a daily basis,
mostly small-scale commercial traders who are transporting goods to
and from the DRC from the Republic of Congo. These wares largely
consist of locally traded items, including bolts of
locally-manufactured fabric and plastics, flour, rice, sugar, rubber
shoes, plastic bags and some produce.

3. (SBU) While the GDRC ferry boat has a capacity of 500 persons,
clearly 700 or more people had embarked upon the ferry boat that was
present at the time of the visit. While most had paid the 500 franc
Congolaise (approximately $.90) fare, many had not and these extra
passengers boarded the ferry after a short swim in the river or by
propelling themselves hand over hand along the underneath side of
the gangplank linking the boat with the dock. Additionally, another
quarter of the passengers were the locally infamous wheelchair-bound
handicapped who are boarded free of charge and are afforded special
customs exemptions limited to what they and their helper can
transport on their wheelchairs. During the visit, no passenger
screening measures were observed and in fact, the fluidity of
passenger and cargo travel was astonishing.

4. (SBU) Kinshasa's N'djili International Airport has international
flights to Belgium, France, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia that
connect to flights to the United States. During the consular staff
outreach visit to inspect airport facilities and meet with airport
authorities, immigration and airport security officials offered a
demonstration of their X-ray screening procedures for hand baggage
for departing passengers. ConOff offered her own hand bag for this
inspection under the watchful eye of several specially trained
airport security officials. The hand bag was scanned three times
during various stages of the check-in process, and her pocketknife
was never discovered, although clearly in plain view on the X-ray.
(Note: X-ray scanners, computers and other security screening
equipment function with varying degrees of accuracy at N'djili
International Airport. These systems vary, depending on how well
trained and regularly paid the airport screeners are, as well as on
the simple availability of electricity. End note.)

Worried about Public Image

5. (SBU) N'djili International Airport and Ngobila Beach have long
been known for their Byzantine arrival and departure procedures
involving up to 18 different agencies and services that check
arriving and departing passengers for both domestic and
international travel.

6. (SBU) In an effort to combat the DRC's "negative image" with
international travelers, it was announced recently that Interior
Minister Kalume has ordered the reduction in security and customs
services now functioning at all airports and border stations
country-wide in an effort to both streamline operations and improve
border security

7. (SBU) In principal, the Congolese National Police Chief Inspector
is now the coordinator of security services from the five designated
agencies which include: Director General of Immigration (DGM),
Customs and Taxation (OFIDA), Congolese Office of Control (OCC), the
Airport Operations Authority (RVA) for N'djili and the National
Office of Transportation (ONATRA) for Ngobila Beach. Within these
agencies "special services" operate, namely the National
Intelligence Agency (ANR), the Military Agency for the Detection of
Anti-Patriotic Activities (DEMIAP), the (nebulous) Agency for the
Defense of Kinshasa (DIVK) whose function is not clearly known, and
the Agency for Airport Security (ASA). The overall security of the

KINSHASA 00000496 002 OF 002

airport remains under the authority of the Republican Guard, a
component of the Congolese Army reporting to the Presidency.

8. (SBU) Consular and other mission personnel often hear anecdotal
accounts of the harassment of American and other travelers at the
DRC's major ports of entry, and many have observed money changing
hands to permit the passage of baggage and passengers who have not
been screened by airport authorities.

DGM Crackdown in Katanga

9. (SBU) Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province, is the
headquarters of many mining firms. In a recent Consular visit to the
province, government officials commented there is a growing problem
with illegal aliens, notably Chinese, Indian and Lebanese nationals,
nearly all of whom are involved in some way with the mining sector.
Among the most vociferous on this point were DGM officials, so it
did not come as a surprise when reports began arriving of DGM's
recent efforts to crack down on illegal aliens in Katanga province.

10. (SBU) As noted in the warden message issued by Post on April 16,
DGM officials have begun a targeted campaign to ensure that all
foreigners are in compliance with existing immigration law and have
the proper visa based upon their stated purpose of visiting or
residing in the DRC. This campaign began in Katanga province, but
Post understands that it may be extended to all DRC provinces and
would require all non-Congolese to present evidence of legal
residence in the country. While this effort would seem to have
merit with respect to border security and is in accordance with
local law and immigration regulation, Post has received reports of
uneven enforcement, of "auxiliary" fines being imposed on foreigners
not carrying their passports. In recent discussions with the DGM
Director, Post was assured that reported abuses by DGM personnel
would be dealt with swiftly but the DGM also told us it is serious
about this enforcement effort, primarily to combat what is perceived
as growing illegal mining activity in the Katanga province. Note:
Post has issued a new warden message to Americans living in or
visiting the DRC alerting them to the possible increased enforcement
of local immigration laws, aimed specifically at foreigners resident
or temporarily present in the DRC. End note.

11. (SBU) Comment. Post supports efforts to apply DRC immigration
laws, and streamline operations at airports and border crossings in
the DRC. Although there have been no reports to date, the Deputy
Director of the DGM has personally assured Post that all reported
harassment of American citizens by DGM officials will be swiftly
investigated and resolved. Despite this apparent renewed GDRC
attention to immigration and border issues, however, security
remains far below international standards. The fact remains that
real border security is still an illusion in the DRC. End comment.


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