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Cablegate: Kinshasa Increasingly in the Dark

VZCZCXRO8814
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0512 1281236
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081236Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6089
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000512

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG ECON PGOV CG
SUBJECT: KINSHASA INCREASINGLY IN THE DARK


1. (U) Summary. Increasingly frequent power blackouts and
water shortages are plaguing Kinshasa and other provinces in
the DRC, sparking growing public unhappiness. Poorly
maintained equipment, insufficient capital investment and
mismanagement are among the causes cited. In late March
Parliament summoned the executives of the national
electricity and water authorities (respectively SNEL and
REGIDESO) for questioning about these problems, and on April
28, the GDRC dismissed these management teams. End Summary.

2. (U) For at least the past six months, power outages have
become increasingly severe in Kinshasa, particularly during
the weekends. Congolese media has also reported frequent
outages in nearly all other provinces, although only an
estimated six to seven percent of the Congolese population
even has access to electricity. Electrical cuts occur
several times per day in all parts of Kinshasa; one Econ LES
counted more than eight outages in his home during the May
5-6 weekend. Further, these outages normally do not follow
the schedule that the DRC's electricity parastatal (SNEL)
occasionally announces in advance. Water shortages and
decreased water pressure are also increasing in Kinshasa and
throughout the DRC. For example, an Econ LES often only has
running water in his home between 2 and 3 am, and in April
parts of Kinshasa went several days without water. There is
growing public and private criticism of the situation in
Kinshasa, reflecting popular frustration that nothing seems
to be happening in the post-election period to bring
improvements to the general population.

3. (U) SNEL officials attribute these problems to aging and
vandalized equipment and inadequate funds to replace or
restore equipment and renovate and construct hydroelectric
plants and distribution stations. Electricity shortages in
turn reduce REGIDESO's capacity to treat and distribute
water, which is then exacerbated in Kinshasa by an ongoing
donor-funded renovation of a processing and purification
plant. Both SNEL and REGIDESO are indeed dealing with
decrepit infrastructure, suffering from decades of neglect.
Both are also characterized, like other state enterprises, by
a long history of poor management and corruption.

4. (U) In response to the growing power and water shortages,
National Assembly members held a hearing at the end of March
to question the SNEL and REGIDESO CEOs and Boards of
Directors. The management teams were unable to satisfactorily
respond to the Parliamentary inquiry, according to contacts
of an AID LES, and on April 28, the Ministers of Portfolio
and Energy (the ministries have political and technical
oversight of these agencies) replaced the parastatal's
management teams with interim leadership.

Comment
-------

5. (U) Sacrifice of the management teams was clearly designed
to respond to public unrest. Inevitably, rumors also abound
about the reasons for the abrupt dismissals, the first of
their kind in a very long time. The upper management of both
companies, like other parastatals, was set during the DRC
Transition, which allocated slots to the various Transition
parties. It is no coincidence that the dismissed management
teams were dominated by members of parties not affiliated
with he governing presidential coalition or Prime Minister's
office. The GDRC clearly wants to convey a message it is now
holding officials accountable for their actions and failures,
particularly in priority sectors. Broad reforms to the
public sector companies, however, will be required to effect
needed change. Follow-up actions regarding these two
highly-visible and important companies will be an indicator
of the new post-election government's will and ability to
start to come to grips with fundamental issues. End comment.
MEECE

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