Cablegate: An Exclusive Interview with Marie Therese Nlandu
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0527/01 1311256
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111256Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6115
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000527
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KDEM KJUS CG
SUBJECT: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MARIE THERESE NLANDU
REF: A. KINSHASA 502
B. KINSHASA 279
1. (SBU) Summary. Bemba attorney and unsuccessful
presidential candidate Marie Therese Nlandu gave an exclusive
interviewto Poloff in which she outlined her side of the
vents that led to her arrest on charges of insurretion and
weapons possession. She also explained why she thought she
was acquitted and described in detail what she called a
pattern of political arrests. While Nlandu's story stretched
credibility at times, much of it is supported by local and
international human rights organizations. End summary.
2. (SBU) Congolese politician and Bemba lawyer Marie Therese
Nlandu and one of her attorneys, Maitre Mutombo, visited
Poloff at the embassy May 7, one week after being acquitted
of government charges that she had instigated the November 21
burning of the Supreme Court. Nlandu thanked Poloff for
attending several of her court hearings. "This was the
reason I was liberated," she claimed. Nlandu appeared to be
suffering from headaches and the effects of nearly four
months in prison. She said she would leave May 10 for the UK
to visit her family there.
Nlandu gives her side of the story
3. (SBU) Nlandu recounted how she viewed the key events
leading to her arrest. She said that when police arrested
six of her employees and Pastor Jose Inongo on November 20,
her vehicle had split from the one carrying the group only
moments earlier. She claimed police would have killed her
had she been arrested with the others, although she provided
no evidence to support this view.
4. (SBU) Nlandu asserted that she, and not other Bemba
supporters, was targeted for arrest for two reasons. First,
she said she was able to calm the crowd outside the Supreme
Court on November 20 when no one else could, showing the
government that she was a strong and powerful voice to be
reckoned with. Second, she claimed the government was afraid
that if she continued as Bemba's lawyer, he would win his
election challenge before the Supreme Court.
5. (SBU) She acknowledged that Bemba did not once visit her
in prison, although his wife did. She insisted she was not
angry at his "abandonment" of her, saying she had "borne her
cross for her country."
How and why they won the case
6. (SBU) Nlandu attorney Mutombo said the defense team
became optimistic about her eventual acquittal when the tapes
of a Nlandu interview, in which she allegedly urged
supporters to insurrection, were played for the military
judges (ref A). He said that as it became apparent that
Nlandu was inside the Supreme Court building during the
violence outside which led to its burning, the lawyers knew
the government case was flawed. He said he believed the
judges repeatedly postponed the hearings because they knew
the case was weak and were trying to find a politically
expedient way to dismiss it.
7. (SBU) Nlandu called the military judges "courageous." She
expressed concern they would lose their jobs or face
persecution because of the acquittal and claimed a judge she
knew had been fired in 2005 for reaching the wrong verdict.
She and Mutombo agreed that military prosecutor Homere Nkulu
was singularly inept, although noting that he had won
convictions in similar cases before.
8. (SBU) Regarding Inonga and the two former Mobutu-era
soldiers caught in the act of setting fire to the Supreme
Court, Nlandu asserted they were acquitted because they were
working for the government. She said the "Pastor" had set
her up and claimed the two soldiers had been paid to testify
that she gave them orders to start the Supreme Court fire.
Fears for allies and opposition
9. (SBU) Nlandu alleged that her employees still suffered
KINSHASA 00000527 002 OF 002
the after-effects of torture by police. In particular, she
claimed police had tortured her driver in such a way that he
fears having been rendered sterile. She reported that she
advised her co-defendants upon release to "disappear, go to
the provinces, stay out of sight." Mutombo said he feared
for his life and requested visa assistance from the U.S.
Embassy. (Note: Poloff instructed him to speak with the
consular section directly and to register with MONUC Human
Rights Division, which is maintaining contact with people who
feel endangered because of their association with the
opposition. End note.)
10. (SBU) Nlandu also pled for international assistance to
secure the release of some 400 people (her estimate) being
held in jails and prisons in Kinshasa as "opposition."
(Note: MONUC Human Rights division estimates 200 detainees
following the events of March 22-23. Bemba advisor Delly
Sesanga cited a precise figure of 68 in a meeting with
Poloffs May 8. End note.) Nlandu claimed the detainees
included minors, an allegation confirmed by MONUC. She also
said she had met a young woman while in prison who said she
had been detained because hers was the final number dialed on
a phone confiscated from another "opposition" detainee.
Nlandu called for the international community to apply
political and economic pressure on the Congolese government
to free these prisoners.
11. (SBU) Nlandu said she doubted President Kabila knew
about all the detainees, but added that he "certainly knew
about" her detention and had declined to intervene, saying it
was a matter for the justice system to decide.
12. (SBU) Nlandu asserted military prosecutor Nkulu told her
upon her release that he would have her back in prison within
three months. Although she claimed not to fear prison after
surviving her ordeal, Nlandu indeed left the DRC May 10 for
"at least two months." She told Poloff she wants to return
to the DRC "not in a political role," but to resume her law
13. (SBU) Comment. Nlandu's account of her experiences
clearly contains elements of truth as well as speculation.
For example, her assertion that had she not been arrested
Jean Pierre Bemba's claim on the presidency would have been
upheld is fantasy. However, the detention of suspected Bemba
supporters and her fears for her employees have been echoed
by MONUC and human rights organizations. Post will continue
to monitor these allegations and report any developments
septel. End comment.