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Cablegate: Catholic Bishops Warn Drc Leaders

VZCZCXRO7373
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKI #0842/01 2001548
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191548Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6561
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFIUU/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000842

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS PHUM SCUL CG
SUBJECT: CATHOLIC BISHOPS WARN DRC LEADERS

REF: KINSHASA 394

1. (U) Summary: Congo's Catholic bishops have raised concerns
about ongoing threats to the DRC's security, natural
resources, and national sovereignty as well as its general
state of economic and political development. A statement
released July 9 calls for immediate action by the Congolese
people and government, the international community, and MONUC
to reverse this trend. Signed by the country's 47 bishops and
archbishops, the statement received significant attention in
the local media, testifying to the Catholic Church's
continued political role in the DRC. End summary.

-----------------
A CALL TO ACTION
-----------------

2. (U) The National Bishops Conference of the Congo (CENCO)
released July 9 the conclusions of its 43rd plenary session,
held in Kinshasa July 3-7. Entitled "New Wine, New
Wineskins," it portrays the 2006 elections as a turning point
in the DRC's history. Echoing language from the GDRC's
campaign for a "Change of Mentality for the Development of
the DRC," launched the previous week by the Ministry of
Culture, it calls on Congolese society to begin a process of
"mental change" to reflect the nation's transition towards
democracy and desire for a better future.

3. (U) The bishops' statement maintains that the Congolese
people continue to suffer unnecessarily and that, since
elections, little has changed in the "new DRC." It urges all
levels of Congolese society to take immediate and concrete
steps to bring about development and safeguard the country
against the "dangers which await it once again," such as
insecurity in the East, exploitation of natural resources,
and the suppression of national sovereignty.

4. (U) The statement was signed by the 41 bishops and six
archbishops who lead the country's 47 dioceses and represent
more than 30 million Catholics. Also present at the
conference was Cardinal Yvan Dias, special envoy of Pope
Benedict XVI, who traveled from Rome to discuss the selection
of a new archbishop for Kinshasa following the death of the
politically influential Cardinal Etsou in January.

--------
SECURITY
--------

5. (U) The bishops call the security situation in the Congo
"worrisome once again" and appeal to all involved to work
collaboratively to resolve tensions. They emphasize that
"national sovereignty and territorial integrity are not
negotiable" in working towards this goal.

6. (U) In particular, the bishops stress the urgency of
creating a "true republican army" which is "capable of
responding to its mission of defending and safeguarding the
integrity of the national territory." They view the
improvement of military working and living conditions as
essential to achieving this goal, and suggest the
construction of barracks as a step in this direction. The
bishops also call on MONUC to live up to popular expectations
that it will protect the population and, in doing so,
maintain their confidence.

-----------------
NATURAL RESOURCES
-----------------

7. (U) The bishops describe the exploitation of Congolese
natural resources as a source of insecurity as well as
underdevelopment. They cite conflicts over oil near Lake
Albert in Ituri District as an example of tension arising
over resource control and warn that the population risks an
"oil war" should it not first see the benefits of resource
extraction in local communities.

8. (U) They also emphasize that mining and forestry
enterprises should respect the natural environment and
contribute, above all else, to local development. To further
these objectives, the statement announced the creation of an
ad hoc CENCO commission to monitor extractive industries,
particularly during the current review of mining and forestry
contracts.

KINSHASA 00000842 002 OF 002

--------------------
NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY
--------------------

9. (U) The bishops claim the DRC and other African countries
are vulnerable to a type of "neocolonialism destined to
control power, exploit natural resources, and recuperate
money invested in various areas." They warn that the "house
is burning" and urge all of Congolese society, particularly
its political leaders, to remain attentive at all times since
even a small incident can escalate into large consequences.
Likewise, the bishops encourage citizens to "remain vigilant
like the fathers of independence (who were) endowed with a
nationalism that could safeguard the interests of the
country." They call on Congolese citizens to "re-conquer
independence" by assuming responsibility to develop the "new
DRC."

10. (U) CENCO was critical of the international community,
saying at many points in its statement that both private
companies and foreign governments were sources of dependence.
It reiterates Pope Benedict XVI's appeal to the G8 for
"rapid, unconditional, and full forgiveness of debt" and
asserts that debt repayments "penalize the majority of the
population while benefiting only a few individuals."

11. (U) The bishops emphasize the link between financial
security and political independence by highlighting the
weakness of the 2007 budget in addressing the GRDC's
development agenda and predict that it will induce additional
financial dependence on donors. They call on Congolese
leaders to work towards the repatriation of money abroad and
urge them to avoid signing contracts which might exacerbate
inequality within the population or penalize future
generations. As in the past, the bishops also emphasize the
importance of combating corruption and promoting
transparency. They ask both MONUC and the GDRC to make their
reports and inquiries public.

12. (SBU) The bishops' statement has not elicited public
response by the GDRC, the international community, or MONUC
despite its criticisms of each. Marc Mvuama (PALU), second
vice-president of the National Assembly, told PolIntern that,
had the GDRC felt threatened by the statement it would have
issued a response or taken action.

-------
Comment
-------

13. (SBU) The bishops' statement was published in full by
every major Kinshasa newspaper, and is yet another example of
the Catholic Church's continuing role in Congolese politics.
Apollinaire Malu-Malu, president of the Independent Electoral
Commission, explained to PolIntern that the Church has
advocated many of the same messages found in the statement
since the transitional government (reftel) and, as such, bold
declarations are now expected of it. End comment.
MEECE

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