Cablegate: Angola: Fnla Founder Laid to Rest

DE RUEHLU #0846 2271630
R 151630Z AUG 07




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Following an official state ceremony in
Luanda, FNLA founder Holden Roberto was buried in his native
Zaire Province on August 8th, 2007. Despite mutterings that
the GRA had deliberately kept him in poverty, the GRA pulled
out all the stops for an elaborate funeral for Roberto.
Attention is already turning to the battle for party
leadership, and many wonder if the death of its founder will
lead to the end of the party. END SUMMARY

"Modern-day King" Laid to Rest
2. (U) On August 8, 2007 Holden Alvaro Roberto, founder and
president of the FNLA, was laid to rest in his hometown of
Mbanza Kongo in front of thousands of people. He was buried
in a sacred burial ground, reserved for kings from his
Bakongo ethnic group. Members of the former Bakongo kingdom
) which covered parts of modern-day Gabon, Congo
Brazzaville, and the DRC - came to assist the interment, and
often referred to the late Roberto as a present-day king of
the Bakongos.

3. (SBU) GRA representation at the interment included the
Ministers of Justice, Territorial Administration and War
Veterans, as well as the Vice Minister for Culture and
Zaire's Provincial Governor. Official eulogies from
President Dos Santos, Prime Minister Nando, National War
Veterans and the GRA were read by representatives. The
previous day, President Dos Santos had laid a wreath by the
coffin of the deceased during the official lying-in-state
ceremony held at the National Assembly. The GRA paid all
funeral expenses and established an inter-ministerial
commission to oversee logistical arrangements.

Act of Contrition for "Nationalist Hero"
4. (SBU) The elaborate interment ceremony and flowing
eulogies were seen as acts of guilt by President Dos Santos,
who frustrated and belittled Roberto while he was alive and
in need of assistance. Many have criticized the GRA for
allowing a man now labeled as a national hero to die in
poverty. The GRA marginalized the FNLA after the party split
in 1999, in a schism supposedly engineered by MPLA
infiltration and influence. Citing the lack of an
agreed-upon party president, the GRA then froze FNLA party
funds with a court order in 2000, and has not yet lifted the
order. This has severely restricted party activity and
limited funds available for medical care as Roberto,s health
worsened. Anger at the GRA's treatment of Roberto united
Bakongos from all spheres, and ideological barriers were
dropped as Roberto's wish to buried in Mbanza Kongo trumped
President Dos Santos request that he be buried in Luanda.

FNLA: Hope for the Future?
5. (SBU) All eyes now turn to the looming fight for party
leadership. Because of Roberto's long illnesses and frequent
absences from the country, the party has been virtually
leaderless for years. Party loyalties are divided between
the two current vice presidents, but neither has a sure shot
at the FNLA presidency. Lucas Ngonda, who has claimed the
party presidency since 1999, is seen by many FNLA members as
a traitor paid by the MPLA to create friction within the
party. His failure to attend the interment due to "health
reasons" and his brief appearance at the state ceremony
surrounded by bodyguards due to "security concerns" was
criticized by party insiders. Ngola Kabangu is Robert's
chosen heir, but is Kimbundu, the traditional ethnic base of
the MPLA. Party insiders also question the willingness for
party faithful to elect a non-Bakongo to the top post, and
are said to be looking for a third candidate who can overcome
old divisions and lead the FNLA to a rebirth. Announcement
of a date for the party congress is expected in the fall.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Though Roberto's death temporarily united
the Bakongos, many doubt that the fractured and torn FNLA
will be able to turn this sentiment to its advantage. Once a
western-backed powerhouse, the party has been on the decline
since its military force was virtually annihilated in
1976/76. Its poor showing in the 1992 legislative elections
(2.4% of the electorate vs. the 2.27% received by the PRS, a
party formed the previous year) was seen as yet another nail
in the party's coffin. In any event, the MPLA is sure to use
its leverage to prevent any resurgence of another
ethnic-based party power, and other opposition parties will
work to hold onto Bakongos that have swung their way during
the long leadership vacuum in the FNLA. END COMMENT

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