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Cablegate: Brazzaville in Brief - November 16, 2007

VZCZCXRO8210
RR RUEHBZ
DE RUEHBZ #0449 3201139
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161139Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0826
INFO RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0296
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0316
RUEHBZ/AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE 0913

UNCLAS BRAZZAVILLE 000449

SIPDIS

SIPDIS, AF/EX PMO MARTINEZ, AF/C DESK BARGERON, PARIS FOR AFRICA
WATCHERS, ENERGY FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON EFIN EINV ELTN EAID PHUM ENRG CF
SUBJECT: BRAZZAVILLE IN BRIEF - NOVEMBER 16, 2007

1. Embassy Brazzaville is an unclassified Post.

2. Representatives of the London Club (LC) announced on November
15 that an agreement has been signed between the Republic of
Congo (RoC) and the LC to forgive 77 percent of the US$643.6
million debt owed to LC creditors. Government bonds will be
issued to offset the debts and provide the GRoC funds to channel
into housing, health, water, electricity, and education.
Speaking at the U.S. Embassy 's Villa Washington, LC
representatives provided a positive outlook on the debt
forgiveness and bond issuance. The representatives commented
that although the GRoC was difficult and slow to organize
themselves, when the GRoC officials finally met with the LC, the
GRoC officials came well-prepared and took a positive step by
acknowledging their need for the agreement. As the
question-and-answer activity unfolded at the Villa Washington,
English students asked focused, specific questions about how the
LC could agree to forgive the debts of a country that could
certainly pay their debts if forced to. The disparity between
the opening remarks of the London Club representatives and their
answers were soon apparent: the LC said they were not a police
force, they could not control the future spending of the GRoC
(the students pointed out that GRoC officials will purchase
private Hummers before they will pay for school books for the
children). The ebullient mood of the LC representatives at the
opening of their remarks was met with a dismal response from the
Congolese, who were stunned that the LC would agree to deal with
a government which could indeed pay their debts if forced to and
that has demonstrated such a poor record on transparency and
governance. A cable with full report will follow.

3. Pierre Oba, Minister of Mines, announced on November 12 that
the Republic of Congo (RoC) has been readmitted to the Kimberley
Process. He gave full recognition of the success of the
re-application process to President Denis Sassou Nguesso: "..we
can say that the President is the greatest architect of this
work." The Kimberley Process controls the exportation of
diamonds, and the RoC had lost its status in July 2004.

4. The Ministry of Transport has begun a selection process for
local and international companies to build an alternate railway
track to circumvent the flooded area between Goma-Tsitsi and
Brazzaville. Embassy was not informed about the solicitation for
bids, indeed cannot find any evidence of a public offering and
has complained to the Ministry of Transport about the exclusion
of US firms from this opportunity. While this project is not the
major rehab that is needed to get the railroad back on its feet,
the work would have been a good way for American companies to
penetrate this market. Not surprisingly, the four "bidders" are
French and Chinese.

5. Pacific Issoobeka, Minister of Economy, announced that RoC
will receive US$10,500,000 in food supplies from World Food
Program (WFP) under the 2005 "Intervention Extended Relief and
Recovery" program. This agreement will provide extra food to
5,100 malnourished people, increase to 9,600 the number of
HIV/AIDS families receiving food, and expand the school lunch
program to target 62,300 school children.

6. Local elections for City Advisors, the equivalent of a U.S.
City Council director, and for members of the Senate, the lower
house of Parliament, will be held January 20, 2008. City
Advisors then appoint the mayors of the cities. Four districts
will hold a new round of legislative elections on December 9.
The Constitutional Court had decreed that the elections held in
these four districts did not meet electoral standards. The four
districts are: Bouenza, district of Yamba and district of
Kayes; Kimbangou, district of Nauri; and Mbombo, district of
Cuvette Ouest.

7. ENI SPA and ENI-Congo have been given a contract to build a
gas power plant of 450 megawatts in Pointe-Noire. ENI, an
Italian-owned company, has operated in the RoC since 1968 and is
currently the second largest foreign oil producer in the RoC.

8. Prime Minister Isidore Mvouba will preside over the 42nd
session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
opening on November 15. Representatives of governments,
intergovernmental organizations, and national human rights NGOs
will examine reports on specific aspects of human rights in
Africa. Simultaneously, Souhayr Belhassen, chairman of the
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) accused the
GRoC of violating human rights after being prevented by the RoC
Minister of Security and Police, to hold a human rights rally on
November 12 at the beach of Brazzaville to commemorate victims
of "Disparus du Beach", the site where 350 refugees returning
home to Brazzaville mysteriously disappeared in 1999.

WEISBERG

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