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Cablegate: Mlc Leadership On Bemba and More

VZCZCXRO0225
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0529/01 1681040
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161040Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8126
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000529

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM EFIN ECON CG RW
SUBJECT: MLC LEADERSHIP ON BEMBA AND MORE

1. (SBU) Summary: In a long discussion June 3, leaders of Bemba's
MLC ("Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo") party told PolOff they
are not planning further public demonstrations in Kinshasa following
a canceled May 31 march in the capital. The strongest displays of
support for Bemba have occurred in his native Equateur province.
The MLC is planning a Kinshasa petition drive and local television
campaign to raise awareness regarding the circumstances of Bemba's
arrest and demonstrate popular support for him. The MLC position on
legislation governing the opposition spokesman is rejected by other
opposition parties. The uncertain tenure of Prime Minister Gizenga
is a top MLC concern, as is the rate of 2008 budget expenditure.
According to MLC leadership, the mistrust between Kabila and Nkunda
is symbolic of mistrust of Kabila across the DRC political
landscape. End summary.

Reaction to Bemba arrest
------------------------

2. (SBU) Leaders of Jean-Pierre Bemba's MLC party discussed with
Poloff reaction to Bemba's May 24 arrest, as well as party position
on legislation governing the opposition, current economic and
political issues, and eastern Congo peace processes, three days
after its leadership canceled a May 31 march in support of Bemba in
Kinshasa.

3. (SBU) Executive Secretary Thomas Luhaka and National Secretary
Jean-Lucien Bussa, both National Assembly deputies, said June 3 at
MLC headquarters the party is emphasizing that any public displays
of support for Bemba that it organizes must be responsible and
orderly. They said the party canceled a planned May 31
demonstration after Kinshasa provincial authorities offered
insufficient security guarantees for participants. Luhaka said the
party has no immediate plans for subsequent demonstrations.

4. (SBU) Although organized public displays of support for Bemba
have been limited in Kinshasa, there has been greater protest
activity in Bemba's home province of Equateur. A MONUC-Mbandaka
political affairs officer told us June 4 Bemba supporters had thrown
rocks at MONUC vehicles in Mbandaka and at a Belgian-owned property
in Gemena May 26. Governor Jose Makila, Congo's only MLC governor,
suspended public demonstrations following the incidents, but lifted
the ban June 2 after meeting with MLC provincial deputies.

5. (SBU) The MLC planned to launch a petition drive in Kinshasa
protesting Bemba's arrest and calling for his release by Belgian
authorities. It estimates it will obtain one million signatures.
It is also considering a television campaign to publicize their
suspicions regarding the arrest. Luhaka expressed suspicion about
the timing and role of Belgian intelligence services in the arrest.


6. (SBU) The priority of party leadership is to demonstrate unified
support for Bemba. It will follow party rules in the event Bemba
can no longer serve. Secretary General Francois Mwamba, who heads
the MLC caucus in the National Assembly, will act as MLC president
for an unspecified time. Luhaka emphasized that MLC leadership will
protect the integrity of the party and discourage outbreaks of
violence. (Note: Independent Senator Francois Kaniki, a former MLC
member, told us June 4 that party loyalists consider Bemba their
only leader and will not accept plans to replace him in the short or
medium term. End note.)

Divergent views on opposition Spokesman
---------------------------------------

7. (SBU) MLC leaders articulated the primary differences among
opposition parties on legislation currently before the National
Assembly on the status of its official Spokesman. The MLC rejects
rotation of the position among opposition parties. It maintains
Bemba received the second-highest number of votes in the
presidential election and should be the sole official voice of the
opposition throughout his term of office.

Political and economic concerns
-------------------------------

8. (SBU) Luhaka claimed current uncertainty over the tenure of
Prime Minister Gizenga impedes the political process. He also
charged there was a wave of arrests of FARDC officers from Equateur
in the days following the Bemba arrest. He stated that 60-80 per
cent of police commanders are Swahili speakers loyal to Kabila and
thus incapable of impartially enforcing the law.

9. (SBU) The MLC is concerned that the 2008 budget is rapidly being
spent while food prices escalate. Luhaka claimed 70 per cent of the
budget had been consumed as of June, blaming corruption and a

KINSHASA 00000529 002 OF 002


dysfunctional tax system. (Note: This may refer to 70 per cent of
the GDRC-funded portion of the budget, i.e. $2.4 billion out of a
total of $3.4 billion. This amount is not to exceed half of the
total projected budget for the year. According to the IMF, GDRC
spending has not exceeded revenues, at least on a monthly basis,
since slight deficits recorded in January and February 2008. End
note.)

Nkunda, Bemba, and FDLR
-----------------------

10. (SBU) CNDP president Laurent Nkunda sent a letter May 25 to the
presidents of the National Assembly and Senate requesting their
intervention to assist in the release of Bemba and in repairing
Belgian-Congolese relations. (Note: Nkunda's letter was forwarded
to AF/C. End note.) Luhaka made no reference to the letter, but
criticized Nkunda's continued presence in North Kivu and charged
that the CNDP is levying its own taxes on the population. He
characterized the level of personal mistrust between Kabila and
Nkunda as emblematic of a general mistrust of Kabila by many
Congolese politicians. Luhaka, linking Nkunda's presence with
foreign armed group activity, said there are three options for the
FDLR in eastern DRC: return to Rwanda, by force if necessary;
disarm and settle in a third country; or disarm and remain in the
DRC as refugees.

Comment
-------

11. (SBU) Comment: Bemba's arrest has forced the MLC into a
confrontation between those party members who would benefit from
Bemba's removal from the political scene and others who, owing their
election to him, believe he may return to power and thus will push
for public displays of support. It is not yet clear whether lack of
spontaneous demonstrations in Kinshasa indicates successful
intimidation by pro-Kabila forces, a lack of popular support for
Bemba, or well-organized party discipline. Kabila can only be
enjoying his opponents' disarray. End comment.

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