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Cablegate: Death of Jeannot Bemba Saolana

VZCZCXRO6410
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0633 1870710
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 060710Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9853
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000633


SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.C. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL CG
SUBJECT: DEATH OF JEANNOT BEMBA SAOLANA

1. (SBU) DRC senator and businessman Jeannot Bemba Saolona, father
of opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, died of cardiac arrest in
Brussels on July 1. Local media in Kinshasa announced the death of
Bemba, a former Minister of Economy during the 2003-2006 transition
and ex-head of the DRC chamber of commerce.

2. (SBU) Jean Pollet (alias Jeannot Bemba Saolona) was born in
Libenge, Equateur, on September 3, 1941. A trusted friend of former
president Joseph Mobutu, he began commercial activities in coffee
export and later in air transport. He created the coffee processing
venture SCIBE ("Societe Commerciale et Industrielle Bemba" in
French) and the transport company SCIBE Air-Lift. He was also
active in the car rental and air-taxi service and had interests in
the palm and cocoa industries.

3. (SBU) Bemba served as chairman of multiple companies: the oil
storage company Zaire-SEP, the furniture manufacturer FNMA, and the
parastatals SOGEGROS and SOGEDETAIL. He was also chairman of the
Zairean company Kreglinger and Zaire Wild Life Tours (ZWT). Bemba
served as chairman of the Zairean chamber of commerce, now called
the FEC ("Federation des Entreprises du Congo" in French).

4. (SBU) Bemba was arrested when Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 and
then released by then president Laurent Kabila. Allegedly after
making a "contribution" to Kabila, he was appointed Minister of
Economy. He was elected senator representing the MLC ("Movement de
Liberation du Congo" in French) in 2007. Although a powerful figure
in DRC commercial circles, Bemba, except for his stint as Minister
of Economy, generally eschewed direct involvement in politics. He
even publicly disavowed his son's armed opposition to the Kabila
regime, undoubtedly earning him the right to pursue his business
interests unhindered.

BROCK

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