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Cablegate: Congolese Pastoral

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001547

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON EIND ELTN PGOV CG
SUBJECT: CONGOLESE PASTORAL


1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet
distribution.

Summary
-------

2. (U) From August 5-6, Emboffs traveled overland via the
Matadi Road from Kinshasa to Lukala and Kimpese, Bas-Congo
province. Recent rehabilitation of the Matadi Road has
ameliorated economic hardships in Bas-Congo, but shoddy
workmanship could lead to a quick deterioration of the
repairs. In Lukala, Emboffs met with local government and
police officials as well as the territorial administrator
(AT) to discuss local economic conditions, refugee issues,
and the anticipated national elections.

Economic Profile
----------------

2. (U) Officials reported that out of Lukala's 25,000
citizens, some 700 are employed by various companies
including CILU (Cimentier de Lukala) and SEPCONGO (petroleum
parastatal). The rest of the working population is engaged
in subsistence agriculture, growing mainly manioc, corn,
beans, and citrus fruits. The AT expressed hopes of
developing commercial agriculture in the region, but cited a
problematic lack of capital. (Comment. Insufficient
protection of property rights and deteriorating
infrastructure should also be added to the AT's list of
impediments to agricultural organization in Bas-Congo.
Commercial agriculture once flourished in the DRC, but
large-scale farmers have refused to return since the pillages
of 1991 and 1993. End Comment.)

3. (U) The linchpin of economic activity in Bas-Congo is the
Matadi Road, National Route No. 1. It is the primary land
transportation route between the port of Matadi, Bas-Congo's
agricultural areas, and Kinshasa. Until several months ago,
the road was in severe disrepair, but World Bank-funded
repairs were carried out by a Chinese engineering firm. The
road is now passable and commerce has increased
significantly. However, road conditions have already begun
to relapse due to the high volume of truck traffic and lack
of upkeep. (Comment. Repairs seem to have been carried out
haphazardly. Cursory Emboff inspection revealed that the
road was paved in places with only a few inches of asphalt
and no ballast/riprap. The coming rainy season will likely
speed its deterioration. End Comment.)

Political Climate
-----------------

4. (SBU) The major political issues facing the Bas-Congo
community are election preparations and refugee flows.
Officials expressed a strong desire for elections to be held
as near as possible to the UN's 2005 deadline, but were
skeptical that elections would occur in a timely manner if at
all. Numerous concerns including "international
interference" and stalling by the transitional government
were raised. (Comment. When Emboffs raised questions
regarding election preparations, local officials admitted
they were leaving the work up to various NGOs. End Comment.)

6. (SBU) Refugees continue to be a frustrating factor in
areas near the DRC-Angola border. Lukasa officials claimed
that some 25,000 Angolans refugees had fled into their
territory over the past decade. Recently initiated
repatriation programs have returned some 3,000 refugees to
Angola, and an unknown number have voluntarily repatriated.
Officials cited refugee problems as a severe strain on the
local economy and a source of political tension. (Note.
There have been continuous refugee flows between the DRC and
Angola since the early 1990s as citizens fled their
respective countries' conflicts. According to UNHCR figures,
approximately 20,000 Angolan refugees remain in Bas-Congo.
15,000 are in UNHCR camps where they receive food and medical
assistance. UNHCR officials feel that these refugees do not
place a strain on the local economy, as they receive
international aid and have been allocated separate land to
cultivate. UNHCR also opined that any political tension in
the region was likely due to the expuslion of illegal
Congolese diamond miners from Angola in late 2003 and early
2004. End Note.)

7. (SBU) Bas-Congo sentiments towards the international
community's presence in the DRC ranged from mild skepticism
to utter disdain. More than one official expressed contempt
for the election process, stating that "the international
community would hijack the elections to install a cooperative
leader, just as it did in Rwanda." Another official availed
Emboffs of America's responsibility to rebuild the DRC,
considering the fact that the USG had "taken advantage of the
country." (Comment. Information flows outside of the major
cities in the DRC continue to be unreliable, despite the
prevalence of cellphones. Public opinion tends to be
polarized due to the lack of a credible news source and a
victim mentality that has developed over a century of
colonization and dictatorship. End Comment.)
MEECE

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