Cablegate: Drc Land Transportation Survey

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



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary. Infrastructural damage suffered over years of
war and neglect have all but crippled the DRC's land
transportation network. Roads and railways are critical to
the country's recovery, but have received little attention
from the GDRC. International financing for rehabilitation
projects is helpful but shortsighted. Without revenue
generating mechanisms in place to fund long-term upkeep, aid
money is squandered on repairs that will quickly deteriorate.
End Summary.

Road Assessment

2. Responsibility for construction, management, and
maintenance of the DRC's roads falls primarily with the
Ministry of Transportation's Office des Routes (OR - Roads
Administration). The country's road network is comprised of
152,230 km of roads of which 7,400 km are urban roads, 58,305
km are national roads, and 86,615 km are local roads. OR is
also responsible for the maintenance of the country's 1,965
road bridges.

3. The DRC's most important road axes in terms of commerce
and physical linkage between strategic locations are its four
Routes Nationales (RN - National Routes). National Route No.
1 (RN1) is a heavily traveled commercial route stretching
from the Atlantic coast of the DRC to the port of Matadi then
to Kinshasa and onward to Katanga. National Route No. 2
(RN2) runs from Mbuji Mayi in Kasai Oriental province to
Bukavu in South Kivu province and to Kasongo in Maniema
province. National Route No. 3 (RN3) links Kisangani in
Orientale province with Bukavu in South Kivu province.
National Route No. 4 (RN4) runs from the frontier with the
Central African Republic to Kisangani and Bunia in Orientale
province and to Beni in North Kivu province.

4. The DRC's road network has deteriorated steadily over the
past decade. According to Ministry of Transport and World
Bank assessments, 75 percent of the country's roads are in
poor condition, 15 percent are in fair condition, and only 10
percent are in good condition. Notable damage occurred
during periods of conflict when roads and bridges were
sabotaged by various combatant groups to prevent pursuit by,
or resupply and reinforcement of, their opponents. However,
the primary factor has been a severe lack of maintenance and
repair. In addition to a general absence of upkeep, many
roads were poorly or hastily constructed to begin with. Bad
grading, thinly paved driving surfaces, and an absence of
ballast materials have resulted in rapid deterioration.

5. GDRC funding for OR has dried up in recent years. Most of
the taxes and "parafiscalities" that had traditionally
financed OR operations were ended by the transitional
government. (Note: One such tax, a fuel surcharge, was
halted because former President Laurent Kabila had organized
a well-masked diversion of revenues away from OR to finance
his war efforts. Such politicized redirection of funds
raises questions about the sustainability of maintenance
operations. End Note.) A study conducted by the Ministry of
Transportation estimates that complete rehabilitation of the
DRC's main roads will cost USD 2.8 billion. (Comment: This
estimate is likely inflated, and points to GDRC attempts to
obtain as much international financial support as possible.
However, the high figure does reflect the severity of the
state of disrepair. End Comment.)

6. International donors have recognized the importance of a
well-maintained road network to the DRC's economic and
political recovery. The World Bank made road rehabilitation
a priority of its Programme Multisectoriel d'Urgence de
Rehabilitation et de Reconstruction (PMURR), and committed
USD 400 million for repairs of RN1. RN1's state of disrepair
had been estimated by the GDRC to add 40 percent to the price
of goods on the Kinshasa market. Repairs to the route were
completed in early 2004. (Note: Prices did decrease somewhat
after RN1 was repaired, but not the 40 percent predicted by
GDRC analysis. End Note.) Additionally, the World Bank and
IMF recently committed USD 90 million for repairs of RN2 and
RN4. Work on these projects is scheduled to begin in late
2004. (Comment: World Bank-funded repairs are contracted out
to domestic and international firms of varying quality and
expertise. Repairs to RN1 were conducted by Chinese,
European, and local firms, and are substandard in places (see
ref A). The road was only thinly paved with asphalt, and
lacks sufficient ballast to protect against erosion
associated with the DRC's rainy season. Less than a year
after the completion of repairs, the road surface is already
beginning to deteriorate. End Comment.)
7. When questioned by Econoffs regarding availability of
funding for upkeep of newly repaired roads, both OR
representative Kalembe Kiala and Minister of Transport Joseph
Olenghankoy admitted that few revenue generating mechanisms
are currently in place, and that little funding is expected
from the GDRC. Mr. Kiala suggested a renewal of various
taxes and tolls, but questioned their political feasibility.
Mr. Olenghankoy expressed his wish to see road construction
and management privatized, but acknowledged that the system
was not likely to attract a buyer.

8. Comment: International assistance to rehabilitate the DRC
road network may be for naught. Without proper funding to
maintain repaired roads, they will rapidly return to an
impassable state. The World Bank and bilateral donors have
pumped cash into the sector, but will see little benefit
unless the GDRC takes the difficult but necessary steps to
establish revenue generating mechanisms to fund proper
upkeep. End Comment.

Rail Assessment

9. The DRC's 3,600 km of railways are managed by the
parastatal Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Congo
(SNCC). An additional 360 km line linking Kinshasa with the
Port of Matadi is managed by ONATRA (port authority). The
DRC's rail network is aged, but generally in decent repair.
However, a shortage of locomotives and rolling stock severely
limits transportation capacity. SNCC owns nearly 90
locomotives of which only approximately 10 electric
(catenary) and 20 diesel units (8 of which are rented from
South African companies) are serviceable. These locomotives
are scattered throughout SNCC's rail network, and only a
portion are in commercial use. (Note: There is an additional
railway, Chemins de Fer des Ueles, connecting Bumba to
Mungbere with branches to Bondo and Andoma-Titule in
Orientale province. However, the railway is in severe
disrepair and is not slated to receive any international
funding to assist with rehabiliation. End Note.)

10. SNCC currently operates three primary rail lines. The
first links Sakania, Lubumbashi, Likasi, and Kamina in
Katanga province; the second, Lubumbashi, Tenke, and Dilolo
in Katanga province; and the third, Kamina, Kindu, Kabalo,
and Kalemie in Maniema and Katanga provinces. (Note: There
are no rail links between the DRC's eastern provinces and the
interior or Kinshasa. End Note.)

11. Most of SNCC's troubles can be attributed to a lack of
funding for maintenance and repairs. GDRC financing for rail
transportation was curtailed over the last decade.
Furthermore, SNCC was particularly hard hit by the collapse
of Gecamines (mining parastatal), which had once provided 65
percent of SNCC's revenues. The remaining passenger,
agricultural, and freight traffic have been insufficient to
fund proper equipment upkeep. Continuing tensions in the
eastern provinces have also kept some lines out of operation,
and have deterred donors from funding necessary repairs.

12. Ministry of Transportation estimates put the cost of
total rehabilitation of the DRC's railways at USD 1.1
billion. (Comment: As with the Ministry's road repair
estimates, this figure is probably inflated, but reflects the
gravity of the situation. End Comment.) SNCC is slated to
receive USD 60 million as part of the World Bank's PMURR
project. This will fund repairs to 50km of track and several
bridges, the purchase of 75 new railcars, and the
rehabilitation and purchase of spare parts for 10
locomotives. In addition, USAID recently funded USD 1.3
million worth of track and bridge repairs to reopen the
Kabalo-Kindu line (see ref B). (Note: The USAID-funded
project was significant in that it connected Kindu to
Lubumbashi, bridging a major gap in SNCC's rail network. The
Zofu bridge on Kabalo-Kindu line had been sabotaged during
the war, and because SNCC has sent all of its locomotives
south into Katanga to prevent looting, the bridge's
destruction kept otherwise usable track out of service. End

13. ONATRA's Matadi-Kinshasa line is in a decent state of
repair, but also suffers from a lack of locomotives and
rolling stock. Because the line transports goods from the
DRC's major international port, it enjoys a steadier revenue
stream than most SNCC lines. However, ONATRA has been forced
to cannibalize its equipment to maintain semi-regular

14. Comment: Although the DRC's rail network is less
maintenance-intensive than its roads, it still requires
regular upkeep. More locomotives and railcars will have to
be purchased to increase SNCC and ONATRA capacity if they
hope to become self-sustaining. This requires more capital
than can currently be mustered by either enterprise. End

Final Comment
15. The World Bank and bilateral donors face difficult
decisions regarding the efficacy and sustainability of their
road and rail rehabilitation strategies. Deterioration of
the DRC's transportation network has been slowed by external
financial assistance, but this is a temporary solution at
best. The GDRC must take action to revive old revenue
streams or create new ones in order to fund upkeep. In
addition, taxes and fees must contribute to the services for
which they were intended. Diversion of the funds defeats
their purpose. Selective privatization may be a workable
long-term solution, but numerous political and economic
hurdles must first be overcome (e.g. continuing insecurity,
low formal sector activity, ineffective legal system, etc.).
In the meantime, the DRC's road and rail infrastructure - the
backbone of the country's economic recovery - will depend on
the continued generosity of the donor community, where
similar sustainability concerns have been raised. The
Belgian Embassy and Belgian Cooperation (Belgian aid
organization) have planned a roundtable for mid-October
focusing on infrastructure-related programs and concerns.
All GDRC and donor country officials involved in
infrastructure planning and development have been invited.

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