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Cablegate: Congo/B: Political Atmospherics - Pool Region

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 000436

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

From Brazzaville Embassy Office

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC CF
SUBJECT: CONGO/B: POLITICAL ATMOSPHERICS - POOL REGION
ELECTIONS ANNOUNCED, NINJAS STAND OFF IN BaCongo DISTRICT

REFS: (A) Kinshasa 00089 (B) Kinshasa 00080

1. (SBU) Summary: Over the last two weeks, both the Ninja
and Pool Region issues have returned to the forefront of the
political landscape in Congo-Brazzaville. Beginning with a
stand off between "Ninjas" and security forces in the
BaCongo neighborhood of Brazzaville followed by the
Government's announcements of both the EU-UNDP Development
and Reintegration (DR) Program and Pool Region elections in
2005, there has been a return of political focus to the
country's most lingering post-conflict issues. The war torn
Pool region remains the biggest challenge to long term
political stability and economic growth for the Congo.
After almost a 10-month hiatus of any public discussion on
Pool issues, it appears that the Government has decided to
put the Region back on the political front burner. In
addition, local and some international NGOs have stepped up
their concerns about the overall lack of development of the
Pool, releasing a negative report on the state of
humanitarian affairs in the Region. It is important to note
that the term "Ninja" in ROC is linked - sometimes rightly
or wrongly - to any armed element that is not a member of
formal Government forces. There is no large formalized
"Ninja" group under the direct control of Pasteur Ntumi that
existed prior to the March 2003 peace accords. Many of the
"Ninjas" have splintered into small armed bands that harass
and intimidate the local population. Some of these armed
bands still have links to Ntumi, but do not necessarily take
direction from him. That being said, Pasteur still has a
selected following in Brazzaville, his forest base camp in
Vindza, and other village centers in the heart of the Pool
Region. The actual size of his current following and
supporters is unknown. End Summary.


Ninja-Gendarmes/Police March 3-4 Standoff:
------------------------------------------

2. (U) The dust up between "Ninjas" and security forces over
the March 3-4 period caused by a "Ninja" reportedly in
possession of cannabis was enough to again upset the
delicate balance of stability in the BaCongo neighborhood of
Brazzaville where many southern ethnic groups live. The
social, professional, and economic divisions of the country
still fall along the north-south ethnic lines, with the
power and influence in all these areas lying with ethnic
groups from the North. The recent stand off erupted when
"Ninjas" sought to forcibly release from jail the "Ninja"
arrested for having cannabis. No one was killed in the stand
off and the Government and Ntumi associates later worked out
an agreement that according to diplomatic, press and other
Mission contacts, included receiving about CFA 21 million
(approximately $USD 45,000) from the Government to stand
down.

Announcement of Pool Elections in 2005
--------------------------------------

3. (U) On March 7, the Government announced that elections
would be held in the Pool Region sometime in 2005 for the
eight national assembly seats not contested in the 2002
election because of the continued instability in the area at
that time. During the course of the announcement, Government
commentary on nationally-controlled TeleCongo -- almost in a
pre-campaign position -- highlighted that recent March 3-4
incidents in BaCongo demonstrated that Ntumi and his
"Ninjas" did not truly desire peace or democracy and that
the Congolese people should not consider him or his
supporters viable participants in an election process. There
are indications in the press that the government may
consider holding the Pool elections prior to this year's
August 15 national day celebrations. Meanwhile, UNDP's
consultant for the EU-funded Development and Reintegration
(DR) project arrived to begin implementing the DR program
which will focus on encouraging former combatants and
"Ninjas" in the Pool to turn in their weapons and
participate in micro-enterprise activities such as
agriculture and school rehabilitation.


Negative NGO Reports on Pool Region
-----------------------------------

4. (SBU) On top of the BaCongo incidents and the
government's announcement of Pool Region elections this
year, local NGOs working under the umbrella of Caritas
issued a negative report on the humanitarian conditions in
the area. The report cited that the Government is neglecting
rehabilitating schools, villages, hospitals, infrastructure
and the agricultural sector. (NB: During a recent trip to
the Region, Ambassador saw first hand the devastation left
by the 1997-2001 civil war. There are no roads or
electricity in most areas, and homes, hospitals and schools
remained war-torn, with bombed out school facilities housing
1000 or more children. End NB). The government has not
reacted well to the report and many officials see it as a
coordinated attempt by some local NGOs to damage Congo's
image.

Comment:
-------

5. (SBU) Incidents in the BaCongo area of Brazzaville will
likely continue to happen as current and former "Ninjas" try
to coexist in the same area that has a large presence of
security forces. Many of the "Ninjas" live in and around the
house that the government had refurbished in late 2003 for
Pasteur Ntumi. However, Ntumi has thus far refused to leave
his forest based camp in Vindza, remaining concerned about
his personal safety. Given the lack of infrastructure and
confidence in the government process by many Pool Region
villagers and residents and the lawlessness and harassment
of the civilian population by uncontrolled elements of both
the security forces and "Ninjas" in the Region, we will need
to wait and see if the elections in this troubled area
really will take place in the next 6-9 months.

6. Brazzaville Embassy Office - Sanders
MEECE

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