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Cablegate: Media Campaign in the Drc's Election Officially Begins

VZCZCXRO9104
PP RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR
DE RUEHKI #1067 1861029
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051029Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4293
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS KINSHASA 001067

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CG KDEM KPAO
SUBJECT: MEDIA CAMPAIGN IN THE DRC'S ELECTION OFFICIALLY BEGINS

Ref: A) Kinshasa 937, B) Kinshasa 1033

Sensitive But Unclassified. Not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: The first, historic televised presidential
debate, marking the June 29 opening of the official campaign, was a
technical success, and it set an enviably moderate tone.
Unfortunately, only two of the expected five candidates
participated, and rather obscure ones at that. Elsewhere, the police
reportedly did not prevent some campaign banners being torn down by
rival candidates in the provinces, because of some confusion about
the timing of the start of the official campaign. There will
certainly be other such aggressive campaign tactics. Still, the
candidates are officially out of the starting blocks, and the DRC's
race to democracy has begun. End Summary

Inside the RTNC Studio
----------------------

2. (U) The first presidential debate was produced by the High Media
Authority (HAM), the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and state
television (RTNC), and was broadcast live for 90 minutes on the
night of June 29. It featured only two candidates, Messrs Mbuyi
Alafwele (Rally for a New Society) and Ozee Muyima (Renewal of
Development and Democracy). The HAM and IEC presidents, Modeste
Mutinga and Abbe Malu Malu, were in the studio audience.

3. (U) According to a lottery organized by the HAM among the 33
presidential candidates, five candidates were to have participated
in the first debate (ref A). The no-shows were Vice-President
Arthur Zahidi Ngoma and Minister of Research (and former Prime
Minister) Kamanda wa Kamanda. The fifth candidate, Roger Lumbala,
showed up, but decided not to partake in the televised debate,
absent the two more well-known candidates.

4. (U) After the debate, HAM president Mutinga expressed
considerable satisfaction that it came off as scheduled. One of the
HAM vice-presidents in the studio told PAO immediately after the
broadcast that the two contenders had struck the tone he wished all
candidates would emulate. In fact, the two, relatively unknown
candidates spoke in turn, respected the time limitations set by the
moderator, and dutifully tried to be more specific when prodded by
the two journalists on the panel. Among the topics discussed were
garbage collection and recycling, the need for municipal (in
addition to national) police and a republican army, voter education,
public health, the economy, the dearth of effective leadership, and
protecting the intellectual property rights of Congolese artists and
musicians.

5. (U) The following HAM/CEI broadcast debate was on July 2, and,
again, only two of five candidates partook. The tone of that debate
was also moderate. On July 5, incumbent President Joseph Kabila is
scheduled to debate Oscar Kashala and three others.

On the Hustings
---------------

6. (SBU) Two hours before the June 29 televised debate, Radio Okapi
aired a talk show about the campaign. Okapi reported that rival
political camps in the provincial capitals of Kindu and Mbuji Mayi,
and perhaps elsewhere, spent the day tearing down each others'
campaign banners. Invited on the Okapi radio show was the
Vice-Minister of the Interior, who said the Congolese police would
have prevented such excesses had they known the official campaign
was to begin during the day of June 29. He erroneously thought the
media campaign officially began at midnight. (Note: The BBC, too,
was confused on this point in its television and radio news reports,
even though a BBC reporter attended the opening televised debate on
the 29th.)

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Despite the confusion on timing, and the lamentable
no-shows in the RTNC studio, the June 29 televised presidential
debate - perhaps the country's first ever - came off well, at least
as seen from inside the studio, which was cause for Modeste
Mutinga's understandable elation. Kinshasa is now festooned with
campaign banners. If Kindu and Mbuji Mayi are any indication, many
will no doubt be torn down by rivals. There will be considerable
political agitation in the coming month, possibly underhanded and
even violent. But the DRC's democratic experiment has begun in
earnest.
MEECE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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