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Cablegate: Fire at Vp Bemba's Television Stations One Day,

VZCZCXRO7769
OO RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1470/01 2621711
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191711Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4818
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0455

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001470

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC KDEM CG
SUBJECT: FIRE AT VP BEMBA'S TELEVISION STATIONS ONE DAY,
ROCK-THROWING THE NEXT

REF: A. KINSHASA 1466

B. KINSHASA 1314 AND SUBSEQUENT

1. (SBU) Summary: A fire broke out September 18 at a
building housing offices of Vice President Jean-Pierre
Bemba,s MLC party and his television stations. The fire was
quickly extinguished, although two serious associated
injuries have been reported; there were no Amcits involved.
The cause of the fire is unknown, giving rise to intense
speculation among MLC partisans. Small crowds of angry MLC
supporters and homeless youths have thrown rocks at vehicles
and generally disrupted activity in the vicinity of the
building September 18 and 19. Bemba told the Ambassador he
was acting to calm the situation. The Embassy EAC is
following developments closely (reftel A). End summary.

2. (U) A fire broke out during the late afternoon of
September 18 at a building housing offices of Vice President
Jean-Pierre Bemba,s MLC party and his television stations,
CCTV and Canal Kin. The building is located a few minutes
from both the Chancery and the Embassy's Joint Administrative
Office (JAO). We began receiving reports of the fire at
approximately 1630. The fire was brought under control by
1700 or so and did not appear to have spread to adjacent
buildings. No American citizens or Embassy personnel were
reported injured in the blaze or its aftermath. Emboffs have
been informed that both stations, equipment was destroyed in
the fire.

3. (U) Bemba was informed of the fire during a meeting with
the Ambassador (septel), and immediately called MONUC head
Bill Swing to request assistance from MONUC,s fire brigade.
The French ambassador called Bemba several minutes later
promising additional firefighting assistance. Eyewitnesses
reported that rocks were thrown at firetrucks from a crowd of
200-300. According to MONUC sources, eight MONUC armored
personnel carriers were also stoned upon arrival, but
succeeded in somewhat dispersing the crowd, and firefighters
were able to control the blaze.

4. (U) The managing director of CCTV, Stephan Kitutu
Oleantua, was apparently the only direct casualty of the
fire. Bemba told the Ambassador September 19 that he was
hospitalized with second-degree burns and will be medevaced
to South Africa. Kasongo Numbi, a friend of the director and
a former minister of higher education who is a newly-elected
member of the National Assembly, was recognized by some of
the crowd as a member of the Kabila-affiliated AMP and
attacked as he left CCTV, where he had been invited to
present a program. Another station showed footage that
evening of Kasango being grabbed by the crowd and beaten. He
is currently hospitalized. No other injuries were reported.

5. (SBU) The cause of the fire remains a mystery and subject
of much speculation. A preliminary report from MONUC targets
faulty electrical wiring. The building was the site of the
initial dispute which led to the August 20-22 shootout
between Kabila and Bemba troops (reftel B). MLC guards
appear to have been in control of the building at the time of
the fire. They were to have been replaced September 16 by
the Congolese National Police under an agreement negotiated
through the Mixed Commission set up to resolve questions
raised by the events of August 20-22, but had remained in
place.

6. (SBU) Marcellin Cishambo, one of President Kabila,s
political advisors, complained to the Ambassador in a late
evening telcom September 18 that Kasango was being held by
MLC officials. He said he had contacted Minister of Plan and
former Bemba chief of staff Sesango to ask that Kasango be
transferred to hospital care. Sesango subsequently confirmed
to the Ambassador that Kasango had been admitted to
Kinshasa,s Ngaliema hospital. Sesango denied that Kasango
had been badly beaten. Encouragingly, Cishambo, Sesango and
in a later telcon VP Bemba all agreed with the Ambassador
that it was important for all officials to do everything
possible to calm tension in the aftermath of the fire, and
avoid provocative language or actions.

7. (SBU) The Kabila government had issued no official
comment on the fire by midday September 19. MONUC officials
told us today Kabila called Swing from New York, where he is
participating in the UNGA, for news on the situation, and
described him as "upset" with the events. Bemba has not

KINSHASA 00001470 002 OF 002


commented publicly, but told the Ambassador he would look
forward to the results of an investigation. Thomas Luhaka,
the MLC,s secretary general and speaker of the parliament,
emphasized this same theme, telling a reporter September 19,
"We do not know the causes of the fire at this time. We are
awaiting the results of the investigation."

8. (SBU) However, many in the MLC see the fire as a
deliberate act of sabotage. Several dozen groups of MLC
supporters and homeless youths ("shegues" in local
terminology) gathered around the building on the morning of
September 19. Others threw stones at passing vehicles at a
traffic circle close by the Embassy JAO and shouted slogans
against the international community. Still others set tires
afire at the nearby Avenue du 30 Juin, the city's main
boulevard. The Ambassador spoke in the morning with Bemba,
who told him he was taking steps to calm the situation. The
press is now reporting MLC members, both armed and civilian,
on the streets calling for the crowds to disperse.

9. (SBU) By the afternoon of September 19, it appeared that
remaining disturbances were principally due to the unemployed
"shegues" who were engaged in a cat-and-mouse action with the
police seeking to disperse them. MONUC and EUFOR units were
on stations, but apparently leaving operations to the police.
We have received no/no reports of FARDC soldiers from either
Kabila,s or Bemba,s camp involved, and no reports of
further injuries.

10. (SBU) The Embassy EAC is following the situation closely
and we will report any new developments.
MEECE

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