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Cablegate: Violence Quelled, but Kinshasa Tensely Awaiting

VZCZCXRO8017
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1740/01 3180915
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140915Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5148
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001740

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC CG KPKO CASC ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: VIOLENCE QUELLED, BUT KINSHASA TENSELY AWAITING
ELECTION RESULT ANNOUNCEMENT


1. (U) Summary: Three hours of violence erupted in the
Gombe district of central Kinshasa late in the morning on
Saturday, November 11. Most of the fighting occurred near
the official residence of Vice President Bemba on Gombe's
main thoroughfare, and near Bemba's private riverside
residence. Though there are several versions of what sparked
the violence, what is clear is that both the Bemba and Kabila
camps worked together quickly to diffuse a potentially
explosive situation. The Presidential Guard did not deploy,
and police and military forces appear to have reacted with
restraint. Fighting ended by early afternoon, and
representatives of the two candidates met with each other and
with MONUC. No new incidents have occurred, though Kinshasa
remains on edge in anticipation of the announcement of
provincial results of the presidential election. End summary.

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2. (SBU) Fighting broke out in the Gombe quarter of central
Kinshasa late in the morning of Saturday, November 11.
Dozens of street gang members (locally known as "shegues")
and armed men in civilian clothes burned tires and blocked
traffic in at least three locations, while others threw rocks
at passing motorists on Gombe's 30 June Boulevard. (Note:
Rocks broke the rear windows of a vehicle being driven by one
mission employee, as reported separately via DS channel. The
employee was not injured and immediately drove from the
scene. End note.) In an attempt to disperse these
demonstrators in front of Bemba's official residence on 30
June Boulevard at around 1100, police fired shots in the air.
Interior Minister Kalume reported later that police had also
used tear gas. Armed men in civilian attire then fired at
police, setting off sporadic exchanges of gunfire that lasted
for almost three hours. Shooting, punctuated by several
booms from RPGs, occurred near Bemba's official residence,
near his riverside private residence, and near the residence
of Air Force Chief of Staff John Numbi (who apparently was
not at home). Per the Interior Minister, the fighting
resulted in the deaths of three civilians and one security
officer.

3. (SBU) Bemba was in a meeting with the Belgian Ambassador
at Bemba's private residence when the shooting broke out.
Shortly thereafter, Bemba met with SRSG Swing and MONUC Force
Commander Babacar Gaye. President Kabila was in telephone
contact with Bemba soon after the fighting began, as was
Interior Minister Kalume. Bemba made numerous calls to
commanders of his militia in order to put a stop to the
shooting. Except for several scattered and smaller incidents
later in the afternoon, fighting ended around 1245 and Swing
and Gaye left Bemba's residence shortly thereafter. An
emergency meeting of the Working Group, which included
representatives of both camps and Congolese security forces,
took place at 1430. Bemba claimed at the time and
subsequently that the fighting was not initiated by his MLC,
but rather by extreme elements not under his control.

4. (SBU) All fighting ended in Gombe by mid-afternoon and no
new incidents have occurred since. Importantly, there were
no demonstrations nor any acts of violence in any other area
of Kinshasa, where business continued as usual. Even in
Gombe, where many businesses closed and where there was
little traffic over the weekend, activity quickly resumed. A
large National Day reception at the Angolan Ambassador's
residence in Gombe took place as planned in the early evening
of November 11 without incident. (Note: On November 13,
Kinshasa Governor Badonin Liwanga issued a statement that
police had detained 337 "shegues" after the violence. Most
are being sent to rural training centers outside of Kinshasa.
End note.)

5. (SBU) AmCits were advised through the warden system to
remain indoors during and after the fighting. With the
exception of the Mission employee whose vehicle was stoned
(para 2), we are not aware of any AmCits who were directly
caught up in any of the violence.

6. (SBU) The International Committee to Accompany the
Transition (CIAT) convened the afternoon of Sunday, November
12. MONUC forces are now permanently positioned at Bemba's
official residence on 30 June Boulevard, and Bemba has
indicated he will withdraw most of his militia from the
vicinity. Bemba also agreed to participate in "joint"
military patrols in a traditional hotspot area around 30 June
Boulevard with General Numbi's guards and with FARDC's 7th
Integrated Brigade forces. During a November 13 meeting with
the Ambassador and Political Counselor (septel), Bemba

KINSHASA 00001740 002 OF 002


reiterated his determination to avoid any further violence in
Kinshasa.

7. (SBU) Comment: The critical (and fortunate) difference
between this flare-up and the violence of August 20-22 is
that the two principals moved relatively quickly to contain
the situation rather than to escalate it. In August, both
sides used their military forces to attack the other. This
time, the Presidential Guard was not deployed, and police and
military forces did not overreact. That said, there are
clearly potential troublemakers within the broad coalition
that Bemba assembled in the second round. These elements may
have been behind, or at least fanning the flames of, the
problems on Saturday. In an already tense environment, and
with election results expected to be announced soon, the
recent violence is a stark reminder that even a small spark
has the potential to ignite trouble.
MEECE

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