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Cablegate: Kabila Visits Kasai Occidental Province in Wake Of

VZCZCXRO5770
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKI #0992/01 2331305
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211305Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6723
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000992

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELTN PGOV PHUM CG
SUBJECT: KABILA VISITS KASAI OCCIDENTAL PROVINCE IN WAKE OF
DEADLY TRAIN WRECKENTAL

REF: A. KINSHASA 932

B. KINSHASA 945

1. (SBU) Summary: President Kabila traveled to Kasai
Occidental province August 8-10 with a delegation of
ministers and provincial authorities, his first visit to the
region since his election in October of last year. He
visited Kakenge, the site of the August 1 train accident, and
the provincial capital Kananga, where he met with survivors
and toured several development projects. He announced plans
for development initiatives in the region as well as
rehabilitation and restructuring of the National Railroad
Company (SNCC). He was generally well received by the local
population, which was hostile during his last visit in 2006
and voted massively against him in the presidential
elections. Although little has improved since Kabila took
office, the warm welcome appears due to appreciation for his
effort to reach out and hopes he will make good on his
promises. End summary.

2. (U) President Kabila led a delegation of government
officials, including the transport, interior, and
humanitarian affairs ministers, as well as the governor of
Kasai Occidental and other provincial authorities, to the
town of Kakenge, where he visited August 8 with survivors of
the August 1 train accident that claimed at least 89 lives
and injured over 100 (ref A). He met with hospitalized
victims and presented his condolences to families whose
relatives had died. Acknowledging the poor condition and
management of the National Railroad Company (SNCC), Kabila
said he would explore avenues to restructure SNCC's
management and provide the financial assistance needed to
rehabilitate the ailing parastatal.

3. (U) Kabila traveled August 9 to Katende, some 40 km from
the provincial capital Kananga, where he visited several
water and power projects, including the site of a dam at
Katende Falls. The dam is expected to supply electricity to
the greater part of Kasai Occidental but construction has
been delayed due to a lack of funds. Recalling campaign
promises, Kabila pledged to improve water and electricity
services for the population.

4. (U) Accompanied by Governor Tresor Kapuku, Kabila met
August 10 with local stakeholders in Kananga, including
traditional chiefs and managers of public utility companies,
August 10. He also visited the central prison and general
hospital, where he met other patients from the train wreck.
Surprised by the hospital's lack of basic equipment and
supplies, Kabila said in a press conference that efforts
would be made to refurbish and restock it. He expressed
interest in reconstructing Kananga's soccer stadium. Kabila
concluded his stay by attending a mass in memory of those
killed and injured in the train accident. He returned to
Kinshasa August 11.

5. (SBU) Kabila's visit marks his first trip to the Kasai
provinces since a campaign stop in July 2006. Unlike his
last visit to the region, when protesting crowds threw rocks
at his motorcade, the president was more warmly welcomed this
time. He was observed walking through neighborhoods in the
mornings and talking with students in the afternoon. MONUC
officials in Kananga reported that Kabila seemed, by most
accounts, to be engaging comfortably with the local
population.

6. (U) Kabila's arrival in Kananga followed that of four
senators August 7 under a parliamentary mandate to
investigate the causes of the train accident. Preliminary
investigations led the senators to express concern over the
possibility of additional accidents, given SNCC's worn-out
equipment.

7. (SBU) Comment: Kabila's unexpected decision to venture to
Kasai Occidental in response to the train accident was
opportune, helping divert attention from any government
culpability in a region generally hostile to Kabila and his
allies. It was also a rare touch of political acumen from
the President, who has thus far demonstrated little
appreciation for the importance of connecting with ordinary
citizens. Kabila himself noted to Ambassador Meece August 14
that the trip had been a success. Little has changed in the
province since Kabila took office, and his apparently
positive reception can be attributed to a number of factors,
including the surprise timing of the visit and the fact that
he promised assistance to a region that has long been
marginalized or ignored by the central government. End

KINSHASA 00000992 002 OF 002


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