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Cablegate: U.S. Navy Makes a Big Splash in Congo-Brazzaville

VZCZCXRO0675
RR RUEHBZ
DE RUEHBZ #0429/01 2991631
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261631Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0803
INFO RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0292
RUEHBZ/AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE 0887

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRAZZAVILLE 000429

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
AF/FO FOR SWAN, AF/C FOR BARGERON, AF/PD FOR ANYASO AND AND
COZZENS, A/RSA BARLERIN, AF/EX NOLAN AND MARTINEZ, PARIS FOR
AFRICA WATCHERS AND ARS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SCUL MARR KDEM PINR CF
SUBJECT: U.S. NAVY MAKES A BIG SPLASH IN CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE

1. (U) Summary. The U.S. Navy has been active in
Congo-Brazzaville, and the small country is still feeling the
benefits of its community outreach programs. A detachment of
Seabees renovated two schools in the Brazzaville area, and on
the heels of their departure, the USS FORREST SHERMAN made a
port call on Pointe Noire, the commercial center on the Gulf of
Guinea. Both events have generated positive media for the U.S.
and beneficial outcomes for Congolese. End summary.

2. (U) A detachment of Seabees from the Naval Air Station in
Sigonella, Sicily, landed in Brazzaville on August 15, and after
taking a quick survey of work to be done, began an intensive
renovation of two schools, a high school that was built in the
1970s and today has over 1700 students in nine classrooms, and
an elementary school that serves over 3400 students in eight
classrooms. By concentrating on the high school and contracting
with the International Programs for Humanitarian Development
(IPHD), a U.S.-based NGO working in the Congo, for the
elementary school, the Seabees dedicated $100,000 to the
refurbishment of the two schools.

3. (U) This project was the first instance in U.S.-Congolese
relations that U.S. military worked side-by-side with members of
the Congolese Armed Forces, who had agreed to secure the site
and do remedial clean-up. Within a few days however, the
Congolese military were working with the Seabees, painting walls
and repairing windows. Parents were called in during the later
stages of the refurbishments to clean the area and create a
committee to guarantee the upkeep of the grounds. In her remarks
at the October 2 ceremony acknowledging the work of the Seabees,
Minister of Education Rosalie Kama called on the parents to
maintain the clean grounds and take a new pride in the renovated
school. Rear Admiral Michael Groothousen attended the ceremony,
representing the U.S. Naval Fleet, Sixth Command, Naples, the
highest ranking naval officer ever to visit RoC. Another
element of the public-private partnership has been the
enthusiastic participation by U.S. companies (Chevron, Century
Aluminum and Murphy Oil), who donated sufficient funds to outfit
one of the Brazzaville schools with desks for all students (up
to now, they had sat on the floor in all classrooms).

4. (U) The overwhelming success of the Seabees work did not go
unnoticed. Letters of congratulations from Naples Sixth Fleet
Command led to the decision to have the USS FORREST SHERMAN make
a port call October 20-25. The Commander Naval Force Europe
(CNE) Band arrived October 18 and performed two public concerts
for the citizens of Pointe Noire. The CNE Band gave a public
performance which was attended by several hundred Congolese
including a number of local musicians who joined the band during
its performance. Local media continuously featured footage of
band interviews and concerts. An on-board reception attracted
elite Congolese military and GRoC officials.

5. (U) Personnel of the USS FORREST SHERMAN worked on a
community relation project painting an elementary school in the
suburbs of Pointe Noire. Each day for three days, 15-20 sailors
worked with members of the IPHD team and local Congolese
military to refurbish the school that serves 600 students from
low-income families. At a school ceremony on October 24,
Ambassador Weisberg noted that the collaboration with members of
the Congolese Armed Forces on this project was a carry-over from
the Brazzaville efforts in September. Children were given a tour
of the ship following the ceremony.

6. (U) Congolese port, maritime, military and government
officials were given training and informative tours of the USS
FORREST SHERMAN. A total of 80 active maritime Congolese were
given small boat operations, basic navigation, and diesel
mechanic hands-on training. Mil-to-mil talks regarding the
Automatic Identification System (AIS) capabilities renewed the
RoC interest in obtaining the systems for the Gulf of Guinea.

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Comment
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7. (U) Intensive media coverage has been focused on the U.S. as
a result of these two activities for the past two months. One
unexpected benefit of the visit of the USS FORREST SHERMAN is
the increased interest on the part of the Congolese military and
maritime personnel on Gulf of Guinea and transport security
issues as well as the Congolese military requests for additional
training opportunities. The positive results of the Seabee
school renovations are an important feather in our cap as the
U.S. competes on a daily basis with construction projects
financed by donor nations. Whereas other nations concentrate on
large construction projects that do not directly benefit the
Congolese (such as the recent announcement by Libya that they
will build a hospital but they will not provide any medical
equipment or amenities to the building, such as air

BRAZZAVILL 00000429 002 OF 002


conditioning), these U.S.-sponsored programs directly benefit
members of Congolese lower-income families in their daily lives.
WEISBERG

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