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Cablegate: President Kabila Delivers Upbeat "State of the Nation"

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FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7210
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001344

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON SOCI KDEM CG
SUBJECT: President Kabila Delivers Upbeat "State of the Nation"
Address

1. Summary: President Kabila's December 6 "state of the nation"
address was generally upbeat and conciliatory. It contained few
surprises. Kabila defended the offensive against renegade General
Laurent Nkunda, hailed achievements in infrastructure and services,
defended the agreement with China, and cautioned against moves to
amend the Constitution. End summary.

2. President Joseph Kabila delivered a Constitutionally-mandated
"state of the nation" address to the Senate and National Assembly on
December 6, the first anniversary of his inauguration. It was the
first time in the history of the country that a chief of state has
addressed parliament. As expected, he strongly defended the
offensive against renegade General Laurent Nkunda in the east, and
affirmed he was determined to bring peace and security to that
region. As summary of the speech's key points follows:

INTRODUCTION
------------

3. Kabila began by thanking the people of the Democratic Republic
of Congo for choosing him as the first President elected under
universal suffrage. He said the speech was for him an opportunity
to bear witness to the Congolese people's shared vision for a better
future. He drew attention to the progress that the nation has made
in the past year, including the "establishment of institutions
worthy of a modern nation."

INSTITUTIONS
------------

4. Kabila provided a brief summary of the nation's institutions and
their proper roles, which, he said, all must respect. He briefly
described each branch's functions, emphasizing that the legislature
would not govern and the president would not legislate. He then,
and later in the speech, devoted considerable time to the judiciary
system. He called for "an independent, efficient, professional, and
impartial judiciary," but cautioned that the nation could not be a
"republic of judges" and that the judiciary must be accountable to
the people. This line drew enthusiastic applause. Even greater
applause greeted the statement that "only the facts and the law
count, not race, ethnicity, or social condition" and "the rich and
influential cannot expect special treatment."

SECURITY AND PACIFICATION
-------------------------

5. Not surprisingly, Kabila devoted considerable time to the
security situation, and in particular the current FARDC offensive
against pro-Nkunda forces in Masisi territory in North Kivu. In
keeping with the overall upbeat tone of the speech, the President
began by asserting that of the country's 145 territories, only
Rutshuru and Masisi, both in North Kivu, are experiencing conflict,
and that several areas plagued by violence a year ago, including
Katanga and Ituri, are now peaceful He conceded that nothing can be
accomplished without security and pacification, and, without
referring to Nkunda by name, stated that "a stubborn dissident
general" had brought war and desolation to the people of North Kivu,
and that the nation "would not be held hostage to outlaws."

6. Kabila reiterated his determination to bring order and peace to
the affected areas; expressed deep sympathy for the victims of
murder, rape, and looting; and saluted the "anonymous heroes" of the
armed forces and police. He emphasized his commitment to political
and diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts, and announced an
upcoming conference of leaders from North and South Kivu. He also
pointed with obvious pride to his government's negotiations with
Uganda concerning the Rukwanza island border on Lake Albert, and
with Angola on the Kahemba border dispute.

INFRASTRUCTURE
--------------

7. In keeping with the speech's positive tone, President Kabila
said progress had been made in improving the nation's infrastructure
in 2007. He conceded, however, that much remains to be done. He
cited generators being installed on the Zongo and Inga 2 dams,
actions taken to better control petroleum distribution, maintenance
projects for schools and hospitals, plans for new universities in
Bukavu and Kivudu, and two new hospitals in Kinshasa. He
specifically cited Congolese-born U.S. professional basketball
player Mutombo Dikembe, who financed a hospital in Kinshasa, and
exhorted the Congolese diaspora to do more to help their native
land. He noted that the opening of these hospitals was the "first
time in decades" such new facilities had been opened in the RDC.

ECONOMY AND SOCIAL SERVICES

KINSHASA 00001344 002 OF 002


---------------------------

8. In these areas as well, Kabila pointed to progress and
accomplishments. He noted that a first forum on unemployment had
been held, and that overall salaries are rising due to a slowly
improving economy. He cited progress in implementing codes and
contracts in the mining sector and in reintegrating child soldiers
into society.

CONTRACTS WITH CHINA
--------------------

9. Kabila stated that the international donor community had not
been able to keep up with the RDC's development needs and that his
government was obligated to seek assistance elsewhere. His tone
turned defensive in defending recently signed agreements with China,
describing them as "completely transparent" and of mutual benefit to
both countries. He explained, in great detail, his government's
reasons and justifications for signing the agreements, which include
contracts to fund railroads, highways, hospitals, and schools.

AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION
-------------------------

10. Apparently referring to efforts by some members of the ruling
coalition in the National Assembly to amend the Constitution to make
the President the chairman of the the nation council of magistrates,
President Kabila stated that "not all problems can be resolved by
amending the Constitution," and that the Constitution should be
amended only in cases of "extreme necessity." These comments
elicited vociferous applause from opposition deputies.

AN UPBEAT AND PROUD CONCLUSION
------------------------------

11. In his concluding remarks, Kabila stated emphatically that
"some have said change (in the Congo) is not possible, but they do
not know the soul of the Congolese." He went on to say that "many
doubted our ability to hold elections, to restore peace, and to
unite our nation, but we proved the skeptics and the defeatists
wrong." Both remarks elicited enthusiastic applause. He noted that
Congo is "better than it was a year ago, and much better than 15
years ago, and we will continue to improve day by day."

COMMENT
-------

12. Kabila's intention was clearly to counter a growing perception
among many Congolese (perhaps not unusual in situations of rising
expectations after a long war and democratic elections) that the
country has made insufficient progress since his 2006 inauguration.
His singling out of China as having come to the RDC's rescue was not
well received by ambassadors from some Western donor countries that
have given billions of dollars in aid to the RDC. Many expressed
the view that Kabila came across as ungrateful and too biased in
favor of a much newer partner. Another view is that Kabila was not
trying to praise China as much as trying to defuse criticism, by
raising it publicly, over the lack of transparency in the contracts
with China. Kabila did briefly mention trips to South Africa,
Belgium and the United States, but did not give details. Kabila's
delivery of what came across as a well-crafted U.S.-style State of
the Union address was excellent. The hour-long speech was generally
upbeat and conciliatory and broached many of the most important
issues facing the country. However, there were few surprises or
revelations, and no indication of concrete plans to achieve the
social and economic goals articulated during his campaign. End
comment.

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