Cablegate: S/P's Ross, Cohen and Patel Meet with Congolese


DE RUEHKI #0857/01 2651215
P 221215Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The visit of Senior Advisor for Innovation, Alec
Ross, to Kinshasa and Goma September 9-12, accompanied by Policy
Planning staff Jared Cohen and Mira Patel, was an opportunity to
advance progress on the new U.S. - DRC partnership following
Secretary Clinton's August 10-11 visit. In meetings with the
government, civil society, the private sector, humanitarian
organizations and the international community, as well as site
visits to displaced persons camps in eastern DRC, Ross explored how
we might leverage the U.S. technology sector to support the DRC's
development. Several proposed initiatives were discussed, with
electronic payment systems for the military showing particular
promise. Key to the success of any inititive will be ensuring
sufficient U.S. resources while at the same time securing strong
political commitment from the highest levels of the GDRC. All
Kinshasa meetings took place on September 10. A message on the S/P
visitors' meetings in Goma will follow septel. End summary.

Leveraging technology to address DRC's Challenges
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (U) In an initial briefing with the ambassador, Cohen described
his visit's objectives as advancing the Secretary's initiative for
DRC by using technology as a tool for empowerment. Ross stressed
that he was looking for measurable, achievable results-oriented
projects in three focus areas: (1) leveraging technology to make
vulnerable populations in eastern DRC, particularly women and
children, less vulnerable. This could include, for example,
providing vulnerable populations with real-time information on
insecure areas; (2) increased access to the judicial system in
remote, rural areas of eastern DRC by linking victims through video
technology to magistrates in Kinshasa; and (3) using technology to
stem the illegal trade of minerals in eastern DRC.

GDRC Meetings

3. (U) During a meeting with Minister of Mines Martin Kabwelulu,
Ross highlighted his desire to learn about the DRC's mining sector
and how the USG can encourage legal exploitation of the country's
mineral wealth. Kabwelulu noted that the Secretary's visit showed
that the DRC is becoming a country where the private sector can now
do business: before, conflict had prevented real investment and
decades of economic mismanagement under Mobuto had prevented true
development of the country. Kabwelulu stated that major challenges
for the DRC include both food security and changing the mentality of
the population -- both important to ensure a strong work ethic. He
lamented past exploitation projects in the mining sector, noting the
revenues had not been used for the DRC's development. To ensure
revenues from the mining sector now benefit the Congolese
population, the GDRC, with technical assistance from the World Bank,
drafted a new mining law in 2002. The GDRC also launched a review
in 2007 of 61 contracts. Turning to the illegal minerals trade in
the east, Kabwelulu said the GDRC had appointed a team to determine
steps to stem illegal trade. A key part of GDRC efforts includes
providing specialized services including "Centers for Negotiations"
to support tractability through mechanisms such as uniform
packaging. The GDRC has also reduced taxes on comptoirs to
encourage legal trade.

4. (SBU) Kabwelulu used the last part of the meeting to "send a
message" to the USG on the contract renegotiation of
Freeport-McMoRan's TFM project. Specifically, he complained that
TFM's contract did not comply with DRC law, that the company was
contract did not comply with DRC law, that the company was
"taking advantage" of their existing contract and that it does not
provide Gecamines sufficient management control. There remain five
points of disagreement between TFM and the GDRC; negotiations
continue. Referring to concerns raised by the Secretary during her
visit, Kabwelulu stated that the DRC had not accepted uranium, but
did recognize the challenge of controlling the sector's exploitation
given the large number of small-scale diggers. He requested U.S.
assistance for improved surveillance.

5. (SBU) Comment: While Kabwelulu's comment on TFM was
disappointing, particularly given the context of the meeting, it is
hardly surprising- he has previously been a hurdle in the
negotiations and is likely playing hardball during what he sees as a
last chance effort to get a cut of the deal. Econ Counselor noted
to Kabwelulu that while the negotiations were private--between the
company and the government -- our concern has always been in
ensuring a fair and transparent process and that the numerous delays
in finalizing the revisitation process sent a negative message to
investors about the DRC. End comment.

6. (U) At his meeting with Adolphe Mulamu Mulenda, President
Kabila's Chief of Staff, Ross outlined his trip objectives and
possible initiatives and noted his desire for projects that support
Kabila's "cinq chantiers" or priority sectors for development.
Cohen added that the US private sector is looking for new partners.
The USG is interested in linking the US private sector to support
development in the DRC, with a particular focus on supporting

security and stability in eastern DRC. The Chief of Staff stated
that the Secretary's visit came at a crossroads in the U.S.-DRC
bilateral relationship and he requested additional details on how
technology could be used to support our shared goals. Ross and
Cohen outlined the three focus areas noted in para. 2, stressing
that these are initial ideas and that coordination with the GDRC was
key as we move toward any implementation. Ross highlighted the
successful electronic payments systems implemented for military and
police in Afghanistan as one example of leveraging new technology.
Cohen also noted how technology had been used in the U.S. to make
populations safer. Deputy Chief of Staff Henri Yav asked how
technology could be used to support health and education -- two of
Kabila's five priorities areas -- noting that both lack of access
and infrastructure were key challenges in these sectors. Cohen noted
the link between tele-justice and education and that there were many
examples of successful telemedicine projects. Ross concluded the
meeting by stressing the USG's sustained engagement and new
relationship with both the GDRC and the private sector.

7. (U) Telecommunications and Postal Minister Louis Munga Mesozi
noted a number of efforts to support the DRC's telecommunications
infrastructure to increase access to services. These include
several projects -- either planned or underway -- to connect the DRC
to various existing fiber optic cable networks. Noting the low
rates of ICT penetration in the DRC -- 15% for cellular and 1.8% for
internet -- the minister welcomed Ross' proposals to engage the U.S.
telecommunications sector.

Engaging with the Private Sector on Electronic Banking
--------------------------------------------- ---------

8. (U) A roundtable discussion with the leading investors in the
telecommunications sector -- Zain, Tigo and Vodacom -- highlighted
electronic or mobile banking as a possible mechanism to support new
salary payment systems for police and military as a means of
reducing human rights violations, including SGBV, by security
forces. The telecom reps voiced strong enthusiasm for electronic
payment systems, noting that the Congolese Central Bank on
electronic banking that would soon be submitted to Parliament. A
current constraint has been that the current banking laws do not
address electronic banking. Vodacom noted that they planned to soon
launch their MPass system in the DRC and were simply waiting for
Central Bank authorization. Ross invited the telecommunications
sector to work as partners with the USG on developing a payment
system for soldiers' salaries, noting the USG can play a
facilitator's role such as organizing a delegation of private sector
leaders in mobile banking to visit the DRC. The telecom reps noted
that while the eastern DRC was generally well covered in terms of
cellular networks, a number of challenges exist. These include the
DRC's difficult security and investment climate, limited
infrastructure (in particular, electricity), and GDRC regulatory
issues regarding the issuance of 3G licenses.

9. (U) Representatives from the banking sector, including Citigroup
and Trust Merchant Bank, voiced less enthusiasm for mobile banking
for soldiers salaries. One representative questioned why the GDRC
had never discussed the concept with the banking sector if it was
really a possible solution to salary payment issues. Other
challenges noted by the banking sector included a lack of liquidity
and need to develop cash-out systems. More generally, one banker
need to develop cash-out systems. More generally, one banker
stated that mobile banking risked further marginalizing the DRC's
fragile financial services sector. Ross and Cohen highlighted the
successful Afghanistan model and offered to facilitate communication
between the DRC banking sector and leaders in mobile banking such as
the CEO of Roshan.

International Community Notes Challenges

10. (U) A lunch with donor ambassadors and heads of multilateral
organizations highlighted many of the challenges to implementing
effective new measures to address the DRC's challenges. SRSG Doss,
for example, noted that SGBV extended well beyond the east and would
take significant efforts to combat -- the international community is
looking to reinforce existing programs. One key issue is creating
greater control of and discipline within the FARDC. The DRC's large
size and lack of infrastructure represent other key challenges for
MONUC. MONUC is exploring how to better use existing surveillance
centers so that they can prevent, not just react to, acts of
violence. Other challenges raised by various donor Ambassadors
echoed those of SRSG Doss -- lack of infrastructure and related
mobility and absence of discipline with the FARDC. The issue of
impunity was also raised as a challenge. There was broad consensus
that ensuring payment of salaries to the FARDC was key to improving
discipline and reducing human rigts violations by the security
forces. Participants also concurred on the importance of the
changed regional dynamics -- in particular between Kinshasa and
Kigali -- in promoting peace and security in eastern DRC. Finally,
Ross asked about national Congolese figures who can play a positive

role in messaging on SGBV. Religious institutions -- above all the
Catholic Church -- were described as important vehicles to reach
more remote populations through existing communications networks.

11. (U) The last event in the visitors' busy schedule was an
informal dinner with representatives of civil society, including
UNICEF, ICRC, IRC, the Carter Center, the UNJRHO (UN Joint Human
Rights Office) and UNHCR. As with lunch earlier in the day, a
number of concerns were raised regarding lack of infrastructure and
the questionable commitment of the Congolese government to carry out
meaningful reform. Discussions focused on using technology to
bolster the criminal justice system, payment of soldiers and
reducing the incidence of SGBV.

12. (U) Cable on the visitors' meetings in Goma will follow septel.

13. (U) Mr. Ross cleared/cleared on this message.


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