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Cablegate: Brazzaville in Brief - October 1, 2009

DE RUEHBZ #0285/01 2741256
P R 011256Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


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-- President Sassou in the U.S.

--"Gorilla-cide" Report Discredited

-- Efforts to Track Lumber Exports

-- Government Restricts Movement of Opposition Politicians

-- Highway Project Between Congo and Cameroon

-- Developments in the Mining Industry

-- Smear Campaign Against President Paul Biya of Cameroon

President Sassou in the U.S.


1. (U) President Denis Sassou Nguesso and a large delegation of
sixty arrived in New York on September 17. Sassou, First Lady
Antoinette, the Foreign Minister, the Minster of Forestry, the
Minister of the Environment and 25 others travelled on a
chartered plane via Cape Verde.

2. (U) In his role as Climate Change Spokesman for the African
Union, Sassou has been pushing hard for Africa and the ROC in
particular to get their slice of the carbon pie in Copenhagen.
Sassou's DC lobbying firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schlecter &
Associates have helped Sassou make a full-court press on
American audiences with the launch a snazzy new English website
(, on which President Sassou recently
posted an open letter to President Obama on the subject of the
environment) and a well-placed editorial with a Sassou byline in
the Boston Globe just days before Sassou's speech to the General
Assembly on September 25. The leitmotif of the website,
editorial, and UNGA address has been that Africa and the Congo
will not just be the victims of climate change, they can also be
"part of the solution" given the Congo Basin's importance as the
world's "second lung" for absorbing carbon (along with the
"first lung", the Amazon rainforest).

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3. (SBU) Sassou did not waste any time in moving forward on
other issues on the margins of this year's General Assembly,
reportedly meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma to
work out the details of a pending farm deal to lease large
tracts of Congo farmland to South African farmers. The deal had
been stalled due to the Presidential election in Congo and some
counterproductive statements by the leader of Agri SA, the South
African consortium in charge of the deal. The final details of
the deal have yet to emerge, but now that the Presidents have
met, the agreement is reportedly back on track and could be
sealed before the end of the year. On October 5, Sassou will be
joining his favorite son, Denis Christel, in Houston for
meetings between Congo's National Oil Company, SNPC, and several
U.S. energy companies. According to Denis Christel, he and his
father will meet with Mercuria Trading (a subsidiary of
Conoco-Phillips), Marathon, and Sun Energy while in Houston.

"Gorilla-cide" Report Discredited


4. (SBU) As reported by several international media outlets, a
recent study by San Francisco-based Endangered Species
International (ESI) reported that two gorillas are killed each
week and sold as bush meat in Pointe Noire. Local wildlife NGOs
agree that the illicit trade in bush meat, including gorilla, is
a major problem in the Pt. Noire area, but dispute the

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scientific basis of the findings. According to the Wildlife
Conservation Society (WCS) Country Director, the ESI
representative spent less than two weeks in the ROC and ESI has
no staff or offices in the ROC. The President of ESI is also
quoted by the BBC as saying that "enforcement does not exist."
Recent local media reports confirmed by the WCS, however,
highlight successful enforcement operations against poachers and
bush meat vendors in the Sangha province, as well successful
prosecutions (supported by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Funding) against protected species vendors in Brazzaville.

Efforts to Track Lumber Exports


5. (U) The Republic of Congo signed a service contract with
Sociiti Ginirale de Surviellance (SGS) on September 2 to promote
sustainable management of forests by creating a verification
system to track lumber exported to EU and other destinations.
Under this system, timber would be marked with a code at the
point of origin, similar to systems currently in place in other
countries. (Note: SGS is a Swiss company, which according to its
website offers inspection, testing and verification services
across a variety of sectors including agricultural, industrial,
minerals and oil, gas and chemicals, among others. End note.)
Henri Djombo, Minister of Forest Economy, signed the agreement
with Alain Verney, the director of SGS. The project reportedly
will be financed with a 2 million Euro contribution from the EU
as well as 1.8 million Euros from the Republic of Congo. This
new system will be implemented over the next three years and
should provide a method for greater accountability in logging
markets. Post will provide additional reporting on the
implementation of this agreement septel.

Government Restricts Movement of Opposition Politicians

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

6. (SBU) The government has recently restricted the movement of
several opposition politicians, and police have been questioning
opposition leaders to gather information about an "illegal"
opposition press conference on July 15, just after the July 12
elections. The details of the incident, which involved police
firing, remain sketchy, but according to some observers a
policeman shot into the crowd of opposition protestors, narrowly
missing opposition leader Mathias Dzon. However, the police
claim that the shot was fired by one of Dzon's bodyguards,
themselves government agents provided for candidate security.
Two bystanders were injured in the shooting incident. Congolese
human rights organization OCDH points out that the government
wants to shift blame for the shooting incident to the
opposition, and is now using the incident to suppress the
opposition and restrict their travel. Several notable
politicians have been prevented from traveling in recent weeks,
including former Prime Minister Ange Edourd Poungui and
Secretary General of the opposition party UPADS Pascal Tsaty
Mabiala, who were attempting to travel from Brazzaville to
Dolisie on September 4. The opposition sent an open letter to
President Sassou on September 18 protesting the restrictions on
their movements. The letter was published in several local

Highway Project Between Congo and Cameroon


7. (U) On September 26, 2009 the Board of the African
Development Bank (AFDB) approved a financial package worth USD
190 million for the creation of a road to link Congo and
Cameroon. When completed, the 500-kilometer Ketta-Djoum Road
will substantially improve the 1,612-kilometer highway
connecting the two capital cities of Brazzaville and Yaounde.
AFDB funding includes a grant of $97 million USD and a loan of
$93 million USD. In addition to aiding the movement of people
and goods between Congo and Cameroon, the project will improve

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access to areas with significant economic potential in
agriculture, ore, and timber in northern Congo.

Developments in the Mining Industry


8. (U) MagMinerals Potasse Congo, a subsidiary of MagIndustries
Corp, is building a pipeline to bring natural gas to a potash
production site near Djeno, a suburb of Pointe-Noire (the large
coastal port city). The company plans to produce 600,000 tons of
potash per year once the site is fully functional. This site
will reportedly make Congo the leading African producer of
potash and the fourth producer worldwide after Canada, Russia,
Byelorussia and Brazil. Also in the potash sector,
Australian-owned Element Minerals (ELM) received a boost in
share price after its acquisition of the Sintoukoula potash
project, located 50 km from Pointe Noire. In other mining news,
the Canadian company DMC mining recently acquired a large iron
ore project located near an existing railway line that would be
used to haul the ore to the coast.

Smear Campaign Against President Biya of Cameroon

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

9. (SBU) In September 2009, a local bi-weekly known as "Le
Choc" published its first "Special Edition" devoted among other
things to a public smear campaign against President Biya of
Cameroon. According to Cameroonian Ambassador Komidor, this
campaign stems from a negative story written about President
Sassou-Nguesso in September's edition of AfriqEducation.
AfriqEducation is published by Paul Tdega, a Cameroonian
national residing in France. Apparently, Tdega was under
contract to publish positive stories on Sassou in his magazine.
With the recent ministerial reshuffle in Congo, however, Tdega
lost his contract and in retaliation, published a story
denouncing corruption within the ROC's leadership. Komidor
maintains that Cameroon played no role in the AfriqEducation
article criticizing Sassou Nguesso. The Ambassador claims,
however, that the recent smear campaign in Le Choc was directly
organized by the Special Advisor to President Sassou Nguesso,
Jean Dominique Okemba. As proof, the Ambassador demonstrated how
Le Choc had doctored photos to invent a relationship between
Tdega and Presdient Biya. The Ambassador also pointed out that
this was the first Special Edition of Le Choc and implied that
the only source of money that could convert a black and white
bi-weekly into a glossy magazine edition would have had to have
come from the Presidency.

10. (SBU) Comment: This latest spat comes in the wake of another
dispute between Cameroon and the ROC over the arrest and
supposedly unlawful detention of a Cameroonian diplomat working
at the Central African Regional Development Bank (BDEAC).
Ambassador Komidor was visibly agitated when describing the "Le
Choc" article and said he would take his complaint to the
highest levels of the ROC leadership. Together, these events may
point to a brewing struggle between Presidents Biya and
Sassou-Nguesso for leadership in the Central African Region. End

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