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Cablegate: Ambassador Holmes Press Briefing

VZCZCXRO8733
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1099/01 3510851
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170851Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0443
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SADC COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1320
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 2981
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001099

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR, RRU, AF/C, AF/PDPA, NSC
E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM KPAO MARR MASS PGOV PHUM PREL CG
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR HOLMES PRESS BRIEFING

REF: Kinshasa 1073

1. (SBU) Summary: During his briefing with local press on December
14, Ambassador Anthony Holmes, AFRICOM Deputy to the Commander for
Civil-Military activities, stated that AFRICOM seeks to help African
countries build capacity in security sector in order to more
effectively protect their own civilians, sovereignty, and resources.
Holmes also described U.S.-DRC military cooperation programs,
emphasizing partnership, and stressing protection of civilians and
respect for human rights, as well as the importance of rule of law
and transparency. Coverage was positive, establishing a good
opportunity for enhanced dialogue with local press and opinion
leaders concerning U.S.-DRC military cooperation. End summary.

2. (U) Ambassador Holmes emphasized that AFRICOM had no intentions
of establishing a headquarters in Africa, nor to have any permanent
bases on the continent. He made a clear statement that AFRICOM
seeks to help African countries build capacity in the security
sector in order to more effectively protect their own civilians,
sovereignty, and resources. Holmes emphasized that while the USG
was willing to help African nations achieve these important goals,
it would do so only in partnership and upon invitation by host
countries. He also stressed the protection of the civilian
population and human rights, respect for rule of law and
transparency, as well as cooperation with the international
community. Holmes made clear that the Light Infantry Battalion
(LIB) being trained in Kisangani was meant to create a model
battalion that could then train other units.

3. (SBU) Press coverage of the briefing was generally positive.
"AFRICOM is Ready to Support Security Sector Reform in the DRC,"
read the headline over a back page article in Le Potentiel on
December 15. The article noted that the LIB will go on to train
other units in the FARDC, with a particular emphasis on protecting
civilian populations and respecting human rights. (Note: Le
Potentiel is often critical of the U.S., other Western nations and
international organizations. At the same time, Le Potentiel
frequently cites SSR as a high priority for the DRC, and is
generally receptive to USG SSR activities. End note.)

4. (U) On December 15, the pro-government newspaper L'Observateur's
front-page headline noted "U.S. will provide $35 million for FARDC
Capacity Building." Ambassador Holmes's photo was also published on
the front page. The article focused on the LIB training, AFRICOM
efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the local military, cooperation with
international partners in security sector reform, and the fact that
AFRICOM has no intention of establishing a headquarters or bases in
Africa. Ambassador Holmes is quoted as saying: "We want above all
to see the Congolese Army use its own members to train the soldiers
who will make up an army that is professional and will integrate the
concepts of respecting human rights and protecting civilian
populations - an army that will apply itself to putting an end to
the culture of impunity." The article can be found at
http://www.lobservateur.cd/.

5. (U) The pro-government L'Avenir's December 15 edition ran a front
page headline "DRC-USA: AFRICOM for a Professional Army in the DRC."
A sub-headline highlighted Ambassador Holmes's statement: "AFRICOM
will respect the sovereignty of the DRC and has no intention of
Qwill respect the sovereignty of the DRC and has no intention of
establishing a permanent military presence against the will of the
government or Congolese people." The nearly full-page jump article
reported that Ambassador Holmes cited security as the greatest
challenge facing the DRC; emphasized respect for human rights and
rule of law; stressed the importance of building judicial capacity;
described AFRICOM's role as working in partnership with host
governments; and expressed the hope that the DRC will work with the
USG and other international partners to achieve effective SSR. The
newspaper also ran the full text of Ambassador Holmes's biography,
along with his photograph. The article can be found at
http://www.groupelavenir.cd/spip.php?article2 9692 .

6. (U) National television and radio station RTNC attended the press
briefing, but as of the afternoon of December 15 had not yet aired
any reports, as they are assembling a more detailed package to be
broadcast in the near future. (Post will advise when that report
airs.) Radio Okapi was invited to the press briefing, but the
reporter was not able to attend, due to logistic difficulties.

7. (SBU) Comment: The press coverage of Ambassador Holmes' briefing
was overwhelmingly positive, and provided a good basis for continued
outreach and discussion with local press and opinion leaders. Local
opinion of AFRICOM and US-DRC military cooperation is often fraught
with misperceptions (see reftel). These misperceptions include:

KINSHASA 00001099 002 OF 002


speculation that AFRICOM is seeking a headquarters or permanent
bases in Africa; civilian and civil society distrust of local
military, and by consequence, USG military training and cooperation
programs; the widespread view that USG strategy is closely tied to
economic interests, and aims to destabilize or even break up the
DRC; and the feeling that the U.S. has historically sided with
Rwanda and/or other countries in the Great Lakes Region against the
DRC. PAS Kinshasa plans to work in close coordination with OSC,
DAO, AFRICOM, AF PD/PA and other colleagues in developing an
effective public diplomacy strategy for outreach and communications
concerning SSR and related activities. End comment.

8. (U) Ambassador Holmes cleared on this cable.

GARVELINK

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