Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Durbin Visit to the Democratic


DE RUEHKI #0176/01 0411920
O R 101920Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stands
at a crossroads in 2010, having registered progress in stabilizing
the security situation in the volatile eastern part of the country
in 2009, and awaiting local and national elections in 2011. On the
security and democratization fronts, there were optimistic signs,
but the overall political and economic situation in the DRC remains
fragile. An historic rapprochement with Rwanda and improved
relations with other erstwhile foes, Uganda and Burundi, has
unquestionably improved regional stability. Relations with Angola
have deteriorated due to expulsions of each other's citizens and a
growing dispute over oil blocks in the Atlantic Ocean. The
Congolese Tutsi-led rebel group, the National Congress for the
Defense of the People (CNDP), agreed to end its military struggle
against the government and to integrate its forces into the
Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). A series of military operations -
Umoja Wetu, Kimia II, and now Amani Leo - have targeted, with
relative success, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of
Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group composed primarily of Rwandan Hutus,
some of whom were remnants of the genocidaires who fled Rwanda into
the DRC in 1994. Some success was also registered against the
Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, which has
terrorized the DRC population in northeastern DRC for almost a
decade. There are, nevertheless, major unresolved issues, which
could lead to renewed fighting, chiefly the mass return of
Congolese refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) into
ethnically sensitive areas, and the superficial integration of CNDP
forces into the FARDC. A local fishing dispute in the western
province of Equateur in late 2009 spiraled into an armed conflict,
provoking refugee and IDP flows. Although the situation is now
stabilized, it is a reminder of how weak, or even non-existent,
state authority is throughout the DRC. The various conflicts have
exacerbated an already bad human rights situation, including
rampant sexual- and gender-based violence. President Kabila
announced that local elections would be held in March 2011,
followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in Autumn
2011. Kabila's party, the People's Party for Reconstruction and
Development (PPRD), already holds a commanding majority in both
houses of parliament and, one year out from elections, appears
primed to defeat an opposition that is badly divided and weak. The
DRC's economic outlook has changed dramatically following the
global economic crisis, as the once robust mining sector contracted
due to falling international commodity prices, a tightening of
international credit, and dampened investor confidence in the
sector. GDP growth for 2009 is estimated at only 2.7%,
significantly reduced form earlier projections. Emergency donor
assistance has stabilized the economy somewhat and the growth rate
for 2010 is projected at 5.4%. In December 2009, the IMF approved
a new three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility for the DRC
to promote stronger economic growth, reduced inflation, stronger
public financial management, and implementation of key structural
reforms. The DRC's investment climate remains dismal; the World
Bank ranked the DRC as the second most difficult country in which
to do business in its 2010 Doing Business survey. The largest
investor in the mining sector, U.S. company Freeport-McMoRan,
continues to negotiate a revised contract with the government
following the initiation of a sector-wide review of contracts in
2007. End summary.

Peace and Security in the Eastern Congo

2. (SBU) In January 2009, the DRC and Rwanda agreed to cooperate
to combat and neutralize rebel forces in the eastern provinces of
North Kivu and South Kivu, a source of tension between the two
countries for over a decade, a scourge on the civilian population,
and the primary driver of instability in the Great Lakes region.
While there is probably no written agreement between the two
governments, the broad outlines of the rapprochement were worked
out between a small group on each side, and the general content
appears clear. Rwanda, long suspected of having supported the
Congolese Tutsi-led rebel group, the National Congress for the
Defense of the People (CNDP), agreed to cease its support for the
group and to allow the CNDP force to integrate into the Congolese
Armed Forces (FARDC). Within the CNDP, an internal coup replaced
flamboyant CNDP chairman/military leader Laurent Nkunda with the
CNDP's military chief of Staff Bosco Ntaganda, who has accepted the
agreement between the Government of the Democratic Republic of
Congo (GDRC) and the Government of Rwanda (GOR); Nkunda would not
accept Rwandan-Congolese rapprochement. Rwandan authorities
detained Nkunda when he entered Rwanda; he is under house arrest
now in Rwanda. The DRC has requested his extradition to face
charges of insurrection. In return, the DRC agreed to allow

Rwandan forces to enter DRC territory to participate in joint
military operations against the Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group composed of Rwandan
Hutus, many of whom were remnants of the genocidaires who fled into
the DRC in 1994. The rapprochement, while still fragile, was a
courageous political decision by DRC President Kabila, as he faced
vocal opposition from many against improving relations with its
eastern neighbor, which had twice invaded the Zaire/DRC since 1996.

3. (SBU) The joint DRC-Rwandan military operations, Umoja Wetu,
"Our Unity" in Swahili -- began in mid-January 2009 and concluded
in March when Rwandan forces withdrew. Umoja Wetu was followed by
the Kimia II operation, with the DRC continuing to pursue the FDLR
with logistical support from the United Nations Mission in Congo
(MONUC). The goals of the military operations were to capture or
kill those FDLR elements that were unwilling to repatriate to
Rwanda; dislodge the FDLR from lucrative positions controlling
mines in the region; and to improve security for the civilian
population. While no one expected the operations to completely
"eliminate" the FDLR, there were tangible results: 1,114 FDLR were
killed and 1,522 combatants and 2,187 of their dependents were
repatriated to Rwanda; the remaining FDLR were pushed deeper into
the forest, away from larger population centers and major
commercial sites, such as mines; and several hundred thousand
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were able to return to their
homes. However, the operations also provoked a spike in human
rights abuses against the civilian population, both acts of
retribution by the FDLR, as well as abuses committed by
undisciplined FARDC elements. As many as 1,714 civilians were
killed as a result of the military operations. Major human rights
organizations, some international donors, and even some within the
UN criticized the military operations, maintaining the suffering of
the civilian population and newly created IDPs greatly outweighed
any benefits.

4. (SBU) While the situation in Eastern DRC has arguably improved
in the past year-and-a-half, several areas of concern remain. If
not managed properly, these concerns could result in another cycle
of violence in the Kivus. As the security situation improves, more
IDPs have returned to their home areas, and there are credible
reports of significant numbers of persons coming from Rwanda,
either Congolese refugees or simple economic migrants, have crossed
into the DRC over the past year. As these groups return,
long-standing tensions, which have historically provoked ethnic
conflict over land and property, have resurfaced. Integration of
the CNDP and the various other rebel groups has been uneven and
superficial in most cases. When the CNDP decided to integrate,
MONUC and the GDRC opted for "accelerated integration" instead of
the more traditional integration, arguing that the political
imperative required expeditious measures. Today, most of the CNDP
troops are "an army within an army," answering to the former CNDP
military command, rather than to the FARDC command. As these
"integrated" CNDP FARDC forces are deployed in areas where there
are few or no ethnic Tutsis, there have been significant instances
of abuses against the population. The new head of the CNDP, Bosco
Ntaganda, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for
war crimes committed in 2003-2004 in Ituri District. As a UN body,
MONUC has conditioned its support of FARDC military operations on
non-involvement by Bosco, although there are widespread reports of
Bosco maintaining a prominent position in the operations. Finally,
the CNDP and the GDRC have not yet agreed on senior political,
military, and administrative positions apparently promised to the

5. (SBU) On January 1, the FARDC and MONUC began a new phase of
military operations, Amani Leo, against the FDLR. While the
overall goals are similar to Kimia II and Umoja Wetu, there has
been a slight shift in emphasis. Most importantly, MONUC has
conditioned its support to specific FARDC units based on human
rights vetting and battlefield comportment. This represents a
reinforcement of MONUC's civilian protection mandate under the
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1906. Amani Leo also
plans fewer, but better targeted operations against FDLR leadership
and FDLR economic sites, working to re-establish state authority in
areas recently taken back from the rebels.

6. (SBU) In addition to the conflict in the Kivus, the GDRC and

its neighbors, with logistical support from MONUC, continue to
pursue the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that
has been terrorizing the civilian population in northeastern DRC
for almost a decade. In December 2008, the DRC, Uganda, the
Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan launched Operation
Lightning Thunder against the LRA. A small group of Ugandan
intelligence forces has remained following the end of the operation
continuing to pursue the LRA and its messianic leader, Joseph Kony,
with the support of MONUC under the Rudia II operations. The
operations have been relatively successful, scattering the LRA into
very small bands, with many LRA elements fleeing to the CAR and
South Sudan. The LRA exacted terrible reprisals on the local
population in the initial phases of the military operations, but
the group's ability to commit large-scale abuses has been greatly
reduced, as the group scatters and breaks into smaller units. The
LRA remains a regional security threat, which must be addressed by
applying steady, targeted pressure on the leadership.

7. (SBU) MONUC remains an indispensible player in the
stabilization and democracy-building of the entire DRC. With a
force of approximately 20,000, it is the largest UN peacekeeping
operation in the world, with a budget of around $1 billion,
one-third of which the U.S. finances. MONUC has frequently been
criticized from different quarters: the GDRC had used MONUC as a
scapegoat for its inability to subdue the CNDP and restore statue
authority in eastern DRC; various NGOs and humanitarian actors have
criticized MONUC for being complacent and not active enough in
ensuring that the FARDC does not commit human rights abuses.
Despite its size, MONUC is seriously understaffed to carry out its
mandate in a country the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi
River. President Kabila has asked MONUC to initiate negotiations
with the GDRC on a drawdown and an eventual withdrawal. Most
observers doubt the GDRC will insist on a rapid withdrawal,
content, instead, to be able to present a timetable by the 50th
anniversary celebrations of independence on June 30. In addition
to MONUC's peacekeeping functions, it is also tasked with election
support, institution capacity building, rule of law development,
and monitoring the human rights situation.

8. (SBU) The conflicts in the East have aggravated a worrying
trend towards the collapse of state authority throughout the
country. While this phenomenon receives international scrutiny in
the East, most parts of the state have ceased to function normally
throughout the country. The education, judiciary, and health
systems have collapsed, with services dependent on under the table
payments. Corruption is pervasive, following decades of state
sanction and the government's inability to provide basic services.
Without regular salaries, the security forces have turned to small-
(and large-scale) extortion. In a situation where society is
"broken," many donors have targeted security sector reform (SSR
--military, justice, and police) as the most pressing area in need
of assistance.

9. (SBU) In October/November 2009, a seemingly local fishing
dispute in the western province of Equateur erupted into serious
conflict, a good example of the state's inability to respond to
fundamental security concerns. The dispute escalated to the point
where the FARDC deployed a specially-trained battalion and MONUC
sent critical reinforcements to pacify the area. Eventually, the
situation stabilized, but more than 107,000 and 18,000 refugees
fled into the neighboring Republic of Congo and the CAR,
respectively, with another 60,000 internally displaced. While the
dispute clearly began at a local level, there are indications that
national and international opponents of the DRC regime attempted to
manipulate the situation to their advantage.

Regional Relations

10. (SBU) In addition to its rapprochement with Rwanda in 2009,
the GDRC also normalized relations with its other eastern
neighbors, Uganda and Burundi. As with Rwanda, the DRC exchanged
ambassadors with both countries. There was also progress on the
economic front, as the DRC and Uganda agreed to liberalize border
crossing hours. A dormant regional economic organization, the
Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) showed

signs of re-invigoration, as its members (the DRC, Rwanda, and
Burundi) became more active in the organization's work.

11. (SBU) The DRC assumed the chairmanship of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) in September 2009, hosting the SADC
Summit in Kinshasa, the first significant international or regional
conference in Kinshasa since the 1980s. Also in September 2009,
President Kabila was re-elected to the chairmanship of the Economic
Community of Central African States (CEEAC). However, President
Kabila has not attended recent African Union summits or the United
Nations General Assembly.

12. (SBU) Relations with Angola have been uneasy over the past
year due to several factors. While Angola has periodically
expelled DRC residents living illegally in Angola over the years,
Luanda accelerated deportations in late summer 2009, expelling as
many as 50,000 Congolese between July-October 2009. According to
reports, some of the Congolese were subjected to abuse, including
theft, expropriation of property, physical violence and rape. In
response, the GDRC expelled approximately 40,000 Angolans living in
the DRC. Many of these Angolans had refugee status dating back
from the period of armed conflict in Angola. Perhaps more
controversial, the two countries have become involved in a dispute
over rights to off-shore oil fields. The GDRC has claimed that a
new interpretation on how to delineate the continental shelf
entitles it to blocks that are currently under Angolan control.
The DRC has presented its case to the UN, while Angola has also
decided to seek international arbitration to resolve the
disagreement. While it is encouraging that the dispute remains in
the legal realm, it has unquestionably negatively affected
DRC-Angolan relations.

Elections and Democracy

13. (SBU) President Kabila has announced that the long-delayed
local elections will now take place in March 2011, followed by
presidential and parliamentary elections in Autumn 2011. If this
holds, it will be an important barometer of democratic development
in the DRC, as local elections aim to solidify democracy at the
grassroots level and the parliamentary and presidential elections
will be the first since 2006, when President Kabila defeated
Jean-Pierre Bemba, head of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo
(MLC) in the second round of voting. Kabila's party, the People's
Party for Reconstruction and Development (PPRD), controls a
significant majority in both the National Assembly and Senate
thanks to a coalition with various other parties. The main
opposition parties appear weak in the run-up to the 2011 elections.
The MLC is split and its leader, Bemba, is awaiting trial at the
ICC for war crimes. Etienne Tshisikedi, a historical opponent to
the Mobutu regime, is in Brussels in poor health; his party, the
Union for Development and Social Progress (UDPS) is also divided
into several factions. The one individual, who many analysts
believe could have challenged Kabila in 2011, former National
Assembly President Vital Kamerhe, has been sidelined by the PPRD.
Some have characterized Kamerhe's resignation as assembly president
as a deliberate attempt by the presidency to weaken the
parliamentary branch. Others defended Kamerhe's removal as a
legitimate move, done in accordance with the Constitution and with
internal PPRD procedures. A similar divide erupted in the
judiciary sector following Kabila's dismissal of several hundred
judges in 2009. Critics charged the presidency with attempting to
neuter the judiciary branch by appointing politically like-minded
judges to the bench. Supporters noted that the dismissals were
part of the president's "Zero Tolerance" campaign against

Human Rights Issues

14. (SBU) Human rights abuses remain a concern throughout the DRC,
not just in the conflict zones. Corruption, lack of state
authority, and a cycle of impunity fuel these abuses. Payment is
often expected for police to pursue a case and for judges to
prosecute. Even if a perpetrator is successfully prosecuted,

prison security is virtually non-existent and prison conditions are
abysmal. Child prostitution is not uncommon and children are often
forced to work in difficult situations, including in mines.
International attention has focused on the alarming incidence of
sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) committed in the conflict
zones of Eastern DRC. Armed militias, but also elements of the
FARDC and Congolese National Police, regularly use SGBV to
intimidate and to carry out reprisals against the civilian
population. High-level visits, including Secretary Clinton's visit
in August, have helped raise awareness of the need to fight this
scourge. SGBV remains a serious problem in non-conflict areas, as
well, with civilians, as opposed to security forces, committing
approximately 75% of SGBV crimes in these areas. To effectively
combat SGBV, the DRC and the international community must embark on
a holistic approach emphasizing treatment, education, building
judicial capacity, reducing corruption, training and disciplining
security forces, and, most importantly, ending the cycle of
impunity so prevalent in Congolese society.

Economic Overview and Recent Developments

15. (U) Despite enormous natural resource wealth, the DRC remains
one of the poorest countries in the world, with an annual GDP per
capita of only $171. Following decades of economic mismanagement
under the Mobutu regime, the GDRC initiated a series of economic
reforms in 2001 that aimed to stabilize the macroeconomic
environment and promote economic growth. These reforms, accompanied
by the re-engagement of the Bretton Woods Institutions (World Bank
and IMF) in 2002 resulted in significant improvements to the
economic environment: inflation was reduced from 501% in 2001 to
approximately 27.6% in 2008 (though rising to over 50% in 2009 as a
result of the global financial crisis), positive economic growth
resumed, and the currency stabilized. While the DRC had fallen out
of compliance with its formal IMF program (Poverty Reduction and
Growth Facility, PRGF) in 2006 due to fiscal slippages and
inadequate progress on structural measures, the DRC did maintain a
non-disbursing IMF Staff Monitored Program (SMP). In early 2008,
the GDRC and China concluded a $9.2 billion
minerals-for-infrastructure agreement. The agreement was amended
in late 2009 to address donor concerns over the agreement's debt
sustainability; the agreement now includes a $3.2 billion minerals
component and $3 billion in infrastructure projects.

16. (U) The DRC's economic environment changed dramatically
beginning in late 2008 and throughout 2009 as the country was
significantly and negatively impacted by the global financial
crisis. The once robust mining sector significantly contracted
during late 2008 and early 2009 due to falling international
commodities prices, a tightening of international credit and
dampened investor confidence in the sector. GDP growth for 2009 is
estimated at only 2.7 percent, a significant reduction from earlier
projections. By early 2009, the DRC was facing a serious fiscal
and monetary crisis, with international reserves near zero and the
exchange rate rapidly deteriorating. The international community
responded quickly to the DRC's deteriorating economic situation by
providing emergency financial assistance, including by the IMF
($200 million), the World Bank ($100 million), and the African
Development Bank ($97 million). The EU and Belgium also provided
emergency assistance. This assistance helped stabilize the economy
and ensure the continuation of basic services. With the support of
international emergency assistance and improved prices for key
export commodities, the DRC's macroeconomic situation has
stabilized and the economy has begun to recover. GDP growth for
2010 is projected by the IMF at 5.4%. The IMF's Executive Board
approved a new three-year PRGF in December 2009 which focuses on
promoting stronger economic growth, reducing inflation,
strengthening public financial management, and implementing key
structural reforms. The PRGF also paves the way for potential debt
relief as early as May/June 2010 if the DRC can successfully meet
triggers under the PRGF necessary to reach HIPC (Heavily Indebted
Poor Countries) completion point. The DRC's external debt totals
approximately $13 billion, with the United States serving as the
DRC's largest bilateral creditor.

17. (SBU) Better management of the mining sector, improved public
financial management, including enhanced revenue generation and
collection, and an improved investment climate (the World Bank

ranked the DRC as the second most difficult country in world to do
business in 2010; it was ranked dead-last in both 2008 and 2009 on
the Doing Business rankings) remain key for the country's long-term
economic development. The GDRC has taken some positive steps in
these areas, but progress in many areas has been slow. A review of
61 mining sector contracts initiated in 2007, for example, has yet
to be fully completed, with the largest foreign investor in the
sector, U.S. company Freeport-McMoRan, continuing negotiations with
the GDRC on its contract. U.S. investment in the DRC remains small
and largely focused in the mining sector.

U.S. Assistance

18. (U) The USAID budget request for assistance to the DRC for
Fiscal Year 2011 is $213 million. U.S. assistance in the DRC is
focused on establishing a culture of democratic and accountable
governance, promoting respect for human rights, and fostering broad
economic development. The assistance is divided into four broad
categories: Peace and Security; Governing Justly and
Democratically; Investing in People; and Economic Growth.
Activities in the Peace and Security area include supporting the
GDRC's stabilization and recovery program; strengthening law
enforcement through police training; and promoting the
professionalization of the Congolese military, including support to
develop a professional light infantry battalion that respects human
rights norms. In the Governing Justly and Democratically basket,
USG assistance aims to support the development of core transparent
and accountable governance institutions; strengthen judicial
independence; promote civic participation in the political and
decision-making processes; and support provincial and local
autonomy. Investing in People concentrates on assistance in the
critical areas of health needs (tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS
through PEPFAR, maternal child health, and family planning); and
assistance to support water and sanitation activities. Economic
growth assistance focuses on promoting agricultural productivity
and processing, and to increase the productivity of the DRC's
human, capital and natural resources, with an emphasis as well on
market efficiency and competitiveness.

Bilateral Relations

19. (SBU) U.S.-DRC relations received a boost following Secretary
Clinton's visit to the DRC August 10-11, 2009. In addition to
meeting with senior DRC leaders, including President Kabila, the
Secretary met with civil society and non-governmental actors in
Kinshasa and in the eastern DRC. The visit resulted in a U.S.
Government commitment to explore ways in which it might be able to
assist the DRC in five key areas: economic governance, corruption,
SGBV, SSR, and agricultural productivity. U.S. teams in these five
areas have visited the DRC to assess the situation. The teams will
present recommendations, which will eventually be presented to the

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