Cablegate: "Balkanization" Conspiracy Theory -- A Challenge to Pd

DE RUEHKI #0260/01 0561109
R 251108Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: "Balkanization" conspiracy theory -- a challenge to PD
outreach efforts in the DRC

REF: Kinshasa 46

1. (SBU) Summary: The term "balkanization" has its own
special meaning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it
refers to a conspiracy theory that foreign interests seek to divide
the DRC into smaller client states in order to facilitate access to
the country's vast mineral reserves. Many prominent Congolese are
quick to assert that United States is among the foreign powers
poised to "balkanize" the DRC, just as many Congolese appear to
believe that the U.S. favors alleged Rwandan designs vis-a-vis the
DRC. It is not clear how broad-based such views are or if they
result primarily from government manipulation of public opinion.
Regardless, addressing "balkanization" should be an important
element of Mission outreach strategy. End summary.

"No to the balkanization of the DRC!"

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

2. (U) On February 2, PAS Kinshasa staff visited Freddy
Mulumbu, editorial director of the newspaper Le Potentiel, to
discuss the "balkanization theory," the idea that Western, business
interests and political lobbies have a plan to divide the DRC,
undermine national sovereignty and state power, and keep the
country enmeshed in violence and underdevelopment in order to
exploit its natural resources. One of Le Potentiel's former
journalists, Emmanuel Kabongo, a major proponent of the
Balkanization theory, was also present. (Note: Le Potentiel is
one of the most widely read, influential, and relatively
independent newspapers in Kinshasa. Every day the front page runs
a small box that says: "No to the Balkanization of the DRC!" and
the theme is often discussed in news articles, editorials and
signed commentary. Through Le Potentiel, its television channel,
Tele 7, and high-profile conferences and debates, the proponents of
balkanization have an extremely powerful media platform. End

3. (SBU) Mulumba started off by saying that during a
trip to Canada in 2009, he met an individual (whom he didn't
identify), who said: "There is a project to detach the eastern DRC
from the rest of the country." After that, Mulumba found
supporting evidence in John Le Carre's Mission Song (a novel),
opinion journalism like "The Congo Doesn't Exist," by Jeffrey
Herbst and Greg Mills in Foreign Policy magazine, comments by
former Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney, and the writings of
controversial Belgian journalist Collette Braeckman. Mulumba said
his suspicions were confirmed when President Joseph Kabila said in
his recent New Year's address that the Congolese people had
successfully defeated efforts to balkanize their country. Mulumba
also saw the opening of diplomatic offices in the Kivus by the
U.S., Belgium and France as evidence that these powers wish to
split that region off from the DRC.

4. (U) Mulumba exposited a neo-Marxist theory of
history in which each successive phase of Western economic
development depended upon the exploitation of African human and
natural resources, particularly from the Congo - first agriculture
with slaves, then industry with Congolese rubber, and now high
technology with coltan and other minerals from the eastern DRC.
Mulumba blamed the conflict that killed millions of Congolese
between 1997 and 2003 on the Rwandans, with support from the USG,
turning the DRC into "a vassal state of Rwanda," which he claimed
it remains today. He saw efforts to integrate former rebels into
the FARDC as a plot for Rwandan take-over of the Congolese
military. While supporting security sector reform in theory, and
advocating a strong and professional national army, Mulumba
criticized international efforts as disorganized and even divisive.

5. (U) Kabongo launched into a tirade against what he

KINSHASA 00000260 002 OF 002

saw as U.S. interference in DRC sovereignty, from the Cold War
(which he said "was won in the DRC," due to minerals extracted
here) up to the present day. With the election of Barack Obama,
who championed the DRC in the U.S. Senate, Mulumba said he hoped
that U.S. policy toward the DRC might change, and highlighted the
generally positive coverage by his organization of Secretary
Clinton's visit last August as an indication of his optimism. Yet
Mulumba was frustrated that he hadn't seen more "concrete measures"
of USG support. While believing that Obama personally cares about
the DRC, Mulumba blamed "a lobby that has power over American
foreign policy," and hinted that mining interests are behind it.
He also expressed skepticism over assistance from U.S. and other
donors. Mulumba, who recently visited China, said foreign direct
investment, rather than development aid, would help bring the DRC
out of poverty.


6. 6. (U) Mulumba highlighted the success of a recent
conference on Balkanization that was sponsored by Le Potential.
Citing the high number of participants, Mulumba noted that
Congolese audiences were eager to discuss this issue, particularly
with the U.S. Embassy. APAO and PDO noted that the US Embassy was
interested in having a civil and open discussion on countering
assertions promoted by the balkanization theory. However, audience
participation would have to remain cordial to allow for a
productive conversation (rather than shouting matches to which many
discussions seemed to degenerate), and would have to include other
donors. (NOTE: PDO was invited to participate, but declined the
invitation, after learning the U.S. was the only donor invited.


7. 7. (U) Mulumba and his colleagues are not isolated in
their opinions. L'Avenir, a pro-government newspaper with close
ties to President Joseph Kabila, ran an article on February 3
expressing suspicion that demobilization programs run by the
United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) are a "Trojan horse"
integrating Rwandans into the DRC military and other national
institutions. When a UN-sponsored study questioned the estimate of
5.4 million Congolese dead from recent conflicts, an association of
Congolese civil society groups accused unnamed "Western nations" of
using the study to downplay "their responsibility in the DRC
massacres." In conversations with Congolese students, PDO often
heard: "Everybody knows that the U.S. was behind Rwanda's invasion
of the DRC."


8. 8. (SBU) Comment: While the Balkanization theory has
proponents across the DRC, we are unsure to what degree it
resonates throughout Congolese society. While radical
intellectuals like Mulumba express a hardline version, moderate
variations of the theory are regularly articulated by the
pro-government press, political figures, and private citizens.
Some Congolese suspect, to one degree or another, that USG
assistance (and all international aid, for that matter) is provided
in order to weaken the country and advance private business
interests. This view is particularly prevalent in the Kivus, as
audiences continue to believe U.S. interests support Rwanda's
alleged efforts to annex the Kivus and monopolize the region's
resources (reftel). Still, it is possible that the theory is
embraced only by a vocal few, or that it is encouraged by a cynical
leadership and is without widespread public support. Absent
baseline data concerning public attitudes and opinions, Embassy
Kinshasa is currently unable to accurately measure the degree to
which this theory has traction among ordinary Congolese. We will
explore ways to obtain resources for in-depth survey research on
opinions and attitudes concerning USG policies, in order to develop
a strategy for effective engagement on countering the Balkanization
theory, as well as other issues critical to the implementation of
mission strategic goals in the DRC. Subsequent reporting will
explore other opinions and attitudes that impact Congolese public
perception of U.S. policy toward the DRC. End comment.


© Scoop Media

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