Excusez «CONGONEWS» pour le désagrément. Pour la première fois votre bihebdomadaire renvoie ses lecteurs à un document écrit en anglais. Celui-ci est tombé si tard pour être traduit alors que nous allions sous presse. Mais il est éloquent sur la personnalité de Jean-Pierre Bemba qui reste un grand leader en RD-Congo et ce que son actuel secrétaire général, Thomas Luhaka pensait de lui, à l’époque du 1+4 pour ne pas être publié, quitte à en donner la version française dans l’édition prochaine. C’est que ce document a de plus fondamental, c’est son origine. Il fait partie des câbles diplomatiques de Wikileaks qui ont coûté à Julian Assange des pires tribulations de la part des Etats-Unis. La rédaction de «CONGONEWS» l’a reçu grâce à son sérieux par les soins des services de renseignement d’une puissance occidentale. Là-dedans, Thomas Luhaka traitait Bemba, en ce temps-là, d’ «homme à vision difficile» alors qu’en même temps lui-même fricotait avec le PPRD via Antoine Ghonda. S’il n’a pas traversé la rue, c’est simplement parce qu’il n’était pas sûr de se faire élire sous les couleurs du camp de Joseph Kabila. (Transcription française et tous les détails dans le prochain numéro avec toutes nos excuses pour nos lecteurs qui ont quand même le loisir de se faire traduire, à loisir, le document, publié dans ces colonnes, d’ici là).
1.(C) SUMMARY: Vice President Bemba wants to distance his party from the transitional government, according to a senior official in Bemba’s party, the MLC. The official said Bemba is trying to reach out to Etienne Tshisekedi’s opposition party, the UDPS. END SUMMARY. Bemba Envisions Difficult Balancing Act ————————————— 2. (C) Congo Liberation Movement (MLC) executive secretary Thomas Luhaka told Emboffs February 4 that MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba wants to distance his party as much as possible from the transitional government, because there is increasing public ire against the regime. Luhaka asked rhetorically how the MLC could do this since it is part of the transitional government. (Note: Bemba is a vice president and there are several MLC ministers in the GDRC. End Note.) He commented half-jokingly that many figures in office keep a low profile and would pass unrecognized by an angry public, unlike Luhaka himself, who appears regularly as Bemba’s spokesman. Reaching out to the UDPS ———————— 3. (C) Luhaka confirmed that Bemba had asked him to establish contact with the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party led by Etienne Tshisekedi, but noted that both Bemba and Tshisekedi have large egos, making any alliance between the two difficult at best. In Luhaka’s opinion, one of the UDPS’ main strengths is its closeness to influential members of the local media who hail from the same region–the Kasais–that Tshisekedi does. For example, the leaders of several top Kinshasa newspapers including “Le Potentiel,” “Le Phare,” and “La Tempete des Tropiques” are UDPS sympathizers and ensure that their papers reflect UDPS views. (Comment: This is true. “Le Phare” and “La Temptete” are basically in-house organs, whereas “Le Potentiel” is considered less biased. End Comment.) Keep an Eye on the Military ————————— 4. (C) Asked what potential dangers he saw on the horizon, Luhaka admitted that he is focused more on managing day-to-day crises, but said it was important to watch potential frustration among the military rank and file. For example, there is an ongoing dispute between Defense Minister Adolphe Onusumba (RCD-Goma) and military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Kisempia over salaries. According to Luhaka, Kisempia says there are 58,000 soldiers in and around Kinshasa, all of whom are awaiting salaries, whereas by Onusumba’s count there are only 28,000. Luhaka said Onusumba commented to him that the Rwandans considered military funding and figures sacrosanct, whereas Kisempia as an ex-Zairean Armed Forces (FAZ) officer apparently retained the bad habits of that organization. COMMENT ——– 5. (C) Distancing the MLC from the transitional government will be a difficult feat. It is a significant departure from Bemba’s initial strategy for the transition, which was to portray the MLC as the only serious, competent group in the transitional government. END COMMENT. 6. (U) Bujumbura minimize considered. MEECE
1. (1) PolCouns met May 17 and 18 with Movement for Congolese Liberation (MLC) members Olivier Kamitatu and Thomas Luhaka to discuss internal MLC politics and election strategy. (Note: Kamitatu is the President of the National Assembly and Luhaka both the Secretary General of the MLC and the party’s leader in the Assembly. Kamitatu is viewed as the most likely alternative to Bemba in the event that the party should decide to change leaders. End Note.) Both men privately deplored the inevitability of Jean Pierre Bemba’s being the MLC candidate for President, although Kamitatu noted that the silver lining could be that Bemba would wind up without a position in the future government as long as the electoral law specifies that each individual may only run for one position in each election, i.e., Bemba must choose before the campaign begins whether to be a presidential or parliamentary candidate rather than having the option to pursue both. Luhaka said that the recent constitutional debate highlighted the dissatisfaction of the party rank-and-file with Bemba, whose grasping and dictatorical nature is increasingly isolating him. For instance, Luhaka said that during debate on presidential term limits Bemba called him and Kamitatu to insist that the party had to change its agreed position, a decision which ran completely counter to the desires of the parliamentarians. Faced with the difficult choice of voting against his own conscience — and forcing others to do so — or disobeying a direct order from Bemba, Luhaka punted by asking Kamitatu’s permission to leave the plenary hall, effectively allowing each MLC member to vote as he or she saw fit. 2. (C) Looking toward elections, Kamitatu said that Bemba’s current inclination is to run a campaign based on his being the sole “pure” Congolese presidential candidate (a reference to President Kabila’s supposedly mixed Tutsi background and VP Ruberwa’s Tutsi lineage, and perhaps also a slam at Kamitatu’s mixed race background as well). Such a campaign would be hateful and divisive, Kamitatu acknowledged, but said that Bemba really has very little else to run on. When PolCouns suggested that the MLC is best positioned to run on a platform of economic issues, particularly appealing to businessmen, Kamitatu smiled and retorted that businessmen won’t win the election and Bemba doesn’t know how to appeal to ordinary people. He added that he personally doesn’t believe that Bemba will win the presidency, and therefore he already is working on trying to field the strongest possible slate of parliamentary candidates to ensure an MLC majority in the future parliament, or at least position them to be part of a future majority coalition. 3. (C) PolCouns asked Kamitatu directly why he did not either attempt to run for president as an MLC candidate (effectively supplanting Bemba) or resign from the party and run separately. Kamitatu replied that he felt he had a responsibility to the memory of those who had died in the MLC cause during the war, and to those who still believe that the party should stand for something. He admitted that he very easily could leave the MLC, as he already is being courted by both the PPRD and RCD as well as “independent elements,” but said that he would prefer to try to reform the party and realize its potential. Luhaka later told PolCouns that, while all of this is true, Kamitatu also is afraid of Bemba, who has more than once hinted at a violent reaction against Kamitatu’s family should Kamitatu try either to upstage him and/or leave the party. Luhaka himself has considered leaving the MLC in favor of the PPRD, where his friend Antoine Ghonda would guarantee him entry, but has decided, like his friend and mentor Kamitatu, to stay where he is at least through the elections. 4. (C) Both Kamitatu and Luhaka are quietly using their influence as senior party leaders to try to distance Bemba from the party, and separate his image from that of the MLC in the public mind. They hope that by doing so they will be able to limit the damage inflicted on the MLC by Bemba’s personal unpopularity. Comment ——- 4. (C) This quiet intraparty revolt is typical of the personal styles of both Kamitatu and Luhaka. Both prefer circumlocution to confrontation and, particularly when dealing with Bemba, avoidance probably is the wisest course. That said, Bemba is not unaware of their actions. While apparently not retaliating against Kamitatu so far (whose family’s political connections make him far more valuable to Bemba than Luhaka), Bemba is beginning to orchestrate a campaign designed to force Luhaka to resign. For instance, while not officially removing Luhaka as the Secretary General of the party, Bemba has instructed a different man to “act” as Luhaka’s shadow, and has authorized him to sign documents, etc. With months yet to go before official electoral campaining gets underway, there is ample opportunity for the MLC to implode, or for its internal weaknesses to be publicly exploited by other parties. DOUGHERTY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 002055
E.O. 12958: DECL : 12/31/2014
TAGS: KDEM PGOV CG
SUBJECT: MLC OFFICIAL DESCRIBES INTERNAL TENSIONS,
Classified By: Poloff Edward Bestic for Reasons 1.5 B and D
1. (C) SUMMARY: A top official from vice-president
Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC movement reported tensions between Bemba and his number two, Olivier Kamitatu, and described MLC efforts to court potential voters in eastern Congo. Rumors of strained relations between Bemba and Kamitatu are nothing new. Kamitatu may be thinking about a Presidency run, but we think it unlikely Kamitatu will jump ship now, but if and when he ever does, it would be a serious blow to the MLC.
Grumbles in the MLC
2. (C) Thomas Luhaka, spokesman for Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Congo Liberation Movement’s (MLC) and leader of its parliamentary group, told poloff November 2 that relations between Bemba and Olivier Kamitatu are strained. (Note: The latter, MLC secretary-general since 1999 and National Assembly president
since 2003, is one of the more widely-respected public figures in the DRC. End Note.) Kamitatu skipped a meeting of top MLC leaders on November 1, and told Luhaka he thinks Bemba is upset with Kamitatu over the “Ghonda affair.”
(Note: Antoine Ghonda, a long-time friend of Kamitatu, was the DRC’s foreign minister until July 2004, when Bemba fired him for being more loyal to President Kabila than to Bemba.
Ghonda took a job as one of Kabila’s ambassadors-at-large a few weeks later. End Note.) Kamitatu also believes Bemba is targeting Kamitatu allies within the MLC such as former agriculture minister Justin Kangundu, who heads the party’s structure in Bandundu province. Bemba and Kamitatu are likewise at odds over who should head the party’s structure in Kinshasa province. Luhaka speculated that Kamitatu’s father Cleophas Kamitatu is discouraging his son from
breaking with Bemba by explaining that for now it makes better sense to remain “in the game” than outside it. (Note: The elder Kamitatu, a well-known politician in his own right, is a member of the unarmed political opposition but is generally regarded as aligned with the MLC. End Note.)
3. (C) Continuing in the same vein, Luhaka said that he himself is frustrated with Bemba because the MLC leader only respects those who are independently wealthy, such as public works minister Jose Endundo and planning minister Alexis
Thambwe. Traditionally, there have been no real political parties in the DRC, only “fan clubs.” Many within the MLC regard the party as little more than a Bemba fan club Luhaka said, and Bemba himself treats less well-off MLC members as if they are merely hired help. Bemba works very closely with Endundo on the electoral campaign, for example, but keeps Luhaka in the dark. One sore point within MLC ranks lately has been the issue of MLC politicians printing T-shirts with their own faces on them. Bemba recently ordered 40,000 bolts of cloth with his own face–and tolerated shirts with Endundo’s face, but was angered when he heard Kamitatu and Luhaka wanted to do the same, and refused to listen to Luhaka’s argument that others in the MLC needed to build their own base of support in order to be electable. Former president Mobutu deliberately sought to keep his lieutenants dependent on him personally, Luhaka commented, and Bemba appears to want to do the same.
4. (C) On a more personal level, although Bemba makes $200,000 a month and has a small fleet of cars, he failed to honor his promise to help Luhaka buy a used vehicle for transport around town. Luhaka bought an $8000 truck on credit, and after several months waiting for Bemba to come through, raided party funds to pay for it. Similarly, Luhaka is annoyed at having to vacate his centrally-located apartment by November 9, because Bemba will not pay to renew the lease. Instead, Luhaka may have to move to one of the outer neighborhoods such as Binza, which is “less secure.”
In short, Luhaka said, Bemba does not “take care of his
Bemba’s Elections Strategy
5. (C) Commenting on elections strategy, Luhaka said that in
rural areas where the population is less educated and informed, ethnicity will be a key factor and candidates will need to sway local “decision-influencers” such as traditional chiefs. In urban areas, candidates can make a more direct appeal to voters, who are willing to judge candidates more on the issues. This is the case in Bukavu, for example, where
Gen. Mbuza Mabe (from Equateur) has managed to become popular, and whose citizens already appreciate the fact that Bemba sent MLC troops to the region. Another part of MLC strategy in the east is to court potential supporters by addressing specific complaints (e.g. lifting the state monopoly on insurance providers to allow “SCAR,” an eastern-based company, to compete) and promising to repair basic infrastructure in the area. While some in the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) were upset at Bemba’s politicking in the Kivus, “many” in the RCD have given up on the idea of winning anything through elections and are telling their colleagues to support the MLC. Luhaka confirmed that Bemba met with North Kivu governor Eugene Serufuli who, in contrast to RCD leader Azarias Ruberwa, has made a serious effort to connect with the local population there. As for opposition figure Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, he is popular in Kinshasa and in the Kasais but, noted
Luhaka, but is less well-known among younger Congolese, has only a weak party machine these days, lacks finances, and is in questionable health.
Drafting a Constitution
6. (C) Asked about Senate efforts to draft a constitution,
Luhaka said the current draft calls for a president who is
directly elected but weak, coupled with an indirectly-elected prime minister. Bemba wants a strong, directly-elected president, whereas Kamitatu favors an indirectly-elected president. As for the merits of a federal versus unitary system of government, Luhaka said there has been no real debate yet, but added that people in the east, especially businessmen, want to maintain the autonomy they gained under the RCD. Under that regime, forty percent of all revenues collected by the authorities was “remitted” to the provinces.
No one in the area wants to return to war, but easterners see the central government as nothing more than a predator, and will want to maintain their autonomy.
7. (C) The MLC has long stood out in Congolese politics for its relative cohesion and the acumen of its leaders,
especially Kamitatu. Rumors of Bemba-Kamitatu tensions
(stemming from Bemba’s jealousy of Kamitatu’s talent and prestige) are nothing new, but it is unusual for a highly visible Bemba loyalist such as Luhaka to speak of them and express his own frustrations. Luhaka may simply have been “fishing” in an attempt to gauge USG support or lack thereof for Bemba. Kamitatu may well be weighing the prospects for his own at the Presidency. Not coincidentally, his expressed
preference for “indirect” election of the President could play well for him, given his current role as National
Assembly President. We think it unlikely Kamitatu will jump ship however, but if and when he ever does, it would be a
serious blow to the MLC.
END COMMENT. MEECE