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Belgium ready to help Zimbabweans but not ZANU-PF hardliners

Belgium’s Director for Sub-Saharan Africa Reiner Nijskens said the Belgian government was ready to provide humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe provided that Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front hardliners did not benefit from it.

He told this to United States embassy officials after a visit to Belgium by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Belgium did not have an embassy in Harare at the time. It had closed the embassy two years earlier in protest against government repression.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 09BRUSSELS1120, BELGIUM: CLOSER COORDINATION WITH U.S. AND OTHER

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09BRUSSELS1120

2009-08-12 15:29

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Brussels

VZCZCXRO0756

PP RUEHBZ RUEHDBU RUEHDU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHMR RUEHNP RUEHPA

RUEHRN RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHTRO

DE RUEHBS #1120/01 2241529

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 121529Z AUG 09

FM AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9350

INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA PRIORITY 0033

RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM PRIORITY 0039

RUEHLGB/AMEMBASSY KIGALI PRIORITY 0428

RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA PRIORITY 0547

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI PRIORITY 0412

RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA PRIORITY 0075

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BRUSSELS 001120

 

SIPDIS

 

EUR/WE FOR BRIAN MARCUS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2019

TAGS: PGOV PREL BE RW CG EU

SUBJECT: BELGIUM: CLOSER COORDINATION WITH U.S. AND OTHER

DONORS SOUGHT BY MFA’S INCOMING AFRICA DIRECTOR

 

Classified By: R. Kiene for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

 

1. (C) Summary: In an August 5 meeting with Charge and

Embassy political officers, the new Director of the Ministry

of Foreign Affairs’ Department for Sub-Saharan Africa sought

greater coordination and cooperation among donor countries

active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He

expressed continued interest in the idea of a dialogue

between Belgian and U.S. Africa experts discussed by former

Foreign Minister De Gucht and Secretary Clinton in February.

The new Foreign Minister, Yves Leterme, wants to normalize

relations that had been strained under the outspoken De

Gucht. The MFA plans to prepare a fresh strategy for the DRC

and present it for approval to contact group partners in late

September or October. Belgium supports greater attention to

the fundamentals of security sector reform and a firm

approach to cancellation of the DRC’s debts. Nijskens would

be open to a mechanism like the Kimberly process for illegal

exploitation of minerals in the Eastern Congo, though he

recognizes that there are technical obstacles to tracing the

origin of some exports. Nijskens said that Belgium no longer

has any significant economic interests in the DRC, other than

an active air link to Kinshasa. What investments there are

are small and in non-strategic sectors. Nevertheless, he

said, the Congo is important to Belgium because of the

extensive family ties and the estimated 50,000 immigrants

from the Congo living in Belgium. Nijskens welcomes Chinese

investment in the DRC, but says the Chinese should not assume

their business methods work best. They are slowly learning,

he said, that payments under the table do not ensure

long-term benefits. Nijskens said that Belgium is sending a

ship to join the EU’s anti-piracy operation off Somalia, and

advocates a more active presence by the West there. Belgium

is also interested in becoming more active in Sudan. The

Belgian Embassy in Zimbabwe is closed, but Belgian officials

recently met with Morgan Tsvangirai. The GOB would like to

assist in humanitarian efforts in Zimbabwe, but only through

channels that do not benefit the hardliners in Mugabe’s camp.

Nijskens said the GOB is less critical of Burundi’s

government than it is of the DRC’s, but he recommends

attention to some politicians’ efforts to destabilize the

peace in that country. He is carefully watching the human

rights situation in Rwanda, even as that country makes

progress socially and economically. End Summary.

 

2. (C) On August 5, Charge and Poloffs discussed Africa

issues with the MFA’s incoming Belgian Director for

Sub-Saharan Africa, Reiner Nijskens, and its Central Africa

desk officer, Hughes Chantry. Nijskens said that he was

heartened by President Obama’s speech in Accra, Ghana, and

welcomes all opportunities to work more closely with the U.S.

on all Africa issues. On a personal level, he looks forward

to renewing a long standing friendship with Howard Wolpe who

he met when they were Great Lakes Envoys for the U.S. and

Belgium. He acknowledged the U.S.-Belgian relationship has

come a long way since its low point during the invasion of

Iraq. He highlighted closer military to military cooperation

by noting that several Belgian suggestions were included in

Africom’s memorandum of understanding with the DRC.

 

United to help DRC

——————

 

3. (C) Nijskens said that the Democratic Republic of Congo

(DRC) is Belgium’s first priority in Africa. Despite the

change in Foreign Minister (FM) from Karel De Gucht to Yves

Leterme, there will be no change in the substance of

Belgium’s approach, he said. He stated that Belgium is still

interested in the exchange of views among U.S. and Belgian

Africa experts that was discussed by FM De Gucht and

Secretary Clinton in February. In a meeting with the

Government of the DRC on August 4, FM Leterme was careful to

emphasize that relations between DRC and Belgium will be

normalized “within stated positions and principles.”

Nijskens cautioned that it is important to have stronger

coordination between donor countries and not allow the

Congolese to divide and conquer as they have done in the

past. He expects the Congolese to become more difficult to

deal with as nationalist sentiment is stoked by politicians

in the run up to the DRC’s elections in 2011. He cited

Afghanistan as a possible model for coordination of

assistance. He said the GOB will complete a strategy around

 

BRUSSELS 00001120 002 OF 002

 

 

mid-September, then share it with privileged partners, such

as the U.S.

 

4. (C) A key goal of the GOB is getting the DRC back to

security fundamentals and good governance. Specifically, he

sees a need to keep the DRC army out of the mining industry,

as this appears to be an enabler for the current cycle of

hardship. He supports efforts for a Kimberly-like process to

help stem illegal mineral extraction. Despite a lack of

information, the task force on illegal exploitation of

natural resources in the Great Lakes Region aims to put

forward some concrete steps in capacity building for eastern

DRC. He said that ensuring that illegal exploitation does not

occur and providing traceability is challenging, having

resulted in Belgian companies pulling out of the area

entirely.

 

5. (C) Nijskens believes that the U.S. and Belgium are

correctly taking a tougher stance than France and the UK on

debt relief for the DRC, because if not, the same problems

are going to quickly recur.

 

 

Rest of Africa

————–

 

6. (C) Burundi received a less critical review from

Nijskens, but the GOB remains vigilant concerning the

possibility of violence in the upcoming elections. Rwanda

has also shown progress, Nijskens said, but the GOB continues

to monitor developments. In Somalia, despite sending a

frigate to the international mission to combat piracy, the

Belgians have not been actively engaged in the root causes of

the country’s problems. However, the GOB now wishes to ramp

up its involvement in the various fora discussing Somalia.

Regarding Sudan, Belgian involvement has been exclusively on

the Chadian side, contributing to peacekeeping with other

European Union partners. Belgium has not had a presence in

Zimbabwe for the last two years, since it closed its Embassy

in protest of government repression. GOB officials recently

met with Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in

Brussels and expressed support humanitarian aid for

Zimbabweans, provided the Zanu-PF hardliners do not profit

from it.

 

 

Belgium’s Commitment to Central Africa

————————————–

 

7. (C) Belgian business interests in Central Africa are

insignificant, with the exception of some air links. When

Belgian industry showed interest in investing in the port

sector, all advances were rebuffed by the Congolese. In

Nijskens’ opinion, Africa is still important to Belgium,

because Africa is an “internal domestic agenda,” due to some

50,000 Congolese living in Belgium. When asked about China,

Nijskens said that Belgium does not object to China’s growing

presence in the DRC and Africa. Nijskens sees China’s

business tactics as somewhat outdated, involving barter trade

that encourages lack of transparency and exploitation.

However, he feels that the Chinese now have a better

understanding of the levels of corruption and are less

inclined to try to “to reinvent the wheel” than previously.

 

8. (C) Poloff reminded Nijskens of additional opportunities

for Belgian participation. He reminded Nijskens that Africom

would welcome Belgian participation in the Africa partnership

station and the presence of a Belgian military liaison

officer at Africom headquarters in Stuttgart.

 

BUSH

.

 

(5 VIEWS)

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