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CAB019 / Zambia / PROFILE OF ZAMBIAN WARLORD KENNEDY MBESUMA

PROFILE OF ZAMBIAN WARLORD KENNEDY MBESUMA

¶1. (C) Summary: What follows is a profile on suspected warlord Kennedy Mbesuma, followed by a risk assessment and advisement for follow-up actions. End summary.

BIO

¶2. (SBU) Kennedy Mbesuma was raised in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. While not much is known about his upbringing, according to reports from GRZ officials, his parents were very poor and forced to put him into foster care at a young age. He remained in the foster care system until he was 15, living in a total of seven different homes before returning to his birth parents. On April 17th, 1991, both of his parents died in a church fire that took the lives of 48 additional parishioners. The source of the fire was never determined.

¶3. (U) A devout Christian, Mbesuma remained very active in his church and even

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MISSING SECTION
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at which point, disillusioned with corruption in his local church, Mbesuma moved to the Copperbelt Province to aid innocent victims of the fighting between the militias and government.

GOD’S RESISTENCE ARMY
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¶5. (S) On April 18th of last year, Mbesuma was present at a peaceful religious rally to protest the ongoing violence in Mufulira. A group of local law enforcement officers fired tear gas into the nonaggressive the crowd and when the protesters refused to disperse, more than three dozen live rounds were fired into the crowd. Eleven people died and sixteen were injured. (COMMENT: While no official evidence exists, several protesters later claimed the officers were being paid by one of the local militias. END COMMENT.)

¶6. (S) Though specifics are unknown, it is in the following months that Kennedy Mbesuma formed the God’s Resistence Army (GRA). Starting with six members, the initial role of the militia was to guard fellow Christians during peaceful protests. They were usually armed with AK-47 assault rifles, machetes, and bandoliers.

¶7. (C) As the membership of the GRA increased to more than forty, the religious militia took a more active role in the protest movement. Under Mbesuma’s leadership, the GRA launched numerous attacks on various militas and local law enforcement agencies.

¶8. (S) During these assaults, the members of the GRA (all males) were often reportedly wearing bizarre clothing such as colorful wigs, shower caps, old wedding or prom dresses, halloween masks and/or nail polish. The reasoning behind the attire appears to be partially motivated by psychological warfare – an attempt to confuse, disorient, and scare ones enemy upon first contact.

¶9. (S) According to federal law enforcement reports from interviews with ex-members of the GRA, in addition the macabre attire, militia members were often given amulets and talismans that they were told made them impervious to bullets.

¶10. (C) What follows is a list of events in which GRA involvement is suspected:

- On June 4th of this year, the dead bodies of seven members of the Zambia Peace Council (ZPC) militia were found hog-tied in the middle of a street in downtown Mufulira. An ME report suggests they had been killed by boiling hot grease poured on their heads and faces.

- On August 11th, a group of men entered a casino in Chililabombwe and opened fire on its patrons and employees. Eighteen people died and fourteen were injured, including a local politician.

- Also in August, on the morning of the 23rd, two police officers were found hanging in an alley in Chingola. Their heads had been removed and replaced by those of canines. The officers’ heads have yet to be located.

- On September 14th, an IED was remotely detonated in a building purported to be a stash house for illegal smuggling. While no one was hurt, the building was completely destroyed.

- October 3rd, four members of the National Alliance Front (NAF) militia were found in a park in Nkana-Kitwe, large sections of their skin removed by what was assumed to be a hot knife. All but one were still alive when discovered by authorities.

COMMENT
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¶11. (C) Kennedy Mbesuma ranks an 8 on the US Terrorist Risk Assessment Scale (10 is highest, 1 is lowest),(Ref. 28776). While his main targets have been corrupt local law enforcement and criminal militias, his vigilante actions and religious focus has garnered large public support in spite of his violent methods. It is very plausible that Mbesuma will attempt to capture political positioning, either through office or (more likely) by force. If that occurs, he will be a very difficult person to influence in support of US interests. Moreover, it is highly possible he could adapt an anti-American agenda due to the history within the region.

¶12. (C) The recommendation of this office is to eliminate any possible future threat before the target becomes inaccessible. The suggested method for doing so is to directly infiltrate the GRA and utilize one of his followers, rather than involve outside agencies. While there is the possibility of a follower replacing Mbesuma, it is unlikely because of the militia’s structure. Mbesuma has presented himself as the ‘voice of God’. If he dies, God is mute. END COMMENT.

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