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Cablegate: Kinshasa Sitrep 3: Fighting Ongoing, Bemba Takes

VZCZCXRO3458
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0353/01 0821002
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231002Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5851
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000353

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC KPKO MOPS CASC CG
SUBJECT: KINSHASA SITREP 3: FIGHTING ONGOING, BEMBA TAKES
REFUGE IN SOUTH AFRICAN AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE

REF: KINSHASA 352 AND PREVIOUS

1. (U) Sounds of automatic weapons and mortar fire have been
heard off-and-on beginning around 4:30 a.m. March 23 in the
central Gombe district of Kinshasa. Fighting between elements
of the Congolese military forces loyal to President Kabila
and Bemba's guard forces had temporarily quieted somewhat
overnight but shots near the Embassy compound were heard
before dawn. Heavy smoke was seen rising from several points
in the Gombe area, including a fuel storage tank at a port
facility not far from the Chancery.

2. (SBU) Post EAC convened at 7:00 a.m. The committee
unanimously decided several tripwires concerning drawdown and
departure had been crossed. RSO will report these in a
separate email to Diplomatic Security. Post is advising all
previously scheduled official visits to the DRC be canceled
until further notice. The EAC is scheduled to meet again at
11:30 a.m.

3. (U) Post continues to advise Embassy personnel and AmCits
to remain in their present locations. There are no reports of
AmCit casualties from the fighting. Several AmCits remain in
office buildings throughout the Gombe area where they spent
the night. Approximately 120 Embassy personnel, including
local staff, remained overnight at the Chancery, JAO complex
and USAID offices.

4. (U) Post has received additional reports of stores looted
in Gombe along the main Boulevard de 30 Juin. Businesses
throughout Gombe remain closed. There is no traffic or public
transportation on the main roads. There are scattered reports
of isolated looting in areas immediately outside of the Gombe
district, but there have been no reports of fighting
elsewhere in Kinshasa or in other parts of the country.

5. (SBU) South African embassy officials confirm Bemba took
refuge in their Ambassador's residence along the Congo River
the evening of March 22. They said he was still there the
morning of March 23 but that he has not sought asylum. MONUC
and South African officials said they are working on
providing as escort for Bemba from the residence to another
location.

6. (U) Information Minister Toussaint Tshilombo announced the
morning of March 23 that Bemba is guilty of treason and will
be brought to justice along with his accomplices. He said
that Bemba has taken the country hostage and, despite his
status as a senator, he does not benefit from any special
privileges. Tshilombo said security forces have been
instructed to bring Bemba before the High Court of Justice.

7. (SBU) SRSG William Swing said earlier today Bemba had
apparently agreed to move his guard forces and personnel from
his former official residence along Boulevard de 30 Juin to
his private riverside residence. MONUC reported that this
compound has been under fire from the FARDC throughout the
morning but that MONUC is beginning to reinforce its
positions there. MONUC military officials told us some of
Bemba's guards, along with their families, have been spotted
leaving the 30 Juin compound, but they were not moving
towards the riverside location. MONUC military officials
report some elements from Bemba's guard have surrendered to
MONUC peacekeepers.

8. (SBU) Johan Peleman of MONUC's Joint Mission Analysis
Center told us March 23 two companies of MONUC peacekeepers
are expected to arrive in Kinshasa this morning from
Bas-Congo province. He said MONUC will attempt to regain
control of 30 Juin and establish freedom of movement along
the route. Peleman added that MONUC peacekeepers have not
engaged either the FARDC or Bemba's guards.

9. (SBU) The Nigerian Ambassador, whose residence is located
in the area of heaviest fighting, was wounded by gunfire the
night of March 22. MONUC evacuated him to a local hospital
where he is recovering. SRSG Swing said the Nigerian's
injuries were serious but not life-threatening.

10. (U) Contrary to earlier reports, the Air France flight
that landed March 22 departed the same evening. There is an
Air France plane on the ground, but this is apparently due to
mechanical problems from an earlier flight. South African
Airways and SN Brussels have both canceled their regularly
scheduled flights into Kinshasa for March 23.

KINSHASA 00000353 002 OF 002


MEECE

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