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Cablegate: Kinshasa Sitrep 5: Fighting Diminishes Into The

VZCZCXRO4402
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0356 0822118
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 232118Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5855
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 KINSHASA 000356

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC KPKO MOPS CG
SUBJECT: KINSHASA SITREP 5: FIGHTING DIMINISHES INTO THE
EVENING

REF: KINSHASA 355 AND PREVIOUS

1. (U) The sounds of gunfire around the Embassy compound in
the Gombe district of Kinshasa diminished into the evening of
March 23, as fighting has appeared to wind down between
elements of the Congolese military loyal to the government
and guard forces of Jean-Pierre Bemba. Occasional bursts of
automatic and small arms fire were heard in the distance as
the main area of fighting is reportedly concentrated two
miles southeast of Gombe in the vicinity of Ndolo airfield,
adjacent to the DRC Air Force's Kinshasa base.

2. (U) There are no reports of AmCit casualties from the
fighting. Nearly 120 Embassy personnel, including local
staff, will remain at the Chancery, JAO complex and USAID
offices for a second evening. Remaining AmCits stuck in
office buildings in the Gombe area are reportedly safe. Post
advised AmCits via the warden system earlier today to
standfast in their current positions. The EAC will convene
again at 6:30 a.m. March 24.

3. (U) RSO and DATT drove through the Gombe area west to the
American School around 5:00 p.m. to survey the security
situation. They reported the roads were nearly empty of
civilian traffic but saw several FARDC armored personnel
carriers in the streets. The Congolese military and
Republican Guard forces appeared to be in control of the main
Boulevard de 30 Juin and had established several positions
throughout Gombe. Many stores along the boulevard were looted
and both saw at least three bodies lying in the road.

4. (U) The GDRC has not released casualty figure and MONUC
military officials said they do not yet have a reliable
casualty count. Media reports quoting local hospital and
mortuary officials suggest nearly 60 people have been killed
since fighting began March 22, including 12 members of the
FARDC's 7th Integrated Brigade, 37 troops from the Republican
Guard, and 12 civilians. A number of Bemba's guard forces
have also undoubtedly been killed or wounded, but no
estimates are available.

5. (U) Bemba said in an interview with Dutch public radio
station VRT that he was a "victim" of a government attack. He
charged that Kabila wants to "physically eliminate" him and
"muzzle" the political opposition. While calling on the
population to remain calm, Bemba charged the Kabila
government preferred to use force rather than negotiate.

6. (SBU) Information Minister Toussaint Tshilombo told us the
evening of March 23 security forces may search certain
residences in the Gombe district March 24 that are suspected
of harboring weapons and troops. He indicated these searches
would not be conducted at residences of "peaceful" foreign
nationals. Presidential diplomatic adviser Andre Kapanga told
us searches would be restricted to the area around Bemba's
riverside residence and former official compound along 30
Juin.

7. (SBU) Bemba remains this evening at the residence of the
South African Ambassador. South African embassy officials
confirmed South African media reports that Local and
Provincial Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi plans to
arrive in Kinshasa from Pretoria March 24 to help negotiate a
ceasefire between Bemba and President Kabila. When asked
about Bemba's status or possible asylum, one South African
official said, "It's up to him."
MEECE

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