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Cablegate: Rutshuru Incident Exaggerated, but North Kivu Tensions

VZCZCXRO5426
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1305/01 3301333
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261333Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7154
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001305

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM KPKO CG
SUBJECT: Rutshuru incident exaggerated, but North Kivu tensions
remain high


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

Note: Following report was submitted by Political Counselor David
Brown, currently on TDY in Goma.
End note.

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary. Initial reports of FARDC-CNDP combat in the
North Kivu town of Rutshuru November 21 exaggerated the scale and
the impact of the fighting. Claims by both sides that CNDP forces
had occupied the town were false. Eyewitness reports confirm
pro-Nkunda fighters attacked a FARDC base there early in the
afternoon. Shooting ended soon afterward following successful
appeals by MONUC's Kiwanja base commander. Overheated reactions to
the incident illustrate the tensions pervasive in the southern half
of the province. End summary.

2. (SBU) A visiting assessment team, including representatives from
the U.S. and UK missions, was present at the MONUC base in Kiwanja
north of Rutshuru town north of Goma during a clash by FARDC and
CNDP forces in the town November 21. The team heard a loud
explosion at around 12:30 pm during a briefing by the base's
commanding officer, Lt. Col. R. Parmar. Parmar was informed by
telephone that an RPG round had fallen in the town and called an end
to the briefing. As MONUC troops deployed in defensive positions
around the camp, the team observed a stream of schoolchildren
rushing down the road from the high ground to the west. During the
next 60 minutes or so it heard individual bursts of automatic
weapons fire, but observed no signs of fighting or generalized
panic.

3. (SBU) Congolese officials were less restrained. MONUC-Goma head
of office Ulli Mwambulutuku told Goma OIC November 23 he had
received frantic calls from the North Kivu governor and provincial
assembly president appealing for MONUC to "do something." He noted
that neither had placed similar calls to North Kivu Regional
Military Commander General Vainqueur Mayala. The French political
counselor in Kinshasa and the Belgian consul in Bukavu reported
hysterical calls from the Rutshuru territorial administrator
claiming that CNDP forces had taken the town. Nkunda boasted to
both Mwambulutukulu and a gubernatorial counselor that his forces
had indeed taken the town, but were withdrawing to save the
population. The FARDC command in Goma triumphantly claimed it had
beaten back a CNDP assault on the town and killed 20 insurgents.

4. (SBU) In fact, residents had begun walking back to the town
along the same road they had fled by the time the assessment team
left under MONUC escort some 90 minutes after the initial explosion.
The situation in the center of town was much as it had been when
the team was interviewing IDPs there two hours earlier. The team
observed no signs of combat or CNDP troops.

5. (SBU) MONUC-Goma's chief intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Sandeep
Jaswal, told Goma OIC November 23 that CNDP fighters had attacked
the FARDC battalion headquarters in Rutshuru, and that FARDC troops
had returned fire. He said Parmar had succeeded in bringing the
shooting to an end and withdrawal by CNDP forces from the town
through telephone appeals to the respective commanders to cease
fighting in a populated area.

6. (SBU) Jane Coyne of Medecins Sans Frontieres, which operates the
town's only hospital, noted November 22 that the battalion
headquarters had formerly served the same function for the Bravo
mixed brigade and is located 200 yards from the hospital. She said
doctors there treated 32 gunshot victims there following the clash.
All but three were civilians, most of them lightly wounded but
including one fatality. An AP reporter who visited the town
November 25 told Goma OIC of seeing several bullet holes in the
headquarters building but little other obvious damage.

7. (SBU) The fighting in Rutshuru had been preceded by an early
morning clash to the south of the town. IDP's in Rutshuru, as well
as Parmar, had told the assessment team that a clash of limited
duration had taken place. Jaswal said this had been a FARDC attack
at Rumangabo in the CNDP-controlled enclave to the west of the
Goma-Rutshuru road near the border with Uganda. There were no
apparent signs of this clash when the traveled on the same road in
the late morning.

8. (SBU) Comment: FARDC and CNDP forces are currently probing and
testing the other side in limited engagements in the strategic
Goma-Rutshuru corridor. The atmosphere in the southern half of the
province continues to be tense, but the frantic reaction of
Congolese officials to the Rutshuru incident and attempts by both
sides to use it as propaganda are, unfortunately, barriers to a

KINSHASA 00001305 002 OF 002


better understanding of events here. End comment.

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