Cablegate: Goma Situation Report for January 1, 2008

DE RUEHKI #0002/01 0021408
P 021408Z JAN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma situation report for January 1, 2008

Note: The following report was provided by Embassy Kinshasa's
political officer in Goma. End note.

Observations on the "Petit-Nord"

1. (SBU) One Indian battalion of about 300 men is responsible for
Masisi and Walikale Territories in the "Petit Nord" area of North
Kivu. This area is about 31,000 square kilometers of terrain
(roughly three times larger than Kosovo, with a comparable
population density), most of which is mountainous with few roads
trafficable to anything but the most capable off-road vehicles. In
comparison, the initial Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) deployed
with 50,000 troops and now, over eight years later, maintains a
force level of 16,000 troops. In comparison with KFOR, this
battalion is 1/150th the current size of KFOR when adjusted for
number of peacekeepers per square kilometer. Given the vast and
challenging terrain, at least a division-sized element (roughly nine
times the size of the current element) would be more suited to
securing the terrain and mastery of the situation.

2. (SBU) Present Partisan Positions in Masisi territory:

-- 14th Integrated Brigade (IB) has withdrawn to Kalonge,
South Kivu.
-- 15th IB is reportedly headquartered at Nyanzale.
-- 7th Brigade has responsibility for the area south of
Sake along the road to Kitumbili, but its control is
weak near Sake and rebels (probably Mai-Mai) have
launched raids against civilian vehicles traveling along
the road in recent days.
-- 81st Brigade (minus one battalion) is at Mugunga (5kms.
east of Goma) and in Goma.
-- 82nd Brigade, controls the Goma-Sake road, as well as
the city of Sake. This brigade has been commanded since
the year 2000 by Col Jonas Padiri, and is one of the few
FARDC units that has performed well in battle. The 82nd
Brigade has not been through the formal "brassage"
process, but boasts that it has a high proportion of
troops from all over the country. Colonel Padiri, a
former Kadogo (Tutsi child-soldier) crossed into Congo
with his Commander, Laurent Kabila, on August 2, 1996.
-- Cobra Brigade (Mai-Mai) currently occupy commanding
terrain south of Sake, controlling the road to Minova,
South Kivu. This unit continues to conduct small-scale,
poorly planned attacks against CNDP troops vicinity
Gingwe, Kirotshe, and Rubaya in an effort to garner
favor with the 8th Military Region Commander prior to
the upcoming National Peace Conference.
-- A new group exists that is being called the "deserters
faction" situated roughly 20kms. west of Masisi. The
group is composed of disaffected elements of various
groups, including Hutu and Tutsi and its primary
objective is defense of their own homes and families.
In this sense it is similar in origin to the Mai-Mai,
but otherwise unrelated.
-- Nkunda has regained all former positions, but may be
overextended, though his forces are no longer short of
ammunition due to recently captured stocks from the
FARDC. Once source estimates that the CNDP can now
sustain for fourteen days of continuous fighting without
external resupply.
-- Nkunda has five brigades and an unknown number of
battalions, each with a strength of about 300-400
personnel, for a total estimated strength of 3,000-4,000
troops. He also has a cadre of trainers who are
currently conducting battalion-level training.

Sake today

3. (SBU) Sake is a strategic piece of real estate. It is the
gateway to Masisi and Walikale to the West, Kitchanga to the south,
Minova to the south, and Goma to the east. The town itself lies on
a plain but is surrounded to the north, west, and south by steep,
volcanic mountains that provide commanding views of the eastern
avenue of approach. Today, the city is bustling with activity, a
change from two weeks ago when the city's inhabitants deserted it
for nearby IDP camps in light of heavy fighting between the National
Commission for the People's Defense (Nkunda's pro-Tutsi movement,
known by its French acronym CNDP) and the FARDC. Farmers,
villagers, and cell-tower maintenance personnel travel freely up and
down the fertile, black volcanic soil of the mountain held by
Nkunda's troops. In town, market vendors and civilians go about
their daily business and individual soldiers are visible throughout
the city with their weapons slung in a relaxed manner.

KINSHASA 00000002 002 OF 002

4. (SBU) Just several hundred meters north of the city center,
beyond two MONUC outposts, is a CNDP checkpoint manned by four
Nkundists. There is no demarcation, barbed wire, or even a rock in
the road to indicate that one has arrived at the gateway to rebel
held territory; just a tacit understanding between both sides that
this point marks the beginning of Nkunda-held territory.
Additionally, the CNDP also holds the most commanding terrain in the
area, the so-called Celtel ridgeline (named for the higher of the
two commercial cell-towers on the hilltop; the other antenna is
owned by Vodacom). Operationally speaking, Nkunda is the clear
winner here. He owns the most important high ground and has
unopposed control of the northern approach in/out of the town. It
would be very easy for him to consolidate his gains and advance into
the city center, but instead he has chosen to hold his ground and
order a ceasefire; likely in part due to the MONUC presence, and in
part due to the upcoming peace conference.

5. (SBU) The following is a list demands by Nkunda as relayed to
Goma officer by a third party:

-- All Tutsi refugees in Rwanda must be returned to DRC and
settled in their places of origin.
-- The FDLR must be disarmed and repatriated since the
Tutsi population in the DRC is threatened by their
-- All CNDP military soldiers must be integrated into the
FARDC without prejudice.

6. (SBU) Following is a summary of Nkunda's strategy as relayed to
Goma officer by a third party:

-- Wait and see how the peace talks will unfold. Nkunda is
using the current de facto cease fire to pull portions
of his troops off the front lines in order to conduct
battalion-level training, one to two battalions at a
time. He expects that regardless of the outward results
of the peace process he will be attacked in 3-4 months.
-- Some sources report that Nkunda is actively recruiting
in order to boost his strength.
-- Some tribal chiefs have requested to enter into talks
directly with Nkunda rather than participate in the
upcoming peace conference.

Unanswered questions and dilemmas for the DRC

7. (SBU) Sources also summarized to Goma officer many of the
dilemmas the GDRC faces as it prepares for the offensives it has
committed to under the Nairobi communique:

-- Since Nkunda has not yet been marginalized, will the
FARDC be ready to launch attacks against the LRA at the
end of January, followed by a March offensive against
the FDLR?
-- Will the government be able to tame the loose Mai-Mai
groups that have gained strength in both numbers and
weapons in light of the recent FARDC rout?
-- Who does the GDRC owe, and how much, for the 11 armored
vehicles and artillery that came in support of the
recent offensive? Finally, Will the FARDC's marriage of
convenience with the FDLR and Mai-Mai prevent the
government from taking action against them?

Final notes

8. (SBU) Located 20 kms. west of Goma, Sake has no electricity even
though a major high tension line (mast about 50 meters high with
four wires) runs past Sake coming from the Ruzizi hydroelectric dam
in South Kivu on its way to Goma. A major utility construction
project is underway to give Sake electricity. The new line
surprisingly parallels the incoming Ruzizi line most of the way from
Goma to Sake. The line consists of 15 meter-high, lattice-frame
masts on a concrete base, about 150 meters apart, running the length
of Goma to Sake (about 20 kms.). The completed masts support three
wires resting on glass insulators.

9. (SBU) There is a new Islamic school, the "Institut Bihara"
located 5 kms. west of Goma city center. The school is located on a
plot of land that is approximately 5 acres and has new buildings
housing 20 classrooms with space for several hundred students.


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