Cablegate: Goma Report September 30: North

DE RUEHKI #0818/01 2751606
O 011606Z OCT 08



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Report September 30: North
Kivu Commander Sees Weakened CNDP

1. (SVB) Summary: General Rawat told facilitation team September
30 that after a month of fighting, CNDP appeared to have weakened,
but there was still no likely military solution. Chief of army
staff Kayembe told him he was amenable to direct military talks
between CNDP and Etumba. EU rep Dumont said Etumba also did not
foresee a military solution but many hardliners were pushing for
one. EU Special Envoy van de Geer arrives Goma Saturday October 4,
without assurances Nkunda will receive him. End summary.

2. (SVB) As of late afternoon September 30 there had been no
renewed fighting during the day in North Kivu, according to North
Kivu brigade briefing. However, on the evening of September 29,
CNDP made an attack south of Tongo against FARDC forces now holding
that strategic town, which was captured by FARDC in recent days
after CNDP had withdrawn. FARDC warded off the CNDP probe, with two
CNDP and two FARDC killed. FARDC now has a battalion's strength in
Tongo (500-600 men, with two companies brought in from the east and
four from the north, but commanded by Col. Delphin Kahimibi, in
charge of the Rutshuru sector). In Ituri, the rebel group FPRI
(only sporadically active over the past year) attacked a FARDC
position at Tcheyi with a force of 500 men. These were driven back
by MONUC, which used two attack helicopters and fired 34 rockets,
but FPRI retook the FARDC position afterward. Meanwhile, MONUC
headquarters had to shut down for much of the day following a road
accident outside the headquarters, in which a MONUC military vehicle
hit a motorcycle taxi with resultant fatality. A large
stone-throwing crowd quickly gathered, led by angry motorcycle taxi

3. (SVB) North Kivu brigade commander Brigadier General Bipin Rawat
met the facilitation team in the late afternoon September 30 for an
in-depth assessment of the military situation after a month of
fighting. He said that CNDP appeared to have "weakened quite a bit,
and they know it." He judged that the FARDC's use of heavy weapons
at Sake and Rugari might have discouraged the CNDP, and a very
important factor was that FARDC had not consistently run away (for
example at Tongo), as had typically been the case in previous
military encounters. It was possible, he speculated, that CNDP was
suffering leadership difficulties. However, he did not believe that
FARDC would be able to defeat CNDP militarily. If FARDC knew how to
use its attack helicopters efficiently the story might be different,
he noted.

4. (SVB) Rawat said that he had earlier met FARDC Chief of Army
Staff General Kayembe, who was in a "bullish" mood (consistent with
his statements to the press that "CNDP is demoralized and
weakened"). He told Kayembe, on the basis of the meeting September
29 between deputy commander Col. Negi and CNDP officers near
Bunagana, that CNDP appeared willing to negotiate directly with the
government through the international facilitation, and he urged
Kayembe to seek such a meeting. (Note: The CNDP officers in fact
said that CNDP rejected military-to-military talks, but Rawat chose
to see CNDP's position in a more positive light.) Kayembe objected
to the CNDP demand that both sides withdraw to positions pre-August
28, saying that the focus should be on MONUC's proposed zones of

5. (SVB) Rawat said he emphasized to Kayembe that FARDC's numerous
ceasefire violations over the past two weeks (much more numerous and
severe than CNDP's) had greatly complicated the effort to promote
dialogue over the disengagement plan. FARDC's capture of Tongo was
a particularly serious breach and would be difficult to overcome.
Kayembe gave assurances that FARDC would withdraw from Tongo, but
only after CNDP fully withdrew from Kanombe within the Rutshuru
corridor. Rawat told him that CNDP appeared not only to have
re-withdrawn from Kanombe but also to have withdrawn from the
sensitive position of Himbi Heights above Rugari. Kayembe said that
he had given direct orders to all his commanders in North Kivu to
cease all attacks. (Note: Rawat stated that he had heard this
promise repeatedly from Kivus commander General Lukama, and it was
not clear how effective Kayembe's order would be, as the colonels in
charge of the concerned sectors appeared to have direct channels to
hard-line elements in Kinshasa. End note.)

6. (SVB) Rawat said that Kayembe, in the end, agreed that there
could be military-to-military talks with CNDP. He said that General
Didier Etumba (co-chairman of the Joint Technical Commission) would
be the appropriate person to conduct such talks. Etumba was now in
Kinshasa but would return to Goma in two days.

7. (SVB) Deputy Chief of Staff Col. Cunliffe remarked that, if such
talks went forward, Etumba could be the wrong person, as he tended
to harp on the Amani model, which was now anathema to CNDP. He
suggested that such talks would proceed more positively under either
General Mayala or General Lukama, both of whom had a better grasp of

KINSHASA 00000818 002 OF 002

military realities on the ground.

8. (SVB) EU representative Jean-Michel Dumont revealed that he had
had a conversation with Etumba the previous day, in which Etumba
stated that he did not believe a military solution was possible
against CNDP. Etumba regretted that there were many hard-liners,
both in North Kivu and Kinshasa, who believed now was the moment to
go after CNDP militarily. Etumba said that, as for himself, he
understood the need to continue to seek dialogue with CNDP and make
some concessions. Dumont concluded that Etumba might, indeed, be
the best person to conduct such talks.

9. (SVB) Dumont said that European Union Special Envoy Roeland van
de Geer would return to Goma on Saturday October 4. He would seek
an early opportunity to speak to Rawat and to Etumba, and he would
hope to see Nkunda. Dumont saw Nkunda's letter of September 23 to
SRSG Doss as possibly less rigid than most of the recent CNDP
pronouncements, although it was by no means clear that Nkunda would
receive van de Geer. Rawat welcomed van de Geer's arrival as
excellently timed.

10. (SVB) Rawat noted that the following day, October 1, MONUC
would be accompanying a FARDC "strong patrol," with MONUC/DDRRR
presence, into northern North Kivu to apprehend FDLR elements. The
FARDC unit, he said, would come from Sake. He hoped this effort
would be useful in sending a signal to CNDP that MONUC and FARDC
continued to be serious intheir anti-FDLR campaign.


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