Cablegate: Goma Notes October 15: Possible Fardc Withdrawal From

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1. (SBU) Summary: Goma Poloff met with FARDC General Lukama October
15 to receive his assessment of the situation in North Kivu. Lukama
confirmed that going after the FDLR was a second-order priority for
the FARDC compared to fighting the CNDP. He noted that his greatest
challenge was his units' low morale. He also lamented the
excessively fast pace of MONUC's proposed disengagement plan. At
the October 15 Chiefs of Defense Tripartite Plus meeting, which
Rwanda and Burundi did not attend, General Kayembe announced his
decision to withdraw FARDC force from Tongo, a town some 22
kilometers into CNDP territory (pre-August). MONUC reported that
fighting had resumed today in Ntamagenga, but that Nkunda was
possibly making overtures for a general ceasefire and bilateral
discussions with the GDRC either in a neutral North Kivu area or
outside the country. MONUC also reported that some of its military
observers had a chance encounter with Nkunda, who criticized an
alleged lack of neutrality on the part of MONUC and who stated that
some retired Rwandan military officers had joined his ranks. End

Discussion with General Lukama

2. (SBU) On October 15, Goma Poloff had a conversation with FARDC
Major General Lukama to get his analysis of the situation in North
Kivu. Lukama lamented the fact that people seemed to think he
wanted war when in fact he did not. He had initially been sent to
the Kivus to command the current 10 FARDC battalions that are part
of the joint FARDC-MONUC Operation Kimia against the FDLR. He has
since been appointed commander of all FARDC operations against the
CNDP. This of course included the Kimia battalions. Lukama
conceded that the CNDP was FARDC's first priority, then eventually
the FDLR. (Note: MONUC military and Poloff find Lukama
approachable and relatively open. It is widely believed that he
does not seem to wield any significant power within the FARDC. End
3. (SBU) When asked about who is really giving orders in North
Kivu, Lukama admitted that there are plenty of times when orders go
around him from Kinshasa directly to the brigade commanders on the
ground. However, he stressed he was not entirely out of the loop.
In any case, the real challenge for him was trying to execute some
sort of disengagement plan on multiple fronts. He compared the
situation to a horse race in which some horses gallop and others
trot - the goal is always to reach the finish, but the pace is
different. Similarly, certain areas in North Kivu were ready for
establishing zones of separation, but it was impossible to stick to
the intense timeline created by MONUC that called for disengagement
across all fronts within a few weeks and sometimes days.
4. (SBU) Lukama warned that public perception of MONUC was a
genuine concern, as this can impede MONUC movement and even present
a serious danger for MONUC soldiers, as it has in the past. He
admitted some of the local demonstrations were the work of agitators
with an agenda, though he did not specifically say who the agitators
were. It was not inconceivable, however, that at some point public
opinion could turn against MONUC to the extent that ill-informed or
disgruntled FARDC soldiers might feel emboldened enough to open fire
on MONUC. Lukama also expressed concern about the morale of his
soldiers, particularly when they were asked to withdraw from areas
they had fought hard to gain. It would be difficult in the future
to expect them to conduct any offensive operations because they
would understand that, ultimately, they would have to give up what
they had achieved.
5. (SBU) Lukama said he continued to be willing to meet with Nkunda
or any lower-level CNDP cadre. In the meantime, it would be
important for MONUC and the international facilitation to understand
that things take time in the DRC. It would be better to have a
ceasefire, which is respected for one-two months, before pushing for
disengagement and zones of separation. He said he wanted to
establish better communication with MONUC, noting that he had not
been informed of the results of a recent three-day joint FARDC-MONUC
operation around the town of Mpofi (Walikale territory) that was
carried out last week (reftel).
Tripartite Plus Chiefs of Defense Meeting
6. (SBU) Directly following the discussion with Lukama, Poloff
attended the Tripartite Plus meeting along with Embassy Kinshasa
DATT. The meeting turned out to be a bilateral event as the
Rwandans and Burundians did not attend -- the former citing security
concerns in Goma and the latter stating that their head of
delegation was too busy. The Ugandan Government was represented by
the Ugandan chief of intelligence. The GDRC was represented by
FARDC Chief of Defense General Kayembe; Generals Etumba, Lukama, and
Mayala were also present. MONUC was represented by the new Force

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Commander, Spanish Lieutenant General Diaz; the North Kivu Brigade
Commander, Indian Brigadier General Rawat; and the Deputy Chief of
Staff for the Force Headquarters (Forward), British Colonel
7. (SBU) After opening remarks, Kayembe called for a ten-minute
break during which the Ugandan and Congolese delegations could
privately share intelligence information. The rest of the meeting
did not relate directly to traditional Tripartite issues, but rather
dealt with the status of MONUC's disengagement plan for North Kivu.
More precisely, the discussion focused on a proposed withdrawal of
FARDC soldiers from the town of Tongo in Rutshuru territory. All
sides agree that Tongo was well within CNDP territory prior to the
renewal of hostilities on August 28. FARDC's presence there since
late September has been a major CNDP complaint.
8. (SBU) Kayembe claimed that Tongo was only tactically important,
if the FARDC intended to continue an advance further into CNDP
territory, which it did not. He said the main objective of the
FARDC was to protect Goma for which holding onto Tongo would not be
necessary. Therefore, a withdrawal was definitely a possibility, if
MONUC could guarantee certain assurances and modalities. Kayembe
then asked both Generals Etumba and Lukama to give their viewpoints
on the political and military aspects of a FARDC withdrawal from
Tongo. Etumba said that a withdrawal should be managed carefully on
a political level, as local officials would likely try to interfere
or lay blame somewhere. The governor would have to be given precise
talking points on how to announce the initiative. MONUC would also
have to fill in the gap at Tongo once the FARDC left. He added that
the withdrawal should be no more than three kilometers.
9. (SBU) Lukama agreed that holding Tongo was not necessary and an
order to withdraw could be executed in six hours. However, he had
three major concerns. First, a FARDC withdrawal could cause the
town's population to evacuate, fearing a CNDP return. This could
have humanitarian consequences. Second, simply pulling back
unilaterally from Tongo might be seen by other soldiers as a
military defeat and could cause a significant morale problem, which
might even lead to the collapse of FARDC frontlines across North
Kivu. Third, he recalled that when Mushake fell to the CNDP, as
well as when the 7th Integrated Brigade evacuated Nyanzale to the
CNDP, there was political fallout. Soldiers and civilians alike
spoke out strongly against their political and military leaders for
having sold out to the CNDP. The result would be that soldiers
might not follow such orders in the future.
10. (SBU) Kayembe stated that not everything was attainable, and
that tough choices would have to be made. For now, timing the FARDC
withdrawal with MONUC's security measures would be essential. The
governor should be encouraged to issue a statement, which would
clearly portray the withdrawal as a FARDC decision, not a MONUC
order. Responding to General Diaz' comment that the FARDC should
pull back 22 kilometers from Tongo, not three, Kayembe assured him
that the three kilometers were only an initial step to a more
comprehensive withdrawal. The next step would be for Generals
Mayala and Rawat to discuss the modalities of the withdrawal.
Meeting with New Force Commander
11. (SBU) Several hours following the Tripartite meeting, members
of the international facilitation met briefly with incoming Force
Commander General Diaz. His initial impressions after two weeks on
the ground were that MONUC was in a tough position vis-a-vis the
civilian population; that they were losing the media war; and that
military units were being stretched very thin. MONUC's primary
mandate remained protecting the civilian population and ensuring
freedom of movement, but MONUC's broad deployment meant there were
no reserves available to effectively conduct other missions, such as
those targeting the FDLR. These operations would thus remain
limited in frequency and scope. Meanwhile, he had recently spoken
with SRSG Alan Doss, who had instructed him to encourage bilateral
discussions between FARDC and Nkunda on military matters.
Meanwhile, MONUC would continue to apply pressure on armed groups.
Military Update and MONUC Military Visit with Nkunda
--------------------------------------------- -------
12. (SBU) At the October 15 military briefing, MONUC reported that
North Kivu Governor Paluku had just announced on Radio Okapi that
the FARDC would be pulling out of Tongo soon. Earlier in the day,
however, the FARDC had in fact engaged the CNDP around Ntamagenga.
Fighting was still ongoing during the Tripartite meeting with
General Kayembe, during which the FARDC seemed to be making a
significant gesture for peace. (Note: While on break at the
morning Tripartite meeting, Poloff observed General Lukama using a
hand-drawn sketch to give tactical instructions to General Mayala,
who then left the room and did not return. Key phrases that were
overheard were "Ntamagenga," "Colonel Delphin," and "move here to
secure the village." End note.)
13. (SBU) MONUC reported that military observers had run into
Nkunda while on patrol and had been invited to meet with him.

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Nkunda welcomed them to approach him at any time to verify any
information they needed. He then went on to make the usual
complaints about FARDC-FDLR collaboration and stated that FDLR
disarmament would be a necessary precondition to any such move by
the CNDP. He complained that the Amani Process was stagnant. He
pointed out that he had released FARDC soldiers, while the FARDC had
not reciprocated. He recommended three actions to advance the peace
process: MONUC should be truly neutral and not simply support FARDC,
which is in fact supporting the FDLR; MONUC should secure a neutral
place for negotiations either in a buffer zone or outside the
country; and MONUC should ask the GDRC to announce a ceasefire at
which point the CNDP would do likewise. Nkunda claimed that
President Kabila "could use a man like himself" to run the DRC's
security affairs. He lamented the exploitation of the DRC's
resources by countries like Uganda and Angola, as well as by the
United States (uranium in Katanga). Finally, Nkunda admitted that
there were sometimes Rwandans in his areas of control, but that
these were friends who had retired from the Rwandan Defense Forces
and had come to support him.
14. (SBU) As of the evening of October 15 there had been no sign of
a FARDC withdrawal from Tongo despite the Governor's announcement.
Lukama noted during a private discussion that the FARDC battalion
commander in Tongo was actually from Tongo and that his parents
still lived there. He certainly would have no interest in returning
Tongo to the CNDP. The commander supposedly told General Lukama
that, if ordered to withdraw from the town, he would instead move
his men to Kirolirwe to attack Nkunda himself. At the same time, it
is unclear whether General Kayembe is fully capable of carrying out
an order to withdraw from Tongo. Some in MONUC view him as being
outside the President's inner circle, which also excludes Lukama and
Mayala, but which includes Etumba, generally considered to be a
hardliner. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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