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Cablegate: Goma Notes - Masisi Under Threat?

VZCZCXRO8571
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1127 3521500
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171500Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8928
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS KINSHASA 001127

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS PHUM PREF KPKO CG
SUBJECT: GOMA NOTES - MASISI UNDER THREAT?

1. (SBU) Summary: MONUC has long suspected that the CNDP will make
another attempt to take Masisi, located along a strategic road that
controls access to the west and south. It has been reinforcing its
positions in the town, and established a model relationship with the
non-integrated 81st Brigade as well as local Mai Mai groups. MONUC
North Kivu Commander General Bipin Rawat escorted members of the
International Facilitation to Masisi on December 4 for a briefing on
the town's defenses. End summary.

2. (SBU) According to the INDBATT briefers in Masisi on December 4,
there have been no direct clashes between the CNDP and MONUC/FARDC
around Masisi since September, when a CNDP advance was stopped with
the help of MONUC helicopter gunships. The CNDP does not have a
reputation for invincibility in Masisi, but at the same time has
adapted its tactics, traveling at night and dispersing to counter
the effectiveness of helicopter attacks. The CNDP has probed the
outer defenses on almost every side, but has generally been
consolidating its forces by moving east.

3. (SBU) The September conflicts caused a new wave of IDP's to flee
to Masisi, and a mixed group of 35,000 Hunde, Nande and Hutu IDP's
coexist on the outskirts of town and with local residents. At least
four international NGO's evacuated their staff from Masisi, although
food distributions continue. The CNDP continues to skirmish with
PARECO to the southwest, while FDLR forces occupy rich mining areas
to the west.

4. (SBU) Using a diagram of the town to outline respective military
positions, General Rawat noted that MONUC-trained FARDC battalions
composed the inner ring of defenses, while MONUC protects vital
perimeter roads. Mud and rock slides following heavy rains often
shut down the Goma - Masisi road, despite UNOPS efforts to clear
them. The road to Walikale is also vulnerable as the primary supply
route for the FARDC (including police and army payroll). INDBATT
briefers referred to Mai Mai in the area as "negative forces," but
also noted they played an important defensive role by signaling CNDP
movements on the outskirts of town.

5. (SBU) MONUC and the FARDC conduct joint military and police
patrols in Masisi and appear to have developed a genuine mutual
respect. MONUC conducted its briefing with religious and civic
leaders, representatives of all forces, and IDP representatives.
INDBATT briefer called the 813 (under Major Andre) and the 811
battalions two of the best in the FARDC. He claimed that they had
not looted Masisi, and the population did not fear them.
Rawat said sustained leadership was the key; troops will not fight
when their commanders run or seek only personal gain. As a
non-integrated Brigade, he claimed the 81st has molded into an
experienced fighting force that has held its own against the CNDP on
more than one occasion.

6. (SBU) Comment: INDBATT may be adopting an overly optimistic
perspective, but on the surface, the pattern of cooperation,
communication, planning and inclusivity in Masisi is a model worth
replicating. There is no guarantee the FARDC will stand and fight,
especially if faced with superior force. However, it has learned
certain useful tactics from its association with MONUC in Masisi,
such as seeking solid defensible positions rather than simply
advancing as far as possible towards enemy lines. Masisi remains a
strategic target. It could offer the FARDC an opportunity to
partially redeem its dismal reputation as a fighting force. End
comment.

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