Cablegate: Ofda Rep Visit to Baraka and Fizi

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958; NA


1. (U) OFDA Rep Victor Bushamuka visited Baraka and
Fizi, South Kivu province from May 18 to 20 to
evaluate the security and humanitarian situations
in that part of South Kivu Province. The area was
found to be highly militarized, the situation
still remains somewhat tense, and the population
still fears a renewal of hostilities. Authorities
estimate that only 30% of the Fizi pre-war
population, and 60% of Baraka population, have yet
returned. For logistic and security reasons,
UNHCR does not plan to assist in the return of
refugees to this area until 2005. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- --
Military Control and Security between Uvira and

2. (U) Traveling from Uvira to Baraka on May 18, OFDA
Rep Victor Bushamuka observed many heavily armed
troops deployed along the road, and felt that the
general climate was more of continuing hostilities
rather than peace. Ex-RCD/G army and Mai-Mai
forces control different villages along this road.
The villages on the Uvira-Lweba stretch, about 60
km long, are generally under Mai-Mai control.
However, within this area, key villages having
road access to the high plateau are all controlled
by ex-RCD soldiers. The remaining section of the
road, running about 30km from Lweba to Baraka, is
exclusively under the control of ex-RCD troops.
When OFDA Rep traveled, there were multiple check
points along the road where "taxes" were extorted
from commercial vehicle operators and bicycle
traders. Although, well-marked humanitarian
vehicles are not taxed, humanitarians are
nevertheless obliged to stop at these check
points. It was claimed by some of OFDA Rep's
fellow travelers that though they constituted
harassment of civilians by military, the
establishment of these revenue-collection posts
had actually resulted in a reduction in the
soldiers' supplying themselves via other means
such as pillaging and hostage-ransom schemes.

Baraka and Fizi under separate control

3. (U) Before the war, Baraka was under Fizi's
administrative authority. However, during the
war, Baraka and Fizi came to be controlled by
different factions, which led to the establishment
of two administrations-an RCD/G-appointed one in
Baraka and a Kinshasa-appointed one in Fizi.
These continue to the present day, with Mutambala
Bridge, situated at about 10 km south of Baraka,
separating the RCD-controlled Baraka area from the
Mai-Mai controlled Fizi area. (Note: The first
village after Mutambala Bridge also used to be the
main resistance base of the Burundian rebel group
FDD (Front de Defense de la Democratie), which has
now left that area. The Mai-Mai is well implanted
in Fizi, and is known to be fiercely opposed to
any Rwandan presence/influence in eastern DRC,
including all RCD/G elements.

4. (U) Though the FARDC hierarchy has reportedly
sent a commander to unify the military in Baraka
and Fizi, military administration remains as
separate as the civil administration. The forces
on the ground continue to take orders from the
same leaders they did during the war and remain
extremely distrustful of one another. All
vehicles traveling from Baraka to Fizi, including
those of humanitarians, are thoroughly searched
before being allowed to enter Mai-Mai areas. The
Territorial Administrator of Fizi even prevented
his people from collecting seeds and tools offered
by the USAID/OFDA partner Action Against Hunger
(AAH)-USA last season simply because the
distribution was being conducted from an RCD/G-
controlled area and was therefore to be considered
suspect. Thus not only does the situation present
a security concern, but also further complicates
the implementation of humanitarian activities in
the territory.

5. (U) There are no check points in Fizi, except at
the entrance of the town. However, anywhere in Mai-
Mai territory, vehicles can be stopped and
searched by soldiers at any moment. In Fizi, where
the system of military taxing vehicles does not
yet exist, the inhabitants indicated that they
often have to share their meager food supplies
with soldiers.

6. (U) Control of Fizi Territory itself is divided
between two major warlords. Mai-Mai chief Dunia
controls Fizi town and the peninsula of Ubwari,
while Colonel Masunzu, a Congolese Tutsi
commanding some strongly anti-Rwanda Banyamulenge
forces, reigns over the high plateau area from his
headquarters in the village of Minembwe. Any
movement activity in either of these areas must
first be approved by these commanders.

7. (U) Humanitarian actors with whom OFDA Rep spoke
felt that the establishment of the transitional
government in Kinshasa had indeed resulted in
somewhat improved security for the populations of
Baraka and Fizi, but noted that the continued
presence of so many armed groups responding to
different control hierarchies nevertheless leaves
the area very susceptible to renewed conflict.

IDPs and Refugees

8. (U) On the road from Uvira to Baraka, the OFDA Rep
saw many empty houses and many fully or partially
destroyed villages. There were, however, also
many houses under construction, suggesting that
people are indeed gradually returning to the area.
According to the administrator of Baraka, about
60% of the population has returned.

9. (U) The situation on the Baraka-Fizi axis was very
different. Here almost all the villages were
completely destroyed and they remain covered with
tall grass. The road itself is overgrown by grass
and bush. Only a few recent returnees were
observed trying to clear the grass around the
remains of their houses. In Fizi, the
administrator estimated that the territory has
regained only about 30% of its population of the
pre-war period.

10. (U) According to the UNHCR estimates, about
150,000 of the refugees who are in camps in
Tanzania are from the territory of Fizi, with
100,000 of these believed to be from Fizi and the
remaining 50,000 from the villages on the axis
from Makobola to Baraka. Recent returnees
reported that food rations were being reduced in
the camps, leading more refugees to consider a
return to DRC. Many refugees have reportedly
stated, however, that they would prefer to wait
until July or August to make the move, so as to
permit their children to complete the school year
in Tanzania. The recent security problems in
Bukavu and Kamanyola may, of course, make refugees
less willing to return to DRC than they were a
month ago.

11. (U) A joint UN humanitarian mission was recently
conducted in Baraka and Fizi to evaluate the
possibility of UNHCR assisting refugees returning
to Fizi and Baraka from Tanzania. It was concluded
that while Baraka is relatively stable, Fizi is
still highly insecure and that security issues
would need to be addressed before serious
humanitarian intervention could be undertaken. In
addition, UNHCR will not be able to make full use
of the port of Baraka unless it undergoes serious
renovation nor deliver supplies to Fizi until the
Baraka-Fizi road, and most particularly Mutambala
Bridge, is repaired. UNHCR is thus currently not
planning to assist refugees to return until 2005.

12. (U) Fizi residents felt that most people who had
taken refuge in the forest during the war, rather
than fleeing to Tanzania, have already returned.
While visiting returnee families, it was OFDA
Rep's impression that many of those who had come
from the forest were in relatively poor health and
manifesting clear signs of malnutrition, whereas
those that had been in refugee camps in Tanzania
seemed considerably better off.

Humanitarian Assistance in Baraka-Fizi

13. (U) Though humanitarians have become more active
in Fizi Territory over the past year, most
activities have, until recently, been concentrated
only in and around Baraka. AAH-USA has been
implementing an OFDA funded food security program
in which seeds, tools, and fishing equipment have
been distributed to IDPs and returnees. With ECHO
funding, AAH-USA also runs a nutrition program
with several feeding centers located on the Uvira-
Baraka axis. Also in Baraka, Aide Medicale
Internationale(AMI) and MSF-Spain have been
providing basic health care assistance to IDPs and

14. (U) Due to insecurity and logistic constraints,
Fizi was inaccessible to humanitarian activities
until December 2003. AAH has started, under the
OFDA-funded food security project, assisting the
population of Fizi with the rehabilitation of fish
ponds. Seeds and tools distribution for IDPs and
returnees of Fizi is planned for September 2004.
AMI had its first distribution of medicines to
selected health clinics in Fizi in May, 2004. In
addition, AMI is currently looking for funds to
rehabilitate some key village clinics in rural
Fizi that were destroyed during the war. The MSF-
Spain staff in Baraka indicated to OFDA Rep that
they are not yet active in Fizi, but plan to
provide basic assistance to the Fizi main hospital
later this year. HOOKS.

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