Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More



Cablegate: Recent Ofda Notes From Ituri

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) During a visit to Ituri from July 19 to July 24,
OFDA Reps noted improvements in security, both in Bunia
town and in rural areas. There remains concern however
that the situation remains inherently unstable given
that there is no political settlement in place and that
various militias remain extremely distrustful of one
another. No strong presence of the central
transitional government of Kinshasa can yet be felt in
Ituri, though Kinshasa has named and sent out a new
District Commissioner. The relative calm of recent
months has brought a dramatic improvement in
humanitarian access, which has in turn highlighted
problems in the relationship between MONUC and
humanitarian organizations. Though the overall number
of IDPs in Ituri is diminishing, little progress has
yet been made in reducing the size of the large IDP
camp near Bunia airport. END SUMMARY

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

2. (U) OFDA Reps Jay Nash and Ian MacNairn were in
Ituri from July 19 to July 24, where they visited
Kasenyi, Aru and Ariwara in addition to Bunia and met
with both humanitarian staff and militiamen.


3. (U) At the time of OFDA Rep Nash's last visit to
Bunia in mid May, the town was still experiencing
frequent shootings and armed robberies at night. In
July, security was reported to have improved
considerably. OFDA Reps were told by Bunia residents
that militiamen of various types could be seen walking
around with barely concealed weapons in peripheral
areas at night, but people nevertheless generally felt
that that town was much less dangerous than it had been
at any time over the past year.

4. (U) Though certainly partially attributable to
increased MONUC foot patrols at night in the town, the
improvement in security in Bunia is no doubt also due
to a general decrease in inter-ethnic tension resulting
from a decrease in incidents of inter-ethnic violence
in rural areas outside Bunia. During daytime hours,
the town continues to grow more cosmopolitan and
tolerant, with people of various ethnicity feeling
increasingly comfortable walking into neighborhoods
known to be dominated by members of one or another
ethnic group. Though people still largely stay close
to their "home" neighborhoods at night, these also are
slowly becoming less mono-ethnic. Somewhat
surprisingly, there are now some Hema families living
in Nyambi - the area south of MONUC headquarters that
has been nearly exclusively all non-Hema, non-Gegere
for the past year. Some Nande traders from North Kivu
have started reestablishing their businesses in Bunia,
and their trucks have begun arriving from Beni. Gold
trading has resumed, and there is again considerable
foot traffic between Bunia and Mongbwalu, where the
gold is mined. As people involved in the gold trade
must walk through the Gegere-dominated Mudzipela
northern part of Bunia as well as Lendu areas on the
way to Mongbwalu, this traffic itself is a sign of
increasing tolerance and decreasing tension.

5. (U) Outside Bunia, the trend in Ituri which started
in December of 2003 of rural areas settling into
distinct, but relatively peaceful "zones of control" -
all completely outside MONUC's influence - has
continued. With the exception of the Hema pockets of
Boga, Kasenyi, Tshomia and Sota, the area south of
Bunia is under Ngiti control, with many Bira (who have
no militia) also present. The "central" area just
north of Bunia is controlled by the Gegere-dominant
Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) militia. Between
the UPC area and Mahagi, and to the west of Bunia,
Lendu militias are in charge. From Mahagi northward,
Jerome Kakwavu's FAPC militia has authority. Though
(with the exception of Jerome's area), these zones are
generally less ethnically diverse than they were before
hostilities began in 1999, none are completely mono-
ethnic and during the daytime there is considerable
freedom of movement between zones for persons of
various ethnicity. Completely outside the framework of
various MONUC and Ituri Interim Administration peace
efforts, a number of communities of different ethnicity
have made their own "peace" arrangements in the
interest of reviving agricultural trade. Among
civilians, it is not uncommon to hear people of various
groups even state with confidence that "the ethnic war
is over."

6. (U) Though the relative calm has held for eight
months now, many observers in Bunia still feel that the
situation is inherently unstable and that in reality a
permanent solution for Ituri is no closer than it was a
year ago. Many suspect that the UPC of Thomas Lubanga,
at least, still has a political agenda which would
include minimally control of the city of Bunia, and
possibly much more. The only thing currently
preventing the UPC from attempting to make territorial
advances is believed to be the threat of a MONUC
response. Though "working arrangements" between
militias may exist, it would be a gross overstatement
to say that militiamen, or especially their leaders,
have come to trust each other and join in the popular
belief that the war may be over. In mid July, FAPC
and Lendu militiamen skirmished for a couple of weeks
in areas between Mahagi and Djugu, reportedly over
access to "taxes" on trade. In this case, MONUC was
able to successfully negotiate a ceasefire with the two
factions involved, and to prevent the conflict
spreading to larger contingents of the same militias
present in Mahagi itself. Flare ups of this sort
would, however, seem to be inevitable with so many
boundaries in place and so much at stake in terms of
trade revenue. Any minor incident could conceivably
spread quickly into a larger breakdown of order that
MONUC might find very difficult to control.

7. (U) The central fact remains that none of the
militia leaders are solidly implicated in any overall
new political order planned for Ituri. In the past
year, MONUC has failed entirely to arrange a political
settlement that could serve as the basis for a
scheduled dismantling of militias and separate
administrations, the reintegration of populations and
the return of central authority. The MONUC-supported
"Interim Administration" (IA) never succeeded in
gaining effective politico-administrative control of
any part of Ituri, including even the town of Bunia
itself. The IA has now been replaced by the
administration of Petronille Vaweka, the new District
Commissioner, appointed by the transitional government
in Kinshasa. Though generally respected as a
courageous and strong leader, Vaweka still has no
police or army with which to impose governmental
authority anywhere. The "Ituri Brigade" of the new,
integrated national army is just beginning to deploy to
Ituri, and at least part of this force is currently
occupied trying to contain territorial advances by
dissident general Laurent Nkunda operating out of the
Kalehe area in South Kivu.
8. (U) Though Iturians of all factions, as well as
MONUC officials, have been appealing loudly for greater
Kinshasa government involvement in Ituri since the
Ugandans left in May of 2003, observers more familiar
with the situation outside Ituri - i.e. with the
current state of the transitional government and the
degree of readiness of the new army - tend to be less
sure that a greater transitional government presence in
Ituri will automatically make for a huge improvement in
the overall situation, especially if the government is
not in a position to strongly support (with, for
example, timely payment of salaries) those that are
sent there. It is no doubt the case that in their
strong desire to see a return of Kinshasa to Ituri, the
Iturians are to some degree remembering a time when
Kinshasa was able to impose order in the region, and do
not fully realize to what extent today's central
government is significantly weaker than that of an
earlier Mobutu era.

Humanitarian access and relations between MONUC and the

9. (U) The relative calm that has come to Ituri has
also brought a dramatic improvement in terms of
humanitarian access, and with it something of a
strategy dilemma for humanitarian agencies. While the
humanitarians' credibility in the region can be said to
have gone up as a result of their persistent efforts to
reach and assist populations in need during the crisis,
MONUC's credibility, never particularly great, has
fallen through the floor, with MONUC now distrusted and
despised by all the Ituri militia groups. MONUC is
resented both because whenever it imposes its authority
it decreases the power of the militias, and because it
is perceived to have made many promises that have not
been kept, particularly with regard to the supplying of
food and other benefits to promised sites of

10. (U) On the other hand, the militias, eager to have
their populations obtain access to humanitarian
assistance and anxious to show the outside world that
they are not barbarians, but are instead capable of
providing order and security within the territories
they control, have grown more and more cooperative to
humanitarians. Humanitarians who make the effort to
disassociate themselves with MONUC and contact the
various militia leaders on their own to negotiate
access can now move around relatively securely nearly
anywhere in Ituri. In contrast, MONUC cannot safely go
more than a few kilometers outside Bunia town without
armed guards, and MONUC personnel tend to be coldly
received wherever they travel.

11. (U) Among the international NGOs present in Ituri,
German Agro Action (GAA) has so far gone the farthest
in exploiting the new opportunities to reach rural
populations. Using a well-developed network of
contacts, and establishing a transpartent relationship
of trust simultaneously with all the different militias
in the region, GAA can now travel pretty much anywhere
in Ituri where there is a road after making just a few
preliminary telephone calls. On various visits, OFDA
Rep has accompanied GAA staff to meet with leaders of
all the major militias, and in every instance the
leaders have complimented GAA on their initiative in
reaching their communities and communicated the same
message: other humanitarians are also more than
welcome as long as they remain neutral and apolitical,
and as long as they do not bring MONUC with them.

12. (U) MONUC has never enjoyed good relations with the
humanitarian agencies present in Ituri. The
humanitarians have long felt that MONUC, in addition to
being a weak and largely ineffective military force,
has generally manifested a poor intelligence capacity
and a poor understanding of the situation. As a
result, they feel that MONUC has frequently misread the
context on the ground, sometimes with catastrophic
consequences. MONUC personnel appear to the
humanitarians to exude arrogance and paternalism, and
the humanitarians feel that information they provide to
MONUC rarely receives the attention it deserves.

13. (U) The humanitarians also resent what they
perceive as an effort to make them all fall under
MONUC's overall authority. Though the humanitarians
readily acknowledge the necessity of the presence of a
large international force, and though all ultimately
have depended on MONUC for security whenever there has
been open fighting in Bunia, they are keenly aware of
the extent to which MONUC is disliked and distrusted by
all the armed groups controlling the rural areas of the
region, and would consequently like to maintain an
independent identity and disassociate themselves with
MONUC to the extent possible. As UNOCHA staff told
OFDA reps on this visit, "if you travel with MONUC, you
will not be well received." MONUC, however, puts
considerable pressure on all international
organizations not to go anywhere outside Bunia without
an armed MONUC escort. With the exception of GAA, none
of the INGOs have sufficiently large networks of
contacts, or are sufficiently self-confident, to be
willing to take responsibility for their own security
by refusing the MONUC escorts. (In the case of the UN
Agencies, refusal is probably not even an option, given
that the SRSG has authority not just over MONUC but
over the entire UN team in DRC.)

14. (U) An important aspect of the problem is that the
humanitarians see their mandate as quite distinct from
that of MONUC. It is clear that MONUC has been given a
political task in addition to its security function:
it is supposed to be bringing the armed groups in Ituri
together into a peace process. This inevitably means
using pressure at times to get the leaders of armed
groups to agree to things they may not necessarily want
to or like, and pressure always risks provoking the
disfavor of those who may feel that they are being
coerced. The humanitarians, on the other hand, see
their role as to remain apolitical and to provide
assistance to those suffering the consequences of the
conflict, regardless of the success or failure of
various political initiatives. To obtain and maintain
access to vulnerable populations, the humanitarians
feel that the militias must perceive them as being
completely neutral. This implies being viewed as
separate and different from MONUC, since the militiamen
often doubt MONUC's neutrality. Moreover, the
humanitarians are very aware that association with
highly unpopular MONUC might on any given day have
hugely undesirable consequences in terms of INGO
personnel safety.

15. (U) The difference in mandate does not appear to be
completely appreciated by MONUC. The MONUC
headquarters in Bunia has made it clear to the
humanitarians present in Ituri that it does not approve
of INGOs having independent relations with the armed
groups. According to the humanitarians, the MONUC
administration's view is that to successfully exert
influence over the armed groups, the international
community, including its humanitarian representatives,
must be strongly cohesive and must always present a
common front (with MONUC, it is assumed, setting the
course and leading the way). As these two perspectives
are largely incompatible, every INGO attempting to work
in Ituri finds itself frequently having to make
difficult choices as to how to manage the relationship.

16. (U) The question of INGO independence from MONUC
can be expected to get even more difficult to manage in
the near future as MONUC embarks on its joint
disarmament/reintegration program with PNUD. There has
already been at least one small crisis. USAID/OFDA and
GAA had agreed on a project to rehabilitate the Bogoro-
Aveba road as a food-security initiative long before
Aveba was selected by MONUC as a site for one of its
new planned militia disarmament-demobilization camps.
GAA had already discussed with the Ngiti communities
along the road how the project would proceed, using the
community-based approach that it found so successful on
the Bunia-Kasenyi road, when MONUC, in a hurry to have
the road fully operational so as to be able to readily
ship supplies down to its future demobilization camp
site, began pressuring GAA for a faster and more heavy-
machinery-dependent approach. Though some use of MONUC
heavy equipment assets had always been planned, GAA had
promised the communities to use local youth to do the
work wherever possible, thereby providing the
communities valuable employment opportunities. MONUC
now wanted to send their engineers and heavy equipment
down immediately, and worse, planned to send them with
an armed escort. As MONUC was in serious disfavor
with Ngiti groups at the time, having just arrested an
important Ngiti leader, GAA was extremely concerned
about appearances and the potential association of
their team with MONUC soldiers (whose behavior GAA
would not be able to control). In the end, GAA was
able to arrange that the MONUC road crew go without an
armed escort while simultaneously quelling Ngiti fears
of a MONUC invasion of their territory and a possible
abduction of another of their leaders. GAA is
nevertheless concerned that the road project has now
been irreversibly linked to in the minds of the Ngiti
to MONUC's disarmament program, which they fear may
eventually be viewed highly negatively by the


17. (U) The humanitarian community in both Bunia and in
Kinshasa continues to have deep reservations with
regard to the appropriateness and quality of the
disarmament/reintegration plan that MONUC and UNDP have
adopted for the Ituri region. In particular, they
question the wisdom of embarking on any type of militia
cantonment program before any viable political process
is in place and seen to be moving forward. They
especially question the validity of a cantonment plan
such as the present one in which MONUC will not be
guaranteeing security at the sites and where it is as
yet unclear that the transitional government is ready
to receive some of the militiamen as candidates for the
new army and transfer them out of Ituri. In addition,
there continues to be disagreement regarding whether
the militias are ready and willing to disarm. MONUC
and UNDP insist that they have commitments from the
armed groups. Most others remaining skeptical that
these commitments are sincere, given the lack of any
accepted political settlement to Ituri's problems and
communities' persisting fears that they could be attack
by their enemies. Finally, there is disagreement even
as to whether disarmament is an attainable and
reasonable goal in Ituri, given the proximity of the
district to abundant arms supplies in Sudan and Uganda.
Some would argue that the emphasis should rather be on
creating sufficient security and stability through a
new political order so as to make the arms unnecessary
and relatively valueless rather than on simply
implementing an arms reduction program.

18. (U) OFDA Rep's own conversations with militia
commanders tend to substantiate skepticism with regard
to the Ituri demobilization program. In a conversation
on this trip, FAPC commander General Jerome Kakwavu
told OFDA Rep that he did not feel that this
disarmament/demobilization process had anything to do
with his forces, since the FAPC considered itself part
of the transitional government and was only waiting for
the procedures to be put in place to confirm their
reintegration with the new national army. With the
exception of child soldiers, he did not see
demobilization as being in the cards and warned that
any attempt to forcefully disarm his men would be
resisted with force. In a meeting during a previous
trip, Commander Linganga, the second in charge of the
UPC command after Bosco, told OFDA Rep that they were
willing to negotiate reintegration with the national
army with the Kinshasa government, but would never
disarm to MONUC. In still other conversations,
Commanders Germain (leader of the Ngiti militia) and
Chief Kahwa (leader of the main Hema-South militia)
expressed continuing high levels of distrust of UPC,
suggesting they did not feel they were yet in a
position to be able to let down their defenses.

19. (U) The humanitarian community's reservations
regarding the proposed disarmament program have been
expressed repeatedly since November 2003 when the
document first surfaced, but appear to have had little
effect on the MONUC/UNDP plans. September 1 has now
been set as the opening date for the cantonment sites.
(Though MONUC has started work on preparing the actual
sites, few observers think that these will in fact be
ready in the time frame specified and thus expect that
the date will have to be pushed packed yet again). At
this point, the humanitarian community has given up
resistance and is just hoping that the program will not
be the large-scale fiasco that many are afraid it could
be. Few think that the program has much chance of
success in doing anything to defuse the long-term
threat of violence in Ituri. Many think it has the
potential to create new problems as MONUC will
inevitably be unable to meet all the militiamen's
expectations of the program.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

20. (U) The IDP situation has greatly improved in
Ituri, with more and more people able to return to
their villages as a result of the relative calm that
has reigned for the past eight months. On a field trip
into Lendu areas northwest of Bunia, OFDA reps saw many
houses under construction, and MONUC has reported a
major return of Gegere to the Fataki area. Return is
still problematic, however, for minority communities
desiring to return to areas controlled by the militia
of another ethnic group. MONUC tried unsuccessfully,
for example, to negotiate with Lendu and Ngiti leaders
the return of former Hema residents of Bogoro, but were
told that "it was not yet time." As Ituri originally
had a very "speckled" ethnic make up, this problem
minimally affects tens of thousands of people.

21. (U) The IDP camp near the airport is reportedly
down to an estimated 13,000 residents from a peak of
15,000 last year, but movement out of the camp
continues to be very slow. Approximately two-thirds of
camp residents are registered as being from the town of
Bunia itself. Several months ago, the thinking was
that these people did not return home because a large
number of houses had been destroyed or were now
occupied by squatters. Recent investigations conducted
by INGO Atlas Logistic in several neighborhoods in
Bunia, however, show clearly that this is not a problem
in the vast majority of cases. Given recent
improvements in the security situation, danger would
also not seem to be a valid justification for remaining
in the camp. It is now suspected that many camp
residents continue to stay there simply because in the
camp they have access to free food, free shelter and
free education. Those who own houses in the town can
also make some money by renting out their homes.
Despite offers of returnee packages to those who
volunteer to leave the camp, the incentives still seem
to fall more heavily on the side of staying. Atlas
Logistique and others are currently considering
alternative strategies that might enjoy more success in
encouraging a departure from the camp for those who
could safely return to their homes.

visit to Aru and Ariwara

22. (U) To obtain a perspective on the mid-July
fighting near Mahagi between Lendu militia and FAPC
forces, as well as a sense as to whether further
population displacements might be expected in the
future in that area, OFDA Reps traveled briefly to Aru
in northern Ituri, where they were invited to meet with
General Jerome 40 km further north in Ariwara. The
young general was gracious and cordial throughout. He
praised USAID/OFDA partner German Agro Action for its
work in the Aru-Mahagi area and assured OFDA Reps that
other agencies would be most welcome to come to Aru.
He guaranteed that humanitarians would be able to move
about freely and in total security within all FAPC-
controlled areas. While dismissing the Mahagi incidents
as minor and stating that he believed the problems
between the groups had been satisfactorily resolved, he
confirmed that if FAPC positions were attacked again,
they would again retaliate.

23. (U) General Jerome took advantage of the
opportunity to discuss other subjects of concern to
him. He categorically denied the rumors that he had
any connection with the insurgency of General Laurant
Nkunda in South Kivu, emphasizing that he was
Congolese, had served long in the Congolese army, and
had no allegiances elsewhere. When asked whether he
was at all optimistic about the future, he replied that
he was not, given that he had been given reassurances
by Kinshasa authorities that he and his administration
would be integrated into the transitional government
but that many weeks had since passed and there had been
no noticeable progress. He was now wondering whether
the TG had really negotiated in good faith. He urged
the USAID delegation to encourage the USG to exert
pressure, through the Ambassador's role as a member of
the CIAT, to move more quickly on integration of the
army and administration. He said that the FAPC was
open to Kinshasa's appointment of new authorities to
the Aru-Mahagi area, but felt that before doing so,
Kinshasa should examine the performance of the FAPC
appointees presently in place and either decide to
retain them or find appropriate new appointments for
them elsewhere, since in his estimation they had been
doing an excellent job. The general commented that he
did not himself feel that his future was necessarily
tied to that of the Ituri region, since he was not
himself an Iturian.

24. (U) The general highlighted the multi-ethnic
composition of his military and civil administration
and pointed out that the Aru area, under FAPC
direction, remained extremely orderly and was an
economic success. The FAPC had made Aru a place, he
said, where business and development could be conducted
in a completely secure environment. With regards to
demobilization, Jerome said that though the FAPC would
certainly be willing to demobilize any child soldiers
in its ranks, everyone else should be absorbed into the
new Congolese army. If it was determined that some
candidates were too old to continue service, or not
sufficiently fit, they should be provided
transportation back to their home areas and given a
retirement package as part of their demobilization.

25. (U) Back in Aru, after the meeting with General
Jerome in Ariwara, a close aid to the general rather
passionately expressed his personal view that it would
be a mistake to classify Jerome as having much in
common with such dissident Tutsi commanders as Mutebusi
and Nkunda. The aide claimed to have grown up in the
Goma area with both Jerome and Nkunda, and to know them
both well. While he was clearly a fan of Jerome, the
aide viewed Nkunda as extremely "arrogant," and was
sure that Nkunda's Bukavu intervention had been largely
planned by General Bora, whom he believed was trying to
use some territorial acquisitions in South Kivu as
leverage to negotiate amnesty and acceptable high-level
positions for himself and Nkunda in the TG. According
to the aide, Bora and Nkunda had been counting on Vice-
President Ruberwa to support their bid, and that the
plan had fallen apart when this did not happen. MEECE.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.