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Cablegate: Usaid Visit to Bukavu, Kalehe and Kindu

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





E.O. 12958; NA
SUBJECT: USAID visit to Bukavu, Kalehe and Kindu


1. (U) OFDA Rep Jay Nash and Acting USAID Mission
Director Nicholas Jenks were in Bukavu on September 7
and 8, and in Kindu on September 9. Interlocutors in
Bukavu told USAID reps that the population was happy
to be finally out from under RCD/G and Tutsi control
after six years, but worried that Rwanda and its
RCD/G proxies would not long tolerate this situation
and would try to retake the city militarily. There
are few ethnic Tutsis in Bukavu at present, and
though many felt that a return of Banyamulenge
residents who fled during the Bukavu crisis of May-
June would be possible, disputes over property rights
could well ensue, the legitimacy of the previous
Banyamulenge occupation of many houses in town being
in question. Sources of insecurity in South Kivu
continue to be the forces of Laurent Nkunda in the
Kalehe-Minova area and the various pockets of
Interahamwe in rural areas of the province. Among
the latter group, the numbers of those volunteering
for MONUC's DDRRR program have dwindled.

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2. The activities of Nkunda's forces have caused the
displacement of as many as 40,000 people from the
areas they currently occupy, although reports from
the field after USAID's visit suggest that
governmental forces from Bukavu are succeeding in
pushing Nkunda further north towards Goma. Conditions
for the IDPs in the sites visited by USAID Reps were
not good, as not all have received plastic sheeting
and food, and as the nearest health facilities are
several hours walk away. Water and sanitation at the
sites continue to be problematic, and rape by
military has been a major problem. Though
humanitarian activities outside Bukavu town were shut
down entirely for several weeks after the crisis of
late May-early June, most humanitarian agencies have
restarted or are in the process of doing so now. The
Nyabibwe area, still occupied by Nkunda's troops at
the time of USAID Reps' visit to Kalehe, remains
inaccessible, however, as do some Interahamwe-
occupied pockets. In Maniema Province, security is
no longer an issue and the main constraint on
humanitarian access is now entirely logistical. An
estimated 80% of former IDPs of the province, along
with many former Mai-Mai, have returned already to
their original villages. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) OFDA Rep Jay Nash and Acting USAID Mission
Director Nicholas Jenks were in Bukavu on September 7
and 8, and in Kindu on September 9. The Bukavu
segment of the trip included a single day road/boat
excursion to the northern sections of Kalehe
Peninsula where approximately 10,000 IDPS from the
Nyabibwe area have taken refuge from killings and
harassment by forces loyal to ex-RCD/G commander
Laurent Nkunda.

Atmosphere in Bukavu

4. (U) USAID Reps' local interlocutors in Bukavu
described the population of the city as being
simultaneously "very happy" and "worried about the
future." The happiness comes from the fact that the
population feels that as a result of the departure of
the forces of ex-RCD/G commanders Jules Mutebutsi and
Laurent Nkunda in June, they have now finally been
largely liberated from the Tutsi politico-military
domination that they have been experiencing since
Banyamulenge forces entered the town in 1996 during
the "first" war (which ousted Mobutu and installed
Laurent Kabila). Though there remains an RCD/G
appointed Tutsi Vice-Governor, real control of the
city for the moment seems to be in the hands of the
Kinshasa-appointed governor and regional military
commander-an impression reinforced by the presence in
town of many new troops sent from other parts of the
country, particularly Equateur (ex-MLC).

5. (U) Bukavuans' anxiety about the future is due to
uncertainty that the present situation can last. It
is clear in the speech of virtually everyone in the
town that they do not consider the war to be by any
means yet over. Specifically, they doubt that Rwanda
will let Bukavu remain largely "independent" of its
control, and thus expect another Nkunda-like crisis
at some point in the near future. In particular they
are worried that the international community will
pressure the transitional government in Kinshasa to
bow to Vice President Ruberwa's demand that 10th
Regional Commander Mbuza Mabe be replaced. General
Mabe is viewed by the population of Bukavu as the
savior and protector of the city and is thus very
much a popular local hero. The population is afraid
that if he is replaced, the city will again fall into
RCD/G and Rwanda domination, probably by military
take over.

6. (U) USAID Reps inquired as to whether there were
any ethnic Tutsi remaining in Bukavu, now that many
Banyamulenge had fled to Rwanda during the May crisis
in Bukavu. Interlocutors reported that there are a
handful of government-loyal Banyamulenge soldiers
from General Masunzu's command in town, and that they
move around town freely experiencing no problems from
the local population. There are also some ex-RCD/G
Tutsi soldiers (of unknown origin) that arrived in
town recently from Goma as bodyguards for the Tutsi

7. (U) Though USAID Reps' interlocutors felt that it
would now be "safe" for Banyamulenge civilians who
had fled in May to return to the city, they noted
that some of their residences had been now occupied
by others. As many Banyamulenge illegally occupied
houses belonging to others when they first came to
town in 1996 and 1997, it is now unclear, in many
cases, as to whom property really belongs. This
might thus easily prove an obstacle to a full-scale
return of Banyamulenge refugees and prove a
troublesome issue in the future.

Insecurity and DDRRR

8. (U) There are mainly two sources of insecurity in
South Kivu at the present time: the yet-intact
forces of Laurent Nkunda in the area between Kalehe
and Goma along the western shore of Lake Kivu, and
the pockets of Interahamwe in various rural areas
around the province. The former group has caused the
displacement of up to 40,000 civilians since May of
this year. As yet unconfirmed reports from the field
subsequent to USAID Reps' visit to the Kalehe area
suggest that General Mbuza Mabe's government troops
from Bukavu may now be attempting to push Nkunda's
forces north past Minova and have had some early
successes. As for the latter group, Interahamwe
pillaging, rape and other violence recently caused
the displacement of 3000 civilians in the Walungu
area, and continues to be a problem in Mwenga

9. (U) MONUC DDRRR specialists in Bukavu told USAID
Reps that voluntary repatriation of Interahamwe and
ex-FAR always tapers off whenever there is fighting
between various factions for control of the city or
of other key towns in the region. The months
following the Bukavu crisis of late May and early
June have been no exception, with repatriation
volunteers having dwindled to a trickle. It is
believed that during periods when the region is
stable and appearing to make progress toward
returning to some normalcy, the Interahamwe are less
tolerated by local Mai-Mai groups, and experience
greater isolation. During periods of acute turmoil
and anxiety, however, when local populations are
worried that the province may again be overrun by
forces loyal to Rwanda, Interahamwe elements enjoy
greater freedom of moment and less pressure.

10. (U) The MONUC DDRRR team also told USAID Reps
that former 10th Military Region Commander Nabiolwa
was much more a pro-active collaborator in DDRRR
efforts than current commander Mbuza Mabe. They
attribute Mabe's cooler attitude to an acute
awareness among FARDC officers since the May-June
Bukavu crisis that they will not be able to count on
the MONUC's support should they again have to fight
renegade insurgents opposing the authority of the
transitional government in the Bukavu-Goma area.

IDPs in Kalehe

11. (U) USAID Reps accompanied International Rescue
Committee (IRC) staff to the Chabula and Chigera IDP
sites on the peninsula extending into Lake Kivu north
of Kalehe town on September 8. The sites were
hosting 1008 and 326 IDP families respectively. The
great majority of the IDPs at these locations had
fled the Nyabibwe area in the hills across the
channel separating the peninsula from the mainland on
May 27 when Laurent Nkunda's forces marched through
their area on the way to Bukavu. It is at least the
third time that these same populations have fled
their home villages in the same manner for the same
destinations, people having fled first in 1998 when
the RCD rebellion began, then later fled again in
2002 in response to Interahamwe raids.

12. (U) When asked why they did not return home now,
the IDPs replied that it was clear that the war was
not yet over. They had heard from newly arriving
IDPs - described as those who had originally
attempted to "stick it out" in the home villages -
many stories of continuing pillaging, rape and murder
by Nkunda's soldiers. As recently as five days
earlier, the IDPs reported hearing sustained heavy
gunfire - presumably a skirmish between Nkunda's
forces and Mbuza Mabe's Bukavu-based FARDC soldiers -
coming from the hills across the bay where they used
to live. When asked who made up Nkunda's army, the
IDPs replied that these were almost entirely
Rwandaphones, with the rank-and-file being largely
Hutu and the leadership mostly Tutsi.

13. (U) Living conditions for the IDPs are not good.
Though some have received plastic sheeting and non-
food item kits from UNICEF, as well as a single
ration of food from WFP, others have not yet been
served, and there are still no mechanisms in place to
assist newcomers. Water and sanitation are
problematic, since the IDPs had no alternative but to
settle on steep slopes immediately adjacent to the
lake where there is no water supply. The
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has
constructed a handful of latrines and is building
additional ones, but the proximity of the latrines to
the lake, necessitated by the steep inclines,
represents a health hazard. To provide safe water to
the IDPs, IRC pumps water from the lake into bladders
then treats it with chlorine prior to distribution
through spigots. IRC plans to increase its
intervention in the water sector and to begin
providing health services as well. At the present
time, the nearest health facility is several hours
walk away over mountainous terrain.

14. (U) Although the IDPs have been living in these
conditions for over three months with only one food
distribution, they did not appear to be starving. It
is clear that they are still depending on food
supplies coming across the bay from their former
villages. Sending representatives back to the
villages, however, remains highly dangerous, as these
risk encountering Nkunda's soldiers and having
everything taken from them as well as physically
harmed. Many women who have attempted this have been
15. (U) Rape continues to be a huge problem. At the
reference hospital serving the area, USAID Reps
learned that 20 new cases had come for consultations
and treatment in the previous week alone. Hospital
authorities reported that there were over 100 cases
documented since May (when Nkunda's forces first came
through the territory), which, considering that the
total for all the preceding years of the war was 400,
represented a huge increase.

Humanitarian access South Kivu and Maniema

16. (U) Humanitarian activities outside Bukavu town
itself were shut down entirely for several weeks
after the Bukavu crisis of late May-early June when
expatriate humanitarian staff evacuated the city and
MONUC recommended that local staff no longer travel
outside city limits. By mid-July, expatriate staff
had largely returned, and as of the end of August,
most agencies had started sending teams to the field.
OFDA partner International Medical Corps (IMC), which
runs a health and nutrition program in Bunyakiri
territory, plans to reopen their support to health
centers in that area next week. Goal, another OFDA
partner who, before the events of May-June, was
running a similar program in Lulingu to the northwest
of Bukavu but had evacuated the area as a precaution,
also plans to be fully operational once again in a
few weeks time. Humanitarians from Bukavu continue,
however, to have no access at all to areas north of
Kalehe in the Nkunda-dominated part of the province.

17. (U) In Maniema Province, the constraint on
humanitarian access is new entirely logistical,
according to staff of Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
and OCHA with whom USAID reps spoke in Kindu. None
of those questioned could think of any areas in the
province where humanitarian agencies would fear to go
for security reasons. Unfortunately, however, given
the extremely poor condition of all roads in the
region, the improved security situation does not
immediately translate into increased access. Many
areas remain accessible only by motorcycle, and some
only on foot.

18. (U) It is believed that at least 80% of former
IDPs in the region have returned to their villages.
The few who have remained in the forest are believed
to do so either because they have absolutely nothing
to go back to in their home villages or because they
still have crops to harvest in the area where they
have been living for the past few years. Most Mai-
Mai who came to Kindu in the latter part of 2003 and
first half of 2004 are believed now to have returned
to their villages, having tired of waiting for
integration into the FARDC. The humanitarians report
them appearing to no longer be a consolidated force
in Kindu town itself. MEECE.

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