Cablegate: Ofda Visit to Kalehe and Minova

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) On October 26, OFDA Rep Victor Bushamuka evaluated
the humanitarian and security situation in Kalehe and Minova
territories. Security and humanitarian access has improved
along the entire axis Kalehe-Minova-Goma, following the
reestablishment of FARDC control of Minova in September.
Most of Kalehe and Minova residents living along the road
have already returned to their villages. However, there is
still a general fear among the population of possible
attacks from the hills of Kalehe by Interahamwe elements and
the remnants of Nkunda forces. In addition, a cholera
epidemic has emerged in all villages from Kalehe to Minova,
with 109 cases registered in Bushushu in three weeks and 159
cases registered in Minova in two weeks. IRC has been
assisting cholera victims in Kalehe and the DRC government
has promised assistance to Minova victims. Although the
epidemic appears to be under control in areas receiving
assistance, the situation could reach uncontrollable
proportions in Minova and isolated areas if not quickly and
appropriately addressed. END SUMMARY


2. (U) OFDA Rep Victor Bushamuka visited the territories
of Kalehe and Minova on the axis Bukavu-Goma in South-Kivu
Province on October 26. The object of this visit was to
assess the security and humanitarian situation in the areas
after their liberation from forces loyal to ex-RCD/Goma
commander Laurent Nkunda. During the visit, OFDA Rep stopped
in Kalehe, Bushushu, Lushebere, Nyabibwe, Kirotse and
Minova, and met with health care providers and
administrative authorities to discuss the prevailing health
and security situation in the areas.

3. (U) The territories of Kalehe and Minova are located
between Bukavu (capital of South Kivu) and Goma (capital of
North Kivu). Kalehe is about 65 km and Minova about 150 km
north of Bukavu. Nkunda forces passed through these
territories in late May on their way to briefly capture
Bukavu and in June-August on their retreat from Bukavu.
These dissident forces established temporary bases in
Kalehe, Nyabibwe, and Minova. The presence of Nkunda's
forces was characterized by killings, harassment, pillaging,
rapes and other violence that caused massive displacement of
an estimated 40,000 civilians. Some Kalehe and Bushushu
residents fled westward to the hills while others took
refuge eastward on small islands in Lake Kivu. The
displacement of the population of Lushebere, Nyabibwe, and
Minova was along ethnic lines, with the Tutsi Rwandophone
population moving north toward Goma, an area controlled by
forces loyal to the RCD-G, and non-Rwandophones fleeing to
small islands including Cigera and Tshime.

4. (U) 10th Military Region troops initiated an offensive
against Nkunda's forces in July, pushing them north and
reestablishing government control of Kalehe and Bushushu in
August, and Nyabibwe and Minova in September.

Security and Population Return

5. (U) OFDA Rep found, throughout the visit, that the axis
from Kalehe to Minova was controlled by forces under the
command of the 10th Military Region. Although these soldiers
established several military check points along the road,
vehicles were only checked for weapons at the entry of the
territory of Kalehe and at the border between South and
North Kivu. The other checkpoints only provided an
opportunity for soldiers to ask for cigarettes. FARDC
positions could also be seen on hillsides along the road
from Kalehe to Minova.

6. (U) According to Kalehe and Minova residents, security
has improved for villages located along the main roadside.
Interahamwe living in the National Parc of Kahuzi Biega, as
well as the remnants of General Nkunda's soldiers, often
attack villages in the hills, raping, pillaging, and killing
civilians. This has led to the displacement of the
population from the hills to Kalehe, Nyabibwe and Minova,
which are currently under FARDC control. Despite the heavy
presence of FARDC soldiers along the road, there is still a
general fear among the population of possible attacks in
villages by Interahamwe or the remnants of Nkunda forces.

7. (U) The Administrator of the territory of Kalehe
indicated to OFDA Rep that almost the entire population from
villages along the road who fled the fighting have already
returned. The IDP camps that were established in Kalehe, no
longer exist, as most of the occupants have returned to
their villages. However, IDPs from the hills of Kalehe,
whose areas are still considered insecure, remain in Kalehe
itself, although most have been placed in host families.
Although many Minova residents have also returned, the
return of Rwandophones, especially Tutsi, has apparently
been cautiously slow. In addition, recent confrontations
between two newly-integrated FARDC battalions, ex-ANC and ex-
Mai-Mai forces, in the hills near the border of North and
South Kivu around the village of Bweremana are reported to
have displaced an estimated 2,000 new IDPs to Minova.

Cholera Outbreak among Returnees

8. (U) Upon arrival in Bukavu, the OFDA Rep was briefed by
the medical staff of the International Rescue Committee (IRC-
USA) regarding the outbreak of cholera in villages along the
axis Kalehe-Minova. During the visit, OFDA Rep observed that
the areas most affected by the epidemic were Minova and
Bushushu. At the time of the visit, Minova had registered
about 159 cases and three deaths in two weeks, and Bushushu
registered 109 cases in three weeks. Other areas affected
included Kalehe center with 6 cases, and Lushebere and
Nyabibwe with 2 cases each in the week prior to the visit.

9. (U) According to health officials, these statistics
represent only a fraction of cases. Only people living
closer to health centers or those who can travel are able to
seek assistance from health centers, and therefore, the only
ones counted. People living in isolated areas often try
traditional medicine before visiting health centers. The
case of Mulolo peninsula, a village of pygmies believed to
be the most heavily hit by the epidemic, was pointed out to
the OFDA Rep. Because of Mulolo's isolation (15 km from
Nyabibwe) only two people from Mulolo have been so far able
to reach the health center since the outbreak was first
announced three weeks ago in the area.

10. (U) Cholera bacteria proliferate in areas with
inadequate sanitation facilities. The majority of initial
victims were IDPs on the island of Cigera, which had no
clean water nor proper sanitation facilities. In addition,
strong seismic activity in July 2003 in the aftermath of the
2002 volcanic eruption in Goma damaged a number of wells in
Bushushu, Kalehe, and Minova that required constant
maintenance. Due to lack of maintenance during the period
of insecurity, most wells were found to require major
rehabilitation when people returned to their villages. As a
result, returnees in these areas relied on the lake and
river as main sources of water, which is believed to have
contributed to the spread of a number of diarrheic diseases,
including cholera.

Humanitarian Assistance

11. (U) IRC has been assisting cholera victims with all
necessary medication in the territory of Kalehe, including
Kalehe center, Bushushu, and Nyabibwe. Isolation structures
have also been established and the damaged water systems in
Kalehe have been rehabilitated by IRC. New wells were also
contracted in areas where the population has increased due
to a high influx of IDPs. Unlike in Kalehe and Nyabibwe,
Minova cholera victims do not yet have similar level of
assistance. MSF (Medecin Sans Frontiere) Holland started to
provide perfusion drugs to the Minova health center.
However, according to Minova health providers, the
assistance does not yet meet their needs in medication. In
addition, at the time of the OFDA Rep's visit, no structure
existed for the isolation of cholera patients in Minova. The
DRC government, through the Central Health Bureau and the
Societe Nationale de Hydraulic Rural, promised antibiotics
to the health center and pledged to rehabilitate the damaged
wells in the area. Until the DRC government fulfills its
promise, the cholera epidemic probably will continue to
claim victims in Minova.

12. (U) Security improvement and people's desire to quickly
re-establish their economic activities has expedited the
movement of people among villages along the axis Kalehe-
Minova. Heavy movements of people not only facilitates
exchange of goods, but also the transmission of diseases.
Although the epidemic appears to be under control in areas
that receive assistance, it might reach uncontrollable
proportions if the situation in Minova and its surrounding
isolated villages is not carefully monitored and quickly

13. (U) Bujumbura minimize considered.

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