Cablegate: Codel Feingold Visit to Kinshasa and Eastern Drc

DE RUEHKI #1043/01 2470704
P 040704Z SEP 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: In a three-day visit to Kinshasa and the
eastern cities of Goma and Bunia, CODEL Feingold assessed the
DRC's progress towards democratization and good governance,
efforts to resolve ongoing tensions in the eastern provinces,
MONUC's programs contributing to peace and security, and
examples of USG assistance. The delegation met with President
Kabila, members of the National Assembly and Senate, MONUC
military and political officials, and humanitarian agencies.
Accompanied by SRSG Swing to the East, the CODEL received a
comprehensive overview of the current political and security
environments nearly a year after voters participated in the
country's first free elections in 40 years. End summary.

2. (U) CODEL Feingold (Senator Russell Feingold; his
daughter, Ellen; and staffers Sarah Margon and Evan
Gottesman) met with President Joseph Kabila at the
presidential offices in Kinshasa August 24. In a 45-minute
session, the president and the CODEL discussed a wide range
of issues, including government reform efforts, security in
the East, and the status of the political opposition. Kabila
said his government has made some progress on good governance
and anti-corruption initiatives, but a number of other
reforms must be enacted, including a restructuring of the
justice system. On security in the eastern provinces, Kabila
said much had changed in the DRC since the Senator's last
visit in 1999 and characterized the situation in Ituri
District and South Kivu as much improved. Kabila admitted
tensions were rising in North Kivu due to a variety of
factors, such as the increased activities of dissident
General Laurent Nkunda and FDLR fighters. (Note: A read-out
of the meeting will be reported septel. End note.)

3. (U) The delegation later met with four Congolese
parliamentarians representing both the pro-Kabila Alliance
for the Presidential Majority (AMP) and the political
opposition. The group provided their assessment of the 2006
elections, with all agreeing the process was well run and
democratic, albeit with some minor technical problems that
could easily be resolved before the next round of national
elections in 2011. The two deputies and two senators were
also unanimously positive in their views about the role of
the political opposition. Members from both camps agreed the
opposition does have a voice in the government and has not
been excluded from political process. Opinions were divided,
however, over the future of Jean-Pierre Bemba, who remains in
self-imposed exile in Portugal. All members agreed Bemba
should return, though some argued Bemba must be brought to
justice for his role in the August 2006 and March 2007
fighting in Kinshasa, while others contended Bemba should be
allowed to lead a constructive opposition without fear of

4. (U) CODEL traveled with SRSG Swing August 25 to the North
Kivu capital of Goma to review the region's security and
humanitarian situations. The delegation first flew to an
internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in the town of
Nyanzale in Masisi territory about 50 miles northwest of
Goma. Accompanied by North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku and
the Congolese military's regional commander General Vainqueur
Mayala, the group toured the camps, which currently hold some
1,600 people, many of whom have been displaced since January
2007. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA)-North Kivu Director Patrick Lavand'homme explained the
camp was nearing its maximum capacity, and any further
insecurity could severely strain the humanitarian community's
ability to protect civilians. MONUC peacekeepers had
established a mobile operating base in Nyanzale in June to
provide additional security. Speaking to IDPs in the camp,
Senator Feingold said he wanted to see everyone returned
safely to their homes. He further promised to work to
establish the peace the population of North Kivu deserved.

5. (U) MONUC civilian and military staff in Goma subsequently
briefed the delegation on provincial political and security
developments. Officials said the provincial government faces
an array of challenges, including a lack of resources, but
has made efforts to resolve continuing ethnic tensions and
give a voice to the population's concerns. MONUC military
personnel described the current situation as "extremely
volatile," due particularly to the failure of the
government's "mixage" process to combine pro-Nkunda and
pro-government forces into new brigades. Officials explained
stability was further threatened by the increased activities
-- including abductions and murders -- of the FDLR in
Rutshuru territory and fighting between rival militia groups.

6. (U) The delegation visited the USAID-financed Dian Fossey

KINSHASA 00001043 002 OF 003

Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) rescue center in Goma to
view two rescued baby mountain gorillas and receive a
briefing on the conservation situation in the Congo River
basin from USAID implementing partners. Seven mountain
gorillas have been shot and killed in nearby Virunga National
Park in 2007, representing about two percent of the gorilla
population in the area. The two babies at the rescue center
were orphaned when their mothers were killed in July. DFGFI
is a partner with Conservation International (CI), an
implementing partner of USAID's Central Africa Regional
Program for the Environment (CARPE), which supports the
conservation of the biodiversity and forests in the second
largest tropical rainforest in the world. In addition to
threats against the gorilla populations, the delegation
discussed efforts to manage the region's ecosystem. CI's
Central Africa director Patrick Mehlman stressed that a lack
of coherent governance directly contributes to the loss of

7. (U) CODEL Feingold also had the opportunity to meet with a
variety of international humanitarian agencies and
USAID-funded NGOs supporting democratic institution-building,
responding to sexual and gender-based violence against women
and girls, and promoting conflict management. Representatives
all agreed the work in their respective sectors was having an
impact, particularly in supporting grass-roots participation
in governance and in providing emergency health services to
vulnerable groups.

8. (U) Assessing the current situation in North Kivu,
participants expressed their unanimous concern over the
province's precarious environment. They argued that military
solutions to the FDLR and Nkunda problems would certainly
create worse conditions for civilians, but admitted efforts
to craft political or diplomatic alternatives were at an
impasse. In addition, there was a general consensus that
abuses of human rights were common in the province,
particularly among the military.

9. (U) All agreed that the USG could play a determining role
to end the violence by facilitating discussions between GDRC
and Rwandan officials, as well as providing additional
support to democratic institutions such as the provincial
assembly. The NGO representatives and USAID partners said
they would all like to do more to resolve the region's
problems. One particular need identified was the
establishment of the rule of law through an independent and
effective judicial system.

10. (U) On August 26, the delegation and SRSG Swing flew to
Bunia in the DRC's northeastern Ituri District. A region long
plagued by militia and ethnic violence, security conditions
in Ituri have markedly improved following a series of
disarmament programs and a ceasefire accord between the
government and remaining militia groups.

11. (U) The CODEL first visited MONUC's training facility for
the Congolese military (FARDC) in nearby Rwampara, where
troops undergo a 12-week course focusing on basic soldering,
human rights, unit cohesion, and health and hygiene. The
program, authorized in MONUC's recent mandate renewal, will
provide basic training to eleven FARDC integrated brigades in
eastern DRC. At the Rwampara site, MONUC trainers from the
Pakistani battalion said the 750 soldiers being trained there
have improved their skills and shown greater unit cohesion.
Congolese commanders said they believed the training had thus
far produced very positive results. During its visit, the
delegation was able to see soldiers receiving instruction in
tactics, drill, group maneuvering, and weapons assembly.

12. (U) The delegation next visited UNDP's transit site for
its current disarmament, demobilization and reinsertion (DDR)
program for Ituri militia members. This third phase of DDR in
Ituri, to which USAID contributed USD 500,000, was launched
in July 2007 and aims to demobilize some 4,500 combatants.
This program builds on another USAID-funded activity not
implemented by UNDP that supports the reintegration of an
additional 10,600 ex-combatants in Ituri. At the time of the
CODEL's visit, militia leaders had submitted lists of 3,505
members who wished to disarm, and nearly 700 had already
surrendered at ten DDR points throughout Ituri. UNDP has
requested an additional USD 2 million in support for the
program to complete the reintegration of all remaining
militia groups in Ituri. This request is under consideration
for support through ESF supplemental funding for the DRC.

13. (U) UNDP officials explained the current program was

KINSHASA 00001043 003 OF 003

proving more successful than their previous efforts, as
organizers had learned from earlier mistakes. Organizers said
this initiative has a well-defined calendar and clear
milestones to measure progress. Payments and other benefits
to ex-combatants are also being better managed, with specific
programs targeting assistance to communities who will be
receiving the demobilized fighters. DDR authorities said the
current phase should help establish a durable security
environment in Ituri as the last of the hardcore militias

14. (U) The MONUC-Bunia Head of Office and the MONUC Ituri
Brigade Commander briefed the Senator on the UN's
peacekeeping efforts in Ituri, progress made in stabilizing
the region, and programs aimed at removing child soldiers
from militia ranks. Officials reported that more than 10,000
children have been removed from various militia groups since
2003, but their reinsertion into local communities remains a
challenge. Discussion also focused on MONUC's investigations
into past allegations that Pakistani peacekeepers facilitated
gold smuggling by militia combatants, as well as the UN's
ongoing efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse by
peacekeepers deployed in the area. MONUC officials stressed
that such abuses are not widespread and are clearly not
tolerated by commanders.

15. (U) The CODEL made its final visit to a center for
victims of sexual violence in Bunia. The program, run by the
Italian NGO Cooperazione Internationale (COOPI) and supported
with USAID funds, provides assistance to young girls who were
abducted by armed groups in Ituri and forced to serve as sex
slaves, soldiers or porters. The center opened in 2003 and
has since provided shelter, medical care, counseling and
family mediation services to more than 800 girls, most
between the ages of 14 and 17 but including many as young as
eight years. COOPI staff said that thanks to training
provided by their program, more communities are carrying out
counseling activities with their own girls, allowing COOPI to
expand its operations in other parts of the District.

16. (U) Senator Feingold held several press interviews during
his three-day visit. He delivered a consistent message that
the USG and the international community must remain engaged
to help the people of eastern DRC improve their lives. He
pledged to advocate for more USG assistance to programs in
the security sector, particularly for DDR efforts in Ituri
and elsewhere. While encouraged with the progress made since
his last visit in 1999, Feingold said that as valuable as the
2006 elections were, they were only the beginning and would
mean little without lasting peace and security.

17. (U) Comment: The visit provided CODEL members with a
thorough review of the immediate challenges facing the DRC
but also highlighted the significant progress GDRC officials
and MONUC have made in reconstructing and securing the
country after years of conflict. The delegation saw that much
work remains in nearly every sector -- health, education,
security, development, and democracy, to name but a few. USG
partners and international donors made clear they are ready
and able to assist these needs. CODEL Feingold also received
a comprehensive look at what the USG is doing to advance the
goals of democratization, human rights, regional stability,
and humanitarian assistance in the DRC. End comment.

18. (U) Senator Feingold did not/not review this cable.

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