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Cablegate: Ambassador Garvelink in Goma December 3

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKI #1340/01 3391532
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051532Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7199

UNCLAS KINSHASA 001340

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSTIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM MOPS PREL PREF KPKO CG
SUBJECT: Ambassador Garvelink in Goma December 3

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador Garvelink's introductory
trip to Goma December 3 coincided with commencement of military
action in the Mushaki area (west of Sake) by the FARDC against
Nkunda's forces. MONUC/North Kivu commander General Narayan told
the Ambassador that, the previous day, Nkunda's forces had pushed
north from their zone of control, seizing Kikuku and Nyanzale
(northwestern Rutshura Territory) along with six tons of arms and
several months' pay for the 15th Brigade, which fled. Narayan
predicted that, though Nkunda had been boosted by these new arms,
the FARDC (with considerable MONUC logistical help) ought to prevail
in its campaign against Nkunda within a month and a half. North
Kivu Governor Paluku, who had just survived a censure motion in the
provincial assembly, lamented that Nkunda was producing increased
anti-Tutsi sentiment among the populace. OCHA chief Lavand'homme
told the Ambassador that people from Nyanzale and Kikuku were being
displaced northward, into an area ever more difficult to access from
Goma. With the onset of fighting, all UN humanitarian missions
outside the Goma area had been canceled for the time being.
Fighting could potentially add 160,000 displaced persons to the
present 800-900,000 in the "Petit Nord" (the populous part of North
Kivu within 60 miles of Goma). End Summary.

MONUC/North Kivu
----------------

2. (SBU) General Narayan said that FARDC had planned to begin its
campaign against Nkunda December 5 but had moved up the start date
two days because of Nkunda's attack on Kikuku and Nyanzale December
1. Nkunda seized six tons of arms and ammunition as well as pay for
the 15th Brigade, which fled the scene. Narayan surmised that
Nkunda had good intelligence on the arrival of this pay packet (the
15th Brigade had not been paid since August 15) and that he well
knew the weakness of this brigade, as it had similarly fled during
fighting near Sake in August and thereafter been moved to the less
strategic Nyanzale area. Narayan said that prior to Nkunda's attack
on Nyanzale/Kikuku, MONUC had concluded that his forces were
suffering from lower morale and diminishing supplies. Through
October and November, Nkunda had made probes in the Rushuru area and
even on the approach to Goma, but these had gained him nothing.

3. (SBU) Narayan said that FARDC was sticking to its plan,
concentrating first on completely clearing the Sake-Masisi road of
Nkunda's forces and then turning north into the heartland of
Nkunda-held territory (centered around Kirolirwe and Kitchanga,
along the western border of Virunga Park). FARDC had commenced
heavy firing on the morning of December 3 with artillery, mortars,
and two attack helicopters (with Russian pilots). Two brigades (14
and 81) had now taken the height of a strategic ridge ("Celtel"
ridge) and would form two pincers to try to take the town of
Mushaki, five miles northwest of Sake, on the road to Masisi. MONUC
was providing full logistical support. In Narayan's analysis -- a
point emphatically seconded by MONUC Head of Office in a subsequent
conversation -- the population of North Kivu was overwhelmingly in
favor of military action to eliminate Nkunda and felt that the FDLR
problem was secondary.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador asked how the next days would unfold.
Narayan said the FARDC was commencing an "all-out offensive" on
Nkunda. There was pressure from headquarters for a quick
resolution, but Narayan expected the campaign would last a month and
a half. There were only 3,000 soldiers with Nkunda but they were
relatively good and their leaders (including Bosco) would push them
to fight to the last; however, Narayan said, a few significant
battlefield reverses might net significant desertions. The FARDC
campaign would concentrate on the Sake-Kitchanga corridor rather
than on the Nkunda pocket between Rutshura and the Rwandan border,
as Nkunda's forces in that pocket would be extremely difficult to
root out. Narayan said that there was now an increased threat to
the northern part of North Kivu ("Grand Nord") following Nkunda's
triumph at Nyanzale and Kikuku, but Narayan said that he doubted
Nkunda would move north, even though the FARDC was now extremely
thin there. USAID Nash asked whether MONUC was prepared to assure
the safety of thousands of mainly Tutsi displaced persons in
Kirolirwe, to which Narayan responded that FARDC was well aware of
the problem and that MONUC was poised to move those IDP's out of
harm's way.

OCHA and NGO's
---------------

5. (SBU) OCHA chief Patrick Lavand'home told the Ambassador that
there was a movement of displaced persons north from Nyanzale and
Kikuku toward Kibirizi and Kanyabonga (no precision on numbers). He
said he had "signals" that Nkunda and FARDC were reinforcing near
Rutshuru (Nkoko). The UN had canceled all its humanitarian missions
outside the Goma area, even recommending against anyone taking the
road north to Rutshuru. A few NGO's had not heeded the call to come
into Goma, particularly in the Rutshuru area where MONUC was thought
to be committed staunchly to defend the city. He had learned that
Medecins Sans Frontieres/France (MSF/France) had now safely removed
itself from Nyanzale, having decided to stay in the days prior to
Nkunda's attack.

6. (SBU) Reviewing the IDP presence in North Kivu, Lavand'homme
said that there were close to 400,000 IDP's confirmed since December
2006. He said that there were an additional 100,000 unconfirmed in
inaccessible areas. In addition to these recent IDP's, there were
400,000 long-term IDP's dating from conflict in 1996-2000, who were
registered but did not receive assistance. Lavand'homme said that
the displacements since August 2007 had shown a greater trend toward
ethnic division, with Tutsis tending to move into Nkunda-held
territory and others toward government-held territory, especially
the Kivu coast. The last three weeks had seen an increase of Tutsi
IDP's fleeing into Nkunda territory from west and east, due to FDLR
and Mai Mai harassment. The UN community had decided to provide
equal service to the Kirolirwe IDP camp in the heart of Nkunda
territory, even though it was mainly made up of women and children
and seemed a recruiting ground for Nkunda; indeed, the government
had recommended such assistance, wanting to show even-handedness
toward Tutsis. USAID Nash noted that he had observed, in a WFP trip
to Kirolirwe November 29, that at least half of Nkunda's soldiers
appeared to be non-Tutsi, presumably Hutu. Lavand'homme suggested
that Nkunda's hold on these Hutus was partly due to a long, habitual
interrelationship dating from the time the two groups fought
together during the 1998-2003 war on the side of the rebel
Rassamblement Congolais pour la Democracie (RCD) movement, and
partly to fear of FARDC. He said that defections from Nkunda had
been relatively neglible.

7. (SBU) Lavand'homme calculated that the present fighting could
add 160,000 IDP's in the Petit Nord, in addition to IDP's who would
be undergoing multiple displacement. Lavand'home said that the
Nyanzale area had earlier been projected as a zone of likely refuge
for IDP's, as the UN community had not expected that the 15th
Brigade to fall to Nkunda; now it had become a zone of displacement.
There was no airport in the Nyanzale area to facilitate transport
of assistance to these IDP's, but the road from Goma to Kanyabayonga
was serviceable.

8. (SBU) In a following meeting with NGO's, the Ambassador asked
for thoughts on where the international community should put
humanitarian emphasis in North Kivu. UNHCR noted FARDC harassment
in IDP camps as a very serious issue, along with lack of access to
significant swathes of territory and, now, the problem of ensuring
safe passage for Tutsis and others now to be displaced and
redisplaced. ICRC highlighted the notorious lack of discipline in
the FARDC. WFP emphasized the scale of killing, sexual violence,
and looting, and the intractable problems of land tenure ("all of
North Kivu is owned by five people") and impunity/absence of a
system of justice. UNDP said that planning for a possible era when
fighting ended would need to emphasize income-generating for farmers
and fishermen, rehabilitation of infrastructure and social services,
and a push for peace and reconciliation among the ethnic
communities. OCHA put in a plea for diplomacy rather than military
action, noting that MONUC had its hands tied, being unable to talk
directly to Nkunda.

Call on Governor
----------------

9. (SBU) The Ambassador's first call was on Governor Julien Paluku
(a Nande from the Grand Nord), who focused on Nkunda. In a long
review of recent history, Paluku said that the government had tried
a diplomatic approach with Nkunda, which had failed. Nkunda
attempted to justify himself as a protector of the Tutsi community
and a champion of the return of Congolese Tutsi refugees now in
Rwanda. In fact, there had been no traditional animosity toward
Tutsis in Congo, a country where every ethnic group is a minority.
Nkunda had been a key military commander during Rwanda's "imperium"
over eastern Congo 1998-2003 and done nothing to repatriate Tutsi
refugees at that time. In Paluku's view, the worrying trend was
that Nkunda was bringing about an antagonism to Tutsis that had not
previously existed. No Tutsi had been elected to the provincial
assembly during the recent elections, but it had in turn selected a
Tutsi as a senator. Paluku had chosen a Tutsi as his provincial
planning/budget minister, as well as several staff members. The
Ambassador inquired what Nkunda's real objectives were, to which
Paluku responded that he did not know. Whatever they were, Nkunda
had to be eradicated. His presence was sowing instability.

10. (SBU) The Ambassador asked what impact the fighting that was
just getting under way would have on the civilian population.
Paluku said if the military campaign were not carefully executed, it
would be likely to see the number of IDP's in the area exceed one
million. He feared that there would even be a threat to food
adequacy in Goma itself.
Paluku regretted that the government had not been effective in
getting out the message of the real situation on the ground. The
Ambassador, introducing political officer Haywood Rankin, said that
accurate information-gathering was one of the principal reasons that
the United States had wanted a presence in Goma. Paluku welcomed
Rankin, apologizing that he had not received him in the five days
since he had arrived in Goma. He explained that he had had to fight
a censure motion in the provincial assembly, on spurious grounds of
embezzling public funds. He had spent most of December 1 defending
himself - successfully it turned out - in the assembly against this
motion. He was pleased to report the vote on the motion of censure
was 27 to 15 in his favor, while he had been elected by the assembly
several months ago by a vote of 25 to 17.

11. (SBU) Paluku exclaimed, "If the United States is involved in
anything, a week is enough to solve it." The Ambassador said that
he only wished it were so. Paluku concluded if the United States
succeeded, it would be the greatest news for the people of North
Kivu.

Garvelink

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