Cablegate: Goma Situation Report for December 7, 2007

DE RUEHKI #1350/01 3441120
O 101120Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Situation Report for December 7, 2007


Note: The following report was provided by Embassy Kinshasa's
political officer in Goma. End note.

1. (SBU) Summary: The FARDC military offensive has stalled at
Kibati -- a high point along the track north from Sake -- where
Nkunda has continued to bring in reinforcements and evidently taken
a stand. Speaking to the humanitarian community in North Kivu,
MONUC Force Commander General Babacar Gaye acknowledged the
difficulty of balancing MONUC's obligation to protect the civilian
population with its commitment to give FARDC as much support as
possible (short of combat). OCHA and MONUC/Civil Affairs advocate
moving IDP's in Kirolirwe a short distance east or west, rather than
their going north to Kitchanga, but as the local populace has
already moved most of their cattle north, it may be too late to
prevent a concentration of IDP's at Nkunda's principal town. End

Military Offensive: Stalled at Kibati

2. (SBU) MONUC military briefer indicated to poloff December 7 that
the FARDC had "not had much success" in penetrating through Kibati
(six miles north of Sake on the track to Kirolirwe and Kitchanga).
Nkunda, thought to be present at Kibati, had continued to bring up
reinforcements (another 60 men, to total about 400) and appeared to
be taking a stand at Kibati. The terrain there, near the local
watershed divide, gave Nkunda a greater advantage than he would have
in the more open terrain further north; it was the best place for
Nkunda to take a stand. FARDC has positioned one brigade for the
attack on Kibati, leaving the other two brigades that had taken part
in the fighting at Mushaki to consolidate the FARDC's hold there and
another further west on the Masisi road. MONUC had helicoptered out
88 FARDC casualties thus far, and 30-35 Nkunda soldiers were being
treated at the hospital at Kitchanga. The Kingi-Kibati area was not
heavily populated and such population as exists had mostly fled in
advance of the fighting, but there was still some civilian
population which would undoubtedly feel the effect of ongoing
shelling. There was still no military activity in the Rutshuru

General Gaye Speaks to the Humanitarian Community
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (SBU) During his December 7 visit to Goma, MONUC Force Commander
General Babacar Gaye had an hour's question-and-answer session with
representatives of UN agencies and NGO's in North Kivu. He opened
by stressing that it was very difficult for MONUC to balance its
obligation to protect the civilian population with its commitment to
give maximum support to FARDC (not including combat) in its present
campaign against Nkunda. As in the follow-on press conference, Gaye
was peppered with questions about MONUC's capability to restrain
FARDC's proclivity to pillage and loot, to which Gaye responded that
MONUC could only do its best to stress at every opportunity the
vital importance of conducting this campaign with minimum harm to
the civilian population, and he urged the humanitarian community to
carry the same message to the FARDC commanders in North Kivu. Gaye
alluded to an imminent FARDC thrust toward Tongo (ten miles west of
the Goma-Rutshuru road, on the main corridor of Nkunda's contact
with his pocket of control on the Uganda-Rwanda border) where, he
said, it would be equally important for the FARDC to avoid harm to
the civilian population. He noted that the initial plan for the
military campaign was for it to be a 40-day operation, and that the
performance so far suggested that FARDC was within schedule. He
mentioned the possibility of Kirolirwe refugees moving south instead
of north.

4. (SBU) OCHA said that it had developed an urgent plan, in
coordination with UNHCR, to try to facilitate the removal of IDP's
in Kirolirwe a short distance east or west, enough to move them out
of the path of fighting but not too far from their fields at harvest
time, when it was going to be impossible for the humanitarian
community to have access to the area. What OCHA wanted to avoid was
the movement of the IDP's and other civilian population at Kirolirwe
north to the more populous Kitchanga, as it was likely that fighting
would follow them into Kitchanga and that their presence would
aggravate the problem of protecting the civilian population of
Kitchanga. OCHA discounted the possibility that the IDP's would be
willing to move south. WFP expressed concern that it now appeared
the military campaign would drag out, elongating the period during
which humanitarian assistance would be difficult to bring to the
populace, and also noted particular concern about opening a new
front at Tongo, where the rate of malnutrition was already the
highest in North Kivu. UNICEF expressed anxiety about FARDC's
indiscriminate use of artillery, using ammunition supplied by MONUC.
ICRC said it would be present on the scene with a surgical team in

KINSHASA 00001350 002 OF 002

Kitchanga and hoped that MONUC's personnel in Kirolirwe and
Kitchanga would take an active role in protecting any NGO's
functioning in the zone. MONUC/Civil Affairs observed that FARDC
had already resorted to looting in its take-over of Mushaki, but
that it was essential FARDC maintain a presence in areas taken from
Nkunda, as it was likely that FDLR and militias would fill any

5. (SBU) In a separate conversation with poloff, MONUC/Civil
Affairs director Joseph Inganji said that MONUC estimated there were
a minimum of 30,000 civilians in Kirolirwe, of which there were as
many as 15,000 IDP's, who were almost entirely Tutsis who had fled
earlier fighting in Ngungu and Mushaki (mostly women and children,
the men having joined Nkunda's ranks). The IDP's were having
meetings to decide when and whether to flee. Inganji agreed that
the best idea was for the civilian population to move a short
distance east or west, enough to get out of harm's way and
definitely not go north to Kitchanga. However, MONUC had learned
that the local populace had already moved 80 percent of their cattle
northward, so it seemed likely that they would not heed the advice
to move east or west. According to Inganji, Kitchanga is the
largest community in Nkunda's zone of control, with a population of
over 80,000 (to include 10,000 IDP's).

6. (SBU) Belgian Consul General Hugues Chantry, based in Bukavu but
visiting Goma, told poloff subsequently that, during a conversation
with Gaye, Gaye had underscored to him that MONUC would use its
helicopters and firepower to help FARDC only in the case of debacle.
Gaye had commented that the FARDC had "gotten through the easy
part" and was now entering the tough phase, militarily and
politically. North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku had spoken to
Chantry of a "seven-day campaign." The FARDC deputy commander Col.
Delphin Kahimbi had spoken of a "20-day campaign," while Gaye had
spoken of a 40-day campaign.


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