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Cablegate: Goma Situation Report for December 18, 2007

DE RUEHKI #1384/01 3530810
O 190810Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Situation Report for December 18, 2007


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

1. (SBU) Summary: FARDC is considering a new offensive against
Nkunda forces despite recent reverses, and continue to fly in new
supplies and equipment to Goma. MONUC does not believe it will be
capable of doing so for months, and is counseling caution.
Scattered combat continues. Supported by its attack helicopters,
FARDC troops fought Nkunda forces to a standstill December 17 at
Katale in Masisi, but have been unsuccessful at dislodging them from
the strategic Gungu heights above the Goma-Rutshuru road, despite
employing heavy artillery. Nkunda troops have vacated Celtel ridge
above Sake, but remain in control of its summit as well as the
nearby Kimoka ridge. To date, the FARDC has not moved against
Katshire. FARDC forces in the Grand Nord are severely depleted as a
result of the deployment against Nkunda positions further south.
The meeting of the Congo-Rwanda Joint Verification Mechanism (JVM)
is set for December 20 in Gisenyi. End summary.

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2. (SBU) Despite the fiasco of its Masisi campaign, FARDC is
considering a new offensive against renegade General Laurent Nkunda,
MONUC North Kivu Brigade Commander General Indrajeet Narayan told
Goma poloff December 18 immediately prior to a meeting hosted by
Eastern Division Commander Bikram Singh with FARDC Chief of Staff
General Dieudonne Kayembe and 8th Military Region Commander General
Vainqueur Mayala. Narayan said MONUC was attempting to talk FARDC
out of the idea. He said no operations are possible for 4-6 months.
He said Kayembe appears receptive, but Kabila's view remains
unclear. In the meantime, he reported, FARDC is continuing to bring
in new supplies and equipment to Goma.

3. (SBU) MONUC is counseling both sides to remain calm. In
Narayan's view, "There is no way forward. There has to be a
political-military solution." The problem now, he said, is that
Nkunda is negotiating from a position of strength; he is refusing
exile, and wants post-conflict status for himself and his political
wing, the CNDP. Government forces are not capable of putting
pressure on him. "They are panicking everywhere," Narayan said.
"They have firepower and logistics, but no leadership." Colonel
Delphin Kahimbi, deputy regional military commander, and Colonel
Philemon Yav, commander of the 81st Brigade formerly headquartered
in Masisi town, remain under a cloud. However, Colonel Jonas
Padiri, the Tutsi commander of the 82nd, fought well and is now
commanding FARDC forces at Sake. Land Forces Commander Gabriel
Amisi is the target of charges he used $100,000 to bribe commanders
not to fight.

4. (SBU) Scattered combat continues. Narayan reported that FARDC
troops at Katale in Masisi territory had successfully resisted an
attack by Nkunda forces December 17. He said FARDC helicopters were
engaged in the fight, firing 80 rockets and multiple rounds of
ammunition. MONUC ferried in fuel and munitions. A battalion of
the FARDC 81st Brigade had abandoned Katale under no apparent
pressure in the aftermath of last week's rout. Narayan said he had
prevailed upon Kayembe and Mayala to order its return; they did so,
reinforcing it with a battalion of the 85th (Mai-Mai) Brigade from
Walikali territory. MONUC-Goma political chief Gernot Sauer
reported that fighting had ended that day by 1600, with neither side
gaining territory.

5. (SBU) At Rugari on the Goma-Rutshuru road, Narayan said FARDC
had attempted unsuccessfully to dislodge Nkunda forces occupying the
strategic Gungu heights. He said the FARDC troops there are "really
scared" and do not stray much more than 100 meters from the road.
Nkunda commander Colonel Sultani Makenga has mounted a 12.7mm
machine gun on the heights with which his troops continue to control
the road. Rather than assault the position, FARDC is using L-70
antiaircraft guns to attempt to dislodge them. Narayan claimed use
of such heavy artillery against more lightly-armed insurgents was a
violation of the Geneva Convention. Sauer reported that a MONUC
investigation of charges that shots by Nkunda troops at Rugari had
killed a police officer called Bahati were false; in fact, it had
been FARDC friendly fire.

6. (SBU) Elsewhere, Narayan reported that FARDC had deployed its
71st battalion to Kirotse after Nkunda forces had beaten back an
attack there by the Mai-Mai 3rd Resistance ("Cobra") Brigade. MONUC
troops investigated reports that the hospital there had not been
looted; they were false. He said FARDC had lost the JTN tea
plantation, but not Nyanzale. He said there had been no FARDC
movement against Katshire.

7. (SBU) Narayan said that Nkunda forces had vacated Celtel ridge
above Sake town. MONUC forces now occupy the ridge and the area
around its base, as well as the base of Kimoka ridge, which together

KINSHASA 00001384 002 OF 002

with Celtel comprise the formation known as Sake heights. Nkunda
forces retain Celtel summit and the remainder of Kimoka. Sauer
reported that Ngungu, southwest of Sake, had been re-occupied by the
14th Integrated Brigade (IB). Elements of the 14th had apparently
abandoned it in the panic that followed the brigade's rout, but it
was not clear if Nkunda forces had ever re-taken it. Narayan said
Kayembe has asked 10th Military Region (South Kivu) Military
Commander General Sylvain Tshikwej to round up elements of the 14th
IB that fled there.

8. (SBU) Sauer said that FARDC forces in the Grand North of North
Kivu are "completely thinned out" as a result of the deployment of
troops against Nkunda. He said it is not clear if they have the
means to carry out a planned attack against the Baraka Mai-Mai,
named after its 12-year old leader, "General" Baraka.

9. (SBU) Sauer reported that the meeting of the Congo-Rwanda Joint
Verification Mechanism (JVM) is planned for December 20 in Gisenyi.
He said it will feature high-level participation, including Rwandan
Special Envoy Richard Sezibera and SRSG Swing; Congolese Foreign
Minister Mbusa Nyamwisi may also attend.

10. (SBU) Comment: Singh approached us following his meeting with
Kayembe and Mayala to inquire if we had any news of AF Senior
Adviser Tim Shortley's planned meeting with Kabila. "Our plans all
depend on you," he said. Comment.

© Scoop Media

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