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Cablegate: Goma Report September 3 - Stoning Of

DE RUEHKI #0728/01 2480725
R 040725Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Report September 3 - Stoning of
Facilitation Team at Rutshuru

1. (SBU) Summary: The international facilitation team traveled via
MONUC convoy September 2 to three sensitive areas along the
confrontation line between FARDC and CNDP in Rutshuru territory,
hoping to affirm FARDC withdrawal from two newly occupied positions.
FARDC still occupies those positions and appears to have instigated
crowds near Rutshuru to block the convoy's return and to stone its
vehicles. General Etumba stormed out of a meeting September 3 with
the team when it suggested FARDC responsibility. End Summary.

2. (SBU) At a meeting with the international facilitation team on
September 1, Generals Etumba and Mayala gave assurances that the
positions FARDC had occupied at Ntamugenga and Mutabo in the "buffer
zone" east of the Rutshuru road in clashes that occurred August
28-29 had been or would very soon be evacuated. North Kivu brigade
had affirmed to the team that there are no positions occupied by
CNDP in the buffer zone near Kanombe (east of Rumangabo), as claimed
by FARDC. Etumba asserted that CNDP and Rwanda were bent upon an
imminent two-pronged attack on the Rutshuru corridor, with two CNDP
battalions (500 men) moving in from the west and two Rwandan
battalions (1,100 men) added to CNDP forces moving in from the east.
Deputy Eastern Coordinator M'hand Ladjouzi reported that on the
previous day FARDC had pointed weapons at North Kivu brigade units
at Rugari (first major village north of the Congo-Nile divide) and
instigated the populace to throw stones at the brigade and that it
appeared that there had been armed FDLR in the crowd.

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3. (SBU) On September 3, the facilitation team (UK, France, U.S.,
and MONUC, led by Ladjouzi) took an all-day road trip to Rutshuru,
with the objective of determining on the ground whether FARDC had
withdrawn from the newly occupied positions and the extent of
popular sensitivities. North Kivu brigade commander Brigadier
General Bipin Rawat accompanied the team on the first part of the
trip, to Rugari, where CNDP forces come closest (only one kilometer)
to the highway. Barriers along the track leading half a kilometer
to the parish (former village center, now moved to the highway) were
still partially in evidence, having been thrown up by the villagers
on August 28, the first day of clashes further north. Rawat noted
that, just prior to SRSG Doss's visit to Rugari on August 31, FARDC
had confiscated MONUC cameras when crowds interlaced with armed FDLR
were photographed. Rawat pointed to the nearby hill, called Himbi
(overlooking Rugari and the nearest CNDP position to the highway),
and said he hoped he would be able to persuade CNDP to withdraw to
hills somewhat further back where CNDP would not be within such easy
firing range of the highway.

4. (SBU) The team proceeded north to Kako, north of Kalengera,
where the track to Ntamugenga intersects the highway. There a
convoy of the North Kivu brigade was parked, having waited since
August 30 to proceed to Ntamugenga to establish a base but prevented
by stone-throwing crowds that had barricaded the track. The team
called 8th Region deputy commander Col. Delphin, who instructed the
Rutshuru (6th brigade) commander, Col. Antoine Mushimba, to proceed
to Kako to open the track. Col Mushimba was reluctant but obeyed.
The team eventually passed through the crowd at Kako, suffering a
few hurled stones. It drove five kilometers to the largely
abandoned village of Ntamugenga, near to which an exchange of fire
had occurred on August 29, and ascertained that it was now occupied
by FARDC. Two captains admitted that the area had been a no-man's
land for some months but asserted that MONUC had had a base there
until two months previously and since then CNDP had "become master"
of the area. FARDC had now occupied it, they said, as a result of
attacks by CNDP. The team returned to the highway, again
encountering minor stoning by the crowd at Kako.

5. (SBU) At Rutshuru, Col. Mushimba warned the team that it should
not proceed northeast on the track to Mutabo, as he claimed that a
CNDP force was moving down the track and was now located only two
kilometers from Rutshuru. He was visibly angry, citing losing a
windshield to stones being thrown at Kako. The team proceeded to
Mutabo without difficulty, encountering neither hostile crowds nor a
CNDP force. At the eastern side of the village, the team was
welcomed to the small North Kivu brigade base, whose commander
explained that there had been no exchange of fire in the Mutabo
area, but on the morning of August 28 two FARDC platoons had moved
from their previous position west (3.5 kms. back toward Rutshuru) to
a new position on the hill the east of the North Kivu brigade base.
The brigade had attempted to stop the platoons, explaining that they
were violating the undertakings made to MONUC about the buffer zone,
but the platoons insisted on going through. The team proceeded
eastward, climbed the hill, and met the FARDC commanding officer,
who admitted that he had received an order just after firing
commenced further south on the early morning of August 28 to move
forward, and he had received no order to withdraw. He pointed to

KINSHASA 00000728 002 OF 002

distant positions of the CNDP, on higher hills some four kilometers
to the east and south, saying that both CNDP and FARDC sent out
daily patrols much nearer each other's positions.

6. (SBU) The team returned most of the distance back toward
Rutshuru without incident. However, it was blocked at the outskirts
of the town by hostile crowds (interspersed with some FARDC) that
had felled a large tree over the track and built a bonfire. The
North Kivu brigade escort soldiers (Indian) dismounted from their
vehicles, covered themselves with shields, and, when the crowd began
throwing stones and rocks, their commanding officer fired five
shots. The team called Col Mushimba to get the 6th brigade to
ensure its safety and clear the barricade. A group of young men
came forward as spokesmen, and, in a heated and confused discourse,
accused MONUC of doing nothing to combat CNDP and indeed, of being
an ally of CNDP. The men knew that Col. Mushimba's windshield had
been broken and appeared to blame MONUC for it. Within half an
hour, the 6th brigade cleared the obstruction but, when leading the
convoy through the crowd, halted long enough for the convoy to be
showered with stones and rocks, some large. Closer to the center of
Rutshuru, at the 6th brigade headquarters (located on the same
track), the FARDC escort insisted that the team enter the
headquarters, where they were treated to a harangue by Col. Mushimba
along similar lines to that offered by the village spokesmen, i.e.,
that MONUC was doing nothing to use its perceived considerable
capabilities to combat CNDP, and the populace was fed up. On
driving away from the compound the convoy again suffered a shower of
stones and boulders, with the result of nine windows shattered in
MONUC vehicles. There were, however, no significant injuries. By
now much delayed, the convoy returned to Goma at nightfall, without
further incident.

7. (SBU) On the following day, September 3, the facilitation team
met General Etumba, with General Mayala, Col. Delphin and other
officers, at MONUC. The team reviewed its findings and experiences
of the previous day, noting that FARDC still occupied Ntamugenga and
Mutabo despite assurances of withdrawal, and lamenting that crowds
at Koku and particularly at Rutshuru had been stirred up and had
stoned the convoy. The team noted that armed FDLR elements appeared
to have been present at Rugari and Ntamugenga. Etumba said that any
attacks on MONUC or the facilitation team were unacceptable, but any
insinuation that FARDC was manipulating the population needed to be
verified. There was no doubt that the populace was very
disappointed in MONUC's unwillingness to use its force to assist in
dealing with CNDP. He lamented that the Indian-dominated North Kivu
brigade mainly spoke Hindi and English and had difficulty
communicating with the populace or FARDC. He said he hoped MONUC
and FARDC could do a better job of communicating MONUC's objectives
and limitations, in a public-awareness campaign. Etumba promised to
give orders to ensure that there would be no possibility of FARDC's
stirring up crowds in the future.

8. (SBU) General Mayala and Col. Delphin claimed they had needed to
proceed carefully in any withdrawal of forces from Ntamugenga and
Mutabo, as the populace was so angry that it would also react
against FARDC if it tried to withdraw, particularly when there were
continued exchanges of fire. M'hand Ladjouzi pointed out that there
had only been minimal continued exchange of fire over the past three
days. Delphin claimed that CNDP was still occupying two positions
in the area of Kanombe and resented the facilitation team's focus
only on the two positions occupied by FARDC. The team explained
that it had understood from the North Kivu brigade that there were
no positions in the buffer zone occupied by CNDP. The discussion
moved to the apparent FDLR presence at Rugari, at which point Etumba
changed his tone. He claimed to be outraged and said that he could
only conclude that the facilitation team was bent on hurling
accusations at FARDC and not CNDP. He stood up, took off the belt
of his uniform as if to hurl on the table (but did not), and stormed
out of the room.

9. (SBU) Meanwhile, on September 3, Eastern Coordinator Alpha Sow
received a CNDP delegation led by Betrand Bisimwa, coming to Goma
for the first time since August 27. The delegation condemned the
government's August 30 decision to close the Bunagana frontier post
(controlled by CNDP) and FARDC's move into the buffer zone at
Ntamugenga and Mutabo, and called for a declaration of ceasefire by
the government. It claimed not to have closed the door to future
CNDP attendance at the working groups on disengagement. Note: The
North Kivu working group has so far done little, on account of CNDP
non-participation. End note.


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