Cablegate: Goma Report September 20:

DE RUEHKI #0777/01 2660633
O 220633Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Report September 20:
FARDC Offensive at Kimoka

1. (SBU) Summary: FARDC launched an early morning offensive
September 20 into CNDP terrain north of Sake and in the course of
the day was repelled by CNDP. The MONUC base at Kimoka was caught
in the crossfire. This grave violation of the ceasefire came a half
day after the Minister of Defense publicly reaffirmed the ceasefire.
Both CNDP and FARDC blamed MONUC for inaction. End Summary.

2. (SBU) At 5:05 am Saturday September 20, the FARDC launched an
offensive from Sake into CNDP territory beyond the neutral zone at
Kimoka and up the western escarpment above Sake and Kimoka. It sent
four tanks and three BMP's up the Kimoka road and fired 60 rockets
from a multi-barreled rocket launcher as well as mortars from Sake
in the course of the morning and early afternoon. FARDC also flew
and fired from its attack helicopters. By mid-morning CNDP had
launched a counter-offensive, with what North Kivu brigade described
as heavy fighting on the Kimoka ridge. By afternoon FARDC troops
were observed running down the escarpment and down the Kimoka road.
By late afternoon, when heavy rains commenced and after clear
warnings from the North Kivu brigade, CNDP ceased its
counteroffensive and returned to its original positions.

3. (SBU) FARDC provided no advance warning to MONUC about the
offensive nor did it coordinate with MONUC in any way, even on the
helicopter sorties. Repeated attempts by the North Kivu brigade to
contact FARDC went unheeded until mid-morning. North Kivu brigade
quickly evacuated its small base on "Celtel Ridge" back to its base
at Kimoka, but the latter suffered several explosions of rockets and
mortars, with two light injuries to its South African contingent.
Various sources in North Kivu brigade provided varying accounts of
FARDC casualties, from five to 25 dead. The heavily populated
Kimoka area was afflicted by the crossfire from both sides, with
untold civilians killed. Much of the population (perhaps 25,000
civilians) fled to the Indian battalion base east of Sake.

4. (SBU) The facilitation team met General Etumba (Joint Technical
Commission co-chair) at 10:30. He was uncharacteristically subdued
and almost apologetic, asserting that the Minister of Defense -- who
the previous day had summoned the facilitation team and
ostentatiously made a declaration of DRC's renewed commitment to the
ceasefire and new disengagement plan -- "would be unhappy if FARDC
had any responsibility in" the morning's military developments at
Kimoka. However, he also asserted that the FARDC had had to react
to information suggesting an imminent CNDP attack on Sake and
Masisi. During the meeting Etumba received a call from Force
Commander General Gaye, who Etumba admitted was "extremely angry."
Eastern Coordinator Alpha Sow told Etumba that North Kivu brigade
was "absolutely certain" that responsibility for the morning's
attack lay entirely with the FARDC. He expressed astonishment to
Etumba that this attack occurred a half day after Okapi Radio had
published the Minister of Defense's reaffirmation of the ceasefire.
FARDC, he continued, had not merely fired its heavy artillery, with
horrendous consequences for the local populace as well as injury to
MONUC, it had advanced well into CNDP territory and had brushed
aside all of MONUC's efforts to make contact and stop the attack.
Etumba speculated that "rogue elements" may have inspired the attack
but concluded that MONUC needed to act immediately to stop the CNDP

5. (SBU) Deputy Chief of Staff Col. Cunliffe reported to the
facilitation team in late afternoon on a long meeting he had just
had with FARDC Kivus commander, General Marcelin Lukama. Lukama
admitted to Cunliffe that FARDC had launched a "pre-emptive attack"
on CNDP, both to forestall an imminent CNDP attack on Sake and
Kirotshe and to relieve pressure in the Masisi sector, where CNDP
was expected to continue its earlier efforts to attack Masisi and
Katale. Lukama did not say that he had received orders from above.
(Note: Lukama, however, is a careful officer who does not appear
the type to make a bold and risky initiative without orders. End
Note.) Lukama complained that MONUC had offered FARDC no assistance
and that MONUC had intervened too late in warning CNDP off its

6. (SBU) Sow and poloff separately contacted CNDP officer Bertrand
Bisimwa in the course of the morning to urge cessation of CNDP's
counteroffensive. Bisimwa was extremely bitter about the
one-sidedness of MONUC's recent interventions, including the
previous day's helicopter attacks against CNDP. He asked how we
could ask CNDP not to counterattack, when MONUC had, he asserted,
done nothing to prevent the early-morning offensive by FARDC. He
said that CNDP would not stop its counter-offensive unless FARDC
ceased its artillery attacks (which continued into the afternoon)
and unless MONUC publicly condemned the FARDC offensive. (In fact,
CNDP stopped its counter-offensive, and pulled its forces back to
previous positions, without any such declaration having yet been
published from MONUC.)

KINSHASA 00000777 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) On the evening of September 19, poloff received a
telephonic message from CNDP officer Jean-Desire Muiti asking
whether the U.S. government had positively considered CNDP's request
for a meeting outside the country. Poloff responded with a brief
message, "We assure your safety in a meeting here." On the morning
of September 20, Muiti sent another message, asking whether the
possibility of a meeting abroad were excluded. Poloff responded
with a message stressing that there was immediate need for a meeting
between Nkunda and the MONUC Force Commander to stop the fighting,
which meeting could take place at Kirolirwe or at a safe MONUC
installation, and that CNDP should contact Alpha Sow for
arrangements. Muiti responded with a third message, that he would
convey this message to the Chairman (Nkunda) and contact poloff in
the evening. There was no further contact September 20. (Note:
Cellular contact was generally disrupted in Goma throughout the day
and evening. End note.)


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