Cablegate: Goma Report September 22: Restiveness

DE RUEHKI #0786/01 2670651
O 230651Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma report September 22: Restiveness
in Goma, More FARDC Action in Sake

1. (SBU) Summary: FARDC launched indiscriminate barrages from Sake
into the western heights September 22, uncoordinated with MONUC.
Corpses arriving in Goma September 21 stirred angry mobs in the
city, and MONUC restricted movement of its civilian employees. Both
the government and CNDP appear to have an interest instigating
popular unrest focused on MONUC, making it likely that anti-MONUC
restiveness in Goma will continue. End Summary.

2. (SBU) After FARDC's major and unsuccessful offensive September
20 against CNDP positions in the heights to the west and north of
Sake, there were only minor skirmishes September 21. However, the
FARDC brought in additional heavy artillery to Sake on September 21,
and at 03:35 in the morning of September 22 FARDC began an
intermittent barrage against CNDP positions in a swathe ranging from
south of Sake (hills above Kirotshe) to those over Sake to the west
and north. Some 146 rounds were fired from tanks, BMP's, and
multi-barreled rocket launchers by mid-afternoon, when firing was
still going on against the heights directly to the west of Sake.

3. (SBU) Unlike the offensive of September 20, however, on
September 22 FARDC did not attempt to send troops up the escarpment,
but rather restricted itself to the artillery barrage (described by
Deputy Chief of Staff Col. Cunliffe as "fairly indiscriminate").
The North Kivu brigade observed CNDP forces moving closer to Sake in
the heights above Kirotshe in the morning, but warned them to
desist, and they appeared to have done so. As occurred two days
earlier, FARDC gave no warning to MONUC, was uncommunicative (or, as
North Kivu brigade described it, was "in disarray"), and placed its
artillery close to MONUC bases in the Sake area (with the result
that North Kivu brigade was physically endangered and MONUC
perceived to be intimately allied with FARDC).

4. (SBU) The North Kivu brigade commander and Col. Cunliffe met
with General Lukama (in command of FARDC in the Kivus) on the
evening of September 21. They hoped that they had "made good
progress" with him on coordination, but Lukama also claimed he was
"having difficulties" getting the message to his subordinates (in
particular, Col. Padiri, in charge of the 82nd brigade at Sake).
They met Lukama again on the afternoon of September 22, as the
barrage was occurring, and Lukama said that the barrage was in
reaction to intelligence reports of an imminent CNDP attack from
Mushake. He noted that, in any case, he had never received an order
from his chain of command for a ceasefire (despite the Minister of
Defense's "reaffirmation" of the ceasefire on September 19).
However, he said that he would be meeting all five of his sectoral
commanders (including Padiri) the following day September 23 to
instruct them to pre-warn MONUC of any further actions.

5. (SBU) Meanwhile, restiveness in Goma mounted significantly
September 21-22. Fighting in the Sake area, 15 kilometers along the
lakeshore west of the outskirts of Goma, has historically always
raised the anxiety level in Goma. But in the present case, the
government has been stirring up the populace, and the CNDP may also
be sowing discord in the city. The immediate spark was the bringing
to Goma September 21 of bodies of soldiers killed the previous day
in the Sake area, an event mismanaged by the government. Notified
that the bodies were arriving at the Kakatindu military camp,
located at the beginning of the western road in Goma, a large group
of wives of soldiers gathered at the camp to stage a protest.
(Note: the women have long been angry over lack of payment of their
husband's wages, and have staged earlier protests.) The wives of
the dead soldiers wanted to take possession of the bodies, but FARDC
refused the request. (Some of the bodies were reportedly
decapitated by CNDP who had infiltrated Sake on the evening of
September 20).

6. (SBU) The Minister of Defense and Governor of North Kivu
appeared on the scene, hoping to placate the women. The Minister of
Defense handed over 2,000 in cash to the women, who pocketed the
money but nevertheless hurled stones at the minister and governor,
who hastily retreated (suffering smashed windows to their vehicles).
The women's protest soon turned into a general riot along the
western road, with young men getting into the fray. A passing MONUC
convoy was stoned, and three gas stations owned by Tutsis (or, as
the crowd seemed to believe, "owned by Nkunda") demolished. The
police attempted with little success to control the crowd by firing
into the air.

7. (SBU) The women resumed their protest on the morning of
September 22, by blocking the western road, and angry crowds also
gathered on the northern road (to the airport and MONUC
headquarters). MONUC ordered its civilian employees to keep to
their residences. The western road remained blocked by the women
protesters throughout the day.

KINSHASA 00000786 002 OF 002

8. (SBU) A separate message follows with an account of a
conversation in Goma today that amplifies some of the above
narrative and contains knowledgeable (but unconfirmable) perspective
on the events of the past 48 hours and of possible trends going
forward. In this account, note is taken of the availability in Sake
of CNDP sleepers able to engage FARDC within the town limits. This
presence is linked to relationships CNDP (and Nkunda personally)
have been developing over several years with trades people and
pastors moving between Sake and Kitchanga, and parallels are drawn
with potential future developments in Goma itself. A source claimed
to have been called by Nkunda earlier today and to have received
word of Nkunda's exasperation with MONUC's (and the international
facilitation's) failure to publicly condemn FARDC's repeated
cease-fire violations and his determination to take control of Goma.
According to the source, Nkunda said, "Out of respect for MONUC, I
have not yet shot down their helicopters, but I have the means and
intend to do so if necessary." Taking Goma, Nkunda went, is the
only way to get enough attention and respect to ensure that serious
discussions with the government will ensue.


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