Cablegate: Renewed Fighting in Ituri Province

DE RUEHKI #0843/01 2801418
O 061418Z OCT 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: There has been renewed fighting in Ituri
Province, as LRA rebels attacked DRC villages September 17-26 and
the previously dormant Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri
(FPRI-Force Patriotique de Resistance in Ituri) attacked FARDC
positions and villages south of Bunia beginning September 27. FPRI
leaders have announced that the group will henceforth be called the
Popular Front for Justice in Congo (FPJC-Front Populaire pour la
Justice au Congo), apparently an attempt to broaden the ethnic
support for the Ngiti-based FPRI. MONUC forces have helped FARDC to
retake several FPJC-held villages. There are most likely several
motives behind the FPRI/FPJC action: a MONUC drawdown in the area;
weak FARDC capabilities; and economic factors. There are
conflicting rumors that either the CNDP or the Ugandan rebel group
ADF is assisting the FPRI/FPJC.

2. (SBU) Summary (continued): MONUC officials told post that the
LRA attacks were intended to send a message to the FARDC and to
deter any desertions from its ranks. The humanitarian consequences
of the LRA attacks were considerable: several villages destroyed;
approximately 20 Congolese killed; 90 children kidnapped; between
17,800-75,000 IDPs created; and at least 1,200 newly-arrived
refugees in southern Sudan. NGO's are scaling back their presence
in the area, partly out of security fears vis-a-vis the LRA, but
also because of strong anti-international community sentiment
amongst the local population. Although the LRA and FPRI/FPJC
attacks were separate, both groups took advantage of a reduced FARDC
presence in Ituri, as the DRC military focuses on the CNDP in North
Kivu. End Summary.

3. (SBU) On October 2 and 3, PolCouns spoke with MONUC officials in
Kinshasa and in Bunia regarding recent fighting in Ituri Province --
attacks by the LRA on DRC villages September 17-26 and attacks by
the Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FPRI -- Force
Patriotique de Resistance in Ituri) on villages and FARDC positions
beginning September 29.

FPRI Re-emerges in Ituri

4. (SBU) FPRI combatants attacked the villages of Tchey, capturing
a FARDC camp, and Quinz, as well as several other localities, on
September 27. FARDC units, according to MONUC contacts, were
"incapable of responding." MONUC noted that there had been a series
of incidents "leading up to a crescendo." On September 26, an FPRI
fighter stabbed a FARDC major, and on September 27, the FPRI killed
two FARDC soldiers.

5. (SBU) On October 3, FARDC launched a counter-offensive in the
Kagaba area, thirty kilometers south of Bunia. Initially, the FARDC
met stiff resistance, but, with the support of MONUC tanks and
armored personnel carriers, FARDC retook Kagaba the afternoon of
October 3. A spokesman for the militia group, Adirodu Mbadu,
announced that the rebel forces had withdrawn from Kagaba "out of
respect for MONUC."

6. (SBU) The FPRI has subsequently contacted MONUC to announce that
the rebel combatants are now fighting under the banner of a new
group, the Popular Front for Justice in Congo (FPJC-Front Populaire
pour la Justice au Congo). The FPJC reportedly incorporates a
broader ethnic composition, as compared to the FPRI, which was
closely identified with the Ngiti ethnic group.

7. (SBU) MONUC speculated to post that there were several factors
behind the reemergence of FPRI/FPJC following a period of
inactivity. First, MONUC is undergoing a drawdown in the area, with
a sizable Pakistani contingent going to South Kivu and a Uruguayan
contingent also redeploying elsewhere. FPRI/FPJC would have been
well aware of a reduced MONUC presence. Second, FPRI/FPJC also
recognizes that the FARDC is not willing and/or capable of mounting
any resistance. MONUC pointed out to us that the only FARDC General
in Ituri, General Andre Kindela, had recently been transferred to
North Kivu, which now has five FARDC generals. Finally, MONUC
opined that economic interests (gold and timber trading) might be a
driving force behind FPRI aggressions. Hinting that the CNDP might
be cooperating with the FPRI/FPJC, MONUC asserted to us that CNDP
number two Bosco Ntaganda maintained good relations with "certain
Ituri militia groups." (Note: An NGO contact on the ground told
post separately that there are contradictory reports that the rebel
militia is receiving support either from CNDP or Uganda's ADF rebel
group. End Note). Our interlocutor said she was certain the
FPRI/FPJC was receiving "fresh supplies" of arms and equipment from
an outside source.

8. (SBU) The FPRI, according to MONUC, consists of only 70-80 core
combatants. However, the rebel group can draw support from as many

KINSHASA 00000843 002 OF 002

as 1,500 men in the region. The group draws support from the Lendu
and Ngiti ethnic groups, often blending in well with non-combatants.

Follow-up on LRA Attacks on DRC Villages

9. (SBU) MONUC also briefed post on the September 17-26 LRA attacks
on eight DRC villages north of Dungu. According to MONUC, the LRA
wanted, through the attacks, to send two messages: one to the FARDC
and one to potential deserters from its ranks. Several days before
the LRA action, Ugandan media apparently reported that a coordinated
FARDC and MONUC attack on LRA positions was imminent. BBC reran the
story and the LRA, according to MONUC, felt compelled to respond
with both words (a Radio France International interview) and deeds
(the attacks). MONUC told us that on September 16 four LRA
deserters had been repatriated to Uganda. The LRA apparently wanted
to send a strong message that it would not tolerate any desertions
from its ranks. The LRA killed approximately 20 Congolese and
kidnapped 90 children during its raids.

10. (SBU) Following the LRA attacks, there were anti-MONUC
demonstrations in Dungu to protest the perceived inability of MONUC
forces to protect the region against LRA threats. MONUC vehicles
were stoned and burned, and two peacekeepers were injured.

Humanitarian Situation

11. (U) MONUC noted that, while the LRA incursions had caused
significant movements of populations, it was difficult to estimate
the number of IDPs. Some local NGO's, according to MONUC, had
exaggerated the numbers. Moreover, there were less NGO's on the
ground to evaluate the situation, as many have left the area due to
increased security concerns-vis-a-vis the LRA, but also because of
concerns about further local protests against the international
community. UNICEF, MONUC told us, canceled a mission on September
27 three hours after the mission began, because of security
concerns. A MONUC spokesman said on October 2 that between
17,800-75,000 IDPs have fled south to Dungu. UNHCR reported that
1,200 Congolese refugees have reached the Yambio region of southern
Sudan, following a four-day trek.

12. (SBU) Comment: A re-emergence of fighting in Ituri presents the
GDRC with additional challenges at a time when the FARDC is
concentrating efforts against the CNDP in North Kivu. Several
sources have confirmed that FARDC personnel and resources have been
redeployed from Ituri to North Kivu. The LRA and FPJC attacks are
troubling, but they may very well have roots in local circumstances,
rather than some strategic design. A new militia (FPJC), which can
garner additional support from a wider range of ethnic groups, might
be a more formidable threat than its predecessor (FPRI). The
humanitarian situation -- IDP and refugee movements, as well as
continued serious human rights violations by the LRA -- necessitate
close monitoring. End Comment.


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