Cablegate: S/P's Ross, Cohen and Patel Meet with Congolese


DE RUEHKI #0908/01 2781241
P 051241Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Introductory note: S/P staffers Alec Ross, Jared Cohen and
Mira Patel visited Kinshasa and Goma September 9-12. Reftel is an
account of the Kinshasa portion of their trip. This message refers
their meetings in Goma. End introductory note.

Courtesy Call with Vice Governor of North Kivu
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) During a brief courtesy call with Lutaichirwa Mulwahale
Feller, the vice governor of North Kivu, Ross and reiterated how
touched Secretary Clinton was by her recent visit to Goma and
explained that his visit was intended as a follow-up mission during
which he aimed to listen and learn about DRC's needs, challenges,
and opportunities. Ross and Cohen described the delegation's
objectives and underlined the possibilities that the use of
technology could bring to the justice and banking sectors. After
expressing his solidarity with the U.S. on the anniversary of 9/11,
the vice governor expressed his gratitude for the interest that the
USG had taken in the DRC and particularly North Kivu, noting that
Secretary Clinton's visit had given hope to a people beleaguered by
years of conflict, massive population displacement, widespread rape,
and trauma. He thanked USAID in particular for its significant
efforts to help improve the country and foster a durable peace.
Agreeing that technology could be a valuable tool to improve life in
the DRC, the vice governor emphasized that improving the security
situation was the top priority and that the Congolese people were
counting on the U.S. to help end the FDLR threat, including by
advocating the arrest of FDLR leaders who continue to operate in
Europe and convincing the FDLR combatants in the DRC to turn
themselves into MONUC and return to Rwanda. The vice governor also
outlined the importance of U.S. support for STAREC, the
stabilization and recovery plan for the DRC, which he said would
provide long-term relief to the victims of the conflict. Ross
acknowledged the vice governor's request and thanked him for the
warm reception.

Visit to Mugunga I IDP Camp

3. (SBU) During a visit to the Mugunga I IDP camp, which Secretary
Clinton visited, Ross and Cohen broke off separately to visit with
IDP-run community watch teams and female IDP leaders. Eager to
obtain as many opinions as possible, Ross and Cohen engaged directly
and spoke to women carrying firewood, youth, people in their homes,
and various residents of the IDP camp who were walking around or
otherwise engaged. In talking to some of the camp's 18,643 IDPs,
Cohen and Ross learned of the atrocities they had endured and
escaped and the daily hardships they have faced amid life in an IDP
camp. The women they spoke with refuted assumptions that cell
phones would make them more of a target and emphasized how these
channels for communications could enhance their security. They
learned of a number of associations (i.e. widows organizations) that
could possess cell phones and be in charge of receiving and
disseminating information. Most women noted that they do not have
cell phones. In speaking to women carrying firewood, Ross and Cohen
learned that they have started traveling in organized groups to
collect firewood so as to be protected by numbers. When asked if
this was their own innovation, or a suggestion by the NGO community,
the women explained that they started doing this on their own. Ross
and Cohen asked the women who they would call if they were in
trouble. There seemed to be general agreement that it would be each
trouble. There seemed to be general agreement that it would be each
other or the camp administrator. They were emphatic about not
trusting the police.

4. (SBU) Patel spoke separately to camp administrators and the
UNHCR, and received briefings from Mercy Corps and International
Medical Corps (IMC) regarding their SGBV-related programs in the
camp. UNHCR informed her that more than 80 percent of the camp's
18,643 IDPs had declared in recently conducted surveys their
intention to spontaneously and voluntarily return to their zones of
origin, and that the camp would likely be closed in three weeks
time, meaning that those IDPs choosing not to return would be
relocated in another of the Goma area's IDP camps. According to
UNHCR, the IDPs who declared their intention to return, the majority
of whom were expected to return to Sake (Masisi Territory) and
villages just north of Sake, had decided to return around late
September because they believed the security situation had improved,
because there was an expectation that humanitarian groups would
provide assistance in their zones of origin, and because they wanted
to be in their home villages before the start of the school year,
the planting season, and the rainy season. While some IDPs said the
government and "the humanitarians," including the UNHCR, were
pressuring them to leave the camp, in part through a reduction of
food rations, other IDPs simply echoed the results of the surveys,
citing improved security and the start of the school year and
planting season as reasons for returning.

5. (SBU) While it was not clear exactly what kind of assistance

humanitarian groups would ultimately provide the IDPs once they
embarked on their return, the Ross delegation saw firsthand the kind
of assistance the IDPs were receiving on a daily basis in the camp,
from health care to access to fuel efficient stoves. In the IMC-run
health center that was treating an average of 120 IDPs each day, and
which included a pharmacy, maternity unit, and a nutrition unit,
among other services, the delegation had the opportunity to learn
about the medical and psychosocial services available to rape
victims in the health center's specialized sexual- and gender-based
violence (SGBV) unit, which was unlabeled and shared office space
with other parts of the health center, so as to provide anonymity
for visitors. Congolese and international IMC officers who ran the
unit said they had provided medical and psychosocial services to
approximately 150 female survivors of SGBV since October 2007 and
that they were treating approximately five to ten female survivors
of SGBV each month, down from 20 per month about six months ago.
The unit treated girls and women who had been raped prior to
arriving in the camp, as well as women who had been raped in the
camp and just outside the camp, while collecting firewood. The SGBV
unit provides kits to those who were raped not more than three days
before visiting the unit; the kits are intended to prevent pregnancy
and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmittable
diseases. When dealing with the five or so women each month who
have been raped in or around the IDP camp, the SGBV unit provides
legal referral services, although in the overwhelming majority of
cases the perpetrator is never identified.

6. (SBU) Twenty-year-old female camp resident Mbizi Vestina, who
was receiving treatment in the SGBV unit and agreed to be
interviewed by the delegation, said two unidentified men raped her
in 2008 just outside the camp while she was gathering firewood. Her
infant twins, a result of the rape, clung to her silently during the
interview as she explained that her network of community support
collapsed once her family and friends learned that she had been
raped; while former friends and family had seemed to blame and
resent her following the rape, which is an all-too-common social
phenomenon resulting from rape in the DRC, Mbizi was now receiving
support from the SGBV unit's specialists, the only people she said
she could turn to.

7. (SBU) Agnes Tabu, a 49-year-old women from Masisi Territory,
told the delegation that she was raped by six unidentified FARDC
soldiers while gathering food in a field near her village. The
IMC's SGBV specialists used Agnes' case to underline the paradox in
eastern Congo: essentials such as food are so important, and
sometimes scarce amid the ongoing fighting, that women are forced to
ignore repeated warnings urging girls and women not to subject
themselves to situations in which they will be vulnerable to rape.
Agnes said she was afraid to go back to Masisi.

8. (SBU) During a briefing by Mercy Corps, the delegation learned
about Mercy Corp's program that was providing camp residents with
fuel-efficient stoves, which are intended to not only promote
responsible environmental stewardship (the stoves reduce wood use by
70 percent), but also eliminate the need for girls and women to
venture outside the camp for firewood, a trip that makes them
vulnerable to rape. The clay stoves also provide income-generation
that help empower women; the 300 or so women whom Mercy Corps has
taught to build the stoves receives $1.50 for each stove they make.

9. (SBU) Later the embassy provided new soccer balls to the
delegation, which distributed them to children in the camp. The
distribution provoked a raucous celebration among the children,
prompting discussion within the delegation about the possible use of
an expanded sports program in the camp (for both girls and boys),
particularly to provide more males in the camp with a form of social
engagement and something to do with their time, which the delegation
thought might help reduce the number of rapes in the camp.

Dinner with MONUC

10. (SBU) A dinner with MONUC military and civil affairs personnel
included Lt. Col. Michel Godin of the MONUC Forward HQ, Edem Blege,
head of MONUC Civil Affairs in North Kivu, Raphael Yoho Fils of the
MONUC Human Rights Office, Esteban Sacco, the head of OCHA in North
Kivu, and Matthew Brubaker of MONUC DDRRR. During the dinner Ross,
Cohen, and Patel discussed the various security and development
challenges facing MONUC and the UN in general in North Kivu and
potential steps that could be taken to advance the fight against

11. (SBU) Raphael Yoho Fils of the MONUC Human Rights Office in
North Kivu underlined that impunity was the root cause of the SGBV
crisis in eastern DRC and that although he was unsure whether
technology had a significant role to play in fighting the problem,
the rape epidemic would not cease until rapists, both within the
security forces and outside them, were held accountable by a more
effective, more reliable, more independent Congolese judiciary. He
urged that no matter how many women the donor community provided

with psychosocial treatment, it would have little long-term effect
on the problem without being accompanied by judicial strengthening
assistance. He suggested that the U.S. consider focusing on what he
considered two glaring needs in the DRC, the need for more
courthouses (one for each territory) and more female judicial
actors, particularly female magistrates and lawyers. Programs
addressing both of these needs would adhere to and complement the
comprehensive strategy to fight SGBV that MONUC and the GDRC
launched in the spring but have had difficulty implementing.

12. (SBU) Yoho Fils also recommended that long-term programs that

might not seem directly related to the SGBV program at first glance
may have more impact than some of the technology-related ideas he
had heard bandied about in the press following Secretary Clinton's
visit. For example, since women are most vulnerable to rape while
in Congolese prisons and detention centers, he recommended
considering investment in the construction or monitoring of prisons.
Virtually all detention centers in Congo, which suffer from
life-threatening conditions, lack separate facilities for women and
children; when asked if there could be a use for technology in
monitoring the detntion centers, he said perhaps technology (video
cameras, etc) could help prevent the high risk of SGBV in detention
centers (for both women and men). In addition, since SGBV is a
country-wide problem stemming from the lack of women's rights in
general in the DRC, he suggested establishing a training institute
to build the capacity of civil society, including NGOs focusing on
various aspects of women's rights. He asserted that, given the
absence of political will and lack of capacity in the DRC government
to protect women's rights, it would be immensely helpful to assist
civil society groups to develop advocacy and investigatory skills
and to specialize in certain areas helpful not only to the fight
against SGBV specifically but also to advancing women's social
status and DRC development in the long-run.

13. (SBU) During the dinner Ross also discussed the possibilities
of using technology to increase citizen-driven accountability
mechanisms and to incentivize good behavior in the security forces
in order to reduce acts of SGBV by security forces.

Chamber of Commerce roundtable and visit to a "Comptoir"
------------------------- -------------------------------

14. (SBU) During a roundtable with members of the Federation des
Entreprises Congolaises (FEC), a Congolese chamber of commerce, Ross
and Cohen explored the challenges of ensuring transparent management
of natural resources amid conflict and widespread corruption.
Separately and in addition to the meeting with FEC, Ross and Cohen
visited several "comptoirs" (mineral sales outlet). Mr. Makabuza,
the director general of GMC, explained that securing the mines is
the biggest challenge that he as a comptoir owner faces. One area
in Walikale Territory of North Kivu Province accounts for 80 percent
of the cassiterite for the entire province, but in this secluded
area the mining zones are not well protected or controlled, Makabuza
said. He faulted the government for failing to provide security,
failing to monitor the artisanal miners, and failing conduct proper
investigations before issuing prospecting permits to companies,
which has caused problems with local who had also been granted
permits for the same areas. Despite the establishment of a mining
code a few years ago, the comptoir owners asserted that the $5

million per year (including taxes to local governments) that the
mining sector contributes to the DRC economy is "never included" in
any government reports; this lack of oversight, they maintained,
illustrates the need for capacity strengthening programs for the
government "to plug these leaks" in the mining sector. Makabuza
stressed that he would participate in a "clean" supply chain if one
is secured, but that he does not want to be held responsible for a
"dirty" supply chain.

15. (SBU) Comment: Makabuza is tied by the human rights groups to
historically Rwandan-backed militias, specifically the CNDP, and the
main purpose of the meeting was for Makabuza (who owns transport,
mining and other companies) to "send a message" that he would
participate in a clean supply chain if one is secured; but that he
does not want to be held responsible for a dirty supply chain. This
reflects the reality of the new Kigame/Kabila partnership that has
put these groups on weaker footing in East Congo. End Comment.

16. (SBU) Makabuza said that he and his fellow businessmen are
aware of the movement to expose the illegal exploitation of natural
resources in the DRC and have cooperated with efforts, including
efforts by some international NGOs, to expose such exploitation. He
asserted that despite the comptoirs' cooperation, NGOs such as
Global Witness unfairly portray the comptoirs/businessmen in the
mining sector as lacking ethics. Responding to a question from
Cohen, he said the comptoirs continue to share a lot of documents
and other information with the UN Group of Experts, and that he and
all of his fellow comptoir owners/businessmen pay proper taxes on
their investments. He derided the most recent Global Witness
reports for lack of credibility and unfounded allegations against

the comptoirs, and he asserted repeatedly that the comptoirs should
not be expected to "play policemen" regarding illegal or shady
activities in the mining sector by others.

17. (SBU) In response to a question from Ross, the comptoir owners
explained to Ross and Cohen how they are attempting to organize the
traders, local miners, and aviation companies (which transport
mining good) into cooperatives in order to create "a chain of
transmission" and increase traceability and transparency in the
sector. Makabuza, whose rumored membership in the RCD may undermine
the credibility of some of his assertions, claimed that the armed
groups and the military are no longer involved in the production or
trade of minerals. He added that with the progress that has been
made in the sector, the comtpoirs should, with the ongoing advice of
end-user cooperatives and the UN Group of Experts, push for the
establishment of a reliable traceability system, similar to ETEI.
Makabuza, who thanked USAID for organizing recent seminars on
"Trading for Peace", appealed for additional U.S. assistance in
establishing an ETEI-like system in the DRC, including the provision
of proper training to support such a system.

18. (SBU) Before beginning the visit to the comptoir, Cohen and
Ross thanked the FEC members for the information, their suggestions,
and their candor. Ross emphasized that the delegation was on a
listening mission and that this meeting was the start of a larger
conversation with the aim of helping the DRC. Cohen explained that
private companies and certain technologies might be able to
contribute to a solution and that the U.S. would continue to explore
how to further strengthen the mining sector in the DRC.

Roundtable on SGBV

19. (SBU) During a roundtable on SGBV involving approximately 20
local and international NGOs, some showing up without an invitation
and insisting on participating, Patel and Ross listened to a vibrant
discussion on the challenges and opportunities regarding the fight
against SGBV in the DRC. Patel explained that it was important, for
the sake of SGBV survivors, that we continue to build upon the
momentum generated by the visit of Secretary Clinton. A few NGOs,
such as Heal Africa, which Patel visited earlier in the day,
emphasized that while the U.S. focus on SGBV was helpful and could
be a stepping stone to address other, larger development problems,
such as deficiencies in maternal health across the DRC, a narrow
focus on SGBV could run the risk of ignoring other needs related to
women's and children's health, and this result could ultimately
undermine the effectiveness of programs focused on SGBV. For
example, some health centers and hospitals that receive pepkits
through donor funds targeting SGBV too often end up with so little
medicines in their supply cabinets that doctors and nurses are
forced to "raid" the SGBV-focused pepkits for medicines needed
urgently by non-SGBV patients. Other health-focused NGOs underlined
the need for donors to better understand the needs associated with
SGBV, noting that the current SGBV-related emphasis by donors on
support for fistula repair was misplaced, as less than 5 percent of
all fistulas result from rape (the overwhelming majority result from

20. (SBU) Michael Kramer of the ICRC suggested that if the USG
aimed to support activities that could protect women and girls from
rape, it should consider using its technological tools to establish
a "panic button" system, perhaps in a pilot village for starters.
Such a system would resemble emergency call stations (the poles with
red buttons) that often dot U.S. university campuses to help prevent
rape, robbery, and other assaults on campus. The system would have
to be wirelessly connected to either a private security firm or the
local police force, so that a pressed button would trigger a signal
for the anti-rape security services to deploy immediately. To be
sustainable, Kramer said, such a system would need to be linked to
the police and be accompanied by old-fashion capacity building
(training) for the police. Another idea, this one from a local NGO
called "Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de la Violence
Sexuelle," (Women in Synergy for Victims of Sexual Violence)
identified the need for legal reforms and strengthening the
judiciary so it can better adjudicate rape cases and implement the
country's 2006 law on sexual violence.

21. (SBU) After more than two hours of conversation, during which
the majority of NGOs urged a long-term approach to women's rights in
the DRC and not merely one that focused on SGBV, Patel thanked the
NGO participants and explained that this follow-up mission to the
recent visit by Secretary Clinton was not a one-off visit.
Following an exchange of numerous business cards and contact
information, the conversation and the partnership that the
roundtable furthered was slated to continue. The participants were
vocal in expressing their appreciation not only of the visit by
Secretary Clinton but also of the follow-up mission and the
willingness of Patel and the delegation to ask so many questions and
listen so intently.

Interviews with Goma Police

22. (SBU) During their day traveling around Goma, Cohen rode around
in multiple police vehicles to interview a dozen or so police
officers in Swahili. The police explained to him that they earn $35
a month if they are lucky and they need at least $100 to provide for
their families. They mentioned that while corruption is rampant,
financial incentives would reduce corruption among those police who
do shake downs out of "necessity."

23. (U) S/P cleared this message.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN: Bachelet Alarmed By Number Of Palestinian Children Killed In Latest Escalation

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet today expressed alarm at the high number of Palestinians, including children, killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory this year, including in intense hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last weekend... More>>

Save The Children: One Year Under Taliban Rule, Girls Are More Isolated, Hungry, Sad: New Report
One year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, an economic crisis, crippling drought and new restrictions have shattered girls’ lives, excluding them from society and leaving them hungry...

Palestinian Ministry of Health: Developments In The Health Situation During The Israeli Aggression On The Cities & Governorates Of The Gaza Strip
For the second day in a row, the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip continues by targeting overcrowded residential areas and neighborhoods, as the death toll rose to 13 citizens, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman... More>>

Somalia: ‘We Cannot Wait For Famine To Be Declared; We Must Act Now’
Rising acute food insecurity in Somalia has caused more than 900,000 people to flee their homes in search of humanitarian assistance since January last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned... More>>

UN: American West Faces Water And Power Shortages Due To Climate Crisis
Two of the largest reservoirs in the United States are at dangerously low levels due to the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, which could affect water and electricity supply for millions in six western states and Mexico, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned on Tuesday... More>>

Singapore: UN Experts Call For Immediate Moratorium On Executions For Drug Offences

UN experts* today condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drug related charges... More>>