Cablegate: Update-Over 20,000 Displaced by Violence in Drc Into

DE RUEHBZ #0329/01 3211451
O P 171451Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


BRAZZAVILL 00000329 001.2 OF 005

1.(U)SUMMARY: Over 20,000 people have been displaced from the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the Republic of Congo
(ROC) since outbreak of violence in Dongo, DRC on 29 October
2009. Over the last two weeks, the displaced have set up camps
along the west (ROC) bank of the Ubangui River. Although the
flow of displaced persons across the Ubangui has slowed
significantly, the situation remains an emerging humanitarian
crisis. The lack of shelter, potable water, sanitation, food,
and health care in the camps has already led to deaths among the
displaced. Evidence on the ground suggests that a rapid
repatriation to the DRC is improbable and the conditions in the
camps will likely become worse before they get better. The GROC
and UN institutions in the ROC are coordinating the response to
this crisis and have already delivered some supplies to the
displaced. The UN and GROC, however, have yet to agree on a
clear plan for the next steps and may lack the resources
necessary to effectively dispatch enough humanitarian supplies
to meet the growing needs of the displaced in this remote
region. END SUMMARY.


2.(U) Since October, some 20,000 citizens of the DRC have
crossed the Ubangui River into the ROC. Driven from their homes
in the DRC by ethnic violence (REFTELS) in the Dongo region of
the Equator Province, the majority of the displaced are now
spread among more than 20 villages along the 160 km stretch of
the Ubangui between the towns of Impfondo and Betou. Since the
last report (REFTEL A), the official number of displaced persons
has grown by more than 8,000 in less than one week. According to
the ROC regional government responsible for collecting data on
new arrivals, there were 24,194 displaced persons in the
Likouala Department as of November 11.

3.(U) This rapid growth in the number of displaced persons does
not stem from a spike in movement across the river. Rather, it
reflects a more complete count of the massive wave of migration
into the ROC in the wake of violence in the DRC. UNHCR reports
that in fact there have been three recent waves of movement into
the ROC. The first group of some 1,000 displaced persons arrived
in the ROC following the first clashes between the Enyele at
Manzaya groups in May 2009. A second massive wave came across
during the buildup and eventual outbreak of violence in Dongo
between October 20 and October 29. Finally, a third wave came
across the river as the Enyele militia moved south to Imesse
(DRC) between October 30 and November 6.

4.(U) Since the first week of November, there have been no new
major movements into the ROC. The official number of displaced
persons, however, continues to rise. While some of this growth
is due to more accurate reporting of displaced persons now that
resources have been deployed to register arrivals, the UNHCR
fears there also is a certain amount of over-reporting. Some
people have moved from one village to another and have been
counted in both locations. The displaced persons committees in
charge of registration may also be inflating the numbers of
persons in each camp in the hope of securing more aid for their
group. Finally, there have also been at least two examples of
ROC nationals who have tried to get their names on the displaced
person's list in the hopes of securing free handouts for their
families. Despite these inaccuracies, UNHCR reports with
confidence that there are at least 20,000 displaced persons now
in ROC.


5.(U) From November 11-13 EmbOff participated in a joint UN/GROC
fact finding mission dispatched to assess conditions in the
displaced persons' camps along the Ubangui in the Likouala
Department. Conditions in the camps depend on the setting. In

BRAZZAVILL 00000329 002.2 OF 005

general, the camps can be divided into two categories: (1) small
cities, and (2) river villages. The camps visited and the total
number of displaced in each camp as of 11 November is as follows:

(1) Small Cities:
Dongou - 2,450
Betou - 6,008

(2) River Villages:
Eboko - 3,377
Landza - 1,655
Afrique du Sud - 600
Mankolo - 500

6.(U) The conditions in the small cities are generally better
than those in the river villages. Although the recent arrivals
have caused populations to swell by 30-50%, most of the
displaced in Dongou and Betou have found rudimentary shelter in
existing buildings such as schools, churches, factories, and
government buildings. The small cities also have medical
facilities that can treat all but the most seriously injured
patients. The situation, however, remains precarious and will
quickly degenerate without continued assistance. In Betou, for
example, 2,900 displaced persons are living in a dilapidated
match factory that shut down some 10 years ago. One third of the
roof has completely collapsed and the rest is falling down.
There are two latrines and one source of clean water for nearly
3,000 people. Medcins d'Afrique (MDA) reports that between 1-7
November, 122 cases of malaria, 25 cases of severe diarrhea
occurred at the match stick factory.

7.(U) In the river villages, the number of displaced far
outnumbers the local population. In Mankolo there are two ROC
nationals and approximately 500 displaced persons. These smaller
villages have few facilities suitable to shelter displaced
persons and most have taken to building rudimentary shelters to
protect themselves from the elements. Some of the displaced have
made shelters of sticks and palm leaves. Others have simply been
rolling themselves up in tarps distributed by UNHCR. Neither
one of these forms of shelter offer much protection from the
persistent downpours in the region. In the river villages, there
are generally no latrines and no sources of potable water. Most
of the displaced relieve themselves in the surrounding bush and
drink from the river. Access to medical care is also limited.
Since October 29, six infants have died in Eboko due to diarrhea
despite the fact that there is a mobile clinic set up in the
village. Lanza has a clinic building, but it has not yet been
stocked or staffed.

8.(U) In both the river the river villages and the small cities,
food is becoming scarce. Most of the displaced have been in the
ROC for almost two weeks and even those who had time to pack
supplies before they fled the DRC are running out of food. To
make matters worse, most of the food consumed in the region was
produced in the DRC by the very people who have now fled into
the ROC. In the small cities, the displaced complete with the
local population for an ever smaller amount of food. As a result
of the increased demand and diminished supply, the prices of
staples such as manioc have increased by 30% in the last two
weeks. The local population also reports increased numbers of
crops being stolen in the fields since the displaced arrived.

9.(U) Security is also a problem common to both the camps in the
river villages and the small cities. In many of the camps,
members of ethnic/linguistic groups that fought one another in
the DRC have been intermixed in the same camps. To date, the
ethnic violence in the DRC has not crossed the river, but should
conditions grow worse, groups that currently live together
peacefully could be driven to violence. More alarming is the
cross border movement of militiamen. The displaced in the
locations called Lanza and Afrique du Sud both report that
militiamen continue to cross from DRC into their isolated river
villages. Armed with spears and knives, the militiamen have
crossed to purchase supplies in the local markets. To date,
there have been no instances of violence, but the displaced fear

BRAZZAVILL 00000329 003.2 OF 005

that the militiamen could attack them and have requested that
their camps be staffed with military personnel to protect the
displaced from their enemies in the DRC. The GROC has repeatedly
promised to provide security, but to date no military personnel
have arrived.


10.(U) At the time of the assessment visit, the UN/GROC response
to the crisis was limited to the emergency relief supplies that
could be quickly mobilized. Despite media reports of 15,000 tons
of supplies, as of 17 November the GROC has only delivered a
total of 597 kilograms of supplies to Likouala. UNHCR has also
made an initial distribution of non-food items including: tarps,
pots and pans, water cans, blankets and mosquito nets. In the
small cities, many of the displaced persons had UNHCR non-food
items. However, some of the displaced have not put the goods
they have received to use. While making rounds with the UNHCR
representative in Betou, EmbOff observed numerous families that
had unopened mosquito nets and brand new pots and pans hidden
away in their belongings. In the river villages, families appear
to have received tarps and blankets during the initial
distributions made by UNHCR. Families that arrived to the river
villages after the initial UNHCR distribution, however, have not
received any additional supplies.

11.(U) According to the UNHCR representative in Impfondo, the UN
response is currently focused on meeting the immediate needs of
the population. To date, everyone is careful to use the term
"displaced" instead of "refugee." Until the GROC decides to
declare the displaced population as refugees, the UN will not
make any investment in consolidating the scattered camps into
larger camps, setting up a more elaborate registration system,
or launching a food aid campaign. The GROC continues to work on
a short-term emergency response plan and does not appear willing
to discuss anything beyond emergency measures to meet the
immediate needs of the displaced population.


12.(U) The UN team has drafted a report containing the findings
of the assessment visit, but the document will not be released
for distribution until the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs
approves it. This document will outline the key needs of the
population in terms of security, water/sanitation, health, and
food and should guide a more targeted and better coordinated
response to this crisis. Meeting with the displaced in Betou,
the GROC Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Emilienne Raoul,
promised that the ROC would "share what little it had." Through
today, the GROC has made many promises, but failed to provide
any significant aid.

13.(U) The biggest challenge faced by both the GROC and the UN
will be to deliver goods to those most in need. Most food and
non-food items are stocked in warehouses in the port of
Pointe-Noire or in Brazzaville. However, 90% of the displaced
population lives in river villages only accessible by water.
Unfortunately, the Ubangui is only navigable until December. As
the tropical dry season settles in north of the Equator, the
river drops to a level that prevents barges from reaching
Impfondo, Betou, or the villages in between until the rains
return around March/April. Members of the assessment team
discussed the possibility of setting up an airlift to move major
stockpiles into the region, but the GROC is unlikely to provide
the logistical support necessary for this type of operation.
According to the GROC representative, the transport costs
already incurred by the initial relief operations were too high
to discuss publicly. Apparently, the GROC had to make a special
request to the IMF to be allowed to even make their initial
expenditures to support the displaced.

BRAZZAVILL 00000329 004.2 OF 005

14.(U) The isolation of the Likouala Department where the
displaced have taken up residence is magnified by the lack of
infrastructure in place. There are no paved roads connecting
either Impfondo or Betou with Brazzaville. Both towns are now
cut off as the rainy season has made the dirt roads effectively
impassable. Impfondo also lacks a regular supply of gasoline and
diesel. The UNHCR buys its gas in bulk and barges in a private
stockpile for their operations. According to American citizens
resident in Impfondo, the one gas station in town has gas for
about ten days every year. Impfondo has a new power generation
station built in 2005, but lacking an adequate supply of diesel,
the city power only functions intermittently. All of these
factors magnify the difficulty of running an effective relief
operation out of Impfondo.

15.(U)Both the UN and the GROC hope that the displaced will
quickly return to the DRC. However, this scenario appears
unlikely. GDRC forces control Dongo since 8 November, but the
displaced have not yet returned home. According to the UNHCR
Impfondo representative who visited Dongo on 16 November, bodies
are still rotting in the streets. Many of the displaced have
lost their homes, their belongings, and any ties to the DRC
strong enough to pull them back across the Ubangui. Others
witnessed crimes committed by the militiamen. Residents of Dongo
described being systematically robbed by the militia as they
fled from their homes. Women report being raped. In Lanza, the
displaced walk past the fresh graves of three women and one man
killed by the militiamen as they fled the DRC. In Afrique du
Sud, armed militiamen continue to cross freely into the ROC. The
displaced doubt that order will ever be restored in the DRC and
say they hope to never return.

16.(U) The current movement across the Ubangui is the latest in
a string of incidents involving displaced persons. In 1997, the
first group of displaced persons arrived in the wake of the
ethnic violence in Rwanda. In 2002, 50,000 people fled DRC into
the Likouala in the fallout surrounding Jean-Pierre Bemba.
According to the UNHCR, 12,000 refugees already resided in the
Likouala province before the most recent movement across the
Ubangui began. In fact, many of the people who have come across
the river recently are actually returning refugees that were
repatriated to the DRC by the UNHCR less than two years ago.
Some of the newly displaced told EmbOff that they had even
returned to the same villages where they were previously

17.(U) From what we are hearing here -- and we emphasize that
this is the Congo(B) perspective -- there is a widespread belief
that on the DRC side of the river, prospects are not good for a
speedy resolution to this latest conflict. According to reports
received in Brazzaville, there are 30,000 internally displaced
persons in the DRC who have fled the ethnic violence around
Dongo to the interior of the country. UNHCR reports that GDRC
forces have retaken Dongo, but have not demonstrated either the
will or the capacity to bring security to the region. The
witchdoctor com-General ODJANI (previously referred to as
General Johnnie in REF A) and his militiamen continue to move
freely in the area. In addition to the re-supply missions to the
ROC, the UNHCR Impfondo representative reports that low level
clashes between GDRC forces and the militia continue.
Furthermore, rumors are swirling that ODJANI may even try a
counterattack to retake Dongo. We stress that of course Embassy
Kinshasa is also in close contact with the GDRC and UN in
Kinshasa and may have more current or more accurate information
on the situation in the DRC.

18. (U) To date, Embassy Brazzaville has not received any formal
request for U.S. government assistance from either the GROC or
the UN. However, given the evolving and likely prolonged nature
of this incident, Post expects that a request for assistance is
inevitable. Throughout the assessment visit the UNHCR encouraged
the displaced persons to take the initiative and help themselves
rather than waiting for aid handouts. Citing an African proverb,
the UNHCR representative urged people be to proactive and use
resources they have already received, saying "if someone washes

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your back, you can wash your belly." In interactions with the UN
and ROC representatives, EmbOff adopted this same attitude,
encouraging them both to take advantage of the resources they
have on hand before making any requests for additional

19. (U) Post is in close and continuous contact with the UN and
the GROC and will provide further updates as well as any
specific requests for aid as they become available.

© Scoop Media

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