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Cablegate: Uncertainty in Equateur Province Keeps Population On Edge

VZCZCXRO4258
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0026/01 0101345
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 101344Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0021
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000026

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF EAID PGOV PHUM MOPS PINR CG
SUBJECT: UNCERTAINTY IN EQUATEUR PROVINCE KEEPS POPULATION ON EDGE

REF: 09 KINSHASA 1144; 09 KINSHASA 1033; 09 KINSHASA 997
09 BRAZZAVILLE 362 AND PREVIOUS; 09 BANGUI 274

1. (SBU) Summary: The local population in the Dongo region of
Equateur Province remains concerned about insecurity. Refugees
continue to flee into neighboring Congo-Brazzaville and the Central
African Republic (CAR), while the number of IDPs is difficult to
ascertain due to on-going insecurity and the geographical isolation
of the area. Despite the challenges, humanitarian organizations have
registered small inroads into the area, providing assistance to the
still fearful IDP population. Humanitarian and international
organizations have developed three different scenarios to anticipate
future needs in the region. The FARDC has apparently retaken several
key towns, including the insurgents' stronghold of Enyele. MONUC
told us that the GDRC has emphasized that it will first secure the
region militarily before it will engage in any negotiations with the
rebels. The FARDC is apparently feeding and equipping its forces in
the area; this is thought to be positively influencing troop
discipline in the area. End summary.

Situation remains tense
-----------------------

2. (U) Over two and a half months after fighting broke out between
the Enyele and Manzaya tribes over fishing rights, then devolving
into a quasi-uprising against the GDRC (ref B), the situation in
Equateur Province remains unstable. Despite FARDC successes against
the Enyele insurgents, the local population remains in a state of
flux, caught between a desire to return home and the fear of violence
that lingers in the area. Both refugees and IDPs are living in
difficult conditions compounded by the challenges of providing
humanitarian assistance in remote and insecure areas.

3. (U) According to OCHA, there are approximately 85,000 Congolese
refugees in Congo-Brazzaville as a result of the conflict in Equateur
(ref D). In addition, UNHCR estimates 15,000 locals have fled the
DRC and taken refuge in the Central African Republic (ref E). In
limited locations, the refugees continue to return slowly, but the
situation is still tense. Many homes in places of return were
burned, making the transition more difficult.

4. (U) Continued insecurity has made humanitarian assistance in the
area extremely difficult. The city of Dongo remains a ghost town,
while smaller localities, such as Bozene and Boyazala, have
experienced some returnee movement (Note: a MONUC contact who
recently visited the area estimated that only 30% of Bozene's
population of 18,000 had returned. End note.). Numbers of IDPs are
more difficult to ascertain due to the many unstable and insecure
zones in the province. OCHA estimated the IDP population at
approximately 60,000. These numbers will likely increase as
additional data from previously insecure zones becomes available.

Some assistance for IDPs arriving
---------------------------------

5. (U) Because of the slightly improved security situation in two
locales near Gemena, the UN World Food Program started food
distribution on December 31. More than 50 metric tons of food
assistance - under MONUC escort - departed Gemena for distribution
sites at Bozene and Boyazala. Local NGO AVEP will distribute the
food rations consisting of maize, beans, vegetable oil and salt for
one month to 6,000 thousand IDPs in these two areas. This group of
IDPs fled the initial wave of violence in late October-early November
around Dongo, returning when the situation seemingly approved. They
registered and then fled in a second wave of violence and
displacement between Dongo and Budjala, including Bozene. The
distribution has received support from the district commissioner who
has attempted to set up mechanisms to ensure those receiving the
rations are true IDPs.

6. (U) WFP workers on the ground found the population "jumpy and
terrified of the FARDC." After receiving the rations, they quickly
returned to the forest instead of their homes in the village. To
date, there are no reports of FARDC perpetrating human rights
violations in the area. This is the first food distribution in the
region since the fighting began in late October 2009. Medecins Sans
Frontieres is also on the ground providing assistance. Other
international NGOs in the province are ACTED, OXFAM, CRB, MAG, SNV,
Memisa, CDI, CTB, Fondation Damien, and ASF/PSI.

KINSHASA 00000026 002 OF 002


Scenarios driving humanitarian planning
---------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Humanitarian organizations have developed three different
scenarios to plan their assistance. The first and most optimistic is
that the conflict will remain contained in the Dongo region with a
maximum number of about 120,000 displaced persons (30,000 IDPs and
90,000 refugees). The most likely scenario is that the South Ubangui
region will remain in low-level conflict, with approximately 150,000
IDPs and 120,000 refugees. The worst case scenario is that fighting
between FARDC and rebels in both South and North Ubangui will create
250,000-300,000 IDPs and 150,000 refugees from the
Gemena-Libenge-Dongo triangle. A humanitarian assessment team
composed of WFP, OCHA, UNICEF and MONUC is scheduled to visit the
Dongo area on January 9.

Political and military situation
--------------------------------

8. (SBU) MONUC contacts told polcouns that there were now 500 UN
troops in the area, consisting of Tunisian, Ghanaian, Egyptian, and
Guatemalan forces pulled from Kinshasa and the Eastern DRC.
Temporary Operating Bases (TOBs) have been established at Dongo and
Bozene.

9. (SBU) MONUC cannot independently verify FARDC claims that 157
insurgents had been killed over the last several days. MONUC does
believe FARDC assertions that the rebels are retreating from areas
they had previously held. The rebels reportedly fell back to their
stronghold at the village of Enyele, and were subsequently forced to
retreat to Buburu and Bomongo.

10. (SBU) MONUC highlighted the GDRC's apparent clear preference to
stabilize the security situation before any negotiations with the
insurgents could begin. Discipline amongst the FARDC forces appears
to be good; the FARDC reportedly provided its forces in the area with
rations from South Africa, improved radio communication capabilities,
and vehicles.

11. (SBU) MONUC lauded the transparent and positive collaboration
displayed by Congo-Brazzaville authorities, noting that ROC forces
had moved quickly to provide a modicum of security along the Ubangui
River, the primary mode of transportation in the area. A joint
DRC-ROC parliamentary mission could not reach Dongo. There were
rumors that there had been opposition from some local politicians to
the mission, but the details remain unclear. The local population,
according to MONUC, has asked for more blue helmets to be deployed.

12. (SBU) Comment: The ongoing conflict in Equateur continues to
render humanitarian assistance and information gathering about IDPs
extremely difficult. A MONUC escort is required for humanitarians
delivering food assistance. As WFP observers noted, the population
appears to be more afraid of the FARDC than of the initial conflict,
although the GDRC security forces, to our knowledge, have been
careful not to engage in blatant human rights violations, as they
often have in other DRC conflict zones. End comment
GARVELINK

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