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Cablegate: Just-Landed Goma Officer's First Impressions of the Congo's

VZCZCXRO5682
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0046/01 0121306
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 121305Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0031
INFO RWANDA COLLECTIVE
SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY 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 000046

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR PREF PHUM CG
SUBJECT: Just-landed Goma officer's first impressions of the Congo's
wild, wild east

1. (SBU) Summary: Goma-based poloff arrived in Goma December 16
after a week of consultations in Kinshasa. This account of first
impressions is informed and prejudiced by his prior service as
Rwanda desk officer from 1989-1991, as DRC desk officer from
1999-2001 and as Africa watcher in Paris from 2001-2005. That
background notwithstanding, poloff has been mildly surprised by a
lingering perception of USG favoritism towards Rwanda, as well as
suspicions of current U.S. motives in eastern DRC. These motives
are described as ranging from favoring the breakup of the Congo to
a grab for the country's mineral resources. End summary.

Balkanization
----------------

2. (SBU) A Bunia-based Congolese contact pressed poloff about the
nature and purpose of the U.S. presence in Goma. After hearing
poloff's response, the contact told us that it was generally
believed that the U.S. planned to establish a presence in the East
with a view either to separate the region from the rest of the
country or to make it subordinate to Rwanda.

The outsiders
-----------------

3. (SBU) North Kivu Vice-Governor Feller Luhaichirwa, receiving
poloff for a largely ceremonial courtesy call, embarked on an
increasingly animated recapitulation of the last fifteen years, all
of which had brought misery on the people of the region. Without
citing the U.S. in particular, Feller blamed the Mobutu regime and
the international community for not disarming Rwandan refugees in
camps around Goma, instead providing them with the necessities of
life, which resulted in these outsiders exacerbating
already-existing tensions in the region. Feller, a Hunde,
expressed sympathy for the population pressures in Rwanda, but said
that pending a solution which would enable Rwandans to return home,
humanitarian relief for Rwandan refugees should be organized in
less densely populated parts of the Congo. Going further, he said
that Congo has plenty of land where Rwandans might immigrate and
settle as a partial means of alleviating their land pressures, but
that this shouldn't happen in North Kivu (and particularly not in
Masisi), which is already overpopulated.

Women
----------

4. (SBU) Meeting with the head of a Congolese women's NGO, poloff
heard that the condition of women in Zaire/Congo had been
deplorable at least since Mobutu. But the influx of outsiders in
1994, the ascendancy of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Congo (ADFL) in 1997, and the Rwandan invasion of
1998 had been disastrous for the local population and for women in
particular. Property was seized, belongings were looted and, of
course, there is now widespread rape. The NGO is trying to assist
the victims, she said, expressing in understated, but unmistakable
terms her outrage at the ability of the perpetrators to escape what
is left of the Congolese justice system.

5. (SBU) Comment: Poloff frequently recounts to those he meets
that Secretary Powell's first meetings with foreign heads of state
were with Presidents Kagame and Kabila on successive days in
January 2001 and, citing French academic Gerard Prunier, that
Kagame took from his encounter an understanding that U.S. policy
was not tilted in his favor. Poloff also notes that Hubert
Vedrine, the French Foreign Minister at the time, remarked on the
"convergence" of U.S. and French policy on the Great Lakes region.
Asked by the local TV station following his meeting with the
Vice-Governor, whether he had a message for the people of Kivu,
poloff responded that the Secretary's visit was a demonstration of

KINSHASA 00000046 002 OF 002


U.S. concern and solidarity with the Congolese people and that our
presence in Goma was part of an effort to better understand the
political, economic, and social challenges they confront. However,
in meetings held so far, particularly with long-time humanitarian
workers, the perception that U.S. policy is skewed in favor of
Rwanda is common. Poloff's first impression is that there is a
great deal of work to be done to convince the population of Eastern
Congo that U.S. policy and its presence in Goma are in their best
interests. End comment.
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