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2004-08-13 14:13:00
Embassy Kinshasa
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001535 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014

Classified By: Poloff Meghan Moore for Reasons 1.5 B and D



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014

Classified By: Poloff Meghan Moore for Reasons 1.5 B and D

1. (C) Summary: As of August 13, despite several weeks of
low-level skirmishes, the FARDC had not launched a
large-scale offensive against rebel commander Laurent Nkunda.
Much of the FARDC command structure, including N. Kivu
military commander General Obedi, descended on Bukavu August
10 for consultations with the military field commander,
General Mabe. On August 11, General Obedi returned to Goma,
and the others returned to Kisangani. On August 7, VP Ruberwa
arrived in Bukavu for what was to be a week-long visit to the
Kivus. The government seems to be inching closer to the
'military solution' to the Nkunda dilemma, while still
pursuing negotiated settlements. It is unlikely, however,
that the FARDC would launch a large-scale military offensive
until after President Kabila returns from his scheduled trip
to the SADC summit the week of August 16. End Summary.

2. (C) There have been sustained rumors of an imminent
large-scale FARDC attack on rebel positions in N. and S. Kivu
for the past two months, but so far only low-level clashes
have occurred. On July 31, S. Kivu Military Regional
Commander General Mabe told polcouns he had received
instructions from Kinshasa to launch an attack against
Nkunda's positions, but was waiting to execute this order
because he cannot control Lake Kivu and fears that Rwanda
will send reinforcements. (Comment: Monuc reports
substantiate an ongoing traffic through Dutu of supplies and
personnel from Rwanda to Nkunda's positions. End Comment.)
Low-level skirmishes have occurred for several weeks outside
Kalehe between unidentified elements nominally loyal to
Nkunda or Serufuli and Mai Mai elements and/or FARDC troops
loyal to Mabe. On July 31, the UN Office for Humanitarian
Coordination estimated that these skirmishes had caused
31,000 people to flee southwards towards Kalehe and at least
5,000 IDPs (mostly Rwandaphone) to flee north. On August 12,
MONUC Bukavu Child Protection Officer told poloff that a vast
majority of these IDPs were of the BaHa
vu ethnic group, and
not Rwandaphone.

3. (C) On August 10, a large group of senior military
officials, including armed forces chief Lt. Gen. Kisempia,
intelligence chief BG Didier Etumba, ground forces commander
Major General Sylvain Mbuki, air force and naval deputy
commanders, and N. Kivu regional commander BG Obedi arrived
in Bukavu for meetings with General Mabe. While in Bukavu,
the group held strategy sessions and toured FARDC front-line
positions in Kalehe. (Note: It appears that Obedi
participated in all meetings, after Mbuki issued him an
ultimatum---Obedi must report to Kinshasa by August 15 with a
detailed report of the status of his forces, including who is
likely to be loyal to the FARDC or face the consequences. On
August 12, Obedi told poloff that he plans to come to
Kinshasa--he's just waiting for Mbuki to set the date. He
also said he plans to go to Masisi on August 13 to
investigate Interahamwe activity. End note.) On August 11,
General Obedi returned to Goma, and the others returned to

Opposing Forces

4. (C) As of early August, MONUC reported that FARDC troops
were located in central Kalehe and some locations along the
Kalehe-Minova road (which runs along Lake Kivu). DATT
estimates total FARDC forces in the area as roughly 15,000
troops. As of early August, MONUC reported that Nkunda's
troops occupied Minova on Lake Kivu and locations to the
north of Kalehe, along Lake Kivu, such as Nyabibwe, Dutu,
Mukwija, Lushebere and Nyamasasa, as well as villages north
of Bushaku on the High Plateau. DATT estimates that Nkunda
has access to about 5,000 troop, comprised of about 3,000
troops in and around Minova (2,000 who came from Bukavu in
June and about 1,000 who either deserted from the FARDC, were
forcibly recruited, or were paid to fight), and an additional
2,000 would probably answer Nkunda's call.

Diplomatic Moves

5. (C) Diplomatic initiatives to negotiate Nkunda out of the
Kivus and into exile have not worked thus far, in part
because Nkunda does not appear willing to accept exile unless
it would be to someplace 'nice,' i.e., Europe or America.
Developed countries are not interested in offering the
'Butcher of Kisangani' exile. Over time, Nkunda has
demonstrated that he is an untrustworthy negotiator, which
makes potential interlocutors even more unwilling to talk to
him. Although it is possible that either N. Kivu Governor
Serufuli and/or VP Ruberwa may be attempting to find a
political solution, they are unlikely to succeed.

6. (C) In response to a recent CIAT letter expressing concern
about Nkunda, President Kabila told the new British
Ambassador this week during his credentials ceremony that
Kabila would be happy to meet with the CIAT following his
return from the SADC summit next week, but only to discuss
elections, not Nkunda. (Comment: The subject of Nkunda will
almost certainly arise in any CIAT meeting with Kabila, if
only in the guise of an impediment to progress towards
elections. End comment.) Meanwhile, Monuc SRSG Bill Swing
reports that Kabila has been in regular contact with
Serufuli. Serufuli is the wildcard of the local situation, in
control of a militia that could be a decisive factor in any
military confrontation. It is unclear what Serufuli is after,
and entirely conceivable that he is presently unwilling to
commit to either Kabila or Nkunda, seeking to preserve all
options until and if a sufficiently attractive option is
available to him. For now, the uncertain status quo may be
his preferred choice.

Ruberwa's Mission

7. (C) On August 7, VP Ruberwa arrived in Bukavu for what was
planned to be a week-long visit to the Kivus. (Note: Initial
reports that an August 7 gun-battle on the Kavumu
Airport-Bukavu road were between Ruberwa's bodyguards and the
FARDC were untrue. Rather, Ruberwa's entourage encountered an
ongoing scuffle between a renegade Mai Mai commander and
FARDC troops. End note.) Ruberwa flew August 10 to Kigali,
and then continued on to Cyangugu where he met with
Banyamulenge refugees August 11 before returning to Bukavu.
MONUC Bukavu reported that Ruberwa asked MONUC to join him in
Cyangugu, but the GOR refused permission for MONUC to cross
the border. (Note. This travel prohibition continued August

12. End note.) As of August 12, it appears the Ruberwa will
not go to Goma as planned due to concerns about his security,
but will continue on to Burundi to meet with Banyamulenge
refugees. (Comment: Ruberwa met with President Kabila before
leaving Kinshasa, and may be on a wider government mission to
speak to the Rwandans about moving the Joint Verification
Mechanism forward and conceivably Nkunda. He may also be
meeting with Burundians to discuss purported Rwanda-Burundi
military cooperation to hunt the FDLR. End comment.)


8. (C) As this stalemate has dragged on, the transitional
government forces have become weaker and less focused. The
failure to negotiate Nkunda out of his position, coupled with
the FARDC's inability to resupply its troops and maintain
discipline, is fueling the likelihood of an eventual military
offensive. The risk remains that relatively large-scale
fighting could be triggered unintentionally due to
miscalculations or 'accidents' arising from large numbers of
ill-disciplined troops in close proximity who regularly
engage in low-level clashes. Any planned offensive, however,
is unlikely to take place until after President Kabila
returns from his scheduled trip to the SADC summit next week.

9. (C) On paper, neither side appears to have a decisive
military advantage, and it is unclear whether FARDC efforts
to bring Obedi back into the fold are either sincere or
likely to work. Serufuli appears to enjoy his wildcard role,
but Kabila may be negotiating with him to pre-position
Serufuli's militia members in positions that appear innocuous
but could be beneficial for the FARDC--althgouh it remains
unclear what Serufuli might demand in exchange for such
service. In addition, Kigali continues to fuel uncertainty by
reiterating its previously expressed 'right' to reenter the
DRC, this time in self-defense against an alleged build-up of
FDLR forces -- although Monuc has seen no evidence of any
such gathering of FDLR elements. Absent the all-out
offensive, we expect to see continued, intermittent low-level
fighting between combatants in northern S. Kivu. We will
continue to monitor closely the fluid situation.