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06KINSHASA698 2006-05-04 13:02:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kinshasa
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1. (C) The airport in Bukavu was temporarily closed May 3
when about 500 residents of the town staged a demonstration
on the road leading to the airport to protest perceived lack
of action by either the Congolese military (FARDC) or the
U.N. peacekeeping force (MONUC) against the FDLR, whose
continuing actions have claimed scores of Congolese lives in
the province. MONUC officials confirm the airport is open and
functioning normally now, and was only closed as a preventive
measure yesterday.

2. (C) A/DCM spoke to South Kivu Vice-Governor Thomas
Nziratimana May 3, who said that the Governor has recently
received several petitions from citizen groups demanding
action against the FDLR and threatening to "take matters into
our own hands" if the government and/or MONUC will not act.
(Note: MONUC Bukavu has received similar documents. End
Note.) Nziratimana said that the mounting public frustration
-- and indeed, hostility -- is perfectly understandable in
light of the years of violence suffered by civilians in the
province at the hands of the FDLR. Nziratimana noted that
extensive publicity following last year's San Egidio
negotiations with the FDLR led to misplaced optimism that at
last the problem would be ended. He added that reports
stemming from a recent meeting of the Tripartite Plus in
Burundi implying that no action against the FDLR is imminent,
together with an upsurge in FDLR attacks, have helped
re-ignite public resentment.

3. (C) Comment: For at least the last six months the Embassy
has been monitoring the buildup of frustration and its
potential consequences. During visits to Bukavu, for
instance, PolCouns has been told by civil society and
religious groups that small villages are beginning to
organize their own militias to defend themselves from FDLR
attacks. Late last year, the head of the Mai Mai political
element in South Kivu called on his "troops" to do their
utmost to attack the FDLR and drive them from the province.
While the latter development might seem potentially useful,
the reality is that, as demonstrated by the May 3 episode,
there is a mounting risk of widespread civil unrest which
could actually further exacerbate the already precarious
security situation in the province. Absent a sustained
Congolese military push against the FDLR there is a very
real, and growing, risk of widespread violence. End comment.