2008-09-02 12:48:00
Embassy Kinshasa
Cable title:  

Goma Report August 31 - Assessing

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DE RUEHKI #0719/01 2461248
R 021248Z SEP 08


E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Report August 31 - Assessing
Responsibility for Rutshuru Skirmishes



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Report August 31 - Assessing
Responsibility for Rutshuru Skirmishes

1. (SBU) Summary: Exchanges of fire flared up on August 28, 29,
and 30 along various points east of the Goma-Rutshuru road where
FARDC and CNDP forces have been separated by a buffer zone and
relatively quiet for several months. The spark appears to have been
a major theft of cattle from the CNDP zone by the FARDC, followed by
opening of fire by CNDP, and an occupation by FARDC of points within
the buffer zone. The North Kivu brigade commander promises a full
accounting by September 2, although efforts by the brigade to
investigate have been hampered by persistent hostile actions by the
local populace, possibly instigated by the FARDC. CNDP and FARDC
allot total blame to the other, with FARDC claiming direct Rwandan
involvement in a plan to cut the vital Rutshuru corridor. FARDC
wants a fuller, more aggressive MONUC military presence well to the
east of the road, while the North Kivu brigade commander asserts
MONUC is best positioned to monitor cease-fire violations and to
protect the corridor by keeping its presence principally based on or
near the road. CNDP on August 30 promised to return to the working
groups on disengagement on September 2, assuming adequate guarantees
of security and barring further hostilities. However, it is not
clear at this juncture whether this promise will have been vitiated
by the continued exchange of fire and by the government's August 30
decision to close the road to Bunagana to commercial traffic. End

2. (U) The international facilitation team (MONUC, France, UK,
U.S.) on the morning of August 30 traveled to the "neutral zone" at
Kimoka, north of Sake, to meet CNDP's Goma delegation chief Kambasu
Ngeve and five CNDP military officers. Since the flare-up of
skirmishes in the Rutshuru area August 28 CNDP had boycotted the
meetings in Goma of the working groups on disengagement, citing
fears for its security. It insisted that the facilitators would
have to go to Kimoka if there were to be a meeting.

3. (SBU) Eastern Coordinator Alpha Sow urged CNDP to return at once

to the working groups, underlining that it was especially to
diminish the potential for fighting that the working groups had been
formed. Kambasu said that the incidents over the preceding two days
were extremely serious, resulting in CNDP casualties. He said that
it was essential that MONUC establish a mechanism of investigation
and assign responsibility against the FARDC, which had now occupied
several new positions in the no-man's land east of the Rutshuru road
(at Rugari, Ntamugenga village a few kilometers east of Kalengera,
and at Mutobo east of Rutshuru and Rugarama near the Uganda

4. (SBU) The CNDP team said that it was outraged that the FARDC had
stolen 180 cattle from CNDP-held Rukoro (southeast of Rutshuru).
The territorial administration had now been able to return 69 of
these cows, but it was likely that many of the remainder had been
butchered and sold in the market by wives of FARDC soldiers.
Kambasu said that CNDP would consider returning to the working
groups if they could be held at Kimoka, but the facilitation team
negated the idea. Kambasu said that action should be taken to
remove barriers on the roads from Kimoka to Goma and on CNDP's key
demand of liberating political prisoners - two areas where the
government could hugely improve the atmosphere.

5. (SBU) The facilitation team noted that National Coordinator Malu
Malu had repeatedly asked CDNP for the list of prisoners, to which
Kambasu said that it had provided General Etumba with the final list
already in April; but he admitted that only in the past few days had
CNDP also given Malu Malu the list. Alpha Sow lamented that CNDP
had sorely provoked the government by raising the CNDP flag at the
border crossing (controlled by CNDP) at Bunagana. Kambasu claimed
that the flag "merely" was raised at a CNDP party headquarters,
while the national flag still flew over the customs house, but then
he admitted that the CNDP building was marked, "Territorial
Administration." The meeting concluded with Kambasu's promise of
CNDP's attendance Monday morning September 1 at the disengagement
working groups, on the condition that its team was provided more
ample security by MONUC and that there were no further attacks by
FARDC. Following the meeting, the team learned that the government
had banned trucks on the Bunagana road, moving commercial traffic to
the less-preferred Ishasha road.

6. (SBU) On return to Goma, on the afternoon of August 30, the
facilitation team met Brigadier General Bipin Rawat, the
newly-arrived commander of the North Kivu brigade. Rawat had been
in Kinshasa at the outbreak of the clashes on the early morning of
August 28 but immediately had traveled to the Rutshuru area, from
which he had returned earlier in the day to meet General Etumba. He
said that the spark for the clashes appeared to have been a major
theft by FARDC of cattle over the night of August 27-28, which

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produced an outburst of firing by CNDP, first, in the early morning
at Kanombe and Gasiza (a few miles east of Kalengera and Rumangabo,
then a little further north at Rukoro (the CNDP "frontier" along the
Burai-Bunagana road) and near Mutabo, east of Rutshuru. Similar
exchange of fire took place at Ntamugenga (also along the line of
confrontation east of Kalengera) late on August 29.

7. (SBU) The facilitation team asked Rawat to confirm CNDP's claim
that FARDC had now occupied four areas that had previously been in
the buffer zone. Rawat said he did not believe that there had been
any change of relative positions at Rugari (the southernmost of
significant towns along the Rutshuru road north of the Congo-Nile
divide). However, he said, the North Kivu brigade deemed Rugari to
be the most sensitive place along the road, since it was there that
CNDP positions were nearest (a mere kilometer) from the road, with
FARDC positioned only along the road itself and a MONUC base located
in the village itself between the two sides.

8. (SBU) Rawat said that CNDP was, however, correct about
Ntamugenga, further north. FARDC had moved east into the buffer
zone there and occupied the village of Ntamugenga (which had some
months earlier been occupied by CNDP, but MONUC had persuaded CNDP
to evacuate the village and withdraw to the heights overlooking it).
Similarly, CNDP was correct that FARDC had moved east to occupy
some of the buffer zone at Mutabo, where MONUC had a small base. As
for the fourth area, Rawat said it was true that FARDC had recently
newly occupied Rugarama, near the Ugandan border. However, he said,
Rugarama was north of the CNDP-controlled area, and FARDC had
occupied it as part of the campaign to deal with FDLR, which was
active there. Rawat noted that, in the exchanges of fire August
28-29, there had been at least one FARDC killed, with 11 wounded,
now at the Rutshuru hospital. He had no figures on CNDP casualties,
nor did he know where CNDP wounded were being treated.

9. (SBU) Alpha Sow told Rawat and the facilitation group that he
saw several steps that needed to be taken at once. First,
responsibility had to be ascertained as accurately as circumstances
would permit. Both sides were stoutly assigning responsibility to
the other and directly challenging MONUC. Rawat promised that he
would have a report by Tuesday, September 2. Rawat noted, however,
that his brigade had been blocked from travel and from pursuing any
investigation in several areas by angry crowds, whipped up to
anti-MONUC fervor. Sow's assistant, M'hand Ladjouzi, observed that
it had long been a pattern of FARDC to block MONUC investigations by
whipping up the populace.

10. (SBU) Sow said that, secondly, MONUC must pressure FARDC to
withdraw from places (Ntamugenga and Mutobo) it had newly occupied
within the buffer zone. Third, it needed to try to help recover
stolen cattle (if any remained not yet butchered). Fourth, it
needed to consider carefully how and whether it could meet FARDC's
demand that MONUC stage a more robust military presence not just on
the Rutshuru highway but in the buffer zone to the east of it.
Fifth, it should reestablish the cease-fire violation monitoring
mechanism (set up after the Goma conference but allowed to cease
activity). Sixth, it needed to check on CNDP casualties - transfer
to Rwanda would be a negative development. Seventh, the government
closure of Bunagana could have significant repercussions (CNDP
further boycott of the peace process or military action) which would
need to be taken into consideration. Sow described this decision as
either ill-considered or an intentional provocation. Eighth, the
government authorities needed at once to intervene with the populace
to cease blocking MONUC. Finally, it would be useful for the
international facilitators to join an investigation on the ground.

11. (SBU) In the evening, Sow conveyed to the facilitation team new
reports of firing taking place in the highly-sensitive Rugari area,
which however subsided after a few hours. In a telephone
conversation with poloff, Kambasu did not appear to be aware of the
newest clashes (but certainly aware of the closure of the Bunagana
road) and asserted that CNDP still planned to come to the working
groups in Goma on September 1.

12. (SBU) On Sunday morning August 31, Etumba convoked the
facilitation team, preparatory to the arrival of SRSG Doss and
Defense Minister for a helicopter tour of the zone of clashes.
Etumba admitted that FARDC had occupied Ntamugenga and "would see
how" to withdraw its forces from that village. Meanwhile, he
claimed, the CNDP on the previous evening had occupied "two small
positions" near Kanombe, east of Rumangabo, perhaps a tit-for-tat
for Ntamugenga. Etumba underlined his earlier request for a much
more robust and aggressive MONUC military presence in the buffer
zone east of the Rutshuru highway. Called upon by Etumba, Col.

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Delphin, deputy commander of the 8th Military Region, rehashed
DRC's claims of Rwandan involvement in a master plan to cut the
Rutshuru road, claiming that the Rwandan army chief had been at
Bunagana on August 21 and two Rwandan battalions had crossed into
the area. It was this CNDP-Rwandan plan to cut the Rutshuru road,
Delphin added illogically, that had prompted the government to cut
the Bunagana road. As for theft of cattle, Etumba and Delphin
ridiculed the idea that any cattle-rustling could justify military
action. However, Delphin admitted knowing that the theft of 80 (not
180) cattle had taken place.

13. (SBU) Etumba claimed that, in an earlier meeting with Rawat,
Rawat had "completely endorsed" DRC claims of a CNDP-Rwandan plan to
cut the Rutshuru road. Sow called Rawat to join the meeting, and
Rawat said that he had merely noted to Etumba that, from a military
standpoint, he could well imagine that CNDP would wish to cut the
road and thereby join its eastern and western sectors now truncated
by that road. However, Rawat said that (1) it was the North Kivu
brigade's assessment that CNDP did not have the necessary military
resources to be able to accomplish that goal, (2) in any case, MONUC
stood with FARDC all along that road and had made it clear to CNDP
that it would defend the road, and (3) it had absolutely no proof
that any Rwandan battalions had crossed into DRC. Ladjouzi
suggested that if DRC had proof of such allegations, which had
repeatedly been made in the past and never backed up with believable
evidence, it would be appropriate for DRC to submit it to the
Security Council, as it involve a grave international violation by
Rwanda. Col James Cunliffe, deputy Eastern commander, noted that
MONUC had an observation post well within CNDP territory near
Bunagana and that it would have been "inconceivable" for two Rwandan
battalions to enter unobserved.

14. (SBU) Rawat said that when FARDC withdrew from Ntamugenga, as
he hoped it would do at once, he would move a mobile base to that
village, as had already occurred at Mutobo. He said that it was his
understanding that the firing the previous evening had occurred at
the CNDP-controlled height (called Himdi) above Rugari, and he was
not aware that any FARDC positions had been taken by CNDP either
there or at Kanombe. Ladjouzi asked, if the firing had taken place
within a CNDP area, who had attacked whom?

15. (SBU) On the issue of the North Kivu Brigade moving its center
of focus in the Rutshuru corridor off the road into the buffer zone,
Cunliffe observed that the brigade's concept had all along not been
a static buffer zone but a capability to deploy quickly well inside
the buffer zone and inside CNDP territory as necessary. Rawat
emphasized the importance of quick movement along the road itself,
as well as the necessity of also keeping an eye on CNDP's actions to
the west of the road. Etumba said FARDC only saw a threat from the
east, where CNDP was supported by and had room for fallback into

16. (SBU) Delphin, visibly angry, issued a blunt warning: if the
CNDP attacked again later in the day, "it will be very bad tomorrow
- it will be too much for us - it will be uncontrollable. We will
have to react in full. It could be war tomorrow if MONUC does not
respond now."

17. (SBU) Rawat said that, in fact, the North Kivu brigade had been
trying to bring in reinforcements, e.g., by bringing up two BMPs to
Rugari. However, civilians were blocking the entrance to Rugari,
as they had been demonstrating against MONUC elsewhere in the area.
Etumba agreed that the populace seemed increasingly to have turned
against MONUC. Ladjouzi observed that the population was evidently
being manipulated. Etumba said, "We will try - it is our
responsibility - to calm them down and to explain that it is not
MONUC's mission to fight in our place."

18. (SBU) Sow reviewed for Etumba the nine actions he had discussed
the previous day with Rawat, noting that if CNDP were now holding
any positions at Kanombe or elsewhere that they had not held prior
to August 28, it, like FARDC, would need to withdraw at once.