INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Humanitarian Situation in Sake, North Kivu Province

Published: Fri 8 Dec 2006 11:23 AM
VZCZCXRO0097
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1839/01 3421123
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081123Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5282
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001839
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
AIDAC
AID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA- AFERRARI, ACONVERY, CGOTTSCHALK, MSHIRLEY
AID/W FOR DCHA/FFP- TANDERSON, NCOX, TMCRAE
AID/W FOR DCHA/OTI- RJENKINS, KHUBER
AID/W FOR AFR- KO'DONNELL, JBORNS
NAIROBI FOR USAID/OFDA/ARO- JMYER, ADWYER
NAIROBI FOR USAID/FFP- DSUTHER, ADEPREZ
ROME FOR USUN FODAG- RNEWBERG
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM PREF KPKO CG
SUBJECT: Humanitarian Situation in Sake, North Kivu Province
KINSHASA 00001839 001.2 OF 002
1. Summary. Fighting between dissident FARDC troops and FARDC
integrated brigades in the Sake area of North Kivu, 27 kilometers
east of Goma, forced an estimated 30,000-40,000 residents of that
town and neighboring villages to flee towards Goma and Minova
beginning Friday, November 24. Five days later, sufficient security
had been restored to permit humanitarian actors to assess needs in
locations to which IDPs had fled and to visit Sake itself.
USAID/OFDA Emergency Disaster Response Coordinator Jay Nash visited
North Kivu between November 29 and December 5 to assess the
situation. On November 30, distributions of blankets and food to
identified IDP groups from Sake in Mugunga and Minova began, though
the great majority of IDPs appeared to have fled all the way to Goma
and blended in with the Goma population, staying with host families.
An estimated two-thirds of the Sake population has now returned, but
humanitarian actors are wary of providing assistance in an
environment where the population could still be considered to be at
high risk of more conflict, and where there are large numbers of
potentially predatory. Distributions in two towns west of Rutshuru,
north of Goma, begun in response to displacements for related
disturbances in the Tongo area, have been temporarily suspended
because of a new outbreak of fighting in the region east of Rutshuru
near the Ugandan border. UN security has told all UN personnel to
wait until further notice before traveling in the area. End
Summary.
Background
2. (U) On Friday, November 24, a Tutsi businessman allegedly
suspected of ferrying supplies to members of General Laurent
Nkunda's dissident non-integrated, largely Rwandaphone 83rd brigade
of the FARDC in the Kichanga area north of Sake was shot and killed
by Congolese police in Sake town, reportedly after having violently
resisted arrest. A few thousand inhabitants of Sake decided to leave
town the same day, fearing the incident would trigger vengeance from
Nkunda's troops, though the town was, in principle, protected by the
government-loyal 11th integrated brigade.
3. (U) On Saturday, November 25, at 4:45 a.m., forces loyal to
Nkunda's in the 83rd brigade attacked positions of the 11th brigade
in the hills surrounding Sake. The remainder of the Sake
population, estimated at between 30,000 and 40,000, began to flee
either eastward toward Goma or southward toward Minova (along Lake
Kivu). On Sunday morning, November 26, fighting intensified and at
10:30 a.m. the 11th brigade fled toward Goma, leaving Sake, now
empty of civilians, guarded only by MONUC forces, who were, at that
time, maintaining a neutral position. Outskirts of the town was
soon entered by elements of the attacking 83rd brigade.
4. (U) On Monday, MONUC retook the area by repelling the dissidents
with force, and the 14th integrated brigade of government-loyal
FARDC troops was sent to Sake to replace the 11th brigade. By
evening, the surrounding hills were also under control of 14th
brigade. On Tuesday, November 28, however, there was a new
offensive by members of the renegade 83rd brigade on the hills
around Sake, but they were again pushed back.
5. (U) By Wednesday, November 29th, IDPs who had fled Sake and were
now taking shelter in the villages of Mugunga and Minova began
sending envoys back to collect belongings and supplies. By
Thursday, November 30, about 5% of the population, mostly men,
appeared to have started spending the night in Sake. They told OFDA
Rep that many of their houses have been looted, in some areas by the
occupying 83rd and in other areas by the 14th, who took up residence
in people's houses when they arrived. On the road to Minova, OFDA
Rep saws many families carrying belongings headed back to Sake as a
modest return had clearly started. Returns continued over the
weekend and by Monday, December 4, an estimated 60% of the
population had already come back.
Humanitarian response
6. (U) For the first days of the crises, the humanitarian community
judged the situation to be too insecure to permit them to travel
very far from Goma westward toward Sake. By Tuesday, November 28,
however, an initial 800 IDP families had been identified in Mugunga,
at roughly the half-way point between Goma and Sake, and
representatives of UNOCHA and UNICEF reached Sake itself, finding it
completely empty of civilians. Given the relatively small numbers
in Mugunga, it was concluded that the majority of the population
must have fled from Sake in the other direction toward Minova, south
KINSHASA 00001839 002.2 OF 002
of Sake on Lake Kivu.
7. (U) Representatives of UNOCHA and UNICEF traveled with a MONUC
escort to Minova on Wednesday, but were surprised to find only a few
hundred IDP families at that location as well. Although there were
some IDPs in all villages between Sake and Minova, most were clearly
staying with host families. During a more extensive visit to Minova
on Thursday, November 30, OFDA Rep saw relatively few IDPs in towns
along the road or in Minova itself. No village gave the impression
of being completely inundated by IDPs, and IDPs had not camped out
in public buildings, such as schools and churches. As a result of
the Minova information, the humanitarians soon concluded that most
of the Sake population must have fled to Goma itself and stayed with
host families there, though they were not much in evidence.
8. (U) On November 30, a distribution of UNICEF-provided blankets
and 15-day World Food Program food rations began in Mugunga, where
the number of registered IDP families had climbed to 1000. At a
meeting of key humanitarian actors the same night, it was decided
also to register and arrange similar distributions for the 300-500
IDP families that had been identified in Minova. Plans were also
made to assist a reported 2000 IDP families that had fled other
activity by the 83rd brigade in the Tongo area, northwest of Goma,
and had subsequently arrived in the towns of Kalengera, Rubare and
Rutshuru.
9. (U) Distributions to the Rubare, Kalengera and Rutshuru IDPs had
begun on Tuesday, December 5, when additional IDPs, fleeing a
takeover of the towns of Runyoni and Chengero (east of Rutshuru) by
other armed elements also believed to be of the Nkunda faction,
began arriving. Distributions in the area were discontinued on
December 6 when UN security officials banned UN staff travel in the
entire Rutshuru region until further notice.
The Sake distribution dilemma
10. (U) Since the early days of the Sake crisis, the position of the
humanitarian community has been to refrain from distributing any
assistance to returning IDPs in Sake. The reason is that by
providing assistance in Sake, they would be encouraging IDPs to
return to a situation where security is not assured. Nkunda's troops
are no more than 10 kilometers from Sake, and in Sake itself,
returnees must deal with the presence of large numbers of FARDC
troops, many of whom have taken shelter in the IDPs houses and
helped themselves to many of the IDPs belongings. An additional
concern is that if assistance is indeed provided in Sake, the many
FARDC troops present might well force the population to turn much of
it over to them as soon as the humanitarians return to Goma.
11. (U) UNOCHA has requested of FARDC military leadership that
soldiers be deployed outside the city, rather than in it, so as to
limit negative civilian-military interaction. Though military
authorities have agreed in principle, and though some troops have
indeed been moved to the periphery of Sake and the neighboring
hills, the town unfortunately still remains heavily militarized.
The humanitarian community is now of mixed views as to whether
distributions should now be initiated for returnees. The matter will
continue to be debated in coming days as they continue to closely
monitor the situation.
MEECE.
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