Cablegate: Goma Report for December 6, 2007

Published: Fri 7 Dec 2007 09:14 AM
DE RUEHKI #1347 3410914
O 070914Z DEC 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Goma Report for December 6, 2007
1. (SBU) Summary: MONUC/Goma reports that FARDC pressed northward
five miles from Sake by early morning December 6 and was now
shelling Kibati. Nkunda's forces have been cleared out of the
Sake-Masisi road, but traffic is not yet moving. One of the FARDC
brigades involved in taking Mashaki is moving to Katale (near
Masisi) to position itself for a possible Nkunda thrust in that
direction. Nkunda himself is thought to be in Kibati, where he has
reinforced his forces. He has urged IDP's in Kirolirwe camp to stay
put, perhaps hoping to sacrifice them to his propaganda advantage.
Tutsis appear to be staying while some Hutus have moved northward.
The small MONUC force in Kirolirwe is urging all IDP's to move north
to Kitchanga, a larger town with a larger MONUC presence. End
Military Campaign
2. (SBU) MONUC military briefer informed poloff December 6 that, as
of the end of December 5, all the hills around Mushaki had been
brought under virtually full FARDC control. One of the three
brigades involved in the campaign remained December 6 in the Mushaki
area to ensure full control. A second was moving further west along
the road to Masisi as far as Katale to position itself in the event
that Nkunda's forces attempted a westward thrust. The third brigade
had now pushed north of Sake on the road to Kirolirwe and Kitchanga,
had taken Kingi (five miles north of Sake), and was now shelling
Kibati just north of Kingi. Nkunda's forces at Kibati were believed
to have been supplemented over the past few days by 120 men, with a
total Nkunda force at Kibati now of 340. Nkunda himself is believed
to be at Kibati. The volcanic terrain there is hilly, not
mountainous. (Note: This briefing suggests a more cautious
approach by the FARDC than the one outlined the previous day by
INDBDE commander General Indrajeet Narayan.)
3. (SBU) According to the MONUC briefer, the MONUC patrol
dispatched the previous day to Nyanzale and Kikuku learned that
Nkunda's forces, which had taken these towns over the weekend, had
now evacuated them. Caritas informed MONUC that 521 families had
been displaced in the area by Nkunda's attack, dispersing north and
east in an arc from Bambo to Kanyabayonga. In Kibirizi two
companies of FARDC 9th Integrated Brigade opened fire December 5
against each other, causing a temporary displacement of the local
populace. Meanwhile the Rutshuru-Bunagana sector, adjoining the
Nkunda-controlled enclave on the tri-border area with Uganda and
Rwanda, has remained surprisingly quiet.
4. (SBU) Journalists who visited Mushaki December 5 succeeded in
simply driving up to the largely abandoned village and did not see
much evidence of fighting. However, they said the sound of
exploding shells in the surrounding hills was impressive.
Specter of Tutsi Massacre
5. (SBU) MONUC Head of Office Ulli Mwambulukutu told poloff that
MONUC was intensely concerned at the prospect of harm to the IDP's
gathered at Kirolirwe (perhaps 5,000 in the camp with another
5-10,000 in the immediate area). Some of the non-Tutsi portion
(mostly Hutus), according to Mwambulukutu, have begun to move
northward toward Kitchanga in anticipation of fighting, but Nkunda
has been preaching to the IDP's to stay put and "hold out to the
last person." According to information coming from the MONUC
military observation post at Kirolirwe, the Tutsi IDP's there are so
far largely obeying Nkunda's orders and staying put. Mwambulukutu
feared that the MONUC military observation post (60 men) near the
camp would afford too little protection, whereas the IDP's would be
better protected at the much larger town of Kitchanga further north,
where MONUC has a permanent base (250 men).
6. (SBU) Mwambulukutu said MONUC had urged FARDC (at the level of
Chief of Staff Kayembe and down the chain) in the strongest terms to
avoid harm to these IDP's or the local population. At least at the
higher levels of FARDC there appeared to be a complete comprehension
of the importance of the issue. Mwambulukutu had just come off the
telephone to the Governor of North Kivu to urge the same message.
Poloff noted that visiting journalists with whom he had spoken
appeared to be viewing the plight of IDP's at Kirolirwe as the
principal upcoming story and that these journalists were prepared to
level accusations at MONUC for not having done enough to prevent
harm to the Tutsi population. Mwambulukutu said that he was aware
of the full range of potential negative consequences. He personally
favored a cessation of military activity if the FARDC took Kibati
and he was going to urge this idea on MONUC commander General Gaye,
visiting Goma later in the day. However, Mwambulukutu pointed out
that, far from a "Waterloo specter," it was entirely possible that
Nkunda and his forces would just melt away into the bush.
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