DRC, INDIA LOCKED IN A HIGH-STAKES BATTLE OVER THE FUTURE OF MONUC AND THE DRC

Identifier: 
09KINSHASA254

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KINSHASA 000254

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDEE ADDED, SUBJECT LINE)

SIPDIS

FOR IO/PSC (HEATHER VON BEHREN) AND AF/C (CHRISTOPHER
LAMORA)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2019
TAGS: PREL, PHUM, KPKO, UNSC, IN, CG
SUBJECT: DRC, INDIA LOCKED IN A HIGH-STAKES BATTLE OVER
THE FUTURE OF MONUC AND THE DRC

REF: A. KINSHASA 195 (NOTAL)
B. STATE 18863 (NOTAL) AND RESPONSES FROM SEVERAL
POSTS

KINSHASA 00000254 001.3 OF 003

Classified By: Classified By: Ambassador William J. Garvelink for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) India's decision to withdraw its contingent from
MONUC (reftels) has exposed a bitter row between the country
that hosts the UN's largest peace-keeping operation and the
country that is MONUC's largest troop contributor. A close
look at the DRC-India feud reveals a complex mosaic of real
or perceived slights, as well as a number of underlying
tensions and hidden agendas fueling resentment and anger on
both sides. We suspect that Congolese hardliners welcome
India's decision to leave because it weakens MONUC and
hastens the day when MONUC leaves for good. We are not
certain, however, that President Kabila supports the
hardliners. We also believe that the reasons India has given
publicly for its intention to withdraw from MONUC -- that the
DRC does not appreciate its important contributions to MONUC
-- are perhaps not the real basis for its decision to
withdraw. End summary.

Indian colonel praises Nkunda
-----------------------------

2. (C) Tensions between Congolese officials and MONUC's
Indian contingent came to a head last year when the Indian
officer responsible for liaising with the CNDP (the leading
rebel force in North Kivu led by dissident Tutsi general
Laurent Nkunda) was feted by Nkunda on the eve of his
redeployment. Clearly elated over his return home (a state
of mind undoubtedly made more intense by the many drinks he
imbibed at the event), the colonel lauded Nkunda in his
good-bye statement as a worthy opponent. Unfortunately for
him, a CNDP defector recorded the statement and gave it to
the Congolese army. Although there is little evidence that
the colonel gave the CNDP any actionable intelligence, the
incident did give ammunition to Congolese hard-liners who had
accused the Indians of being CNDP sympathizers and informants
and thus responsible for the FARDC's many humiliating losses
to Nkunda's forces. The Indians tried to make amends by
reassuring the GDRC that the officer would be disciplined for
poor judgment. But the damage was done. (Note: The
commanding general of the Indian contingent told us that in
addition to facing a disciplinary board the hapless colonel
would not be allowed to take up his assignment as a senior
officer on the Kashmir front. End note.)

3. (C) This incident was but the latest in a series of
events contributing to poor relations between the Congolese
and Indians assigned to MONUC. A small number of Indian
troops was implicated in 1997 in sexual abuse cases involving
MONUC troops in the eastern Congo. Indian soldiers have also
been accused of selling arms to rebel groups in return for
gold and other precious minerals. A senior MONUC official
confirmed these allegations but also noted that the Indians
were far from being MONUC's worst offenders. He also
emphasized that India was among MONUC's most serious troop
contributors in terms of disciplining its soldiers.

4. (C) In short, MONUC in general and the Indians
specifically have become a convenient and compelling
scapegoat for the Congolese to avoid blame for the GDRC,s
own incompetent handling of the situation in the east. A
frequent accusation against the Indians is that they have
done little to prevent violence by militias against innocent
civilians in the war-torn eastern region. MONUC's mandate to
protect civilians is clear but it is not authorized to
initiate offensive actions against rebel forces but rather to
support the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDCO). The FARDC, one

KINSHASA 00000254 002.3 OF 003

of the world's most dysfunctional militaries, have rarely
attacked rebel groups, having been quickly routed by the CNDP
in particular whenever there is a fight. The FARDC, however,
are known for shamefully attacking innocent civilians. An
upsurge in anti-Indian sentiment, orchestrated by the former
ministers of defense and the interior, with support from
local politicians, was clearly in evidence in early October
of last year when the FARDC was routed by the CNDP. At that
time government leaders, both national and provincial, paid
crowds to throw stones at MONUC vehicles and otherwise harass
Indian peacekeepers.

Congolese-India tensions run deep
---------------------------------

5. (C) Although recent events have exacerbated the
situation, friction between Congolese and Indians is not a
recent phenomenon. There is a widespread distrust of Muslims
(most Indians in the Congo historically have been Muslims)
among the native peoples of the Great Lakes region of east
Africa dating from the 12th century when Arab slave traders
penetrated westward from Indian Ocean ports. The Swahili
language, spoken extensively in the eastern Congo, is a
legacy of the Muslim Arab presence. Later, large numbers of
Indian traders immigrated to the British colony of Uganda;
many left Uganda for opportunities in the neighboring colony
of the Belgian Congo. As in Uganda, most Indians left the
Congo as a result of the civil conflicts of the 1990's. But
they are still remembered by many locals as foreign
exploiters. Finally, many Congolese resent the relative
affluence most Indians living in their country.

Some Congolese want MONUC to leave
----------------------------------

6. (C) In more recent times Indians have also provoked
resentment among some Congolese outside the eastern region,
where fewer Indians have settled. Indians living and working
in the Congo are known for their resistance to learning
French and their use of English at meetings and in other
settings. Most Indian merchants in Kinshasa send their
children to English-language schools. Although the
francophone vs. anglophone debate is not as intense in the
DRC (as a former colony of Belgium, not France, the DRC is
less subject to French pressure on the language issue than
are former French colonies), we have heard from multiple
sources that the Indians' insistence on using English
irritates some of the Congolese elite, particularly
politicians and senior military officers in Kinshasa.

7. (C) Another factor contributing to the current crisis is
a lack of understanding and sensitivity by senior Congolese
regarding the importance of India's continued presence in
MONUC. Some Congolese politicians seem to believe that if
the Indians leave, the UN will easily find other countries to
send replacements. But more troubling is the agenda of many
senior Congolese officials who do understand what is at stake
and want MONUC to leave. Some are motivated by nationalism
(they see MONUC,s presence as a violation of DRC
sovereignty), but many have a more sinister goal. Without
MONUC hardliners would have a freer hand to crack down on
critics and, ultimately, to suspend democratic institutions.
Getting the Indians to leave would be a major victory against
MONUC for the anti-democracy hardliners. We believe former
Defense Minister Chikez and influential presidential advisor
Augustin Katumba are in this category. President Kabila,
however, perhaps does not agree with this group.

The Indians have their own agenda
---------------------------------

8. (C) We believe the Indian Government has its own motives

KINSHASA 00000254 003.3 OF 003

to leave MONUC. We are unable to know with certainty what
these are, but the following arguments are heard often in
Kinshasa:

-- India no longer needs to send peacekeepers abroad for
financial reasons and will not continue to expose its armed
forces to risks in places, like the DRC, of little strategic
importance to India.

-- The Indians have a valid complaint that, having
contributed so greatly to MONUC, the UN has refused to
appoint an Indian general as force commander or SRSG. We
note that one source has stated that an Indian has not been
selected as force commander because there are no qualified
general officers in the Indian army who speak French.

-- India,s generous participation in PKO,s has been
premised on an expectation that India will be rewarded with a
permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Since this is not
likely to happen soon, there is no reason to soldier on as
MONUC's largest troop contributor.

-- Since the November 26 Mumbai bombings, and because of the
conflict in Kashmir, India needs to station as many as of its
troops as possible on its soil.

9. (C) Although we cannot attest to the validity of these
arguments, we do know from SRSG Alan Doss (pls protect) that
the Indian Government recently turned down a proposed visit
on March 12 to New Delhi by Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis
Thambwe Mwanka and SRSG Doss to deliver a letter from
President Kabila asking the Indians to stay on. Thambwe and
Doss were to be joined in New Delhi by U/SYG Le Roy and SYG
Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar (himself an
Indian). The Indian government told the DRC it needed time
to study Kabila's letter, which they had already received via
e-mail. India's unwillingness to receive the UN-Congolese
delegation is telling: India, if it decides to reverse its
decision, will remain in MONUC on its own terms. (Note:
Just days prior to the projected March 12 visit, Thambwe gave
an effusive speech praising the Indians at Indian contingent
headquarters in Goma during a dinner for Ban Ki-Moon during
the Secretary General's trip to the DRC. The DRC Embassy in
New Delhi distributed copies of the speech as a prelude to
Thambwe's aborted visit, hoping to pave the way for a
reconciliation with India and an announcement that the
decision would be reversed. End note.)

10. (C) Comment: The Congolese clearly bear a large part of
the responsibility for India's decision to withdraw from
MONUC. But the argument that the Indians want to leave
because they are not given the respect they are due is
somewhat disingenuous: the Congolese are willing to make
amends and the ball is now with the Indians. Regardless of
how a save-facing rapprochement comes about to permit India
to remain in MONUC, it is absolutely essential that this
happen. Despite criticisms against India, Indian troops are
the linchpin of MONUC and the DRC's future stability, not to
mention the aspirations of its people for democratic
government and economic prosperity, are at stake. End
comment.
GARVELINK