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Cablegate: Sla/Unity: Challenging Khartoum Requires Both

VZCZCXRO6248
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1939/01 3411130
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 071130Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9476
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0263
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001939

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, AF S/E NATSIOS, AF/SPG, ADDIS
ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL US AU SU
SUBJECT: SLA/UNITY: CHALLENGING KHARTOUM REQUIRES BOTH
MILITARY, POLITICAL POWER

REF: KHARTOUM 01889

KHARTOUM 00001939 001.2 OF 002


---------
SUMMARY
---------

1. (SBU) The lesson of the DPA is that the Sudanese
Government will only compromise when challenged by a movement
with both political and military strength, and SLA/Unity is
the only group among Darfur's numerous rebel factions that
combines these two elements, SLA/Unity operatives told Poloff
in a recent meeting. They contended that popular support for
Abdulwahid al Nur is superficial and that SLA/Unity cadres,
working in *secret* to avoid Government retribution, are
gaining Fur support for the movement. Before peace talks
resume, they said that the UN must provide a neutral forum
for civil society to air its views without fear of
repercussions and assist SLA/Unity to solidify its internal
consolidation and its alliance with the other major rebel
movements, including JEM/Collective leadership. End summary.

------------------------------------
SLA/Unity: Only Viable Rival to NCP
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Sudan Liberation Army/Unity (SLA/Unity) is the
only rebel movement with the political and military strength
to gain concessions from the Sudanese Government, two of its
supporters told Poloff on December 4 in El Fasher. While
SLA/Unity's military influence is well documented, they
insisted that its support within the IDP camps is also
formidable. They characterized public backing among the Fur
for Abdulwahid Nur as superficial, and the Sudanese
Government does nothing to minimize his influence because
Abdulwahid lacks any credible military capacity, rendering
him impotent. However, SLA/Unity's potent combination of
political and military clout poses a credible threat to the
National Congress Party's (NCP) policies in Darfur, they
claimed. Fearing arrest, SLA/Unity cadres must conduct their
civilian mobilization activities in secret.

--------------
Anti-Demagogue
--------------

3. (SBU) In contrast to the cult of personality that
surrounds Abdulwahid, the SLA/Unity leadership operates by
consensus and does not need a single leader, said Ahmed
Abdullah Wadi, who hails from the Al Salaam IDP camp on the
outskirts of El Fasher. He denied reports that Suleiman
Jamous, Sharif Harir, and Abdullah Yehia are jostling for
control of the movement. "This is not personal," he
explained. "This is about common aims."

4. (SBU) The goal should be a "comprehensive peace," not one
that involves only a single ethnic or tribal group, said
Mohammed Jaffar Himidi, a resident of the Abu Shook camp
outside El Fasher. The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)
collapsed because the militarily powerful signatory
represented only a single minority tribe (the Zaghawa) while
the politically astute non-signatory (Abdulwahid) rejected
the accord. A lasting settlement will require both elements,
according to Himidi. "Abdulwahid's mind was strong, but he
had no power on the ground (i.e. military force). Minni was
strong on the ground, but his mind was weak."

------------------------------
Fur Will Join to Achieve Goals
------------------------------

5. (SBU) While acknowledging that SLA/Unity is at present
dominated by the Zaghawa, both representatives contended that
underground efforts to garner support among the Fur are
succeeding. "The issue is not politicians or parties." said
Himidi, referring to the various faction leaders and splinter
movements. "The issue is unity." As the conflict endures,
Fur desperation increases, making them more open to
coordinate across tribal lines, Himidi said. The Fur only
support Abdulwahid because of "family relations" but will
back the strongest military movement once they recognize it
is capable of extracting compromises from the Government on
the IDP's priority issues, including compensation,
reconstruction/development, and disarmament of the Arab
militias. "The solution--unity of the tribes--is before
their eyes," said Himidi.


KHARTOUM 00001939 002.2 OF 002


-------------------------------------------
Next Step in Peace Process: UN Engage IDPs
-------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) To advance the Darfur peace process and steer it
toward a "comprehensive peace," Wadi said that the UN must
bring IDP and civil society leaders to a venue where they can
speak "freely." He and Himidi predicted that in a neutral
venue, the IDPs from both North and South Darfur will express
open support for SLA/Unity and the weakness of Abdulwahid's
position would be exposed. They underscored that these
discussions with civil society--involving workshops sponsored
by the "international community"--must come before
reconvening peace negotiations. The UN could then assist
SLA/Unity in consolidating the success of its own internal
consultations and formalizing its alliances with the Justice
and Equality Movement (JEM)/Collective Leadership and other
rebel factions. Once these steps are completed, the UN could
reconvene pace talks in a "free location."

-----------------------------
Mistrust of AU, African Venue
-----------------------------

7. (SBU) Neither the movements nor the people of Darfur trust
the AU, said both cadres, believing that the NCP easily
manipulates the organization through pressure on its member
states. The Government does not respect the UN or the AU,
viewed both bodies as weak, and will easily resist any effort
by the UN/AU to push for compromise. Within these
constraints, Wadi reiterated his and Himidi's assertion that
only a united, politically and militarily strong movement
could counterbalance the Government. They also discounted
Libya as a viable venue for talks, saying that in addition to
needing more time for internal consultations, SLA/Unity
boycotted the Sirte negotiations out of fear that Tripoli
would allow the Sudanese Government to intimidate the
movements. They suggested the UN/AU reconvene the talks in
either Europe or the United States (this idea has been
categorically rejected by the AU before).

-------
Comment
-------

8. (SBU) While SLA/Unity may be overstating the degree to
which Abdulwahid's support is waning in the camps,
particularly in South Darfur, their argument that the
Government will only compromise when challenged by a movement
where both political and military power is sound. The
influence of SLA/Unity leader Suleiman Jamous, who claims
both Fur and Zaghawa ancestry and appears to be instrumental
in the burgeoning SLA/Unity--JEM/CL alliance (reftel), may
explain Wadi and Himidi's optimism about outreach efforts to
the Fur. If the UN/AU are to navigate the mediation process
to a successful outcome, they will need to monitor their
undercurrents and respond adeptly. Given the level of
secrecy involved in Poloff's discussion with Wadi and Himidi
(which included no phone contact with either operative prior
to the meeting, an exchange of messages through a third-party
interlocutor, and last minute changes in time and location),
such agile mediation will require greater UN/AU capacity on
the ground, a capacity which has been sorely lacking for
years. End comment.

9. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.
FERNANDEZ

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