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Cablegate: Jem Representatives Arrested in El Fasher

VZCZCXRO3057
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0005/01 0021042
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 021042Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9646
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000005

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, SE WILLAMSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU SU UNSC CD
SUBJECT: JEM REPRESENTATIVES ARRESTED IN EL FASHER

REF: KHARTOUM 2031

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On December 30 Government of Sudan (GoS) security
forces surrounded a house full of Justice and Equality Movement
(JEM) members in El Fasher and arrested six JEM members, including
the JEM Ceasefire Commission (CFC) representative GEN Mohammed
Basher Mohammed. The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur
(UNAMID) Chief of Staff (COS) described the JEM arrest incident as
symptomatic of potential crackdowns to come by the GoS against
non-signatory movements. As a precaution against any JEM
retaliation aimed at UNAMID, the COS increased force protection for
the AMIS/UNAMID troops. The CFC issued a statement condemning the
arrest as well as recent fighting along the border (see para 7). END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Late on the night of December 29, Government of Sudan (GoS)
security forces surrounded the house in El Fasher where several
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Ceasefire Commission (CFC)
representatives reside. After surrounding the house, GoS forces
demanded that the three AU Gambian soldiers assigned to protect the
JEM representatives leave the house. Via telephone, African Union
Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and UN-African Union Mission in Darfur
(UNAMID) officials attempted to mediate a resolution to the
situation. They achieved the safe departure of the three Gambian
soldiers from the house, but could not deter the GoS security forces
from entering the house and arresting the JEM reps. The GoS forces
arrested six individuals, including General Basher, the chief JEM
representative to the CFC. Observers reported that others arrested
included Lt. Colonel Hickma Ibrahim, the recently-arrived JEM
Humanitarian Coordinator.

3. (SBU) The AMIS Deputy Force Commander D/FC told FieldOff on
December 30 that GoS CFC representative Colonel Mohammed told him
that the JEM members were arrested for their involvement in military
operations against the GoS, specifically in El Geneina, Kulbus and
Silea. Further, he said the GoS had "credible information" that
this group had been involved in coordinating these incidents from El
Fasher. The D/FC told fieldoff that he had requested that Colonel
Mohammad turn the arrested JEM reps over to AMIS, which would
transport them to El Geneina if necessary. The DFC said that Colonel
Mohammed agreed to consider this suggestion.

4. (SBU) JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim told FieldOff on December 30 that
he had received reports of torture of the detainees and that JEM had
therefore issued a statement warning the GoS against the use of
torture. Khalil said JEM was angry that AMIS had not done more to
protect General Basher and the other JEM members, but made no
threats of retaliatory actions toward AMIS.
5. (SBU) On December 31, AMIS Deputy Force Commander told FieldOff
that GoS military intelligence officials told him the GoS would
release General Basher and other JEM members under certain
conditions, including that they leave El Fasher. The Deputy Force
Commander said he preferred that the GoS release the JEM reps into
AU custody - at least until a JEM CFC replacement representative can
be identified. The D/FC was optimistic that they will be released,
although he noted that GoS assurances under similar circumstances in
the past had turned out to be false. Separately, UNAMID's DOA told
Fieldoff that he was also asking the GoS to release the JEM
representatives.
6. (U) On December 31, the Chairman of the Ceasefire Commission
released a press statement expressing concern at the arrest of the
JEM Representative to the Ceasefire Commission. The statement also
expressed concern about the fighting in Silea:

Begin Text:

The Chairman of the Ceasefire Commission (CFC) notes with great
concern the arrest of the JEM representative to the CFC, Major
General Bashir and five other JEM members in the early morning hours
of 30 December 2007 in El Fasher. Despite the relentless efforts of
AMIS leadership to prevent the arrest, Government authorities
stormed the premise housing the JEM representative at 03.00. The
Chairman has been in contact with both JEM and the Government of
Sudan to de-escalate the tensions and ensure the safe release of the
JEM representatives.

The Chairman also deeply regrets the resumption of hostilities
between Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Government forces in
northern Western Darfur. On 29 December, JEM launched an attack on
Government positions in Silea, north of El Geneina. The Chairman
condemns this attack and in particular JEM's publicly stated
insistence on using force to address the conflict in Darfur.

The actions taken by the Government of Sudan in El Fasher and JEM's
attack on Silea are in violation of the N'Djamena Ceasefire
Agreement of 2004 and jeopardize the ongoing efforts to rejuvenate
the peace talks in Sirte. The Chairman calls on all parties to use
restraint and renew their commitment to a viable ceasefire.

KHARTOUM 00000005 002 OF 002

End Text.
7. (SBU) COMMENT: JEM representative General Basher was well-known
among AMIS personnel for his work on the CFC. As a result, his
arrest came as a shock to many. The arrests should be viewed in the
context of heavy fighting between JEM and FAS and GoS-backed forces
(including Chadian rebels) in the area. There is no indication that
JEM will retaliate against AMIS or UNAMID for not doing more to
prevent the arrests, and neither the AU nor the UN has changed its
threat level in El-Fasher.
POWERS

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