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Cablegate: El Fasher Arabs Defensive About Musa Hilal Appointment

VZCZCXRO7236
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0080/01 0211340
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211340Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9741
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000080

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: EL FASHER ARABS DEFENSIVE ABOUT MUSA HILAL APPOINTMENT


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a January 17 meeting with FieldOff,
representatives of two Arab tribes in El Fasher were defensive about
President Bashir's appointment of former janjaweed militia leader
Sheikh Musa Hilal to the post of Advisor to the Minister of Federal
Rule. The Arab reps dismissed the posting as ceremonial but
nonetheless insisted it was a Presidential prerogative with which
the international community should not concern itself. Other
observers note that this appointment could incite tempers among
Darfurians who suffered at the hands of the very militias Hilal once
commanded. Reaction among the African tribes will be reported
septel. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) In a January 17 meeting with FieldOff, representatives of
two Arab tribes in El Fasher, North Darfur - the Itiefat and the
Mahamid - framed the Darfur conflict in terms of tribal relations.
(Note: Musa Hilal is himself a Mahamid, though the community is
reportedly split with one part of the tribe supporting him, and the
other against. End note). They echoed commonly-heard themes about
reconciliation that could be ameliorated only through provision of
assistance and services by the international community, particularly
by the USG. They insisted that the crisis in Darfur was a "normal"
one in African terms, one that required humanitarian aid until a
peace agreement could be reached. However, they expressed
suspicions about the perceived agenda of the international community
and especially international NGOs, citing the example of Zoe's Ark
in Abeche, Chad, as illustrative of the West's "ulterior motives"
for Darfur. They complained about the international community's
"neglect" of the situation in South Sudan in favor of that in
Darfur. They also questioned the international community's
commitment to implement the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) fairly,
since it had imposed sanctions unequally against Arab parties to the
conflict (they pointed to Musa Hilal, who was sanctioned by the
United Nations Security Council under resolution 1672, while no DPA
non-signatory rebel movement leaders had been directly sanctioned).

3. (SBU) The Arab representatives claimed that President Bashir's
appointment of former janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal to the
post of Advisor to the Minister of Federal Rule was nothing out of
the ordinary. The Arab reps recounted for FieldOff names of other
Arab leaders given similar posts as part of "normal" appointments by
the GoS; Jafar Abdel Hakim, the ex-Wali (Governor) of West Darfur;
and Ibrahim Abdalla Mohamed, the ex-Wali of North Darfur, now
advisor to the Wali of South Darfur. They said the GoS had a
different perspective on human resource matters than did the
international community, which should respect the GoS' prerogative
in such internal affairs. When asked about the responsibilities of
Hilal's designated post, the reps dismissed it as more ceremonial
than decision-making in nature and went so far as to speculate that
Hilal would hold no real power in the GoS.

4. (SBU) The Arab tribal reps justified Hilal's past campaigns
against Darfuri populations by saying that he had merely led certain
groups in defense of his own tribal affiliations during wartime,
just as rebel leaders do with their movements. They claimed that
Hilal held no privileged tribal status, insisting he was "just
another tribal leader" among many. The Arab reps also claimed the
GoS was trying to rein in any remaining influence Hilal might have
over militias by giving him a posting that would physically remove
him from his former area of operations and re-locate him to
Khartoum, where he would be unable to carry out any of the alleged
atrocities for which he was sanctioned by the UNSC [NOTE: The Arab
reps also insisted that Hilal was indicted by the ICC, like fellow
former janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, but in fact the ICC has not
issued such a warrant. END NOTE].

5. (SBU) The Arab tribal leaders questioned the international
community's neutrality given its interest in Musa Hilal's
appointment. If the world wanted to point fingers at warlords who
became politicians, they argued, it needed look no further than
Minni Minawi, who went from being a Sudan Liberation Army rebel
leader to the fourth highest ranking official in the GoS and the
head of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: It was clear from this conversation, as from past
conversations with other Arab reps in El Fasher, that considerable
loyalty remains between Arab Darfuri tribes and the regime in
Khartoum. The most compelling motive for the GOS to appoint Hilal
as an advisor is no doubt to retain the loyalty of the part of the
Mahamid tribe that supports Hilal, especially given recent moves by
some Arab groups to ally themselves with insurgents. There is talk
among African Darfuris in El Fasher that the Hilal appointment could
incite tempers among Darfurians who suffered at the hands of the
militias Hilal once commanded. Although some African Darfuris think
Hilal's position will give him cover for future atrocities, we find
this argument baseless since Hilal can do less damage in Darfur if
he is in Khartoum. Additional reaction from the local populations
will be reported septel.


KHARTOUM 00000080 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) Tripoli minimize considered.

FERNANDEZ

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