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Cablegate: West Darfur: Saf and Jem Clashes Worsen Already Fragile

VZCZCXRO6153
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0269/01 0560919
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250919Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0024
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 000269

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, PRM, AF SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN, USAID/W
USAID FOR DCHA SUDAN TEAM, AFR/SP
NAIROBI FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA, USAID/REDSO, AND FAS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NAIROBI FOR SFO
NSC FOR PMARCHAM, MMAGAN, AND BPITTMAN
USUN FOR FSHANKS
BRUSSELS FOR PBROWN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI UN SU
SUBJECT: WEST DARFUR: SAF AND JEM CLASHES WORSEN ALREADY FRAGILE
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

REFERENCE: (A) KHARTOUM 266

B) KHARTOUM 251
(C)KHARTOUM 219
(D)KHARTOUM 158
(E)07 KHARTOUM 2017

1. (SBU) Summary: Since December 2007, renewed clashes between the
Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Justice and Equality Movement
(JEM) in areas north of El Geneina, West Darfur, have increased
insecurity, limited humanitarian access to the area, and displaced
at least 56,000 residents, according to UN estimates. The
humanitarian community continues to pressure the U.N.-African Union
Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to deploy troops to the affected areas in
order to provide an escort for assessment missions and facilitate
humanitarian access to newly displaced and isolated civilians in
villages north of El Geneina. On February 20, Government of
National Unity (GNU) Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) cancelled all
previously authorized humanitarian flights in West Darfur,
significantly limiting NGOs access and ability to respond to
humanitarian needs. End summary.

-------------------
SAF AND JEM CLASHES
-------------------

2. (SBU) On February 8, SAF and militia forces attacked the
rebel-held villages of Abu Surug, Sirba, and Silea, according to UN
reports. The villages had been taken by the Chadian-supported JEM
rebel movement in late December and January. Locally hired
humanitarian aid workers, who constitute the majority of the relief
workers in the area, have reportedly fled into Chad. During the
attack on Silea, a national staff member of the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed. Other aid agencies in
the area reported that bandits looted or destroyed non-governmental
organization (NGO) compounds and clinics. [Comment: Before the
clashes, Abu Surug and Silea were considered safe havens for
displaced populations from Seraf Jidad. All 14,000 residents of
Seraf Jidad village fled to Armankul, Tandulti, Abu Surug and El
Geneina during attacks on January 24. The village is now empty.
End comment.]

3. (SBU) According to UN reports, on February 18, SAF and militia
forces continued attacks on villages north of El Geneina with the
bombing of Aro Shorou, 10 km north of Silea. On February 18, three
SAF MiG fighter aircraft, three Mi-24 attack helicopters, and two
Antonov aircraft also bombed the area of Jebel Moon in pursuit of
fleeing rebel forces. Based on IDP reports, militias and SAF ground
forces attacked the area from the south, north, and west.

4. (SBU) On February 18, the UN reported that 25 Land Cruisers
fitted with machine guns, 12 heavy trucks with personnel and
equipment, and tankers with fuel departed El Fasher via Nyala,
passing Zalingei en route to El Geneina. The convoy was reportedly
charged with securing the border with Chad near El Geneina. On
February 20, the UN reported that a large military convoy of more
than 200 vehicles left El Fasher in the direction of South Darfur.

Banditry and Looting
-------------------

5. (SBU) On February 8, a group of unknown armed persons ambushed
a convoy of 156 UN-contracted trucks in west Jebel Marra, between
Nertiti and Khorumla, according to the UN. Despite the presence of
a 10-vehicle GNU Central Reserve Police escort, the assailants used
two or three vehicles to attack two trucks and abduct the drivers.
After the attack, the armed bandits allowed the remaining trucks to
proceed. The UN reported that the two stolen trucks were sold
across the border in Chad, and that a portion of the proceeds was
used to purchase two Toyota Land Cruisers (presumably for rebel or
bandit use). The whereabouts of the two contracted drivers remain
unknown.

6. (SBU) On February 11, the Medair and CRS compounds in Abu Surug
were looted and burned. A Village Health Committee member who took
refuge in the Medair compound was killed inside the compound, along
with a Medair guard. Two Medair vehicles parked in the compound
were taken.


KHARTOUM 00000269 002 OF 003


7. (SBU) Early on the morning of February 19, six armed men stormed
the Save the Children (US) compound in For Baranga town. The group
fired ten shots in the air and forced the guard to relinquish the
keys for one NGO vehicle. The bandits then drove away in the
vehicle, kidnapping the guard. According to the UN, the guard was
safely released on February 20, and claimed that the bandits were
Chadian and Sudanese.

Newly Displaced Persons
-----------------------

8. (SBU) The clashes in areas north of El Geneina have displaced at
least 56,000 individuals and caused an estimated 12,000 refugees to
flee to eastern Chad, according to the UN (ref C). According to UN
assessment team reports, clashes caused entire village populations
to flee, leaving Hajaleija, Aro Shorou, and Gosmino completely
empty. On February 21, the UN confirmed that between 10,000 to
13,000 individuals from Silea, Hajaleija, Gosmino, and Aro Shorou
had fled to the Jebel Moon area. With the addition of the newly
displaced population, the Jebel Moon area population is currently
estimated to be around 20,000. The inhabitants are located near
confirmed SAF and militia aerial bombings and ground attacks that
occurred on February 19.

9. (SBU) The UN estimates that up to 12,000 new refugees from
Darfur are scattered in the Birak and Koruk areas in Chad.
According to the UN, Chadian armed groups were reportedly blocking
Sudanese refugees from boarding U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) trucks in the Birak area of eastern Chad.

Chad Insecurity
----------------

10. (SBU) On January 31, Tearfund reported that, on January 29, two
bombs exploded in the vicinity of Beida and Arara areas across the
border in Chad, triggering mandatory staff relocation as a
precautionary measure. On February 15, Chadian armed opposition
groups assembled across the wadi from Beida, Chad, near the
Chad-Sudan border. In consultation with UN security officials and
NGOs in the area, the February 16 UN Humanitarian Air Service
(UNHAS) flight to Beida, Arara, and Kongo Haraza was cancelled.

11. (SBU) On February 21, International NGOs IMC and OXFAM reported
that some families, after seeking shelter at Tissi, Chad had
returned to the Umra area, south of Um Dukhun. An OXFAM assessment
team identified 10-12 families that had returned for farming
purposes, while IMC reported that the Chadian military are in Tissi
and that the area is calm.

Humanitarian Assessments
------------------------

12. (SBU) On February 11, relief agencies participated in a
UNAMID-escorted joint mission to Abu Surug, Sirba, and Silea,
following the SAF attack on February 8 and 9. The assessment team
found 15 percent of the shelters in Sirba and 60 to 70 percent of
the shelters in Abu Surug were burned. The UN Children's Fund
(UNICEF) raised concerns that unconfirmed numbers of children
between the ages of 12 and 18 are missing from the area (ref A).
According to field reports, many UN agencies joined the assessment
mission, but had limited time on the ground to evaluate the
situation. The UN planned follow-up missions for the week of
February 18.

13. (SBU) A joint humanitarian assessment mission visited Armankul
on February 13 and found that 90 to 95 percent of the Seraf Jidad
IDPs had moved to Armankul. The assessment determined that 315
Chadian refugee households are also in Armankul, as well as
approximately 50 to 100 households from Abu Surug who fled the Abu
Surug attacks on February 8. The assessment team recommended
beginning a general food distribution to all groups, estimated at
2,365 households, or 10,695 individuals, and a distribution of
relief commodities, including soap, plastic sheeting, blankets,
jerry cans, and chlorine tablets for water treatment, beginning on
February 14. The IDPs plan to return to villages of origin provided
that the militia attacks cease. The UN reports that protection
issues remain a concern for the displaced populations.


KHARTOUM 00000269 003 OF 003


14. (SBU) Since February 20, GNU authorities in West Darfur have
cancelled all previously authorized humanitarian flights to the
north of El Geneina. Although UNAMID has escorted some UN agencies
to Abu Surug, Sirba, and Silea, most partners cannot access the
affected area, and the UN has postponed all planned follow-up
assessments to the affected communities. Humanitarian agencies
continue to push for unrestricted humanitarian access to West
Darfur, including the corridor from El Geneina to Kulbus.

15. (SBU) The UN reported that humanitarian partners are providing
food, non-food items and medicine to 11,825 IDPs in Armankul, 5,000
IDPs in Abu Surug, 500 IDPs in Silea, 60,000 IDPs in Kulbus and
5,900 IDPs in Sirba. In addition, the HAC has provided tents and
food aid to IDPs in Sirba and Abu Surug. The humanitarian community
is pressuring the GNU to allow humanitarian missions to the Jebel
Moon area (CDA Fernandez raised this issue with MFA on 24 February -
see reftel A), where an estimated 11,000-13,000 IDPs from the Silea
area are residing, and where reported attacks occurred on February
18. Additionally, Embassy and international community are calling
for a UNAMID presence in Silea to allow for safe passage of
thousands of IDPs currently trapped in Jebel Moon (reftel A). The
ongoing attacks have hampered relief efforts in West Darfur and
impacted humanitarian operations in neighboring Chad.

16. (SBU) UNAMID's ability to act decisively to support humanitarian
effort could be the acid test for the international community. If
so, it comes at bad time as for the next few days UNAMID this will
be essentially leaderless. Force Commander General M.L Agwai will
be traveling to Nigeria and the Deputy Force Commander MG Karenze is
just returning. Special Joint Representative (JSR) Adada has been
traveling in and out of El Fasher and Sudan and we understand he
plans trips to Paris and Addis within the next couple weeks.

17. (SBU) Comment: The fighting in West Darfur has placed the
reality of the region in sharp relief: a cynical rebel offensive in
a relatively peaceful area provokes a massive GOS counter-offensive
causing the suffering and dislocation of thousands of Darfuri
civilians. This current phase of the conflict also underscores the
challenges facing UNAMID - it could have played a more prominent
role in monitoring and mitigating suffering and has mostly failed to
do so. End comment.


FERNANDEZ

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