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Cablegate: Unamid Unwilling to Stop West Darfur Conflict but Willing

VZCZCXRO6505
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0274 0561537
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251537Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0031
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000274

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UN US SU
SUBJECT: UNAMID UNWILLING TO STOP WEST DARFUR CONFLICT BUT WILLING
TO SUPPORT HUMANITARIAN AID

REF: KHARTOUM 266

1. (SBU) Summary: The UNAMID military component continues to
monitor, despite limited access and visibility, recent fighting in
West Darfur and movements of SAF troop concentrations in the region.
The military Chief of Staff expects an escalation in hostilities in
West Darfur, with operations possibly shifting to western Jebel
Marra. Current UNAMID guidance is that the force will not/not
directly intervene in fighting taking place in West Darfur. UNAMID's
role, for the time being, will be confined to liaising with rebel
groups and supporting the humanitarian community, potentially by
providing area protection for massed IDPs. End Summary.

2. (SBU) UNAMID peacekeepers continue to monitor the movement of
Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and report on ongoing fighting in West
Darfur. According to both UNAMID observations and press accounts,
SAF troops, weapons and materiel are still flowing into El Geneina,
which provides the launch pad for SAF offensive operations in the
region against the Chad-supported JEM rebel group (reftels). UNAMID
has confirmed reports that Antonov bomber aircraft, HIND attack
helicopters and MiG-21 fighter jets targeted the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) Jebel Moon stronghold. UNAMID's Joint
Analysis Cell (JMAC) reports that Government of Sudan (GOS) tanks,
artillery, 12.7mm gun-trucks and troop transport trucks and an
unconfirmed number Arab militia, estimated in the thousands, massing
in and around El Geneina intends to maintain an offensive
operational tempo in the coming days.

3. (SBU) Before leaving for Nigeria, UNAMID Force Commander (FC)
Martin Luther Agwai told FieldOff that the peacekeeping force "can
do nothing to stop SAF attacks in West Darfur." Despite FieldOff
urging that the FC engage, even informally, with the SAF Western
Area Commander to allow for greater UNAMID access to alleviate the
humanitarian crisis, Agwai doubted that the SAF would heed any
appeals. However, Agwai pledged to continue pushing UNAMID civilian
leadership to address the West Darfur offensive at the political
level in Khartoum (this happened on February 24).

4. (SBU) UNAMID force Chief of Staff Brigadier General Patrick
Davidson-Houston, who has been the senior military official in El
Fasher in the FC's absence, explicitly instructed senior staff
officers on February 24 not/not to intervene in the fighting, "quite
simply because we do not have the capability." UNAMID's focus would
be to liaise with rebel groups, monitor hostilities and combatant
movements, support the humanitarian community, and provide
protection for displaced civilians.

5. (SBU) Chief of Staff Davidson-Houston cautioned that while the
hostilities clearly affected humanitarian assistance, both the
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Army
(SLA) factions may be "playing up the situation" to gain media
attention to indirectly apply pressure on the GoS to scale back its
operations - giving the rebels critical time to regroup. The Chief
of Staff also speculated, based on unconfirmed reporting from the
JMAC, that more serious clashes could lie ahead as Chadian
opposition fighters trickle back across the border south of El
Geneina and JEM fighters, some returning from Chad themselves, move
to reinforce positions in Darfur - essentially continuing the
battles which raged in Chad over the past weeks inside Darfur. Late
February UNAMID reports of heavily armed troop convoys heading to
Nyala via Tawila could suggest a shift in operations to the Jebel
Marra, Davidson-Houston opined.

6. (SBU) Comment: The SAF military offensive in West Darfur
underscores at least two key security dynamics in the region.
First, there remains a strong GOS intent to pursue a military
solution to the Darfur crisis, especially as far as the JEM, with
its dreams of power in Khartoum, is concerned. Second, UNAMID's
inability to intervene - politically or militarily - in any
significant way reinforces the growing perception that the UN force
is little better or more impartial than its predecessor. Taken
together - along with analysis of SAF troop build-ups, escalation of
attacks, allegations of new recruitment of Arab militia and the use
of heavier weaponry - these twin dynamics suggest that the GoS will
continue to respond aggressively to rebel attacks and that UNAMID
will do little or nothing about it. Furthermore, with the Force
Commander expected to be out of Sudan until at least March 8, the
Deputy Force Commander's continued absence (though he is expected to
return to the field "within days") and the rare presence of Joint
Special Representative (JSR) Rodolphe Adada in El Fasher, the UNAMID
ship will probably continue to drift without a rudder, above all to
the detriment of the Darfurian civilians most impacted by the
conflict between rebel factions and the Khartoum regime.


FERNANDEZ

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