Cablegate: Abyei Conflict Contained for Now, but Problem Unresolved

DE RUEHKH #0298/01 0620516
O 020516Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Abyei Conflict Contained for Now, But Problem Unresolved

Ref: Khartoum 256

1. (SBU) Summary: SPLM-appointed Abyei administrator Edward Lino
says that conflict in Abyei has been "contained," in what he calls a
defeat for NCP hardliners. The NCP and SPLM, however, appear to
have been unable to conclude an agreement on joint administration.
According to Foreign Minister Deng Alor, the main obstacle is the
dispute over Abyei's northern boundary. Meanwhile, self-appointed
Misseriya Abyei Governor al-Ansari has dissolved his administration
under pressure from the Misseriya High Council. End Summary.

Edward Lino: Conflict Contained
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (SBU) On February 21 USAIDoff met with Edward Lino, the Sudan
Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) appointed Governor of Abyei and
Choul Arop, his newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Natural
Resources. According to Lino, the Deputy-Governor position will be
NCP-appointed. Lino was in Khartoum to meet with both SPLM and NCP
leadership. Lino asserted that the National Congress Party (NCP) is
divided on the Abyei issue. He termed one group the "hawks",
including Presidential Advisor Nafie Ali Nafie, who are pushing for
war with the intent to derail the CPA and create a separate Northern
government in Abyei. The other group, including President Bashir,
wants to contain the Abyei situation. Lino said that a high-ranking
NCP official, when hearing that President Bashir was considering
accepting a reconciliation on the Abyei administration issue asked:
"Why are you reconciling the Misseriya and Dinka; don't you know
that they (the Misseriya) are my reserve forces to fight the SPLA?"

A Sincere Promise of Peace?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3. (SBU) Lino had just come from a meeting with the head of Sudan's
Military Intelligence, who promised to open the road leading to
Abyei and who indicated that a national resolution on Abyei looks
likely. Lino said that he told the Military Intelligence head that
although opening the road would signal good intentions, the road
opening was not the SPLM's priority. The SPLM are concerned about
bringing peace to the area. (Note: To date the road remains closed.
End Note.) Lino said that a resolution to the Abyei administration
dispute is possible (but not guaranteed) because of mounting
pressure on the Presidency, including from Misseriya leaders.

Al-Ansari a Non-Concern
- - - - - - - - - - - -
4. (SBU) Lino dismissed self-appointed Misseriya Abyei "Governor"
Muhammed Umar al-Ansari as a non-concern. He described Al-Ansari's
actions as politically reckless. The Higher Council of the
Misseriya, including Abdal Rasool al Nor, Ahmed Salih Saluba, Adam
Sabir, Abdal Rahman Al Hassan, Mahdi Babu Nimir and Al Heir Al
Fahim, publicly issued a decree renouncing Al-Ansari's actions and
stating that he does not represent the Misseriya. Al-Ansari
subsequently dissolved his government.

Conflict within the SPLM
- - - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) On February 23, Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed, an NCP member of
Parliament and member of the six-man committee dealing with Abyei,
told Poloff that on February 21, the NCP and the SPLM reached
agreement in principle on the joint administration of Abyei. Under
the agreement, Dirdeiry said that the SPLM will nominate a Chief
Administrator and the NCP will nominate the Deputy Administrator.
(Note: This agrees with what Lino told USAIDoff. End Note.)
Dirdeiry said that the NCP will accept any person the SPLM names as
Chief Administrator, including Edward Lino.

6. (SBU) According to Dirdeiry, the NCP has "remained engaged on
Abyei" since February 21 and has met with the SPLM several times on
the issue at different levels. In their February 21 meeting,
President Bashir and First VP Kiir agreed on the need for the two
parties to draft a written agreement on the interim administration
in Abyei, which Bashir and Kiir would sign.

7. (SBU) Later on February 21, the SPLM and the NCP discussed this
draft agreement. According to Dirdeiry, while SPLM Secretary
General Pagan Amum and others accepted the text, the SPLM's Deng
Alor rejected it. (Deng is Foreign Minister in the Government of
National Unity (GNU) and an Abyei native.) Deng believes that
several issues in the draft agreement need to be "revisited,"
according to Dirdeiry. Dirdeiry said that "Deng and Pagan are not
seeing eye to eye on several issues with regard to Abyei." (Note:
Dirdeiry refused to be drawn out on Deng's objections, but on
February 25, Deng told SE Williamson that Abyei's northern border is
the primary difficulty - see para. 9. End note.)

8. (SBU) Dirdeiry said that the NCP needs to have Deng "on board"

KHARTOUM 00000298 002 OF 002

with the agreement. Several NCPers met with Deng in his home
February 22 in an attempt to win his support for the draft
agreement. Dirdeiry said that, despite progress, Deng became
"furious" when he was unable to persuade Pagan and the NCP to make
changes to the draft text. Pagan and the NCP told Deng that the two
parties must move forward immediately with some kind of solution.

Deng Alor: Abyei Unresolved
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9. (SBU) On February 25, Deng Alor himself confirmed to Special
Envoy Williamson that the SPLM and NCP have been unable to resolve
the Abyei dispute. He indicated that the Abyei Boundary Commission
(ABC) report and the location of Abyei's northern border are the
main obstacle. Deng said that, as a prominent SPLMer from the
region, he hears from Abyei residents when things are going wrong.
Presumably referring to the meetings described by Dirdeiry, Deng
said that a joint NCP-SPLA committee has been working on the issue,
but without success so far. A delegation led by Pagan and including
SAF and SPLA officers was to travel to Abyei that same morning to
hold talks with Ngok Dinka and Misseriya. Deng said that Vice
President Kiir and Pagan would be able to shed more light on the
issue when they meet SE Williamson.

- - - -
10. (SBU) The NCP and SPLM appear to have come close to an
agreement on Abyei administration following the February 21
Bashir-Kiir meeting, but then came to grief when trying to work out
specifics. The location of Abyei's Northern boundary is one fraught
with emotion for Southerners and is unlikely to be resolved as long
as the NCP rejects the ABC report. Edward Lino's confidence and
al-Ansari's stepping down, apparently under pressure from fellow
Misseriya, indicate that the two sides have stepped back from the
brink of conflict, at least for now.


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